Sexual harassment in the workplace.

16 10 2006

Names and places have been changed to protect… things. It’s a touchy subject. It feels like it’s less taboo than it was a decade ago. More people talk about it. More people joke about it. But is joking really the answer? I don’t think so.

Disclaimer: This is an ‘other’ personal account, revealed only to inform and educate. It is not meant to defame or offend.

It was a new job. With new digs, new people to deal with, new situations to extract myself from. All in all, it felt like a brand new adventure. Nothing was too intimidating, people my age. I could get comfortable here.

After lunch on my own the first few days, I was finally invited out with some of the younger crowd. Excitement. A little social lunch. The group was about half girls and half guys. It was mostly just observation on my part — surveying the personality landscape, if you will.

Then it happened, “Do you have a boyfriend?”

I faltered. This was not a question one asked at work. Or even a work-like environment. It was still during the work day. We were out at lunch, yes, we were all well under the age of a middle-life-crisis… we were still mostly fresh out of school. I chewed my way out of actually answering the question, and managed to choke out a negative from around the unusually large bite I had taken.

I was advised to brush it off, as this guy supposedly had always asked all the other girls the same question. Nonetheless, I still felt uneasy. I didn’t really want to make waves at the new place, just make sure they knew I was an excellent employee — above and beyond the call of duty and all that stuff.

Unfortunately, I just couldn’t shake the anxiety attacks that started coming every time he and I were in the same room together. That couldn’t be good.

The next week, it was out to lunch with the same group. In virtually the same scenario there was another question, materializing out of nowhere, “Do you have room in your bed for a boyfriend?”

Everyone else laughed it off. I… could not. I felt violated. I felt offended. I felt anxious and panicky. Did my actions of the week before encourage him to ask something else? I don’t mind telling people my age (24) or my weight (125 lbs). But to ask something like that when you’re not trashed in a bar on some weekend and at work… does not fly with me. It shouldn’t fly with anyone. We’re young adults, we’re not in high school or elementary school — where we’re not supposed to know any better. We got ourselves into this job, now we should conduct ourselves professionally. One could make the argument that a comfortable casual work environment should beget a casual rapport among employees — yes. But there should be a line. And I feel, to this day, that that line was crossed.

So I said something. I didn’t scream bloody murder or rape right then and there at the table. Remember, I didn’t want to make too many waves. I just told my manager.

Brushing it off and ignoring it isn’t the answer. Laughing it off doesn’t make the person (be it girl or guy) feel any more comfortable than their original reaction. Making excuses for the person doesn’t help either.

Catch it before it becomes something worse. Help the problem before it becomes a disaster.


Take Back the Night




One response

21 11 2006
Third Rake Comics

Awesome Post!

Third Rake webcomic

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