I joined the EU institutions at the age of 22. My first boss was an over 50 year old French male. He immediately created a flirtatious, joking atmosphere. He paid special attention to me, winking at me in unit meetings, making compliments in French to which I did not even have the language skills to reply, and commented on my legs. I thought this meant I was performing well, that this was harmless, and part and parcel of having a French boss.
One evening after work a fellow intern and myself were having a drink on a terrace. My boss spotted us and joined us. We felt flattered that someone of his status would want to get to know us better. He insisted on ordering several bottles of wine. We became inebriated. We wanted to take taxis home but he insisted on driving us himself despite having consumed a dangerous amount of alcohol himself.
He dropped my fellow intern off first. Once we were left alone in the car, he put his hand on my thigh, and kissed me. He said we should go inside my house so that no one sees us. He followed me in. I vaguely remember feeling ashamed. Inside he sexually assaulted me.
No was not an option.
The next morning he texted “nice tasting” to me and proposed to take me on a holiday which I refused. He continued messaging me and proposing sex on subsequent work missions, making humiliating jokes in front of the rest of the team. The other (male) colleagues always laughed which encouraged him on. Over the years I have learnt to smile less, to call out inappropriate behaviour, and to name what is happening.
But I never reported this first case of abuse because I believed it was my fault.
Since then he has been promoted to Director and is currently in charge of high profile files.