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overheard conversation about sexual harassment.

(21 Posts)
Charis1 Sat 16-May-15 07:05:43

another moral dilemma, as you lot helped me so much with the last one.

There was a staff meal last night, and some of us went on to a club after woods. Not really my scene tbh, but I went along anyway.

At one point, after we had all had quite a few drinks, I was standing alone by the wall, and several colleagues standing near by with their back to me, and I listened in on their conversation.

They were laughing and joking about their treatment of several women at work, treatment which I can only describe as bullying and sexual harassment. ( including one man exposing himself to quite an elderly, straight laced female manager)

They were imitating the shocked reactions they could get and laughing about embarrassing and shocking people, and planning who to target next.

I don't know if the people they mention were upset, or traumatised or laughed it off. They mentioned three people, of which I know two quite well, neither have ever said anything to me or in my hearing about this. They might consider it nothing, or they might not want other people to know about it.

But of course, if they want to report it, i now have cooberating evidence, having heard this conversation.

Smoorikins Sat 16-May-15 07:10:51

If neither of the people you know well have mentioned it, are you sure it really happened? It sounds like one person said something and others joined in to make themselves be part of this drink-induced attempt at being entertaining.

Charis1 Sat 16-May-15 07:15:13

that occured to me to smoorikins. It might not hae happened, or someone might have been distressed, but felt they could do nothing as they had no witnesses, and by glad that i am now a witness, or they might never want it mentioned again.........

Lovelydiscusfish Sat 16-May-15 07:18:24

How horrible! I'm not too sure what you should do - do you know the victims well enough to bring it up with them, see if it actually happened, how they'd feel about reporting it with your supports, etc etc.
Or is there a supportive manager you could raise your concerns with, who might already have ideas on whether this harassment is happening in the workplace, and advise you how to take it forwards?
Even if it's not true and they were making it up (hopefully the case), it's bloody disturbing and disgusting!

Smoorikins Sat 16-May-15 07:20:22

My feeling is that it either never happened, or if it did, the people would have told you if they wanted you to know.

If you do being it up, don't mention names. Just say that they were saying this was the kind of thing they were doing to colleagues. If they want to tell you, you have given they an opportunity but you haven't forced their hand.

GloGirl Sat 16-May-15 07:23:16

I would mention one incident to the victim, if they say "Yes that happened" I'd report the full conversation to HR - they can do a full investigation then.

Longtalljosie Sat 16-May-15 07:50:49

I would just go to HR. Work outings aren't exempt from behaviour standards - I had a colleague who was disciplined for his behaviour at a leaving do. I would imagine it's true - and even if it isn't, laughing about fantasies of sexually harassing colleagues is still worthy of a complaint...

soapboxqueen Sat 16-May-15 08:22:26

As far as I'm concerned even the conversation (even if everything was made up) creates a hostile working environment. If I were in your shoes, I would be worrying about it happening again or to me or about the potential of working in a place where this sort of thing went on.

In addition, even if it hasn't happened they are talking about in in such a way as to make it acceptable. Even if just one of the group is more suggestible and believes this is how the 'cool guys' act, it could lead talk into being a reality.

I would go to HR. Talk to them. Say you aren't sure if these incidents took place. You could even withhold the names if you feel the potential women involved don't want to be involved. However, it isn't appropriate to discuss these things happening at work.

LurcioAgain Sat 16-May-15 08:41:47

Go to HR. It was made abundantly clear to me and my colleagues on the equality and diversity bit of our induction training at my workplace that occasions like this, where a works do spills out into a follow-on affair at a pub or club, still count as work events for the purpuses of sexual harrassment and discrimination legislation. There's no grey area. It's exactly the same as if you had heard them having this conversation in the photocopier room on work premises.

Well done for being prepared to stand up and be counted and offer corroborrating evidence for the fact that this woman is being bullied.

Charis1 Sun 17-May-15 22:51:04

well, I have written out a statement and emailed it to myself so it is dated, but haven't decided what to do at work tomorrow.

Lovelydiscusfish Sun 17-May-15 23:10:05

Good luck, Charis. No blame attaches to you (IMHO) at all if you don't report, I could understand why you wouldn't in fact, but all power to you if you do.
My best work friend and I are aware of an incidence of sexual harassment in our workplace similar to what you describe, that we are very much convinced did actually occur . He was aware of it second hand (sort of like you), me about 98th hand. We did nothing at the time because we felt we had very little evidence. Time has gone on and that seems to make it harder. But we talk about it, and our guilt at not speaking up, every day.
At the same time, it is only abusers/harassers who are guilty. If you don't feel comfortable reporting, that us entirely valid. Only you know your workplace situation, and what the potential repurcussions might be.

Charis1 Sun 17-May-15 23:36:17

Thank you discusfish. That is a really helpful post.

Fatmomma99 Sun 17-May-15 23:46:08

YNBU, but I don't suggest you go to HR. With only your evidence, what have they got to investigate? Unless they have massive time on their hands, I think they'll ignore it.

My suggestion would be to contact as many of the people involved you feel comfortable with. And say something a bit vague (you don't want to be accused of having implanted ideas) but just say "I have overheard something that made me uncomfortable, and I think the people involved were talking about you. If you were in a situation that upset you and were thinking about complaining about it, I am a potential witness for you, so get back to me and we'll talk some more"

Good luck, and congrats to you for not just swallowing!

ilovesooty Mon 18-May-15 08:24:44

No decent HR team should ignore a report like this. What you heard needs to be reported. It raises concerns about how people in the company are perceived and treated and about the conduct and attitude of these employees. The fact that it was a social occasion makes no difference.
I disagree with the poster above who says that no blame attached to you if you don't report. In my company if you were to hear something like this and fail to challenge it directly or report it you'd be seen as complicit in it. I think now you've heard it you have to do something.

Longtalljosie Mon 18-May-15 09:16:13

Sorry - they hear a report that a male member of staff exposed himself to a female member of staff, think "oh well" and head out for a croissant? I bloody hope not...

hedgehogsdontbite Mon 18-May-15 11:30:26

WTF? You're a SEN teacher and you now know this is what some of your colleagues are up to, exposing themselves to females whilst at work, and you don't know what to do about it? Are you for real? confused

ilovesooty Mon 18-May-15 17:36:42

Did you report it?

Charis1 Mon 18-May-15 22:42:55

Did you report it?
I haven't done yet. I wrote down what I had heard, and intended to speak to one of the women today, along the lines that have been suggested. Then I started to wonder if I had written in enough detail. I think, before I have a conversation with this woman, I need to write down exactly every detail I remember, and email it to myself, at a date before the conversation,so no one can say later the conversation influenced my memory at all.

I've done the email now, and am going to approach this woman tomorrow, and try and start a conversation along the lines that have been suggested here.

slightlyeggstained Tue 19-May-15 21:42:07

Sounds reasonable. Do make sure you let her know there are others.

Have worked with two women who were harassed at work. I didn't know with either of them until later on - too late to help.

Harassers don't just stop, they're having too much fun. They don't think your colleague is a real person, they don't give a shit what their "fun" does to her.

Charis1 Wed 20-May-15 19:34:42

some men have been suspended, and I can't really say anything else about it in public. sorry.

cariadlet Wed 20-May-15 19:36:28

OP, I know you probably won't be able to make any further comments on this thread, but well done for doing the right thing and speaking up. It can't have been easy.

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