Incident at work - over sharing?(27 Posts)
Apologies because I couldn't work out an appropriate title to this. It's basically about if it's acceptable to discuss rape / sexual assault at work.
Situation is that I am a student on a 4 month placement. I have an assessor / mentor I meet with regularly to discuss how I'm doing.
On a long journey with colleague A we were discussing the difficulty of balancing studies with life. I mentioned that I'd found the previous module particularly difficult because I'd been going through a court case with my DD (16yrs) at the same time (clarifying she was a victim not a perpetrator). Colleague asked what happened, I gave a brief summary of it being a sexual assault and answered any questions she asked (about sentencing and if DD / me had support mostly).
At my next assessor meeting, assessor tells me he needs to discuss my personal boundaries because there had been some concerning incidents. Clarified that actually there was one incident and it was the conversation with colleague A.
Assessor questioned why I would tell anyone that, said that it was strange and weird and that I wasn't really part of the team (?) and they weren't my friends.
I was shocked and a bit upset and responded that I didn't see why I shouldn't discuss it as it shouldn't have shame attached.
I did speak to colleague A later who was suprised at this conversation and explained she had spoken to assessor as she was concerned she had not been supportive enough (which I reassured her wasn't the case as I wasn't seeking support).
It's been playing on my mind a bit since and I keep thinking if it had been that my DD or DS had been the victim of an assault (non sexual) then that conversation wouldn't have happened. It wouldn't have raised an eyebrow - but maybe I'm wrong? What if it was a domestic assault? And it made me wonder if part of the issue is that we do attach shame and stigma to any sort of gendered violence and if so how to challenge that.
I'm interested in people's thoughts on it, if it was inappropriate to mention it then why was it? What about secondary survivors - does that mean that you can't tell anyone, or does that relate more to giving detailed accounts? And where would you draw the lines? If it's not inappropriate then is there a good way to broach it with the assessor for if a similar situation occurred with future students?
Fwiw I don't think strange was a thoughtful choice of words either way. And DD wouldn't object to me mentioning it, her opinion is that it wasn't her fault so why should she care who knows - I know this isn't a mentality universally shared by victims of any sort of crime.
Did you explain that:
1. Your DD doesn't mind you mentioning it; and
2. Your colleague had asked further questions about it?
TBH, I think your colleague is a bit weird - approaching the supervisor with an air of faux concern that she hadn't been supportive enough. It smack slightly of wanting to pass on salacious gossip. If she was concerned, she could have spoken directly to you
Erm no I don't think so, I did say that it was within context of a conversation and I hadn't just randomly brought it up.
But honestly I was surprised and a bit upset, the implication that I had been unprofessional was unpleasant and not something that's ever been suggested to me before.
And yes, I thought it was odd she didn't just speak to me about it but my rationalisation for that is that maybe she felt it was assessors place to query any need for support.
You could have struggled because your house had been burgled and your car stolen so whilst you did the module you also dealt with all of the above.
Or a family member was diagnosed with terminal cancer and you provided support whilst doing your module.
Would any of the above need mentioning by the colleague or then a mentor in a meeting?
Well that's my question Dragons
Is there something about the nature of sexual assault that means it's not ok to talk about?
I should maybe add that in the conversation with colleague I did mention that it was all done with now and so I don't think I gave the impression there were any ongoing concerns.
Assessor vaguely suggested that he was bringing it up in case it affected my practice but then said that he knew my practice was fine, so I'm not sure that that was relevant.
I would summarize the (frankly bizarre) meeting on an email and ask if that reflects his understanding of the conversation. Say you are clarifying to ensure you understand what he meant eg that there is something about the nature of a sexual assault which makes it too intimate/upsetting/ unprofessional (Ffs!) to share in a car conversation in which the other person carried on and asked questions about it.
Maybe ask him to clarify what other events would be perceived so negatively (burglary? Etc) so you can understand what exactly made him have this reaction? Making sure you put in that you aren't a real part of the team and any other words like 'odd' or 'weird'.
And wait to see his clarification.
Basically, if he's an absolute idiot he'll clarify that yes, sexual violence can never be spoken about, but more likely, I'd wait for a twisting of words / climb down.
If he does defend his decision point out that sexual violence is not judged on a closed court and is widely reported in the press, so you're not quite sure what element of it makes it something to be kept silence over? Maybe ask him why you are being told to be embarrassed and gagged about something that is part of your everyday life? And that hiding and pretending this isn't happening gives sexual predators more power, not less in society. And isn't it everyone's job to participate in society in a way that shapes how you want society to be, not giving perpetrators of sexual violence power and making victims and their families isolated and ashamed?
Grrrrr. Sodding idiot. I think HE is the one who has 'a thing' about this and should be called out on it. But understand you need to tread carefully as its your job placement.
Agree with Misc.
I suspect he is "hearing" the sex part not the assault part and reacting as if you'd shared details of a family member's sex life. The hard of thinking sometimes believe rape/sexual assault is about sex rather than power and violence.
for you and DD and well done her for getting through court
Ask in writing why he thinks you are strange and or weird.
State - conversation was about balancing work and study and you mentioned you had an additional 'burden' which could have impacted on both but you overcame this. Colleague A asked further questions and you answered them truthfully.
Ask for clarification as to whether you should mention anything that may impact on your practice or not, and a list of situations you could mention and those that you should not.
I must admit I'm shocked that you felt it appropriate to discuss with a work colleague, especially one you have known for such a short time although I do think your manager was wrong to get involved.
It is not your story to tell, it is your daughter's.
If you are struggling with it you should seek your own counselling.
Appropriate? An adult can discuss whatever she likes in a long car journey and can judge whether it's a appropriate.
I find the whole thing rather weird and would be seeking the support of ACAS.
Wot Misc said, every time. Absolutely, find out what he thinks abut it, set out like that.
Oh, the kindest explanation would be the PP, who suggested that he heard the sex, but not the assault, part and thought that you were haring about a relative's private life.
(I Know it's not supposed to be all about me, but I wish i had expressed it as misc did. S i read it i became clear that that is what i thought.)
Posie - it's the fact that it happened to OP's DD that makes me feel it was inappropriate to discuss unless her DD is comfortable with it.
I'd be really unhappy if my mother discussed mine with friends, never mind a colleague of 4 months.
I see nothing wrong with what the OP has one and the query should be at the door of the assessor who has dramatised this (poss because of the sex angle, yes). I am a team leader in a very 'enabling' environment, and we talk about inter-personally delicate stuff often - we have an understanding, which the OP assumed she had also.
She also made it clear that dd wouldn't have objected to a discussion being held as she is the innocent party and chooses to not internalise things.
In most societies, people who have been victims of sexual assault are expected to stay silent. And if they aren't then those around them are expected to stay silent about what they heared.
One word. It begins with P and ends in a Y.
"And DD wouldn't object to me mentioning it, her opinion is that it wasn't her fault so why should she care who knows -"
It's in the OP, Milk!
Long, busy day so it's taken me a while to get back to this.
Thank you for your thoughts. I'm glad that, for the most part people don't see it as being a major issue from my side. I will consider composing an email about it, though I am tempted to leave it until after final meeting (next week) so that any response has to be in writing too.
Milk I appreciate your point of view too, possibly you offer some clarity as to why assessor might feel it's an issue. I would like to be clear though that I wasn't in need of or looking for counselling and when I was asked by colleague about support I told her that I was well supported and able to access anything I needed. If I was struggling with it then I would be less likely to discuss that with a colleague unless I particularly needed to. DrSeuss has kindly pointed out that I already mentioned DD wouldn't object and I know you said this was your main measure of appropriateness, knowing that DD is comfortable - do you still think it's inappropriate? I don't object if you do, you're absolutely entitled to your view. I'm just seeking to understand it and where people draw the lines around what is and isn't out of bounds for conversation.
Ophelia I think the requirement to stay silent about experiences of sexual assault contributes to shame and guilt around it and probably makes reporting it even less likely. I am so pleased that DD feels able to discuss it without giving in to that - she even told her counsellor off for victim blaming! DD is a fabulous young woman.
If it is a healthcare environment it is really important that students understand the role of boundaries when discussing personal lives.... Because car share was not well known to you your supervisor may have had concerns about your boundaries across other situations / people .
I'd be really unhappy if my mother discussed mine with friends, never mind a colleague of 4 months
Yes. I think that's the issue.
I already mentioned DD wouldn't object
You know her best of course, but did she really know you would be discussing this with a colleague you barely know and she doesn't know at all?
OP, thanks for your reflection - sounds a pretty healthy state to be in, in a tricky set of circs.
Lass - I, as most of the posters,are investing in the OP's best judgement here. Here discussion with a colleague has no bearing on her dd, which she knows best about, not anyone else.
Agree with DrSeuss and Misc, particularly the bit about people thinking about it as sex, not a violent attack, and being prudish about it.
It's his reaction that was inappropriate, not your telling a colleague about something traumatic that your family as a whole were going through. If your daughter didn't mind you speaking about it it's not anyone else's right to say you shouldn't.
I'm glad your DD is able to cope with it in the way she has, OP. Particularly that she doesn't feel ashamed or blame herself in anyway.
Lass, if OP had talked about being busy supporting her son in court who'd been assaulted in a pub, would you have the same concern?
Cockwomble it is sort of health care based and I totally get why personal boundaries around clients in any of those sort of settings are so important. But it very clearly wasn't about that since assessor has had the opportunity to observe interaction with members of the public numerous times and doesn't have an issue, I guess you could argue that it's transferable, that if you were concerned about boundaries with one group (staff) then you'd automatically be concerned about both. That though assumes that the conversation I had was crossing a boundary.
So where does that line lie? How long do you need to know someone (as a colleague or as a friend - does this differ?) before its ok to talk about sexual assault? Would it be the same rule if it was a physical assault? Or a robbery? What is it that makes it different? That's what I would like to understand.
A different colleague was telling me about their relationship ending and the circumstances of that (which was obviously a difficult situation for them). What makes that more appropriate? Or isn't it? Would that conversation have resulted in questioning over boundaries?
Because I actually think I have perfectly healthy boundaries, I alter them appropriate to the situation and person but I do maintain them.
Lass I of course didn't tell DD I would have the conversation before I had it or get her permission because I didn't forward plan talking about it, it came up in context. It's the only time it's come up at all at work. But I know my DD well and the assault and trial isn't a big dark secret not to be talked about and why should it be? (Of course i would respect her wishes if she wanted it to remain private for whatever reason, we don't for example discuss it with her Great - grandparents because she was concerned it would be upsetting for them). I also didn't go home and say 'guess what, I was talking about you today!' but we have had conversations at various times through the investigation, trial and beyond about discussing it privately and publicly, how she feels about it, who she is comfortable with knowing etc. And I used that knowledge to judge that she wouldn't mind that conversation taking place. I actually have told her about this situation and her response was 'what the hell? Why is it any of assessors business (to question me about it)? Why does that cross a boundary? Am I allowed to talk about it??' Some of which I was able to offer a better response to than others.
I don't really think it's useful to keep answering that point because there isn't anything more I can say. I didn't get the impression that the concern was that I was telling DD's story and had I sought her permission but maybe that was an underlying issue that helped drive the raising of it?
I do suspect that there is a great deal of truth in the point raised about it being the word 'sex' that has made it an issue and that somehow that makes it equivalent to discussing your sex life, rather than equivalent to discussing any other assault. And I feel like that's the thing I'd want to challenge.
Mandatory... You were asked a question, you answered it honestly and presumably calmly, or at least as calmly as it's possible to be. I assume you were factual when you answered follow up questions, so, for me, from that pov, there would be no oversharing issues. Unless you volunteer the information to clients apropos of nothing, then I can't see an oversharing issue here.
You say your DD is cool with you talking about it, so no problems there.
What's probably happened is that somewhere along the line someone has put their own slant on things and decided that you have talked about a taboo subject.
And thank you for believing and supporting your DD. Too many mothers fail to do that.
The oddest thing here is that the colleague blathered about it to the assessor. She should have respected you told her a personal thing and left it at that. I know all kinds of things about my colleagues, as when you work together, sometimes life and stress intrudes and people mention things that are happening. This is not weird. It is weird then passing on that info, I'm not sure I buy the 'I wondered if I was supportive enough' line.
The assessor is then being strange in saying you can't say personal things to someone on a long car drive! Yes, with patients of course you can't, but with someone you have known a few months, on a long drive, many friendships have started out this way. I don't see what you did as wrong at all.
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