Saturday, September 15, 2012

Harass This, You A$$

As of late, I have been the recipient of some *unwanted attention* by someone who a) is an employee where I work and b) I never would have thought was *that* kind of person.  I'm definitely not going to go into the specifics because it has been dealt with and (fingers crossed) totally over, but I learned a whole heck of a lot from it.  This time of year, kids are writing, "What I learned on my Summer Vacation" so I thought I would pen my own "What I learned about Sexual Harassment"...I know, right?  Big words.  I think it's important though that I talk about it, because I felt isolated and (silly me...) almost like I must have deserved it.  So, if I can make one woman realize she is NOT alone and help her take a stand then woot woot!! 

1. Sexual harassment does not start with someone grabbing your boob.  It starts very small so you don't even really notice it started.  A slightly off colour joke that you laugh at.  A smile.  A comment on how they like your earrings or how you did your hair.  It doesn't even compute that they have ulterior motives.  Then things get a little bit weirder and they start bringing you gifts, not just at Christmas time.  Or calling you, and not about work.  But it's built up to this point so you think, "Oh no.  I've led them on.  They think I'm a partner in this.  Other people will think the same."  So you do nothing and you say nothing.   This is why women can report sexual harassment years and years after the initial incident.  It sneaks up on you and then snowballs out of control.   To be clear...this person never touched me, never said anything inappropriate.  It was all in his actions. 

2.  It made me uncomfortable.  Like really, really uncomfortable.  It takes a lot to make me uncomfortable.  I can joke and swear like a trucker.  I've worked with pilots.  I work in a male dominated society.  I do not get uncomfortable.  But this made me very uncomfortable.  I did not listen to my intuition.  I told myself I was being silly and it was all in my imagination.  If it makes you uncomfortable and it feels is sexual harassment, no matter the other persons intentions.  I was on the verge of tears at times while working.  That is not okay.

3.  You have a choice.  Let me say that again...YOU have a choice.  You can choose to be the victim or you can choose to end it.  Years ago, when I worked in the airline industry, I had to take a course on sexual harassment.  The only thing I remember about it (because we joked through most of the day) is that if you feel you're being harassed, you must tell your attacker to stop.  You must take that step.  Let me tell you, it was awful.  I felt like I was going to throw up.  My heart was pounding out of my heart and I could feel my pulse in my neck and head and hands.  I was sweating.  I was scared.  But I chose to end it.  I did not want to be a victim any longer.  After I was done, it was the most liberating thing in the world.  I had rescued myself.  I was the hero of my own story.  I was not a victim.  If you need someone else to be there,  that is totally okay.   

4.  Ask for help if you need it.  I thought it might be a cultural way of showing respect and didn't want to offend this man.  I thought I was misreading things.  I thought that because I'm a nice person, he had misread and thought I had led him on.  Two things happened that helped me immensely.  The first thing I did was talk in hypotheticals to someone of the same cultural background who let me know this was not a cultural respect kind of thing.  He also gave me tips on how to end it.  I would have been really quiet and polite.  He said I needed to be firm and strong.  Secondly, when all was done and over, I told my immediate boss so that if anything happened in the future, I would have a witness of some sort.  I told him he didn't need to *do* anything. It was dealt with, all I needed was him to know.  And get this...before I had even finished the story he knew who it was because this guy had done it before!!!!!!!!  Like you've got to be kidding me, right?  This guy is a professional at this and I felt guilty???? I actually felt better knowing that he had done it meant I hadn't *brought it on*.

5.  It can happen to you, so be aware.  I always thought that I wouldn't put up with that kind of shite from anyone.  I thought if anyone ever did anything that made me uncomfortable, I would just speak up and stop it so fast they wouldn't know what hit them because I am a strong woman.  The thing's not that easy.  You question whether you're over reacting or if it's just your imagination.  Then it gets to the point where you think it's so ridiculous that it's gone on for sooooo long.  You might be embarrassed, afraid, or sad.  It's all normal.  Remember that if it makes you uncomfortable in a *sexual* way, it needs to stop.

6.  Talk about it.  Tell people.  This guy always said, "Don't tell anyone I bought you this.  They'll just overreact."  If it has to be a secret, it's not right. 

7.  Finish it before you want to kick him in the face every time you see him...because that is where I am at right now, and I shouldn't have let it go so long.  So, now what I am dealing with is my anger and not his advances...

I really hate leaving this at only 7 points.  It's an odd number.  It's no where near 5 or 10.  Alas, I am done.  So, if you have any other tips then please, please, tell me.  Three more helpful tips would be awesome.  But seriously...have you ever experienced harassment?  How did you deal?


  1. I've been there myself and it is an incredibly uncomfortable situation. I just blogged about being harassed by my neighbour last weekend! Whether in your workplace or in your apartment building, it's awful to not really be able to get away from it! Well done on posting about it and I do really hope it is well and truly dealt with for you.

  2. I am so glad you commented. It always feels better when you're not alone in your experience. I read your blog and omg...horrific. Sometimes I just don't know what is wrong with men. Mostly I just want to punch them in the face!! (which is why I'm probably still single!)

  3. yep, it sucks. There is no other word for it. It sucks that we are the ones who's hearts are pounding, who are second guessing our gutts, who are too concerned if we were not being kind when its their fault! They should be the ones living in fear of judgement and punishment for causing harm! Grrrr, just makes me mad thinking about it. I've learnt to draw strict boundaries with men now, everybody keeps a healthy distance.... don't need male friends unless they are family couple friends.

    1. Carolyn!! Yes!!!! That was the worst part. "I'm sorry your inappropriate behavior is making me uncomfortable" it's so ridiculous that I was so cliche and yet I was so scared