Have you read Part 1 yet?
Last week I published the first part of a true story from a time when I was 17 years of age. Here’s a link to that post below:
If you haven’t read it yet, it’s probably best if you go and read that first before reading this post. It sets the scene and provides some background.
The reason I am telling this story is not for attention or sympathy or revenge but purely because I want to get this out from under the carpet and joining the voices speaking up about sexual harassment and showing it for what it is (in its various forms). Girls and women have endured this kind of treatment for far too long. I hope that by telling this story from my past that it will contribute to the campaign to make Australian workplaces (& those across the world) safer and hopefully one day free of sexual harassment. I hope that one day there is ZERO tolerance for this kind of behaviour in the workplace or anywhere, and that the consequences of such actions are severe enough to be a deterrent to anyone ever even contemplating it.
Assuming you’ve read Part 1, I’ll move on now to when I started in my very first ‘proper job’ as Personal Secretary to a Senior Officer (I won’t be revealing his name, his title, or the Department or Branch in which I was working) in the Qld State Government.
First impressions of my new boss
I don’t remember events of my first day exactly but I can remember my first impressions of my new boss. He was what I would call a bit effeminate and he had a comb in his shirt pocket that he was continually whipping out, flicking his hair, and running the comb through it. It was like it was a habit that he was unaware of. He was fidgety and rarely still, always on the move. Aside from these things though, at first I thought he seemed quite nice and friendly. He seemed kind and thoughtful.
I had learnt that he was in his 50’s, and was married with children but I knew no details (sexes, names, ages etc). As I was only 17 at the time, I thought he was pretty old! Now that I’m a woman in my 50’s I don’t think that is old at all anymore, of course!
My memories from that time
My desk was in the same office as his desk. If you can visualise standing at the doorway to an office. When you look straight ahead there was his big desk positioned in front of the office windows looking towards the doorway. If you looked hard right, just inside the door, there you would see my smaller L-shaped desk setup sitting directly opposite his and positioned so that I was facing him as I typed. There were no other desks or people working in this room – just he and I.
The other people that worked in this particular area were in other offices – some open plan – but quite away from where I was. They were all lovely and I got along very well with them. Of course, they were all older than me.
It didn’t take long before I realised something wasn’t quite right. I was often made feel very uncomfortable and I knew that some of things that were happening were wrong. I don’t remember the sequence of events, but I have some very vivid memories of some of the events during this time. Here’s some examples:
- He began calling me ‘Muffin’.
- He liked me to refer to him as “<insert his name> the boss” but to make it easier for writing I’ll use the term “He The Boss”.
- He put glass canisters on my desk with elaborately decorated labels on them saying ‘Snacks for Muffin’ or something similar, and would put what he considered ‘healthy snacks’ in them. He seemed concerned that I keep my ‘figure’. I was 17 years of age and around 43kg’s at the time. I was not going to be gaining weight any day soon.
- He wrote and left me lots and lots of notes. He had very nice writing. The notes were not just scribbles on scraps of paper. They were elaborate creations on quality card, usually decorated and written in his very nice ‘calligraphy’ style handwriting.
- If he went away on holidays he would write me letters. There was no internet or mobile phones back then. If there had been, I have no doubt that I would have been inundated with texts and emails.
- When it rained he would hide my umbrella and then after helping me search for my ‘missing’ umbrella, offer me a lift home. The first time this happened I didn’t know he had hidden my umbrella but soon worked it out when it miraculously reappeared the next day. Only once did I accept the lift home – the first time. Nothing bad happened but I was extremely uncomfortable and never again accepted a lift home with him whether my umbrella was missing or not.
- When I was out and about in the city on my lunch break, I would see his head dart out from around corners. He followed me and he watched me.
- When he thought I had too much work in my ‘in tray’ he would grab a handful and take it away. I don’t know where he took it. Someone, somewhere was getting my work because he didn’t want me overly burdened.
- When he wanted me all to himself, he would shut the door to ‘our’ office.
- Often, particularly when the office door was shut, he would come and stand behind me and put his hands on my shoulders, massaging them and saying inappropriate things.
- I recall a time when my boyfriend at the time had some time off work so he came into the city to meet me for lunch. He came up the lift to my floor to see where I worked and to meet with me. “He The Boss’ did not like this. His mood went very black. He was black and angry for quite some time after.
- Often (most of the time) as I worked, I was aware of him overtly staring at me.
- There are more incidents but to tell them would give away exactly where I was working.
Some evidence relevant to my memories above
You’ll see below some scanned documents from those I found in the large envelope recently. In all of these I have covered his name, the names of others, and anything else that gives away where I was working. You’ll notice that he certainly went to a lot of effort. He would use lovely cards or quality card, decorate and illustrate, and write in his good pen or type but most of the notes that were left for me were written in his handwriting.
Just a small sample of notes that were left for me on my desk (there were many more)
A couple of the letters he wrote me
- A letter he wrote to me when he was on holiday at the Gold Coast.
- One of the letters he wrote me to surprise me, and just ‘coz.
Something he created and blue-tacked to the wall behind my desk
An intervention: when something had to be done
Look, to be honest, I think it would have been quite a long time before I would ever have had the maturity or confidence to initiate some action on this situation on my own. However, the lovely team of people who made up the staff where I worked knew I was very young and that I needed help, and they kind of staged an intervention.
They took me out to lunch. They were all older and wiser than me and they voiced their concerns. They’d been worried for some time. Every time he closed the office door and I was alone in there with him they were in a state of panic. They told me that what he was doing was very wrong. They told me they were worried about me. They said I needed to do something to put a stop to it and ensure my workplace was a safe environment for me. They advised me that seeking help internally within the Department would get me nowhere and so they gave me the details of a place that I should contact to report this situation and to get some assistance. They told me I needed to tell my parents what was going on and get their assistance with writing the letter. Most importantly they told me that I had their full support and that none of this was my fault.
Next week, in Part 3, I will tell you what steps I took and what the outcome was for me, and for him.
Ciao for now,
POSTSCRIPT: Here’s where you can read Part 3 of this story.
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