This story is part of the 16 Days Of Activism campaign against sexual harassment. People are invited to share their experiences and shift the onus from the survivor to the perpetrator. To know more and take part in the campaign click here.
I had a boss who was obsessed with me. It was my first ‘real’ job, but in the interest of anonymity (is that giving in to the patriarchy?) I’m not going into any specifics.
He seemed really nice at first. Honest. Real harmless. Don’t get me wrong, nothing happened. He didn’t assault me or force himself on me. But that isn’t the only kind of sexual harassment.
He texted me a lot. Told me I was beautiful, said I had a really nice figure, asked me what I dreamt about at night, told me he wished he’d met me before he got married, got inappropriate sometimes. The clincher was that he had a really lovely wife.
He used to insist on driving me home at night. At first, I was thankful (Bangalore is not so safe for a woman after sundown) so happily accepted the offer. But after the text messages got increasingly inappropriate, I would sit in that car, smiling and trying to pretend like everything was cool, but increasingly worried about what I would do if he tried anything.
He didn’t though. Like I said, he was a harmless guy. But I was growing increasingly uncomfortable with all the attention. Strangely, I felt guilty about it. I mean, this man had a wife! Why wasn’t he going home to her? I was the one feeling guilty about his pseudo-infidelity! When I wanted no part in it!
I didn’t say anything to anyone, though. This went on for a little over a year, and it sucks to admit it, but I didn’t say anything to him about it because I believed that this was giving me an edge over my colleagues—but mostly I was scared of losing the job. I wanted so badly for things to work out.
But they didn’t, and finally, because of this and some other significant reasons, I quit.
The point is, though, that what he did does count as work-place sexual harassment. And it’s a growing concern. With more and more women entering the workplace, there’s bound to be a significant percentage of them who will face it. And if you’re one of those unlucky women, what do you do? Most sexual harassment in this country is covered up, anyway; and I can’t imagine the HR department of most Indian firms would be adept and sensitive enough to deal with it. I mean, imagine accusing your boss, the big CEO, of sexual harassment! Could you? I couldn’t.