Most predators test out their targets. They start with something small or subtle, and if they don’t find resistance, step by step they work up to something bigger. This could be a criminal luring a realtor into their home to rob them. This could be the family friend who ends up abusing your child. This could be the co-worker who goes from flirting to a sexual harassment case, as it happened to one of out workshop attendees, Anne:
Anne was at the water cooler at her new company when James brushed by her. She thought she felt his hand on her butt, but gave him the benefit of the doubt that it was an accident. James struck her as weird, and tended to be a hugger, as some people are, generally. She allowed him that, thinking “coworkers are often like family, they hug…”
The following week, James randomly hugged Anne over her arms, and when she asked him what he was doing, he said, “Oh just constricting your movements for a moment.” The meeting next door ended at that moment, and their coworkers poured out of the room. She didn’t want to make a scene, so she let it go.
Later that week, Anne was standing with coworkers discussing a project, when James came by and grabbed her butt… and this time she knew that it was no mistake. She turned to look at him, and he winked and smiled at her, and walked off.
She later caught him in the hallway and told him that he can’t be grabbing her like that, and she would let this go, but she won’t next time. He stepped closer to her and said, “I’ll remember that for next time,” and then sauntered away.
Anne consulted some of the ladies at work, and found that many of them had also been harassed by James. She took the matter to HR, who told her that he will not be terminated, and they are investigating the matter.
A tear slipped from her eye as she told me this story. “Every time I see him now, I worry that he is going to retaliate against me for reporting him. I’m new here- I worry that they will let me go for this.”
From James’ Perspective: He may not have creeped Anne and the others out on purpose. He may just think he is flirting with them or being friendly with no ill intent. It is possible that he had no idea that his behavior was offensive and unwanted.
From Anne’s Perspective: She is feeling traumatized by these experiences, and she is drowning in what she should have done, could have done, would have done, if she knew it was going to escalate like this. Now she is worried about retaliation.
From the HR Department / Company Perspective: Staff morale and time has been affected with this issue. They now have a reportable problem, one that must involve investigation, countless staff hours, and legal consult.
HOW CAN ALL OF THIS BE AVOIDED? It is not Anne’s fault that James acted inappropriately. Most, if not all companies have an anti-sexual harassment policy in place, but it appears that James didn’t read or understand it. Anne has no control over James’ behavior. However, if she had been equipped with the tools to deal with James on her own, she could have addressed the problem on the first or second incident, stopping the trouble before it became a reportable problem.
Empowered Focused Self-Defense has corporate workshops to help employees communicate with each other and the public more effectively, using assertiveness, awareness, verbal and non verbal communication, and team cohesion. We come to you and schedule the workshops at your best time. Contact us to discuss Empowering your team with an Empowered workshop at your location.