The time I was his favorite assistant

I was sat in my office working one day with the door ajar. Outside the door, my boss was having a conversation with one of his colleagues whose office is next door.

I did not fully tune in to the conversation, as I was focusing on my work. However at one point I overheard my boss ask him: “Do you think your assistant can be in charge of this task?”

His colleague looked into my office and staring at me with a big smile on his face said: “She could, but I prefer yours”.

A very awkward silence ensured.

My boss must have noticed my visible discomfort at this remark, so he told him they should go for a coffee away from the offices to continue the conversation.

The time he humiliated me publicly for saying “enough!”

I’ve been working now for several years in the Parliament. I work in a male dominated policy area.

I have a colleague who for many years, insists on kissing my cheek every time he sees me, be it crossing each other in the corridor or at the snack bar.

Cheek kissing is common in my country, but in his it is not done, especially not every day within a workplace context.

Many times he used the “cheek kissing opportunity” to touch something else, such as playfully touching my neckline. I always felt very disgusted.

Even though I do not work directly with him, he has good relations with many of the other people, mainly men, who I work with.

One day, when he was alone, I told him that I did not want to cheek kiss anymore, as I believed that the EP was not the right place for such behaviour.

Today I was sitting in a meeting with several men he knows. He came and shook their hands. When I offered mine, he refused.

Then, in front of all my colleagues, he told me that he was not shaking my hand because I said that I would not accept more cheek kissing. 

I replied by saying that he was being impolite, and that I would not accept such humiliation. He was using the cheek kissing as a pretext for touching me in an inappropriate way, which made me feel uncomfortable and I told him this.

He pulled me aside and accused me of lying, forbidding me to say anything to the other men present. He then turned to my colleagues and continued his accusations about me.

Later, he accused me of standing up for myself because of the environment in the Parliament brought about because of this blog. 

When he finally left, my male colleagues applauded me for my reaction to such an uncomfortable situation. I’m sure at least one of them believed I was exaggerating by not letting the guy cheek kiss me, but the rest were very supportive.

I feel frustrated, but at least I feel also relieved for not accepting to have someone impose themselves upon me.

 

The time he wouldn’t stop staring

There was an MEP in the waiting area talking to another man while waiting to meet my boss. I walked in front of them.

The MEP stopped talking, looked at me from head to toe and back with a weird face, and then turned to the other man to make a comment that was clearly about me, in a language that I don’t understand.

He followed me with his eyes while I was walking into my office. I liked the dress I wore that day. But after that, I only wore pants.

 

The time he insisted I visit his dark, remote office

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.

The time She pushed my head into her breasts and said she liked them young

I am male working in the European Parliament who has been harassed within the EP a couple of time.

I don’t want to exaggerate and these events probably are less extreme than other stories, but still I want to share them.

I cannot remember the first time I was sexually harassed, but I have been working in the EP for a little over four years now. When I started as an APA I attended several informal meetings of the delegation I was working for.

During these informal meetings, one particular female MEP would always be very flirty. I made it clear that I was not in a flirty mood, but she kept persisting.

It happened a couple of times, often with alcohol involved, but nothing worrying ever really happened. Until one night in late 2016.

We were, with hundreds of other people, at an event outside the EP. There she slapped my butt as a greeting, pressed my head in her cleavage and said how much she enjoyed being surrounded by so many young men.

Initially, I saw it as a funny situation, but as time passed and the situation sunk in, I realised how uncomfortable it made me feel. I mean, it wasn’t that fun slap your mother gives you on your 18th birthday, it was the actual enjoyment of touching a younger man.

I regularly see her around the EP, and she acts nicely, so do I. There really isn’t much I could do. But I will always remember that moment. And I am not sure I am the only one who had this experience with MEPs.

The time I was harassed for saying no to a relationship

I used to work for someone who would shout at me whenever he was stressed out, or for meaningless things, such as not printing documents.

 It was difficult to work like that, however one day it got worse. He came into my office and pressed a part of his body against mine while I was sitting in my chair. I felt really shocked, and froze and said nothing. After that, he left.

After this, he would sometimes stand behind me for a while while I was working on the computer, staring. It used to make me feel really uncomfortable.

 When I finally decided to leave, he shouted at me for a very long time.

The other day, he found me and apologized for everything. He said that he got himself into a personal relationship with me, and asked me to start a relationship. He said he could be good. I refused.

I filled a complaint, but did not receive much support. They seemed to believe me but due to lack of proof, they could not help me, or they did not want to help me. There were some witnesses but they were not taken into account. During the procedure I felt like the trauma that I experienced, and my pain was not proof enough of somebody’s abusive behaviour.

 I would encourage everyone who went through harassment and sexual harassment to take care of his or her mental health. Let the time heal you and create a space of love inside you. Only when we are healthy can we think clearly and become stronger inside and fight for ourselves. We think we have lost something, and that power has been taken away from us but in reality, we became richer through a bad experience.

 I feel like next time, I can protect myself much better and react with fierceness. I would never let anyone treat me that way again. I still fight anxiety, but I am getting better every day and want to be listened to and believed. I want to have a voice.

The time my MEPs behaviour was truly disappointing

I was walking in the hallway with my MEP when he suddenly started to make comments about a woman walking in front of us.

He started talking about how her dress was too tight, and that he found it offensive because it distracts him. I told him that she should be able to wear whatever she likes, to which he replied that my generation thinks differently and that it was hard to concentrate with so many good looking women around.

Although I told him off in that moment, he still continues to judge women based on their looks and constantly misinterprets the slightest sign of friendliness.

He even asked me to find out the office number of an MEP who he thought had hit on him.