Recovery from sexual harassment in work

(93 Posts)
DailyFailAteMyFish Sat 28-May-16 09:29:03

Hi,
Anyone have any books/websites I could read to help recovery from an incident of sexual harassment in work? It was a bit unsavory and has knocked my confidence a bit. I work in a male dominated industry and was on a promotion track. I am so angry with this guy and so angry with myself that a few comments and can have such an impact.

erinaceus Sun 29-May-16 03:58:22

Hi DailyFailAteMyFish

I am sorry to hear that you went through this, and that your confidence was knocked as a result. Did you stay with the same employer?

I am no expert but I would have said that this is something that you would benefit from talking through with a trained professional. Does your employer have an Employee Assistant Program or Occupational Health department? You might find that a few sessions of counselling accessed through one of these could help you to deal with the anger towards yourself and him, and get your previously confident attitude back.

I am an advocate of counselling and other talking-based approaches and know people in my workplace who have used them as well, particularly the EAP about which I have heard good things although I never used it myself. The advantage of the EAP is that it is independent of the employer and your employer never even need to know that you reached out to them for support.

This is my suggestion; beyond that, post here for validation - I believe you. flowers

I think the first thing to do, is try and stop being angry with yourself. You didn't cause this, you didn't invite it, you didn't fail to prevent it by not doing x, y or z. It wasn't your fault, someone decided to treat you badly, and that was entirely, 100%, their fault.

The second thing, is to stop thinking of yourself as "a strong person" in relation to this. I mean, I'm sure you are a strong person, to work in a male-dominated industry I imagine you have to be strong every day just to stand still. But strong as an idea of how to be has its weaknesses: it doesn't give you any time or space to not be OK, to have an off day, to find something upsetting. So yes you are strong, but strong on its own as a way of surviving difficulty has to be infinite, to let you cope with everything bad that happens without faltering, or it has to let you down and then you'll berate yourself for not being strong enough. I guess my experience is, don't make being strong be absolutely everything, because if strong breaks, that's very hard.

I had a similar problem at work, and I took them up on their offer of counselling. It didn't really work for me perhaps because I analyse the shit out of everything and they wouldn't explain what was going on in a way that really satisfied me enough to trust their process but it might for you. I hear it's about finding the right person who can help you.

What helped me was support from a wonderful group of friends, who talked things through with me, helped me see other perspectives from the 'I am strong, why didn't I just...' and helped me with practical things, like spellchecking stuff I needed to send somewhere.

I'm happy to pay that forward for you, if you think that'll help? And I'm sure other FWR posters will too smileflowers

DailyFailAteMyFish Sun 29-May-16 09:39:37

Thanks so much for replying both of you.
Erinaceous, I believe I should be able to get counselling through work, we do have policies like the ones you mention in place and I have seen it suggested as part of the outcome of the disciplinary that will take place. I had hoped there would be a simple guide I could follow that would outline the stages following sexual harassment, which would explain what my mind was doing (because it seems I am horribly naïve) but there is nothing, just a long list of how it can screw you up, which I find unhelpful.
I will try the counselling and see if it helps. Thank you for the validation. I appreciate it.

If you want to understand theories about stages and so forth (I presume you mean psychological, not legal?) you could start by widening your definition to things like bullying generally, or sexual assault? The principles are likely to be similar I'd think.

DailyFailAteMyFish Sun 29-May-16 09:49:54

Buffy thanks so much for your story and the offer.
I think what upset me the most is this guy was almost reporting to me directly, I assigned him work and discussed it with him. I worked at showing how well the team worked together and that this guy's contribution was valuable. I did this because I wanted to secure the role for the team and the extra funding. I work in the same company as my husband (though not with him), the guy had met my husband, spoke with him. The guy's harassment almost feels like a judgement on my marriage, that he felt after having me my husband seen us socially that I would be open to an affair.

In reality though I suppose the guy is not that deep. He's, I suspect, a dirty old man who didn't think he'd get caught and thought I'd treat it as banter.

DailyFailAteMyFish Sun 29-May-16 09:56:38

Buffy, you're right, maybe I've just been too careful in my searches.
I find it hard to reconcile the harassment with assault as it was only words and assault seems to me like something physical.
I'll look at bullying, there must be something out there. I don't think my sad twisted brain can be that unique smile
Thanks again for your help.

Yep. In the end, he did it because he could, because he thought he was entitled to, because he thought he could get away with it. Nothing to do with you at all. Well, only in the sense that you are a woman and therefore fair game for men like this.

I'm not going to be glib and pretend it isn't hard. At times I thought what happened to me would destroy the person I thought I was. But it hasn't. It does get better. flowers

DailyFailAteMyFish Sun 29-May-16 10:08:25

So basically, I could have done anything. I could of not pointed out his role was valuable, not attended an after work event with my husband which the guy just happened to be at, not been nice when he had to take a day off at short notice and the guy would still have done the shitty thing he did because he is a shit?

I was tempted to respond to your latest post by saying yes, of course it's not the same as physical abuse... but actually, what is the point of setting up a hierarchy of what's worse? It's not as if you're in some sort of Hunger Games style competition for empathy and reading material with anyone, is it? grin

It is now acknowledged that emotional abuse is a very serious thing to do to someone. In fact, thinking back, it was the literature on emotional abuse / coercive control in relationships that helped me to understand the dynamics of what happened to me. It's not exactly the same as a work situation of course, but there are similarities, it was similar enough to help me, anyway. You're trapped with someone, you know that if you challenge them you still have to see them a lot and they might ramp things up. You know other people might blame you, or minimise, etc. Reading checklists of 'are you being emotionally abused' revealed to me that a lot of the things listed there, were happening to me, just not in an intimate relationship.

Of course that's my situation not yours, yours might be very different. But if there isn't much out there on emotional recovery from sexual harassment, I think the next best thing is finding the closest 'match' (if you like) to other forms of abuse/bullying, and seeing how you can apply what has been written about that, to your own situation.

So basically, I could have done anything. I could of not pointed out his role was valuable, not attended an after work event with my husband which the guy just happened to be at, not been nice when he had to take a day off at short notice and the guy would still have done the shitty thing he did because he is a shit?

Yes. If not you, then some other poor woman working in close proximity with him. Decent, kind men don't suddenly become sexual harassers / bullies because one particular woman appears, does something to provoke them and they can't stop themselves. Just shitty luck that you found yourself in a situation where he could do this to you.

DailyFailAteMyFish Sun 29-May-16 10:30:03

So this I can work with.
The horrible thing he did was always going to happen because he is a shit.
By reporting him I have stated that his behaviour it not going to be tolerated and he is not going to get away with it. I have stated that he is a shit.
It was always going to end this way not because he was making a judgement on my managerial skills or my marriage but because he was treating me as a piece of flesh that he thought he could use to get his jollies of with.

DailyFailAteMyFish Sun 29-May-16 10:36:54

I am normally more eloquent by the way smile

I think that's eloquent enough smile

That's how I'd look at it, yes. You didn't 'invite' his sexual harassment of you by talking to him or by being present at events he was also present at.

Might have been him treating you as just a piece of flesh. Might have been his (conscious or not, who knows) feeling that as a woman you should not be managing him, so he wanted to put you both back in your rightful positions in a gendered hierarchy. We can speculate about what he thought, or what he felt.

But the point is, those thoughts and feelings were his to deal with, it was entirely his call to sexually harass you, whatever his reasons or however he might justify it to himself. It was nothing you did.

Turning it around, if your male boss did things to make you wonder if he was attracted to you - praising your work, smiling at you, attending a work event you were also attending - would you take this as licence to sexually harass him? No, you would not.

DailyFailAteMyFish Sun 29-May-16 13:13:49

That is a very good point Buffy, turned around I would not think I had a right to sexually harass my boss If he was nice to me.
My immediate boss is nice to me an I have never felt the need to talk to him about seeing him naked.
Thank you so much for talking me through this. I really do feel like I've had a breakthrough of sorts. I feel so much better.

erinaceus Mon 30-May-16 06:38:50

Crikey, if you are going to disciplinary then absolutely get support for yourself, from counselling, from Mumsnet, from friends... - someone outside your organisation. As Buffy says, counselling is hit-or-miss and whilst the EAP for example is likely to have the advantage of being at no cost to you you may not get to choose your counsellor and then you end up in a functionally useless counselling situation if your counsellor does not help you. Counselling is a relationship and if you end up in another dysfunctional one you could make the situation more difficult.

I had not appreciated your case would go to disciplinary. Do you have someone giving you a clear understanding of the disciplinary process and what you might expect the outcome to look like? You might also consider getting support for your marriage if you feel that that has taken a knock.

So sorry to hear you have to go through this, and that Buffy has been through this too. I totally agree that there is no good setting up some sort of hierarchy of distress. It is possible to feel grateful that the abuse was not physical without dismissing the real damage that was done to you and the distress you experienced and are experiencing, which sound real to me.

flowers

erinaceus Mon 30-May-16 06:39:51

"...another dysfunctional one..." I am not sure what I think the first dysfunctional relationship was.

Oh for an edit button.

DailyFailAteMyFish Mon 30-May-16 12:56:29

Thanks for your reply!
Yes, it's going to disciplinary. It's all new to me so I'm not sure what the process will be beyond the policy I read and what my manager has told me.
I understand the case is pretty clear cut and not realy open to a 'he said'/'she said' interpretation but obviously I will not feel clear about it until I hear formally.
I do think I should ask for counselling, though I feel much better for Buffy's guidance. I understand now that this is not my fault, that there is nothing I could have done and that the man is a shit.
Next step is how to handle the fallout in work and inevitable gossip. I will cross that bridge once the shit has attended the disciplinary meeting.

PalmerViolet Mon 30-May-16 19:06:58

Didn't want to read and run, but have nothing to add other than support and flowers

You are braver than I

DailyFailAteMyFish Mon 30-May-16 20:54:00

Thanks PalmerViolet.
I am angry now with the guy. V v angry. Coming out fighting!
Meeting with HR tomorrow moening briefly. They say it will all be tied up by the end of the week.
Keep your fingers crossed and thanks for the support.

EBearhug Wed 01-Jun-16 23:50:22

How was the meeting, Daily? I think anger can be a very useful emotion at times, gives us the energy to fight it.

If you go for counselling - I've had counselling twice from work in the past, through the EAP - didn't have a choice about therapists either time. First time was helpful, second time really wasn't, which was partly because she kept telling me how to deal with stress, and my problem was that my father had just died after illness - grief is a sort of stress, but it's not the same as a heavy workload and pressure from management, which is what she was trying to get me to deal with.

I've also had private counselling, and that was great, because I found a really good person, and there were no time constraints, so I wasn't limited to 6 sessions as I was when I had the work sessions.

But - it will probably be worth waiting till the process is over at work, and you've had a bit of time to digest it. How you feel at the end of it all will probably depend partly on the outcome from HR, and how supported or not that makes you feel.

Hope it's all positive!

Hope the meeting was ok? flowers

DailyFailAteMyFish Thu 02-Jun-16 20:21:03

Meeting was ok! Disciplinary was this morning. He has been given a written warning and will be moved away. If he does it again he'll be sacked.
It's over, or will be very soon. He will go.
Thank you all for your help.
Buffy in particular for the comment on the nice, decent men not suddenly becoming harassers, helping to flip it and also for stating that these were his feelings and he made the choice to behave as he did.This all helped immensely. Once I stopped going over everything in my head, looking for the trigger I was able to handle it much better. I'm still shocked how angry this experience has made me and how great the impact on my mental health.
I can stand strong now knowing I've beat this shit.
Couldn't have done this without you.
flowers to all of you

erinaceus Fri 03-Jun-16 06:52:08

DailyFailAteMyFish

I am glad that the meeting was OK, and that he will be moved away. You are courageous in taking this to disciplinary. Be gentle on yourself. flowers

DailyFailAteMyFish Fri 03-Jun-16 07:07:32

Thanks erinaceus and thank you for your help up thread. I'm hoping the response from HR will include information regarding counselling, but in the mean time, I'm feeling good. I'm still sore, but I know I can be strong. You all helped me to be strong.

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