Sexual Harassment Has Happened to More Women Then You Might Think….
When I decided to write this article, I asked a friend if she had ever been sexually harassed in the workplace. Her response was a simple no. When I pressed further she said:
“Well just your usual, guys grabbing you on the bum and stuff when I was younger but that’s it.”
This statement sums up how desensitized people are to sexual harassment, that it is so common that it is almost accepted as normal, a reality that comes with being a woman in the workplace. Recent studies show that one in two women have experienced sexual harassment in their lifetime and this number is on the rise.
I decided to ask the women in my life if they had ever been sexually harassed in the workplace, some have decided to share their stories in the hopes that it will bring awareness to just how serious the situation is.
“I had just turned 18 cause I wasn’t working there long and it was late at night and this guy in his mid-late twenties and myself were changing a resident and we have to close the door to their room when we change them and he started asking me if I had a boyfriend and I said no and then he asked me if I would have sex with a black man and I was SO uncomfortable I just laughed it off and then he asked if I’d meet him in the car park after work and I said no and then we were done so I went to leave and he literally body blocked the door and grabbed my arm when I went to open it and was like “why” and I don’t remember what I said but I left the room when he let go of me then just stayed back after the shift till he was gone so I didn’t bump into him in the car park.”
“When I was around 23/24 I was working for a construction company. I started off as a temp and was put on permanently eventually. There was an assessor who was always inappropriate with the girls in the office. Would start off as just little comments. He would test the waters with us. See how we react to a “less” offensive comment to see how much he could get away with. A few of us would tell him not to make comments like that and would always make sure one of us was around when he came in and spoke to the younger receptionist. It was mentioned to HR by multiple people but this particular assessor was the owner’s brother. So we would be told just not to be alone with him. Then the work Christmas party happened. It was the year of the floods and so we had a small gathering in our work office. I went to the bathroom which was in the back of the factory. Didn’t realise I was followed.
When I walked out of the bathroom he was blocking the doorway and already knew how drunk he was. He told me I looked sexy and should try to show more cleavage cause it makes him hard. I told him if he tries anything I will break his jaw. He laughed and reached for my chest. His hand landed on my chest and I grabbed 2 fingers and bent them back. He yelped in pain and then went to push me back into the bathroom stall. Luckily one of the other girls noticed my absence AND his absence and came looking for me. Her knocking on the door stopped him. I went straight to the big boss and told him I was going to the police. He told me if I could do that but he needed to talk to me first. Myself and my friend were pulled into the office and told that we were being made redundant as the business isn’t doing well. We drove straight to the police and then had multiple court dates for the next 2 years.
We ended up getting 7 girls altogether to press charges. I was lucky. He had gotten further with a girl who quit before I started. But we found out about her and I approached her and told her we are taking him down. Along with the business. And we did.”
“As a nurse, I work in a predominantly female industry however this doesn’t mean there isn’t sexual harassment. As a newlywed 21-year-old, I was working in a day theatre and loving my job. One day a Doctor blatantly asked me outright if I was interested in having an affair with him. My response was that I was newlywed and his response was that, that had nothing to do with anything. I spoke to my husband who clearly didn’t want me working anywhere near this man. I spoke to my boss and it was arranged that I would not work with this man again.
Years later as an older single female, there was a male nurse who touched me on my shoulder and arm repeatedly and kept calling me Darling. He did this to several of the female staff. I talked to another male nurse about it and he was quite dismissive about my feelings. I explained that I did not like or appreciate any man touching me and calling me Darling it is inappropriate. I couldn’t believe that even in this day and age I still had to explain that this was wrong.”
When I was a 25-year-old single mother of two, jobs were really hard to come by. My friend got me a trial at a Chinese Bistro, the boss Lee (name has been changed for privacy reasons) told me I was too slow and I didn’t get the job. I went back a few months later for dinner, I had lost a lot of weight, he offered me the job on the spot. I didn’t think much of it. I started working and enjoyed it, I got a lot of extra shifts which I just thought was because I worked hard. One afternoon Lee showed up at my house and offered to take me and my two children shopping, we went to Toy ‘R’ Us and he said they could have whatever they wanted. I told them to choose one toy under $10. When I look back now I do think that was odd however, he had a wife and kids of his own, I just thought he was being really generous. He then rigged a lucky door prize at the Christmas party so that I won, he bought me souvenirs from his overseas trip and none for the other staff members. My birthday was the final straw, he bought me an expensive gold necklace which I could not accept. My friend who worked there with me came with me to return the gift.
I confronted him in front of his brother who was a co-owner in the business, he was disgusted in Lee’s actions. I felt so uncomfortable that I resigned. After a few weeks, the brother called and begged me to come back, he promised it would never happen again and that Lee had been reprimanded. I really needed the job, I hadn’t been able to find any other work that was within school hours and certain people in my life had me convinced that maybe I had overreacted. I went back and everything was ok for a few months. It wasn’t until Lee found out that I had started seeing someone that things really took a turn for the worse. He made my job impossible and started making sexual advances during shifts. I had had enough and went back to his brother and quit for good.
After I left, Lee wrote me a letter to apologise but it was filled with his feelings for me and how he couldn’t live without me and would kill himself if he couldn’t have me. It was an awful time really, I felt confused by the whole situation and really stuck as he knew I couldn’t quit because I needed to provide for my children. I also felt like I couldn’t talk to anyone about it, I had been sexually harassed at my previous job and I thought that if I told anyone they would think that it was something that I had done.
“When I was 22 I was working in admin, I was usually the last person in the office as it was my job to lock up. I really like music and it was something that I often talked about with my boss who was in his late 40’s. One afternoon at about 5 pm it was just my boss and I left in the building he called me into his office to watch a music video. When I sat down he said “You’re going to love this”, the video was hardcore porn”. It was disgusting and I felt so uncomfortable that I kind of just froze. When it was over I went to get up and leave and he said “Do you need to wait a minute? Is your seat all wet?” The company was such a boys club that I never said anything out of fear that I would lose my job.”
“I had just started a new job and one of the guys, I think he thought he was giving me a compliment, he told me that all of the men on the team had rated me based on what they thought I would be like in bed.”
“I worked in an office when I was young. I had been doing my job for about 6 months and never really had much to do with the owner of the company as we worked on different floors, I had only met him a few times. One day he called to ask some questions about staff reports, we got talking and he asked what I was doing that night. I told him that I was going to a musical which turned out to be one of his favourites.
Later that afternoon before I left for the day he came up to my desk with an envelope. When he passed it to me he said:
“Buy yourself something nice to wear to that musical.”
I was so young and naive I really just thought he was being nice, he was older than my father. That night after the musical he sent me a message and asked to see a photo of me in my new dress. I didn’t know what to do so I just told him the camera on my phone was broken but thank you. I tried to avoid him as much as I could after that.”
Someone who took a stand was Annabel Bassil, a Bar Manager from Sydney. When Annabel was slapped on her bottom by a customer she decided to lead by example in the fight against sexual harassment and get justice for herself. When the incident first occurred Annabel confronted the man and his response was,
She later took him to court where he was found guilty though received no conviction or sentence. Annabel was happy with the outcome because the man seemed genuinely remorseful and she said that
If you have experienced sexual harassment in the workplace here is what you can do:
Justice Connect suggests the following steps…
- Check your workplace policy.
- Talk to the other person about how their actions are making you feel uncomfortable but only if you are in a position to do so safely.
- If you can not talk to them directly then seek assistance through HR, a Manager or a Board Member.
- Make a formal complaint at work, put the complaint in writing and provide it to the HR, Manager or Board Member, make sure you include any documentation, screenshots etc.
- Lodge a claim with an external body (Click here for a full list of external bodies)
- For further assistance call 1800Respect (1800 737 732)