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.

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.