In Their Own Words An Example Of Sexual Harassment

Below is an example of sexual harassment giving voice to the silenced whose stories are never told. It is a fictionalized example combining the autobiographical accounts of several women and representing a prototypical case rather than a specific woman or company.

After finishing graduate school I was excited about my new position. My supervisor, Dan, mentored me and led me to believe he was committed to my success. While working on the end-of-the-year fiscal reports, he asked me to join him to grab a bite to eat and discuss what work remained. At the restaurant, I felt somewhat uncomfortable by how close he sat to me and how many times his leg brushed against mine, but I dismissed these thoughts, thinking I was being too sensitive. As we left, we agreed to get to work early on Friday to meet our deadline.

Friday morning he started talking about how much he enjoyed spending time with me, how attracted he was to me, and how he wanted to help me rise in the organization. He then grabbed me around my waist and kissed me. He refused to stop as I begged him to let me go. His hand slipped inside my shirt; I yelled in surprise and managed to get out of his grasp. Moments later, his secretary knocked to let him know she had arrived and would bring his coffee shortly. I used the opportunity to get out of his office and avoided him the rest of the day.

I felt sick to my stomach and my heart started racing whenever someone passed my office. I could not sleep the next several nights and I worried about being fired the entire weekend. Monday morning I had to force myself to go into work. He called me into his office and began discussing how well the reports were done as if nothing had happened. As I turned to leave he said he had another urgent project for me and needed me to stay late to get it done on time. After everyone else had left, he started saying he was my special project and tried to kiss me again. I told him it was unacceptable and unprofessional. He apologized and left the office.

A few months later he started making comments about wanting to take me to a three-day conference and "show me a good time." I started getting sick to my stomach every time I saw him. When I told him I could not go, he said it was required as part of my position and I needed to be there if I wanted to keep my job. I was afraid of what he might do if we went out of town and I began having nightmares. I decided to report him to Human Resources, but after I did so, he began criticizing my work and telling coworkers that I lied about him to hide my poor performance. I talked to Human Resources again and a few days later received a negative performance review and was put on probation. A week later I was accused of losing an important client file and fired.

I have a new job at another company, but I have a hard time accepting mentoring or support, especially from my boss. I am still always "on guard" for him making advances and I cannot seem to relax. My work has suffered and I have lost faith that my efforts will be recognized and rewarded. That is the worst part. Not only did Dan sabotage my job with that firm, but he has robbed me of my ability to trust people at work. In addition to that, I cannot muster the desire to work as hard as I used to because I do not believe doing so will make any difference in how I am treated.

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