Why Victim Blaming Must Stop: A Personal Account of Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

Transgressive behavior is – unfortunately – of all times and therefore something we must continue to talk about. As a lesson for perpetrators, as support for victims. Because victim blaming really should stop. In the weekly column ‘Why didn’t I say anything then?’ readers share cross-border situations in which they froze. This week Petra (53) who experienced sexual harassment in the workplace.

Eva BredaDragonfly

“Joris and I sit behind the computer together. He suddenly ordered me to work overtime. That never happens. I feel his body, which is eerily close to mine and seems to get closer and closer. While we install a new program together – something that suddenly had to be done urgently – Joris starts talking about his wife. “She has MS,” he tells me piteously. “We’re not having sex anymore. I miss it very much.’ I feel my stomach tighten. What are George’s intentions? ‘I’m looking for someone I can do that with’, Joris continues. ‘Someone I know well. Like you. You know I’m very good friends with the boss, don’t you?’ I don’t say a word. I feel dirty and trapped. How do I get out of here?”

A hand across my breasts

“In the company where I worked a few years ago, I was the only woman. ‘Hey typmiep’, was always called to me when I appeared at the office. “Did you go butt this weekend?” I hated it, the condescending remarks and the sexual atmosphere, but I didn’t dare say anything about it. Often I ignored the comments, pretending not to hear. Now I often think: I should have just told them to shut up.

Joris never joined in the ordinary shouting. He was my beacon within the company. My boss was quite out of his mind. As one of his best friends, Joris always knew how to calm him down and he often stood up for me. Still, I noticed that he was getting very close to me more and more. He walked right behind me, touching me gently or running his hand across my breasts. I froze at such a moment and didn’t dare say anything about it. Surely it happened by accident? When he suddenly suggested – no – announced that I should work overtime with him, I was wary.

I really needed that job

I spent the whole day telling myself not to look behind his behavior and not to mistrust him. When he started talking about his wife and a sex buddy, alarm bells went off. I should have said I didn’t like that kind of private information, but once again I froze. Especially when Joris repeatedly emphasized how good friends he was with our boss, I didn’t dare say a word to him. He didn’t say it so explicitly, but I felt everything that it was a threat: don’t think you can go against me, I have power and can have you kicked out of the company.

He knew I couldn’t afford that. As a single mom with three kids, I needed every penny. Maybe that’s why I stayed so long at a company where sexual harassment and derogatory comments were the order of the day.

Making more and more mistakes

As Joris went on and on about his sexual needs, thank goodness I came up with a way out that didn’t involve making a fuss or risking my job. In a few sentences I messaged my new friend that my colleague was after me and that he should come and rescue me. Less than ten minutes later, there was a knock on the door. ‘What is he doing here?’ asked Joris, not really amused by the company.

I made up that my friend “happened to be around.” Suddenly Joris completely turned around. Gone was his friendly attitude towards me. In fact, overtime was suddenly no longer necessary. I could go. That confirmed to me that he had only one reason to want to stay in the office with me. That night and the other sexual remarks from my colleagues made me so uncomfortable that I made more and more mistakes in the workplace and was fired from the company within a month. Financially that was a bit complicated, but looking back now it was a good thing.

Was it just me?

In recent years I have often thought about the incident. Oddly enough, I blamed myself for a long time. Had I done something that gave Joris the wrong impression of our band? Was I dressed too provocatively? And why hadn’t I just put a stop to this inappropriate behavior from my colleagues? I should have slapped him when he stroked my breasts; I should have told him to discuss his sexual needs with his wife.

The more I talk about it with friends, the more I discover it wasn’t my fault. That was only confirmed when the news came out about transgressive behavior at The voice. It shows how vicious abuse of power is. I therefore hope that men, especially men in positions of power, see how careful they should be with their position. Do some self-reflection, realize the position you are in and watch your behavior. No job description can justify behaving disrespectfully towards others.”

2023-06-02 12:14:00
#Petra #wife #colleague #wanted #sleep

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