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

Here's how a woman stood up to sexual abuse in the workplace.
Here's how a woman stood up to sexual abuse in the workplace.

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

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For only R75 per month, you have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today.
Subscribe to News24
Voting Booth
Have you entered our Health of the Nation survey?
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
31% - 9518 votes
69% - 20831 votes