sexual harassment

Anonymous

I have encountered many experiences concerning “casual” sexual harassment throughout my life; however, the following experience remains one of the most vivid in my memories. At the time I was 15 and it began when one of my friends posted me on her snapchat story to which a guy swiped up to and asked for my number. She gave it to him innocently and with positive intentions. At the time I was in a really rough situation and had no intention of having a relation of any type other than friendship with a guy. The dude, a year older than me, texted me and I answered simply to be respectful. He immediately began to behave in ways implying that he had intentions of being more than friends. I made it clear to him that I was not in a position where I was ready to consider a relationship of that sort with anyone and that I didn’t want to behave in casual “encounters” either. He still kept insisting and I simply nicely told him to respect and understand my position. He then proposed that we “hang out” and just try to get to know each other better and be “friends”. In all honesty, I didn’t want to go. When I mentioned it to my mom hoping that she wouldn’t give me her consent to go because I barely knew him, she instead encouraged me to go in order to “get my mind off things”, and she said that “who knows? I might even like him”. My sisters and my friends also encouraged me to go, so in a way I felt pressured and gave in. I knew for sure that I did not want anything other than getting to know each other and simply just conversing. I let him know that I agreed to hang out and he immediately gave me a weird vibe in the manner that he was already behaving as if we were dating. He told me to match with him, to curl my hair, and to paint my nails, all of which I thought were greatly unusual considering the fact that I didn’t really know him and that I clearly told him I didn’t want anything of that sort, in addition to the fact that he was basically telling me how to look. I tried to simply not pay much attention to it and simply agreed to casually match but I told him that it depended on if I felt like curling my hair or not and I already had my nails done. Also, I’m a generally busy person, so at times I take longer to answer simply because I am literally engaging in something that requires my attention or respect. At a few days of knowing him he would call me in the middle of whatever I was doing to ask why I hadn’t answered his text in an upset tone, even if it had only been half an hour or so. I would simply “shake it off” and try not to think much of it. Finally, we met up and agreed to eat at Canes. We went and I didn’t think much of it and was simply just trying to have a normal conversation. From the beginning he would contribute very sexist comments about girls having to cook and about me being “hot”. It made me uncomfortable and usually I would have said something because I do speak up and am opinionated about certain issues, but I didn’t address it not only because I didn’t want to make things weird but because I also wasn’t truly myself at the time. We later got into his car to go to the movies and he began making comments about sexual topics and asking me about my sexual experience or so. I expressed that I wasn’t comfortable talking of that topic in particular with him for several reasons and reminded him that we were just intending to build a friendship; nevertheless, he continued on addressing the topic and on intending to make me reply in the manner that he wanted me to. We arrived at the movies and I was already uncomfortable; yet, I tried not to think much of it. When we went in and sat down, he immediately put his arm around my waist really tight. I was uncomfortable but for some reason felt as if I were “supposed” to let him and I thought that maybe I was overreacting by feeling uneasy and that it was normal, although it felt wrong. He then took my left hand (he was sitting on my left) and placed it partially on his genital area, and as he did this I could feel and hear his heavy breathing in my ear. Uncomfortably, but too embarrassed to call him out, I removed my hand. To my surprise, he grabbed it once more only to place it in the same spot. I removed it again but he simply replaced it in the same position. I took it off once more and made sure to not let him do so again. He then proceeded to ask me to kiss him. Already puzzled and tense from his previous behavior I replied that I wouldn’t. I knew that I did not want to kiss him and I was not going to let him pressure me into it. He insisted to which I continuously affirmed that I didn’t want to. Suddenly, he forcefully grabbed my face to force me to kiss him regardless of my repeated affirmations of having no desire to. I turned away and silently told him to stop because I was embarrassed to make a fuzz, especially at a location like the movies. Despite this, he again turned my face to force me to kiss him and additionally told me to simply “kiss him on the cheek” and he would stop insisting. I had a feeling that he’d try to trick me so I gave him the kiss on the cheek and quickly turned my face knowing that he would try to trick me into kissing him which he did. He continued to bother me, intend to force me, and to insist even when I clearly let him know that I didn’t want to and that I was uncomfortable. I wanted to leave, but for some reason I felt embarrassed. Ashamed. So I stayed. He then put his hand on my ass and begin stroking it and squeezing it. I told him to stop and tried taking it off which he ignored. I felt so incompetent and froze as if it were wrong to stand up for myself, but I still felt so disrespected. He then proceeded to put his hand on my breast and squeeze it. At that point I was so frustrated and took his hand off to which he responded with trying to place it there again. I told him to stop touching me but it seemed that he didn’t care. Finally, I spoke louder telling him to stop touching me at all. I guess he got scared that the people surrounding us had heard me so he stopped. I still stayed there because the movie wasn’t over. I remember being so upset and feeling so embarrassed and vulnerable that I felt such an urge to cry. I then decided that I was just going to “go to the restroom” and call my mom to pick me up. I went to the bathroom to try and call my mom when I realized that he placed his wallet in my purse. I was obligated to go back and was simply too embarrassed to simply walk out. So I stayed, he then asked me if I was “still mad” and tried placing his hand on my thigh very close to my genital area. I pushed his hand off and told him that I didn’t want him to touch me anymore. He stopped but he seemed so upset, as if he were angry, and suddenly I felt guilty. I felt as if I had been the one to provoke his behavior and that it was my fault that he was upset. The movie was finally over and we walked out. He insisted to take me home various times, but I told him that my mom was nearby and wanted to pick me up. He finally gave me a hug and then just walked away. The next day, I saw my friend which gave him my number, and she told me that he told her that I was a “complete waste of money, time, and energy” and that I “wasn’t freaky enough”, and that I “wasn’t even that pretty”. Although I tried to avoid it, this incident detrimentally affected my mental health and made me so much more insecure, in addition to worsening my situation and making me really just making me minimize my own worth and value. He never contacted me again, and I;m glad he didn’t. Following the occurrence of this incident, I was still in disbelief. It’s truly worrying that adolescents are already “okay” with disrespecting and sexually harassing young women despite her own wishes. Before having lived through that experience, I assumed that I’d be stronger and would have probably slapped the guy without shame; however, as I was in the situation I felt completely incompetent, ashamed, and I froze beyond what I would have expected. I’m just glad that I didn’t accept his offer to take me home, or else, I would’ve been at greater risk to being obliged to experience something worse. For a long time, I tried to simply not think about this incident, and tried to suppress its gravity to make myself feel better; but it is now that I realize that the way I was treated is not at ALL okay, and it disgusts me. I am outraged and completely appalled that things like this happen everyday and no one takes the measure needed to change things. We need to do something now, starting from our younger generations. For all of those women who have been exposed to similar or even worse situations and are struggling, I admire you for your strength to keep intending to live your life, despite whatever situation may have impacted you. You are worthy, and deserve better than this.

Louise

To the man in the street who harassed me yesterday – you changed me. From the moment I saw you I immediately started evaluating the potential threat – because that’s what we women have to do. I decided to continue on my walk because what are the chances of you being a threat to this middle aged lady? It was a mistake in judgement. You engaged me in conversation with a question that required me to stop. It all seemed genial enough at the start. You told me where you were from, that you were just visiting my little village by the sea and were enjoying the sun. I got a feeling fairly early on that you were trying to keep me there and your friend disappeared suddenly. I felt my whole body become alert and my mind was making a million calculations. You asked me questions about my marital status. I told you I was married. Happily so. You told me your age. I said “I’m old enough to be your Mum.”. You said your Mum was 50. As it happens, so am I, and I laughed and told you that – hoping that it might give you pause. It didn’t. You pressed on asking me if I’d ever cheated on my husband. I told you I hadn’t and that I wasn’t that sort of person. At this point my eyes were swivelling, looking for other people, hoping against hope someone would pass by. They didn’t. You invited me onto the beach – told me no one would see us. I kept my voice light, my face set so as to try not to show you my rising panic or any anger, so as not to trigger you into action. When you said to me, your face changing from smiling to deadly serious “I could hurt you and I know you’d love it.” my blood felt like it had been replaced with ice water. My heart rate increased dramatically and my stomach twisted with panic. I was trying to evaluate which houses might have people in them. Most of the ones around I knew to be holiday lets, and most are empty right now. I did the best I could by saying I was on my way to visit friends up ahead and had to go. I wished you well, hoping and praying that you wouldn’t follow me. The moment I was out of your sight-line I hid. My hands were shaking as I took out my phone and desperately dialled my husband. It took me 3 attempts to raise him & I could hear your voice nearby. In the end my husband raced to my rescue and I was safe. It took me a few hours to recover though – the adrenaline seemed to have quite an effect on me. I haven’t been out for a walk since but I will. It’s just that you’ve reminded me that there’s always a chance that I might encounter someone like you again and I’m going to change my behaviour because of that. So even though “nothing happened” it did. I’m different now.

b

when i was in my first year of secondary school, i changed class because of my grades after three months. i was worried i had offended one of my teachers during class so i stayed after to apologise, and he accepted it because i hadn’t done anything wrong according to him it was a joke at a bad time. however, when i went to get my book from his classroom before the holidays, he made me stand on a chair to collect my book from the top shelf and put his hands on my hips, at the time i didn’t understand so quickly left the room even as he tried to stop me from leaving. he stood in front of the door and grabbed my wrists. i left as quickly as i could. it was nerve-wracking, he left a few years after but i always hated hearing about him and what he was doing.

Trinidad Sexism

I rented an apartment at a great price from an elderly man. In front of his real estate agent he informed me there were no issues with utilities and he liked people that kept to themselves and he left people alone. Once I moved in, he began stopping me for random conversations that would eventually lead to comments about my body and statements involving sex or porn. I would repeatedly tell him I was uncomfortable with those conversations and it was inappropriate. He also started cutting off the water for random construction projects before I left for work or church and said he had the right to maintain the property whenever he wanted and it NEEDED to be done. Once inside my apartment, he would continue describing my “enticing” body and come back to topics of sex and porn. He repeatedly asked me if he had a chance with me/ if I would give him a chance/ and if I would be interested in him / what I thought about him/his appearance etc and I turned him down each time. No matter how many times I expressed not having any interest in anything with him, he would tell me I can’t blame him because he is a man and it’s because of the way I look and he sees my body and I have to expect that because he is just being a man. I continued telling him I was uncomfortable and eventually started asking one of my friends to come over any time the landlord had some random project to do in my apartment. The landlord then began approaching me when I was alone and scolding and lecturing me for bringing someone over as if he needed to be watched. I told him it was a matter of my safety and comfort as men I did not know were randomly going through my living space for these construction projects. He insisted that I should be alone when he comes over and that his right as landlord includes coming in whenever he wants to see what is going on in his place. He told me everyone he ever met loves him and thinks he’s the greatest landlord and man ever and I’m the only person he’s ever met that doesn’t love him. He has stopped me from going to work, church, and meetings. I’ve had to stay home for random “fixes” he claimed to have to urgently address which he used to sexually harrass me and claimed he never told me to stay home, I just chose to keep him company. He has also yelled at me for calling him out on it. He insisted to me that my friend coming over to witness what was going on was really just using me for sex and insisted that we were having sex and he KNEW (there was nothing of the sort). However, he would also soften his tone and speak very politely when my friend came over or if he saw that I had my phone on speaker. Due to the COVID situation, my job was affected and I asked the landlord if he would accept the government grant. He said yes but delayed in giving me my last receipt for half a month, which in turn delayed my application. By the end of the first month of missed rent, he gave me an eviction notice. After he sent passive aggressive notes by my door, I sent a lawyer’s letter informing him that he agreed to wait on the COVID grant, and I had offered to stop the grant and borrow cash to pay him and he refused, but that I would oblige and move out. Today he replied via email denying everything and claiming I brought men into the property, distinguished by their skin color. I am still moving out before the time limit given on the eviction notice. A lawyer told me that his denials and claims have nothing to do with eviction and he has no grounds. He is lying about everything and I think it’s because of the rejection to his sexual interest. There is a new tenant that looks like a fearful young woman and I wonder if she is his next target. I am literally afraid of turning on any lights or making a sound to give any indication that I am home to avoid anything more from him until I move out. I have been assaulted before and I am just trying to avoid being on the receiving end of another man’s anger.

Charlie

I was sat in assembly in school. This was about two years ago. At my school we have tiered seating in the assembly room, so the people sat behind me were above me. A boy sat behind me started touching the back of my neck, and then started to put his hand under my collar. I could here him trying to get my attention, and the people who were sat next to him were laughing and encouraging him. The worst point was when he put his hand under my crop top, and flicked it. Eventually he stopped. I never turned around to see who it was, and I still have no idea who in my school did that to me. It was horrible, and I can still feel how it felt to this day.

Nicole Catherine

The biggest one. The one that caused me to develop PTSD happened in 2019. I’d just started at my dream job and befriended a few colleagues. There was a young man there that sat next to me; he was self deprecating, depressed, definitely an alcoholic, but made me laugh sometimes. It wasn’t like I could avoid him. Long story short, he infiltrated every aspect of my life. Assaulted me at work every day. Isolated me. Abused me. Manipulated me. Groomed me. After 5 months, I snapped out of his abuse. Came to. Reported him. Discovered my other friend had been experiencing his abuse as well. He was fired but the company continued to work with him as a contracted worker. Around the time I was diagnosed with PTSD, I found that out and spent the next 3 months fighting that decision. They shot me down though. I gave up. Months later, after other colleagues came out as victims to his abuse as well, they finally severed ALL ties to him. I still work there though. The PTSD makes it very difficult and I’m trying to leave but, can’t leave without something new. I feel so trapped. He turned this dream job into a nightmare I can’t escape.

Anonymous

Since I first started my job I received little comments that gradually interfered with my ability to do my job and made me more and more uncomfortable . It started as simply being asked sexual questions, such as about my sexual history, my sexual orientation and if I was single- I think that happened by my second week. Then I was followed round , sometimes paid excessive attention too. I ignored all this, trying to keep things professional – pretended like I didn’t notice- I was the new girl in a male –dominated work place, of course I’d draw attention. I was always professional , I never flirted ; I tried to keep things pleasant ,talking about things we had in common- like a love of Harry Potter- simply trying to make conversation. When people began to get comfortable with me they began ‘Accidentally on purpose’ brushing up against me, offering to buy me lunch and other things- which I always said no to. They then began jokingly physically blocking my movements; in other words – standing in my way- so I’d have to brush up against them to get through tight spaces. I always felt them staring at my arse from behind so I swapped from jeans to trousers. I found out that they all had talked about the ‘fittest girls’ and rated me on my boobs and my arse. I tried to ignore it. I was asked out repeatedly, seemingly as a ‘joke’ ,even by managers, I was mock proposed to on busy Saturdays in front of customers. I was told that my manager had said if I was 2 years older he would have ‘tapped that’ in an instant. Oh , and at one point , I found out my face was edited onto a porn stars body – which I only found out about by mistake- and then inserted into a group chat , where they were winding someone up about talking to me. I was told in the one place where there was no cctv that ‘anything could happen if I wanted it’ whilst they were laughing. I was forced into hugs I didn’t want- with them finding it funny that I didn’t like hugs and that I was protesting. I was catcalled in front of customers and whistled like a dog to get my attention. Oh and on a particularly hot day I came into work to get a present for someone. I was wearing trousers and a crop top. I chatted to a co-worker and then more came down the aisle to tell me that they hadn’t realised it was me on cctv and people had been making comments about my arse and my body. I thought being in a relationship would make it stop. It made it worse. Suddenly I became someone who was on the cards, as if I had gone from a girl they were never going to win, to fair game .They constantly had to talk about my relationship, wanted to know about my sex life. This was until they got bored of getting no answers. Then they said I was too good for him and that I should date them – always laughing of course. They said how did he pull a ‘fit girl like me’- cringe. It progressed to rumours being spread about me and other colleagues. My work life then began to affect my private life, I kept hearing whisperings about being a cheat. I had to distance myself from one of the only males who is not inappropriate to me- to stop the rumours that threatened my friendships and relationship. By this point my dignity felt violated, I felt intimidated, humiliated and utterly broken. I’d reported it to a manager in a low-key way before , but he was part of the problem.So I reported it again more formally to the store manager, whilst still trying to keep things low-key . But I kept thinking maybe I was being over-sensitive, maybe I had provoked it , maybe I should have just liked the attention like others did. Maybe they didn’t mean it – some of them had partners didn’t they ? Maybe it was all just part of the workplace banter. Would they think I was a troublemaker- would I lose my job? My store manager tried to be effective, he held meetings on what sexual harassment was – tried to protect who had made the complaint (me)by making me attend too. But, I had to sit there whilst people said this doesn’t happen here, someone is being over-sensitive.I guess those who would not dream of perpetrating it find it difficult to imagine others getting away with it, or they are simply misguided that perpetrators must be overt lecherous monsters, not their kind colleagues. After reporting it , things chilled out , maybe people guessed it was me and began to avoided trying to ‘banter’ with me , but I always knew it was all bubbling beneath the surface. And on a night out when I was groped by my manager – I should have seen it coming.

Emily

To all the people in my school who would try to sexualise my body, if a person has bigger breasts that does not make them any more or less sexual than someone who has smaller ones! I happen to be asexual and my body-shape is literally nothing to do with my sexuality or orientation, it wouldn’t matter if I wasn’t asexual either and does not give you the right to harass and try to touch me. Also why are girls shamed for their bodies and their sexuality no matter what it is? If I’m ace I am therefore a “prude”, if I wasn’t asexual it would be “slut” or something else nasty, it seems being female is enough for some people to give you a nasty label regardless!

celia

I started a new job at Jimmy John’s. It was going alright, but as it often happens I noticed some things that I wasnt sure were strange or not. The manager of the store was very nice, but sort of slow, and turns out he couldn’t read well. I always worked alone with an older man who trained me, and he would make the manager laugh. It seemed that he was the manager instead of him. I was almost always completely alone with him. He started to call me “baby.” I could feel him staring at my ass when I bent down, and was afraid to do so. There was a backdoor to where I would take smoke breaks. One time I went back, and his truck was parked with the car door trapped right next to the door to the smoke area. He was sitting in his car, his body every close to the door I had just opened. He invites me in, and talked about taking a ride sometime. He pointed to me where he kept the booze. I quit after a week, and told the manager over the phone, and he was surprised and very sorry. I started to realize that my trainer most likely had complete control over the store, as the manager was slow and wouldnt be able to read the employee conduct guidelines. He could tell him anything he wanted. The next week when I picked up my last check, terrified, I noticed that there was a new young, pretty teenage girl being taught by him-alone. The cycle continues. If I hadn’t already been sexually harassed at the two other jobs that I’d had previously, I wouldnt have been as quick to quit. Self doubt and fear kept me at the other jobs, and the harrassment had continued to get worse. I dont know what would have happened if it had been my first experience.

celia

I worked at a cafe where most of us were pretty teen girls. There was an older cook in the back who I thought was pretty cool. One day he was obviously drunk, and all of the servers knew, but no one did anything about it. I think my manager was just desperate. I went in the back to dump out the mop water and he followed me, making sexual comments. When I bent over to poor it out, he took out his phone and took a picture of me bending over. I was in shock, I dont even remember if I asked him to delete that. The work environment was to program us into never making a scene, always smiling, doing anything to make the customer happy, and pretending that everything was pleasant. From prior experience, like almost being blinded by chemicals (breaking OSHA regulations for eye wear) and having to go through extensive eye tissue treatments from corrosion,I am certain my female boss would not have done anything, and would pretend nothing had happened. Other girls have told me of similar harassment from him, and one of them told and nothing was done about it.