Charlise Smith, other women discuss effects of sexual misconduct at Feb. 21 forum

CHARLISE SMITH, left, pictured with Paige Mitchell and Pat Griffin, gives a heartfelt account of how her past life experiences had, for a time, shaped her thinking. Now, she is the founder of WAVE, Women Against Violence Enterprises. (Photos by J.L. Martello)

Kiki Brown was in the room, and the comments made by a man in power made her upset, made her uncomfortable, and the comments weren’t even directed toward her.
“The conversation went like this—‘What you gonna do for this, what you gonna do for these?’ It was something she wanted, and he was so comfortable to say, ‘What you gonna do, you gonna twerk for it? You gonna…’” Brown said, the next phrase too raunchy for print.
[pullquote]‘My mother was murdered because she found out
that her husband was molesting me.’—Charlise Smith[/pullquote]“And he laughed at it, and she was so uncomfortable that she laughed, and later, was upset,” Brown said. “In front of him (her boss), she laughed, but when he left, she was upset, and I said (to her), ‘Why didn’t you say anything?’ And then I felt, ‘Why didn’t I say anything?’”
The #MeToo movement has given a voice to those who felt voiceless in speaking out against sexual harassment and sexual misconduct in the workplace, and even in private, personal situations.
Brown, an afternoon on-air talent on WAMO 100.1 FM, assembled a group of female panelists at Point Park University’s Center for Media Innovation, Feb. 21, to discuss how this type of harassment and misconduct affects women here locally.

While she told audience members she had not “personally experienced an assault that was inappropriate,” the aforementioned story she shared from years ago pertaining to a co-worker and the co-worker’s supervisor was precisely the type of incident the #MeToo movement aims to prevent.
Brown didn’t reveal to the audience the location of where the incident occurred, nor the participants involved. She said the woman in the story did not officially report the incident to, say, human resources, but Brown addressed the male manager on a particular day following the incident. “I did (tell him), you are too comfortable saying these types of things to her,” and that it wasn’t suitable for the workplace.

The 90-minute forum challenged panelists—veteran news anchor Allegra Battle, New Pittsburgh Courier reporter Paige Mitchell, veteran journalist Pat Griffin, assistant professor, Roland School of Business Sandy Mervosh, and WAMO 100.1 FM account executive Vanessa Doss—to speak on how sexual harassment, abuse and other misconduct has affected them on a personal and professional level.
Griffin admitted that as a young journalist, she may not have seen all the “signals” sent by certain men at work. “I fell in love in radio when I was 16…but the pervasiveness of it captured me even in my young naivete, in not knowing that I was being hit on, and…many years later, I learned after shaking these gentlemen’s hand it was a thing that they used to do where they would rub the center of your hand if they wanted to get with you. I didn’t know…I didn’t know what that meant,” Griffin said at the event. “There is some complicity in that as well, because if I would have said something the first, second, third, fourth time, would it have affected any change?”
Mitchell spoke on not wanting to be “blackballed” as a younger person in media. “Being young and driven, you’re just so happy that you have that opportunity and your foot is in the door, you don’t want to mess that up,” Mitchell said. Mitchell said so far in her young career, she has not experienced sexual harassment from male supervisors.
But Charlise Smith, another panelist and founder of WAVE (Women Against Violence Enterprises), elicited gasps from the audience when she revealed that “My mother was murdered because she found out that her husband was molesting me. So, as a young child, when you are introduced to certain behaviors, you don’t even realize, as you grow and mature, that what was embedded in you as a young child allows you to grow into that person as a teenager or a young adult.”
Smith continued: “In the workplace, what I’ve experienced, is that due to my past, I’ve settled for the lower paying job not knowing that I was worth more, due to the experiences that I’ve experienced. When I had male dominant supervisors, I was always inferior of them due to the circumstances I grew up in. Some people may know, but others may not know, and it took another act of violence that happened to me for me to get the counseling I needed to learn how to transform my mindset to not settle or not relive what was done to me as a young child. Sometimes you find yourself in situations where people take advantage of your current condition and you don’t even know that you’re being taken advantage of.”
“That’s why this #MeToo was so important because it allowed people to say, ‘me, too’ without having to tell their story. If you’ve gone through something, you have to be ready to tell your story. Nobody can tell you when you can come out and start sharing what happened. It’s almost easier to bury it and hope it goes away.”-VANESSA DOSS

Smith, at the Feb. 21 event, said that “People can molest you without molesting you. They can take advantage of a vulnerable person…when the #MeToo movement came out, I was like, ‘Thank you, God,’ because we were taught, ‘You keep what happens in the house, in the house, you don’t discuss what goes on at home.’ So for those women to come out…this movement is so much deeper than the molestation or being disrespected on the job—what about the backlash or the residue of what someone has done to you that you have to mentally and emotionally fight through on a daily basis, on your job?”
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