“You bitch. What do you think you’re playing at? I was called into my boss’s office. They gave me a warning and told me not to come near you”.
My mind was screaming at me to do something but my body wouldn’t respond. Why was he doing this to me?
But I’m ahead of myself, you need some background information. I was an extremely naive twenty 20 year old, just out of secretarial college and starting my first job. I was on a three month probationary period and anxious to fit in and prove myself. New work colleagues were happy to accept me into their social scene and, as in most organisations, one person was assigned to mentor me through the first week. His name was Brian and he seemed polite, friendly and willing to show me the ropes. Initially I was grateful. He’d drop by the office to impart some useful information on work or invite me to a staff social gathering. But his visits got longer and more frequent to the point where he was preventing me from working. Not wishing to cause a scene I invented tasks that took me away from the office, meetings to go to, and people to visit. He ignored all hints and was often still in my office when I returned. People started to notice but treated it as a bit of a joke. I, on the other hand, was beginning to feel uncomfortable and harassed. I had a quiet word with my boss and Brian was told politely that my induction was over and I was ok to be left alone.
The warning off did not deter him in the least he just found another angle to come from. At the time I was living with my parents and commuting. Brian started to get on the same bus as me after work. Said he could catch any number of buses home so why not this one – keep me company. He kept asking me out and I kept telling him that I had a boyfriend and that we were looking for somewhere to live together – but it didn’t make any difference. He still got on the same bus as me every night and pestered me for a date. I started to change buses in the middle of town to get rid of him. It worked until, without knowing, he followed me home one night. I was walking up the road to my house which was in a quiet suburb out of town. It was dark, cold and the street was empty. I sensed someone behind me and turned only to see Brian following me. Because I was more angry than scared I asked him what the hell he was doing. He said he wanted to make sure I got home safely and that he really would like to take me out for dinner. I talked to him, tried to reason with him and, now being aware that I was alone with a man that obviously had mental health issues, went out of my way to humour him. I told him I was flattered but I loved my boyfriend and that we were looking for somewhere to live together. He remonstrated with me and as we debated why or why not I should go out with him we walked slowly up the street until I finally managed to get home completely freaked out but unscathed.
I told my parents and my boyfriend – they didn’t take it seriously, said he had a crush and I that I seemed to be handling it ok. I talked to my work colleagues who said they thought we were going out anyway and suggested that maybe I’d encouraged it – the way I dressed, the way I acted. I wasn’t reassured, I was scared – placating a person because one feels intimidated does not constitute being able to look after oneself or an act to encourage them . However, my boyfriend did agree to collect me after work and make sure I got home OK.
This didn’t work either as then he started to make nuisance phone calls. I spoke to him a couple of times and asked him not to call again but he persisted pleading that he just wanted to talk. Up to 20 – 25 times a night in the space of an hour or two the phone would ring. Now my parents/boyfriend were getting the message and told me to call the police. I did. They said that unless he’d actually committed an offence they could do nothing. It seemed that being harassed did not constitute a crime. I took matters into my own hands. When he rang again I told him that I had called the police. I moved in with my boyfriend and he would met me after work and walk home with me. I stopped socializing with colleagues at lunchtime as Brian was part of the group. That’s when he started hanging around my office again. Feeling stressed and very unhappy I went to management but he had anticipated my move. He told them that I’d encouraged him and now I was giving him a hard time – I think they believed him as they seemed to find my story incredulous. None the less they obviously had had a word with him and now it was payback time.
The pressure on my throat decreased as he took one of his hands away and started to play with my blouse buttons. His body was pinning me up against the wall and I struggled to move. I tried to talk him down but only managed to choke out terrified animal sounds. He leaned into my face and said
“I’m going to teach you a lesson” and started to undo my blouse
A door downstairs opened and shut and someone started to climb the stairs. Brian let me go and I raced up and out of the exit. I was sick with despair, who could I tell? He had chosen his time well and there were no witnesses. No one would believe me.
I decided to hand my notice in, but management beat me to it – they ‘let me go’.