colleague

Scientist / Engineer

While I was at University, a colleague from my sponsor company, in a superior postion to me, tried to rape me while on a work trip. I said no, he didn’t hear me, I said this is a bad idea, he told me he couldn’t have kids, that it was fine, I said about his wife, he said it’s fine. I couldn’t get away but fortunately for me, my fight response kicked in, I punched him and swore and kicked and yelled and felt so angry and violated and how dare this person try to take something from me without my permission, I wanted to kill. I was very lucky, someone heard me yelling which meant the person had to leave and couldn’t do anything else. I had a fight response out of fight, flight, or freeze (you don’t get a choice it just happens). Both of us had been drinking when this happened, that doesn’t make it okay and it does not stop it from being attempted rape. I said no, they heard and didn’t care, continued acting for what they wanted anyway. When I talked to my friends about it, most of them told me to go to the police to get the bastard. Enough of my male engineering friends/ colleagues that I talked to said, what was I playing at, I could hurt this guy’s career; he could lose his job just because I couldn’t make my mind up; that I needed to get my act together; no one will believe you anyway; it’s your fault, stop being such a little bitch. Now, I know they were wrong. At the time having been immersed in the sexist, derogatory, backwards culture I believed at least some of what they said. I didn’t report it, I told very few people after that and I essentially had a year of battling between trying not to feel anything and trying not to kill myself because the anti-depressants I started taking damn near made me do it. I pulled my shit together, what the nice counsellor I saw several years after, as the mental health support in the UK is wank, told me is called post traumatic growth and have my docotorate and a successful career in STEM. My attempted rape was less than 5 years ago, I still experience sexist shit most days. Engineering is one of the worst sectors for it and if you’re not willing to keep your head down and let the toxic culture be, then prepare for it to be all the worse. That doesn’t mean it’s not worth fighting! I probably did experience sexism and microaggressions when I was at school, I seem to remember being called a dyke and fat and remarks about my large boobs, but it didn’t really bother me, because I was very lucky that my parents had raised me to believe that I was amazing and it was my body, my rules – no one else got to make me feel bad about it. Unfortunately, when I moved to University and then into work I had a very different experience. I was in a far less liberal part of the UK and most of the compliments I received were along the lines of: that’s a good set of tits to get you in here; lucky you’re not like us, cis white men are the new underprivileged; ah, you’re just like one of the lads really; to name a few. With this culture change I began to slip into habits that I would now say threw my own gender under the bus for the sake of belonging. I thought I really felt I belonged that I could be myself completely, until university or work socials happened and I experienced sexual harrassment multiple times, mainly in the form of bum pinching and groping, colleagues would try and get me to have sex with them and when I didn’t want to they’d try to persuade me and keep touching me, cornering me instead of letting me walk off. Through all of these experiences I began to believe what was spouted back by the group of male colleagues that I talked to, ah you had one too many; ah they had one too many; no harm done; nah it’s not weird, just blowing off steam; god, you’re slutty; lads lads lads. It just became part of the status quo. When at university the gropers included staff, at least one of whom had a wife and children. When I outline it like this it sounds obvious, in your face, but it wasn’t. It was insidious, subtle and daily and it was the culture that likely made that attemped rape possible, it definitely made me so unconfident in the system that I couldn’t report it until almost 2 years later. When I did, no one wanted to know.

Anna

I can be very outgoing and open-hearted, showing people I like and care about my affection. I like to hug people and – I am starting this story by why it might have been my fault. But it wasn‘t… I have a colleague who I used to like very much, he is about 30 years older than me and 100% friend-zoned, no flirting or attraction what so ever. We used to joke around and have a good time together. One day, he was standing next to me and somehow jokingly put his hand in my trouser pocket, really grabbing my butt for what felt like a really long time. I was petrified, did not know how to react so I looked at him and said something like „Is that how we treat each other lately? I thought that was my ass, only to be touched by my husband…“ (who was in the same room but did not seem to realize what was going on behind my back). He responded in a dull and senseless way „Well no, this is my little ass!“. The situation was SO awkward, I was completely taken by surprise, felt paralyzed and unable to confront him. I tried to ignore the incident but it‘s been a year or more and I still think about it every time I see him and I can‘t stand him anymore, I am starting to feel disgusted by him, especially because he has a way of telling me to get him a coffee that makes me furious. The other day he started nagging about how unfair it was that women came out with their stories of sexual assault decades after it happened and even accused men who were already dead. He argued, he doesn‘t get why they can‘t just keep their mouths shut. I told him if he won‘t shut his mouth right now and leave my office this discussion will get very uncomfortable for him. I wasn‘t up for a fight. He left and I felt relieved. I don‘t know how to handle it, he keeps asking my husband if we want to go biking on the weekends or do stuff together, but I don‘t want to spend a second of my time with him. I already told my husband about what happened, but he just said „Talk to him and straighten things out.“. I don‘t think anything can be straightened out. It‘s been too long, he probably won‘t remember and if I tell him now how muchvit bothered me, he‘ll just shrug his shoulders and pretend it never happened, I‘m sure…

Camilla

I was selling some things online, and a user of the sales portal used my contact information to text me very inappropriate stuff. At first I did not understand what he meant, because I was selling shoes, and he was asking about socks, and his grammar was inconsistent. So I asked him if he could clarify. After a couple confusing texts, he finally spoke his mind clearly: He asked me if I would wear pantyhose for a few days to make them smelly, and then send them to him. He offered to pay a little money for each pair. Then he started to send me kissing emojis. I immediately blocked his number without responding further. It made me feel scared, because this man had my phone number. I immediately deleted my number and other person-specific information from my profile on the sales portal and will take subsequent action of giving his number to the portal administrators, so they can block him as a user. It also made me feel really tired and frustrated, because I had to change my number last year because of another inappropriate man. This other man and I were dating for a couple of weeks. When I found out he was married, I broke it off (albeit a little later than I should have). Even after repeatedly being VERY CLEAR to him, that I no longer wanted to see him or have any contact with him, he would still call me non-stop for hours and hours. This happened every 3-4 months, and it kept me in a constant state of fear. Would he come seek me out? He knew where I lived at the time. After a year and a half of ignoring his sporadic call-frencies I finally changed my number. I felt defeated. Why must it be my burden to bear that these men have problems? Why am I the one who has to feel shitty, be genuinely scared, when I am not the one who is wrong? Why do I have to carry these men’s wrongdoings around with me? I am in a constant state of self-consciousness because of guys who act inappropriately: When I go out once in a while, I always make sure not to dress in a flattering way, so that I can mitigate the excessive amount of cat calls and but-groping. When I go to work, I am ashamed of myself for dressing nicely when colleagues ask why I am so dressed-up, just because I wore a skirt and mascara. It makes me feel uncomfortable that men are keeping an eye on me like that. Stop being inappropriate, guys, and be as nice as we all know you really can be!

Sofia

The day after international womens day a colleague read out the twitter quote that went something like “Yesterday was womens day, now it’ll be mens day until march 7th”. We and a third colleague laughed (obviously this was meant ironically to make a femenist point). The third colleague then said “i bet some feminist got angry about that.” Hahahhahahahah! So he’d just laughed for entirely the wrong reasons as if to say “hah stupid women our year now!” Completely missed the point and made it pretty clear to everyone listing what an idiot he is heehee.