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Feminism: Sex & gender discussions

Dealing with harassment

13 replies

alexpolismum · 27/01/2012 09:39

I am in an awkward situation. Some of you may remember a long time ago I posted about general harassment from my son's physiotherapist. I stood up to him and it stopped.

The thing is, it has recently started again, but in a different way. He does things that could be construed as accidental. In fact, I thought it was accidental, until I realised that it was all the time. He accidentally brushes against my knee going past. His hand will accidentally sweep over my hair, he will accidentally touch me in some way when handing ds2 back to me. The other day he made a comment about my appearance, and quickly turned it into a comment on the differences in appearance between English and Greek women. You get the idea. I have the feeling that if I confront him he will tell me I'm imagining it, all those little things are accidental.

Things are further complicated by the fact that he is an excellent physiotherapist, he has worked wonders with ds2, has got him walking, and ds2 seems quite happy with him. Plus, discreet enquiries have told me that he is the only physio left whose specific area of expertise is with small children with problems like ds2's. (There was another one but he has apparently gone to the UK in search of greener pastures). I could find another physio with more general expertise, but it would not be best for ds2.

What can I do??

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alexpolismum · 27/01/2012 12:13

hopeful bump

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CogitoErgoSometimes · 27/01/2012 13:05

You need to confront him and make it very clear, that you're not interested, that his manner is unprofessional and that, accidental or not, if he continues to make you feel uncomfortable by being over-familiar, you will report him to his superior or his professional body. As a way of reinforcing that you are the client, not his friend, if he uses your first name tell him from now on you'd like to be referred to by your surname and title and use the same form back to him. If he claims you are imagining things (obviously you're not) then you say you don't like being accused of lying and don't listen to him.

If it happens again then follow through and make that official complaint. You've given him enough chances and, awkward though it is, you can find a different physiotherapist. He sounds like a creep.

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alexpolismum · 27/01/2012 13:48

Thanks, Cogito,

That's just the word I needed! He is a creep!

Unfortunately, he is more or less self employed and doesn't have a superior I could talk to. I can make a complaint to the Hellenic Physiotherapists Association, although I'm not sure how much good it will do. Women here are expected to just put up with a lot of this sort of thing. It is, of course, illegal, though, so I suppose an official report to the police could be the way forward, or at least I could threaten him with it.

I have already asked him in the past to use my title - he keeps referring to me as Mum or ds2's Mum and I don't like it at all - and I shall make a point of insisting that he uses the formal verb conjugation with me. Perhaps that will help to drive the point home.

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CogitoErgoSometimes · 27/01/2012 14:23

So he's Greek and you're English? It's quite wrong if Greek women are expected to put up with lecherous creeps but you certainly don't have to. He may be a good physio but, in this relationship, you're the client and he's the hired help. So keep it businesslike and formal. No smiling, joking or asking about the weekend. He's there to do a professional job not chat, tell him.

And if he goes for your hair or your knee again (brrr) or some other creepy move slap him down (verbally) on the spot and don't worry about being polite. I don't know what the Greek for 'If you try that again I'll break your fucking arm' is but it's probably worth rehearsing. :)

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alexpolismum · 27/01/2012 14:45

Yes, I'm English living in Greece, he is Greek. (And yes, it does suck for a lot of Greek women)

I do try not to chat to him, I agree with you it's not a good idea. But he often asks me things pertaining to ds2 - what has he been doing over the last few days, has he tried walking, what environments has he been in, etc, and he finds out about my life in that way.

Don't worry, I speak Greek fluently. Smile I don't need to rehearse it (except maybe to work up to saying it, as I am usually quite a mild person).

I just asked dh what he thought (dh is usually at work when I take ds2 for his appointments, or he would go himself). He says I should say loudly in an outraged tone "You just touched my knee/ whatever! Watch where you are going!"

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CogitoErgoSometimes · 27/01/2012 15:31

I hope 'watch where you are going' sounds a lot more threatening in Greek than it does in English.

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CailinDana · 27/01/2012 15:38

I agree with your DH alex, I think you should point out every time he touches you, as if you think it's a mistake. That way he can't claim that you're being hysterical, it makes him look like a clumsy tit and it makes you both aware of just how often he does it. So if he brushes against your hair just say "Hey watch the hair, I've just styled it!" (or something less silly!) or if he touches your leg, look at his hand then look him in the eye to let him know that you're aware of what he's doing and you're not happy about it. Keep your manner towards him quite cold and if he tries to get friendly don't be friendly back, just give short answers. If he comments on your appearance give him a look to say that you think it's inappropriate. In fact comments are so unprofessional that I think it wouldn't be too much to say "I feel it's unprofessional for you to comment on my appearance."

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BasilRathbone · 27/01/2012 16:59

Could you take someone else, a friend, along with you and insist that she is in the consultation with you?

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BlingLoving · 27/01/2012 17:05

Can you physically move away from him? Ie stand further away while he's working with DS?

But I agree with everyone else. I would politely (only because I want him to continue working with DS) tell him that I do not feel comfortable being touched by strangers and he should please stop. Then everytime he touches you, say again, "please don't touch me".

But unfortunately, I'm not sure what you can do if you want him to continue working with DS.

I would also be tempted to slap his hand away - not aggressively, but firmly. especially when he touches you on the knee or body.

Creep.

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forkful · 27/01/2012 17:50

alexpolismum - where is your line? Tell us where this is so that you know if he crosses it and regardless of your DS's needs you will be unable to continue going there.

You are in a very unfortunate situation because you feel that you are depending on him and if he was completely replaceable I am sure that you'd not be using him any more.

Can you change your "discreet enquiries" to overt enquiries - perhaps post elsewhere on MN to see if anyone is getting similar treatment for their DC so that you can learn more about the treatment and use this info/knowledge to interview other physios.

If you are explicit with him about this do you think that he will still want you as a client? My guess would be yes. Men like this take lack of explicit disapproval of their overtures as consent. That is crap and the root of the whole sexual harrassment/rape/control/VAWG IMO. You have the added cultural difficulties.

BTW I know that all of the above makes the onus on you and I know that this is shit from a feminist pov - but I took what you said about your DCs health as being your top priority.

I've had success in reducing massively sexist remarks in a particular work related scenario - by rehearsing what I wanted to say using www.stopsexistremarks.org/. Also do not engage in conversation about what you have been doing or where you have been. Just use the broken record technique. So change "we went to XY park" to - in a grassy environment DS managed to do ABC, struggles with DEF etc

You have to convince yourself (as I am not sure you are convinced) - that he 100% KNOWS what he is doing. Do you think that he would be like this with your DH?

You absolutely have the right to go in there and call him on everything.

So so Sad for you. I really really hope that you can find an alternative physio.

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forkful · 27/01/2012 17:51

Just thinking - can your DH not take him? Get an early or late appointment or in DH's lunch break. Could DH work late to make up one evening etc?

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alexpolismum · 27/01/2012 18:34

Thanks everyone for your replies and support.

Cailin you're right, it would make him look silly if I pointed it out everytime he touched me. It seems so obvious now, I can't think why I didn't think of it before!

Bling I sit in a chair to one side during the physio sessions. Today I moved it further back. I can't go too far away, ds2 is reassured by my presence and gets agitated if he can't see me (this goes for all his medical appts, not just physio)

forkful Unfortunately, dh actually works outside the town (it's a 35-40min bus ride away) so couldn't take ds2 during his lunch break. On days when he is able to, he does take ds2 to his appointments. I can't go too late in the day, as then ds2 is too tired to get much benefit out of the session.

Thanks for the sexist remarks link. Things may be culturally different, but a lot of things are readily translatable! Also, that's a good idea to say things like "grassy environment" or whatever. I never thought of that.

I am absolutely certain he will still want us as clients. Because of the way the economic situation is at the moment in Greece, a lot of healthcare funding has been cut and I know he has lost clients who can no longer afford physio.

I have decided to confront him about it, and then if it continues, to loudly complain every time, making him out to be a clumsy idiot. I don't want to change physio if at all possible, because he really is the best choice for ds2.

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MrsClown · 31/01/2012 12:52

Let us know how it goes. Good luck with the creep.

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