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.
It happened when I had started as an intern.
I went out with a group of colleagues and my partner. We had drinks and then headed out to a bar, all was fine.
But when I was left alone, whilst others were getting drinks or at the toilets, one particular colleague came up from behind me and put his hands under my top and grabbed me on my bare skin.
This was totally unwelcome, I hadn’t even spoken to him and I was angry, so I pushed him off me.
I avoided him all night, walking off whenever he attempted to talk to me, but at no point could I get my partner alone to tell him.
Then, when the time came for us all to get taxis home, he forced his way in to the taxi that my boyfriend and I were sharing.
But instead of sitting in the front, he insisted on sitting in the back with us. I was in the middle between the two. Then out of nowhere, he started caressing my leg, again with no dialogue, just touching.
I clung on to my boyfriend who hadn’t noticed as it was dark, I felt trapped because I couldn’t escape such an uncomfortable situation. It was great relief when the taxi dropped him off first.
Later on I was angry at myself for having not said anything in the taxi, but I think I was so shocked having never experienced something like that.
The next week at work, he came looking for me, but I wasn’t in my office at the time, instead a colleague was. He had asked if I had had his coat, almost framing it in a way, as if we had gone home together that night.
I went to the office on an MEP to get a signature for amendments. He asked me to have a seat since he has a coffee and asked if I want something. I thought it was a bit odd, but I told him that I came to get the signatures. He said he would get a heart attack from my beauty and asked me not to look at him since it would be embarrassing If he died when seeing me.
My stomach felt bad at that moment and I said that I really need to go. He said I was a very attractive woman and that he has noticed me many times.
I took my phone and said that my MEP was calling me and I needed the signature immediately. He signed and said we should go for lunch sometime. I thanked him and refused.
He gave me his hand for a hand shake. I thought that at this point he may ask for an apology for his inappropriate behavior. With tears in my eyes I shook his hand, when he pulled me towards him and grabbed me…
I pushed him and I started to cry and ran out of the office.
I felt miserable the entire day and feel bad every time I see him in the corridor.
At the European Parliament, I got to know a man who always felt the need to compliment me. He would tell me how good I look, what an impeccable style I have and how much he admires me.
I didn’t read much into it, until on several occasions he would touch my arm for no reason. His behaviour became increasingly inappropriate when one day we were in the lift together and he commented on the fact that I had lost weight. He made an indecent gesture to refer to my breasts and told me that he prefers it when my “shapes are rounder”.
One day, he called me in to his office to ask for changes on a piece of work I had written. It felt like this was just a pretext to have me in his office. Before I left, I actually told my boss that if I don’t return in five minutes, he is probably raping me because I felt that uncomfortable.
When I arrived at his office, he made me sit at his computer and manually correct part of the text while he stood by and watched.
Then, he approached me and asked me if I was doing ok touching my shoulders. I immediately corrected the (inexistent) mistake and I jumped on my feet and quickly approached the door.
I opened the door wide and talked to him from the doorway. Then, I left in a hurry. I really felt like had I stuck around, I would have been close to being assaulted in an office in the EP.
Every time I see him getting into an elevator, I feel scared and if there is no one else in the elevator with him, I always grab the next one. I feel genuinely scared that he might physically hurt me one day, as he is known to be very aggressive.
I was sat at my desk one day when I dropped a pen under my desk. Just as I leaned under my desk to fetch it, a Member of European Parliament from my own delegation walked in and said;
“You are already going under the desk? That’s quick!”
I was at a demonstration in front of the European Parliament when I noticed a German Member of the European Parliament staring at me. He started following me around when suddenly, he disappeared.
Relieved, I quietly made my way out of the room. When I got to the exit, he suddenly appeared out of nowhere, grabbed me by the waist and said; “Are you new here? Let’s go for a drink together! Are you a journalist or a parliamentary assistant?”
A French Member of the European Parliament had to hire someone in his team. He explained that he did not want to hire a woman because “his wife would be jealous and there are too many temptations”.