Talking about being sexually exploited work is something that might trigger past memories for some readers. Might even be just what you need if you’re in this situation now.
I wonder first if we could agree on a basic premise that people, (that means you) are always much more intrinsically valuable than the work they perform. Just about all jobs can be performed by any number of people. While I might for example not be cut out to be a Lineman for the local hydro company, there are many others who would be more than qualified to take the place of a current employee should that person leave their job. Even the head of a country can and is replaced every so many years.
There are some people in jobs that we think no one else could do – people who invent things perhaps. But wouldn’t someone else eventually invent the great things they did eventually? Would we really be still in the dark if you-know-who didn’t invent the light bulb?
Okay so people are more valuable than the work they perform. As I write that statement I am mindful of a large number of people who will agree with this statement as long as I’m referring to other people, because they themselves have such a poor and low self-image. But we’ve got to stick with the word, “people” meaning everyone, and that includes you.
So you’ve got this job and you’re being or have been sexually exploited on the job. Maybe it’s a fellow employee or even your boss. It could be anything you don’t want, like what they deem a playful pat on the behind or squeezing up against you in a tight space when there’s a lot of room behind them. It could also be much more than that, having your pay withheld until you perform some sexual favour for them, or being coerced into doing something for a client in order to keep the boss happy.
It’s wrong and it’s illegal. If like some others, you know its wrong but feel you have no choice because you need the money from your job to pay rent and eat, you’re caught in a situation called a moral and ethical dilemma. More than that though, you’re at a high risk of things getting much more dangerous if you don’t take immediate action.
There are several things you should do. First and foremost tell the person clearly that whatever they are doing is not welcomed, and make it equally clear the behaviour is to stop immediately. If it’s someone other than your boss, don’t threaten to tell the boss, go and actually tell the boss. Lodging a complaint against someone who persists in sexually harassing you is not only going to hopefully get them to stop it with you, but maybe get them to stop repeating this with others now or in the future. In a union? Talk to a Steward.
Another thing that is a good idea is to limit your own exposure to the person as much as you can, especially avoiding situations where you may be alone with that person. Staying out of the stockroom when the other person is there, leaving the lunchroom when only that person and you would be left behind, etc. Unfortunate as it is, you may find that adjusting your behaviour on the job when that other person should be having to change their behaviour is what ultimately makes you feel safer and keeps you out of harms way.
There is no excuse for someone to sexually exploit another person. The victim in this case is certainly not encouraging or responsible in any way for egging on or encouraging the behaviour. No you’re not, “asking for it” as some perpetrators say to defend their actions.
Filing a complaint with the police is also something you should do. I guess it depends on if you’ve been initially successful in halting the unwanted touching immediately just by telling the person to stop, and how small or great you feel the intrusion to be. Squeezing a rear end, a breast, a crotch? Definitely not accidental. Backing up while carrying a box and touching their rear to yours because they were unaware you were there is highly more believable as accidental.
Quit the job and do it immediately if you feel physically at risk just by going in to work and the employer is doing nothing to curtail someone else’s behaviour. If it’s your boss and there’s no one else higher to appeal to, get out. It’s back to the original premise; you’re more important and valuable than any job.
Of course having another job to go to is preferable over quitting and being unemployed. If you are able, you might be in a position to job search while still working, and finding another job to replace the one you’ve got now, move on. This protects your income but removes the danger.
There are social service groups in your area that deal with victims of sexual assault. It’s not your fault. Contacting them for help and support is anonymous, confidential and will help. Know your rights, and know that no clothing choice you make, the way you style your hair, or the way you walk gives anyone the right to touch your body in ways you don’t want.
Protect yourself; no job is worth more than you. Please share this.