Content warning: sexual harassment, non-consensual touching
I was sexually harassed at work today.
There is a man with whom I work, he seems like a friendly older guy. He’s in his fifties, which isn’t even really old, but he’s had some injuries and is less mobile so I think maybe he seems older. Anyway, we’ve had pleasant interactions. He owns one of the newer Corvette Stingrays. We’ve talked a little about that and just other small talk.
Today, he was showing me pictures of some modifications on his car, ground effects, I think the car guys call them. He was talking about how the driver’s side one is different from the passenger side just a bit, and that the shop he had install them had considered altering that one, but eventually decided not to, because “that carbon fiber is paper thin…”
As he said that, he took his free hand and grabbed a part of my dress in the neckline/decolletage area, and said something along the lines of “it’s no thicker than this.” “This” being the fabric of my dress. This dress, and my bra, kind of lift my chest in a manner I’m sure folks are familiar with. So, I can’t remember if he actually touched my skin, but his finger was inside my dress without my consent and very, very close to my left breast.
I was shocked. I froze. All I could do was get through the conversation. He was in the office area I share with a group of folk, and at my desk. I was seated, I didn’t really have an out.
Finally, he left.
My hands were shaking (I have a tremor, and this was a lot more shaking than usual.) I was on the edge of crying. I reached out to some of my female and afab friends, wondering if I was overreacting.
I worry that, because I’ve only been “visibly female” (whatever that really means) in the world for such a relatively short time, maybe I overreacted. My friends assured me I had not. It’s possible it was innocent, but he definitely needs to know that touching anyone in that way, or really anything beyond a handshake with a coworker, is inappropriate.
I reached out to HR and my department head (she’s only recently been promoted, and was my boss before, and she’s another woman and someone I can talk to.) Anyway, I got ahold of her, and was able to tell her. She took notes and let me know she planned to reach out to HR. (Someone different, maybe higher up than those I reached out to.) We then chatted a bit about other things, which I think may have been her strategy to help me calm down.
I keep wanting to say “the worst thing is…” but there are like 50 worst things. The way I froze, how I questioned myself right after, how I said, “I don’t necessarily want anything to happen other than for this to be documented,” even though I’m the one who had to fight to not cry at work (mostly successful) and has had a crappy evening trying to distract myself and not cry now. But I guess I’d hate for him to feel bad, or something. What is wrong with me?
Now I find myself wishing I had some shapeless potato sack to wear to work tomorrow in order to avoid anyone seeing me and being tempted by my body or whatever.
I’m sure tomorrow will involve following up with HR and going from there.
Don’t touch folks without their consent, okay?