My MEP held an event inside the EP and there was a problem with one of the services provided. After submitting a complaint, I received a phone call from the person in charge of the services, who apologised and informed me of what steps the unit would take by way of an apology.
My office phone screen was on so he could see me. He then invited me to come for a meeting in his office, even though the telephone call were having was sufficient enough to solve the problem. I told him this, but he was quite insistent that we meet face to face.
I felt a little weird and I asked my female colleague, a finance officer, to join me, which she kindly did.
His office was located at a very remote part of the Parliament.
During the meeting he told me that he wanted to meet with me because he thought that I was “nice looking” and that his boss had joked that he should take me out to dinner by way of making amends for the problem with the service provided during my MEP’s event.
In that moment, I felt very glad that my colleague was with me. I did not consider myself to be in immediate danger but I felt incredibly uncomfortable and powerless. He was intimidating.
I tried to leave a couple of times but he kept striking up new conversation in a very domineering way. Each time I would attempt to politely wrap up the conversation and leave, he would start a new conversation.
Finally I stood up to move towards the door and he also stood up and moved forward. At this point, my colleague and I announced more firmly than before that we were leaving and exited quickly.
Once we got far away from the office, my colleague and I shared our mutual discomfort and I voiced my gratitude to her for accompanying me.
I do not consider this to be an extreme or violent case of harassment in the EP and I count myself incredibly lucky that I have not experienced something far worse, as many others have.
His behaviour and intent may not have been deliberately intimidating. I think he considered it to be cheeky, risque, off-the-cuff. But in a professional context he should not have commented on my appearance and he should not have joked that taking me out to dinner would suffice as an apology. He managed to sexualise a professional encounter.
I now fear running into him again, and I feared writing this story because I didn’t want him to see it as I imagine that he will know who submitted it. But it is important that if this story is posted and if he sees this he should know that sexualising professional relationships is unacceptable.
The women on the receiving end of your sexualisation probably don’t think it is a joke, as you may do. For them, it is reductive and threatening. Joking about exchanging romantic/sexual favours with a woman significantly younger than you in an office buried in a quiet, remote part of the building is not most women’s idea of a laugh.