More and more girls are victims of sexual harassment in our society. This is something I feel strongly about as I have there once before. It’s definitely NOT a feeling one would ever wish to relive. However, we keep seeing in the news girls and woman, of all ages getting sexually harassed, in the workforce making going to work no longer an enjoyable experience. Sadly, many of us do not speak up for the fear of losing our jobs or the way it might make us look. Sounds a little crazy…but it’s true!
During my college years, I decided to get a part-time job at the Boca Raton Mall to help pay my bills and so that I would have some extra money to go out with friends. There was an opening for a sales representative at a clothing store and it seemed like something I would totally LOVE! Ever since I was about the age I could walk, I would pretend I were a model walking the catwalk in my mother’s high heels, just strutin’ my stuff, with my hand on my hip and my head held high. Well, fast forward 15 years, when I landed the job at the clothing store at the mall.
It was a small company with only a few employees, me, the manager and one other male sales representative. Now keep in mind this store did not have cameras in place for security and for employees safety. There were several nights I were asked to stay late and work till close. The mall would close around 9 pm and if you were closing you would stay an extra 30 minutes. No big deal. However, most of the times I would stay till close it was just me and Andre. Andre would make several inappropriate non-work related comments to me. I was very uncomfortable and confused why he was saying some of the comments he was saying. “Andre, don’t you have a wife and 2 kids…? I really do not think your wife would be too fond of the way you are talking….now would she?” I said.
Over and over I would hear him say, “It’s NO big deal she isn’t here and it’s not like you guys even know each other!”
Not only do I, myself consider that cheating and just plain wrong… behavior like that in the workforce should NEVER be tolerated. Anything that makes you feel uncomfortable and no longer safe while at work should immediately be addressed to a higher authority.
Comments/Conversation I’m not okay within the workforce:
- “Let’s go grab drinks after work.” Okay, first off I’m 18 so the last time I checked that’s under the legal age to drink. Strike 1. Second, I work with you and you are married… I’m not looking to date you or be your girl on the side. Strike 2. Third, have you thought about what you just said… WRONG!
- “WOW, you are SO hot!” Working in the fashion industry comes with its pros and cons. It’s okay to tell a woman she looks nice or that dress is so pretty on her. But saying you are hot or sexy is really just crossing the line.”
- Talking to me about your sex life. Can I just say T.MI!? Like Whaaaaat? Once again, I’m not your lover and I’m sure NOT your therapist. So please do not think it is OKAY to vent to me about your desires and fantasies. Not only do you come off as a creep, but it makes the girl feel no longer comfortable working with you. So you just now lost your credibility and trust with her. GOOD JOB, she can no longer trust you.
When this behavior was going on I confronted Andre about his comments and told him it needs to stop. He didn’t stop so I went ahead and told our manager about how my time with Andre has been. Wondering what happened? I lost my job because I was perceived as a problem for speaking up. That was unfortunate because I was making good money. But at the end of the day, your safety should always be number one. Remember your worth and never allow any guy to talk to you inappropriately. Stand your ground and be ready to fire back.
How to keep yourself safe in the workforce:
- Pepper spray- They come in a variety of different sizes and shapes to suit your needs. Best to buy the kind that doesn’t look like pepper spray.
- Self-defense training classes- Self-defense training classes aren’t cheap by any means. But I like I said before you should NEVER put a price tag on your safety. One day your knowledge may just come in handy and save your life.
- Wrist bracelets with an alarm- Best to purchase one for each wrist. Strap them on and hide them underneath your clothing. I like to wear them, especially at night when I’m alone and walking to my car. There is a metal ring on the bracelet you can pull and an alarm will sound if you feel you are ever in danger.
- Be prepared to take things further- talking to legal representatives, your boss or looking for workers comp insurance is a consideration if you cannot settle things personally
Next time you are put in an uncomfortable situation do not be afraid to stand your ground. Do not trust everyone you meet. When you do this you are allowing yourself to become vulnerable in a very risky situation. Make sure if and when you are alone you bring protection limiting your chances of being a target.