Inappropriate sexual comments in the workplace… something I didn’t think I would ever experience

So I’m currently temping at a well known car brand aftersales centre. I’ve been working there for a couple of weeks now and it is fine because the staff are lovely and the days go quickly…despite the large number of rude and precious customers. However, there is one member of staff who I initially thought was a bit overly friendly yet harmless, who’s behaviour is quickly sliding into the disturbing and uncomfortable region. I’m going to list the events so they’re easy to see and they’re not in a particular order:

  1. He commented on my outfit saying that my trousers looked nice (all fine), but then said that he ‘bet they were easy to take off’.
  2. Walked past me and brushed past my bum (not a pinch or a slap or anything like that) but an obvious hand placed on my bum followed by a ‘woops’.
  3. While handing me keys to a hire car he held my hand for a bit too long. Which left me perplexed and I thought did he really do that or did I just imagine him holding my hand for too long..? But it definitely was too long and I can remember the awkward/uncomfortable feeling rushing over me.
  4. While looking at a colleagues laptop on their desk (kind of bent over but not like that) he made a comment about me being bent over. I can’t remember specifically what he said but it was definitely an inappropriate comment, and my colleague who’s laptop I was looking at said ‘you perv’.

Admittedly, I’ve never said anything to him in response to these acts. Everytime these incidents have happened it’s been so fast and difficult to think of something to say.  He literally just walks off and we both continue as if nothing’s happened. I’m almost too embarrassed to tell anyone, which is probably why I’m writing a post obviously. I also think it’s shocking because he’s old and married etc. I haven’t been able to respond to these incidents to him which is maybe why he continues to think it’s ok? That previous sentence really infuriates me because it isn’t my fault that HE is making inappropriate comments/gestures, and I know not saying anything definitely isn’t the same thing as saying yes you can do that.

So yeah shocked and embarrassed are how I currently feel about these incidents. I actually don’t have the courage to say anything about it, because well nothing huge has happened so what will people think if I say something? Would anything even happen as a consequence? Will it reflect badly on me though is another thought?

A really sad thing is that I know I’m not the first, and I won’t be the last to experience unwanted sexual advances in work place environments. I’m even questioning if I should be calling them sexual advances because they’ve all been isolated incidences, but are a part of more than one bit of unwanted attention from the same person.

I know a handful of girl friends that have experienced unwanted attention like this too; including a friend who recently had a guy put his hand completely up her skirt while on a train at rush hour. She failed to report it and when we asked why she said ‘well… what can they do about it?’. I remember feeling frustration upon hearing this telling her that it’s so important to report incidents like this. However, now that I too have received unwanted attention I completely get not wanting to say anything about it because, well… what can they do about it?

It kind of feels like reporting it would be more inconvenient and uncomfortable than not reporting it? I know that this really isn’t the way I should be feeling but this is genuinely my thoughts on the matter right now. Reporting things like this is scary because of how other people are going to react. I legitimately am confused right now about what to do. The only thing that I’m not confused about is the fact that I’m definitely not at fault for causing this situation, and as I’ve said before me not saying anything is 100 billion % not me saying it is ok to have comments like this made to me.

Also going off topic slightly but this bullshit ‘was it something that you wore’ question that often gets asked to women who are victims of unwanted sexual advances/abuse/rape is actually so irrelevant. In relation to point 1 I was wearing wide leggged, loose fitting trousers. In relation to point 2 I was wearing a dress that is loose and did not accentuate my bum in any way. No part of my work place outfits are revealing or inappropriate! Even if they were it does not give people especially men the right to touch me or make sexual comments…

I’m writing this post from a female perspective, because well I am one and I’ve only ever really spoken to other girls about this type of thing. I don’t doubt that it happens to men as well, and women are also guilty of making inappropriate comments. Essentially I really think that consent needs to be made a bigger thing of. I think it needs to be driven in to girls and boys at school and possibly even in the workplace. I went to an all girls school and I don’t remember being explicitly taught what is unacceptable behaviour. I also spoke to friends that went to all boys schools and they said the same thing.

Surely it would make a whole lot of sense for people to say to kids ‘don’t go round pinching or touching people’s bums’  or ‘don’t make inappropriate comments like ________’ with specific examples. Instead sexual relations and boundaries and consent continues to be a tip toed  around subject, but maybe explicit and frank conversations need to be made to make it clearer to people what is unacceptable. There’s so many unwanted sexual things that happen to people that they are scared to openly talk about, and perpetrators come up with excuses like ‘I didn’t know that they didn’t like it or want it because they said nothing’. When really the whole situation just should not have happened and can be avoided, I believe as people are taught which behaviour is wrong. I really do believe that we should be explicit in teaching this stuff because as a society we are definitely failing to some extent where people clearly assume inappropriate actions are normal and people are scared to speak out.

We spend so much time getting taught you can say no, but it would make just as much sense to explain to people to not create unwanted situations alongside driving the ‘say no’ argument. We should also spend time explaining to people how to be more understanding and more sympathetic when people speak out alongside encouraging people to speak out. Half of the time when people are reluctant to say something it is because they fear the reaction.

Thanks for reading my story.

 

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