The time I felt trapped

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.

The time he wanted to trade his signature on an amendment for the possibility to grope me

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.

The time I didn’t feel safe

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.

The time I was ambushed

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?”



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.