The time my job was downgraded because I had a baby

I had given birth to my baby boy one month earlier when I received an email from my MEP. In it they said that if I wanted to come back to work I would be booking travel and doing their diary, rather than the political and legislative work I had been hired for. There is effectively no protection against this type of discrimination and harassment since MEPs are allowed to organise their office as they wish and frequently pay legislative assistants less than the recommended salary.

At that moment the implications of being a young woman really dawned on me, and I felt this systemic discrimination much more than any minor sexual innuendos which might have come my way.

This was something which not only made me feel vulnerable as a woman but also took away my income, since I was certainly not prepared to go back to work under those conditions, and my MEP knew this beyond a doubt.

 My maternity was also the sole reason I was downgraded since I had worked in the office for several years without a hitch.

 I realised how dangerous an organisation is to work in when it combines power hungry people with very little protection for employees. I feel very much for all the vulnerable young people who still work there.

The time a high ranking official asked me to wear tight clothes because he liked my body

I was enjoying my traineeship at one of the EU Institutions, here in Brussels, beautiful people, beautiful environment.

 I was already accustomed to the always present look by older men as this was not my first experience in the “EU bubble” and I couldn’t be too bothered. Then, one day something happened which was more annoying than usual.

 I received an invitation to a private party on my work email from a high ranking official, who did not work in my unit. In his invitation, the man was clearly suggested what kind of clothes I should wear to the party because he particularly enjoyed the view of some of my body’s part in the suggested outfit.

 In the beginning, I just couldn’t believe someone I didn’t even know would make such an offensive reference in an email sent directly to my work email.

Admittedly, I didn’t think the episode itself was very bad, but I still reported it to my supervisor. I’d encourage everyone to do the same, even if we feel it’s something small or not too important or that it won’t matter.

The time I was touched during my sleep

I was a young male trainee at the European Parliament, fresh out of my postgrad studies and excited to get involved in politics for change. 

During a group off-site, I was too lenient with the open bar and ended up more under the influence that I usually allow. 

 A friendly man followed me all night and his bravado grew as the hours passed. 

During conversations with other people, he repeatedly put his hand under the front and back of my shirt to feel my skin. I would remove his hand and firmly stated that, no I was not interested. 

 By the end of a long night, while trying to create distance between us, we were a few of the last people still standing from the group. 

Drunk and vaguely uncomfortable, I decided to go to my room and sleep. 

He followed me and begged to be allowed to take the extra bed. 

I tried to get his friend to take him back to their hotel but he claimed he was too drunk to walk and insisted on staying. 

 Having no fight or ill thoughts, I allowed him to take the extra bed in my large room and I went to sleep in my own bed. 

The feeling of someone touching me woke me up but the alcoholic influence kept me lethargic and confused. 

 I continued to push his hands away from my body and repeatedly told him to stop. 

 At one point, he finally did, reluctantly. in the morning, he was still there and I felt ashamed, naive and hurt that someone who had been told no so many times would still insist on touching another’s body. 

 I felt guilty towards my girlfriend, angry I was not more forceful and that I let him in, and scared at what else might have happened if things had gone worse. 

 I did not tell anyone except my girlfriend for a long time out of shame.

The time he did not take no for an answer

This happened some years ago when I used to work for a committee secretariat.

A senior, well-regarded MEP who was a member of this committee kept insisting that I should meet up with him for a coffee to discuss his amendments to an ongoing report. I usually didn’t go for such coffees as these were known to be used by some MEPs as an excuse to proposition younger staffers but in this case, I made an exception. Mostly because the MEP in question was a bit older, a reputed freedom fighter and with a well-known and keen interest in the topic of the report I was working on.

It didn’t take him long to move from recent political issues to discussing how his wife didn’t understand him and how attractive he found me. Although I declined his advances politely, he did not take no for an answer. He kept emailing me dinner invitations and stalking me at committee meetings.

When he finally accepted that I was not interested, he decided to take revenge. He started to complain about the quality of my work to my hierarchy and MEPs I was working with.

Needless to say, it was extremely unpleasant and his attacks only stopped when I eventually moved jobs.

The time I was raped by a colleague

A few months after starting working here I was raped by a colleague.

It was violent and terrifying. I was very young. I did not want to speak to anyone as I was so scared but after my injuries healed I chose to speak out and after several months he lost his job.

I am happy not to work next to him but I have been offered no support. It hurts to work by his office.

I hoped to be a politician one day but I have no more energy. No confidence to even speak some days. We work hard in committees and plenary to keep this incredible House working so well.

 Don’t forget about us.

We are still hurting.