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14 December 2017

‘I was sexually harassed at work – this is how I stopped it for good’

“I didn’t think they would believe a young coloured girl over a senior white manager…”

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As a junior manager I was working late one night when the general manager came past my desk.

He noted that I had had a birthday and he had not wished me. He then proceeded to kiss me entirely inappropriately.

Read more: “My husband beat me while I was pregnant – here’s how I survived”

What if no one believes me?

The general manager was my four times removed super-senior. I said I didn’t think what he’d done was appropriate, but I was fearful that the behaviour would continue.

I thought if I told people, no one would believe me. He was a senior exec, old enough to be my father. I was a 26-year-old junior manager.

It was also in the days of Apartheid and I didn’t think they would believe a young coloured girl over a senior white manager.

Reporting sexual harassment without involving HR

I eventually told my boss’ boss. I understand that his boss had a conversation with the GM – who was actually his senior.

I also learnt from my boss that I was not the first. However, I felt entirely disempowered and I needed to reclaim my power.

Read more: This is what it’s like to have sex after being raped: one woman’s story

Confronting the perpetrator

The next time I worked late and the GM came by, I said, “Mr XXX, what you did a few weeks ago was entirely inappropriate. However, I am prepared to forget it and move on, provided that it does not happen again.”

He looked completely shocked at the fact that I had challenge him and said: “I don’t want you to forget it.” Then he walked away.

My impression, though, was that I had won the round. And after that he stayed away from me.

*The writer went on to build a successful career at the company and ultimately became a general manager.

This article was originally featured on www.womenshealthsmag.com

Image credit: iStock

 
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