He was senior to me and we had little interaction. Thus, when he entered my office, in his plaid, short sleeved shirt, I greeted him enthusiastically, “Hi Mr C.”
He grumbled something, extended his left hand and held onto my left breast. I can see it now, in slow motion as I type.
I dug the nails of my right hand into his exposed lower left arm, flung his hand away, and shouted “No.”
He looked at me, confused and hurt, then shuffled out of my office. I followed him, hot on his heels. When he ducked into his office, I continued to the CEO’s office.
I bypassed the CEO’s secretary and barged into his office. I shouted, “Your man grabbed me.” The CEO looked up at me; he had no idea what I was talking about. I continued. “ Mr C, just grabbed my left breast. And you need to do something about it.” I turned, left his office, even more outraged.
I returned to my desk, dialed my girlfriend,who is a lawyer, and told her what happened. She commiserated and explained that while there wasn’t a sexual harassment law, there were other legal measures that could be taken. The first step was to document the event and send it to my superiors.
I emailed the CEO and my direct report and copied the cretin. The email detailed the events, indicated that I spoke to my lawyer and demanded that something be done.
No-one responded to my email, but within the week the cretin was gone. He was off the payroll and not on the vendor’s list. Life went on.
Weeks’ later two women, who reported to me, shared that Mr C. had also touched them inappropriately. I asked them why they didn’t report the event to me. Their responses were:
- They didn’t know what to do, since there was no policy or procedure around this.
- Mr C was the CEO’s right hand man and very powerful,
- They thought reporting would be frowned upon
- They feared that no one would believe them
- They didn’t think anything would be done about it
- They didn’t think that they had any form of recourse.
It didn’t end there. At the company’s Christmas function, the CEO was holding court, sharing war stories. In front of me, he shared the story of the time that I barged into his office. He chuckled and remarked, ” Poor Mr C, I had to let him go. He touched the wrong one.”
As I participated in the consultation on the National Draft Policy on Sexual Harassment, that event came to mind and I shared it with my peers. After sharing, a colleague quietly and confidentially shared her story of sexual harassment with me. She confessed that she had never shared her story before (not even with her husband), and expressed her relief in getting it off her chest, some twenty plus years later.
What’s your story on sexual harassment? What did you see or experience?
If you cannot share publicly, message me and I will share it anonymously for you. I fully support the National Policy on Sexual Harassment. This needs to stop.
Maxine Attong is an Organizational Development consultant and author. If you found value in the story please share with your colleagues and networks.