I Didn't Have "Sufficient" Proof Of What He Did And HR Can't Do Anything Now

Anonymous Anonymous in Single Women Bad Women on 3 June, 2018

I have worked in this office for almost a year now. But I realized that I was still relatively new, unaware and inexperienced about handling situations like these.

I had seen him at work a couple of times. He was a middle-aged man who seemed to belong to the same cultural background as mine. We worked in the same domain in the company. Initially, I thought of him as just another employee who worked in a different team altogether. I would see him while passing by certain areas of our office.

After a couple of months, we had to attend a one-day workshop. He too was a part of the workshop. While the workshop was going on I realized that he was also a part of my team and activity. That was the first time it all started. It didn't go well.

I found it difficult to accept that this man was actually doing things like stepping on my foot. He also tried to stand as close to me as possible and in the process, he literally started pushing me against the wall.
I was terrified of the act but was scared to question or react to it since I had been working there only for a few months now. I wondered if I was overreacting.

I didn’t know if he was actually trying to do such things or it was just an accident. I wondered if such things really happened today in workplaces like these. I was shocked to experience such things because I knew we all lived in a country where we all talked about and believed in things like equality and rights.

I was glad I had to spend just a day there. I knew I was done with it. I was happy that I would never have to work with him ever again.

A couple of months back, I got a chance to work with a different team on an interesting new project. I met him there and realized that I will be working with him as well. This project was crucial for my career. I couldn't avoid him. I couldn't even imagine giving up an opportunity like this for a person like him. 

I felt I was caught between the devil and the deep blue sea. I couldn’t leave the company for a man like him and working on this project meant working with that man. This time it was 24x7. I decided to make full use of the opportunity. I was determined to avoid him by keeping my distance with him.

For the first month, I just tried to get acquainted with the project. I wanted to understand the structure of the team and wanted to get started with my work. I had started getting along with the team. I had also started working with ‘that’ employee.

I somehow did not like the way he looked at me.

I also felt that now he would not dare to do what he had done to me all those months ago. I felt I was getting scared of him for no reason at all. And heart of hearts I also felt good about myself because I had not succumbed to the temptation of giving up this opportunity for what looked like a silly reason now.

But I was wrong.

We had all been working together as a team for the past month. One fine morning I was in a meeting with him. I was discussing my ideas with him.

I was working on my laptop when he slyly slid his hand over mine. He started intertwining his fingers with mine. I was shocked. I didn’t realize what he was doing immediately. I just knew that his touch annoyed me. It gave me a dirty feeling even though he had just put his hand over mine.

But at this point in time, I couldn't raise any issues because I was already trying my best to keep my a*sh*le of a manager happy while trying to keep away from all the controversies that were going on in the office.

He did this a couple of times and now I started getting intimidated by the very thought of going to work.

I kept telling myself that it was just a matter of weeks before this project got done. I convinced myself that I would never have to interact with him ever again. A couple of my friends too told me the same thing. We also had a couple of other reasons for keeping quiet. We had heard of such cases being reported previously.

But the HR had asked for proof and no severe action was taken against the offender because he was in a relatively high position in the organization. I also needed a review from him at the end of the project and that was one of my main concerns right now.
A few more days passed normally. And then came the big one.

This man didn't leave the meeting room after the team meeting got over. Instead, he asked me to show him my work. He got his chair closer to mine – literally so close that I was sandwiched between the wall on one side and him on the other. The entire room was vacant yet he was forcing me against the wall.

I just tried to maintain my composure and showed him the work that he was asking for.

He gradually started rubbing his knee against mine. Within a fraction of a second, he touched my chest with the back of his hand. I froze and started stammering. I stopped talking.

He noticed someone passing by the room and removed his hand immediately. All this happened so quickly that it looked as if nothing at all had happened.

The best part of it all is that he was trying to make me feel comfortable even while doing all this. He was very cautious about every move that he was making. It looked like he was an expert at doing this. He played his moves well and never gave anyone any room to raise an issue about what he was doing. No one could prove him wrong.

I started crying when all this happened. I spent sleepless nights and did not want to go to work anymore. I tried avoiding meetings and did everything possible to just try and forget what he was doing to me. I did my best to focus on my work but could not.

I minimized my interaction with him and tried to work by myself. He then started berating me and started keeping a tab on my progress.

I now knew that he would not give me the rating that I deserved if I did not communicate with him properly. I also knew that if communicated with him normally he would surely try and touch me again. So this time I decided to attend the meeting.

But I video recorded the whole thing on my phone. He did touch my hand and leg again but not with the same intensity this time.

Maybe he was just being cautious this time. He was on guard this time. That much I knew but a part of it did happen too. I now had the video recording of what he had done to me. I also had all his chats with me. He had asked me for personal information and was talking casually with me. He had been ‘trying’ to flirt with me – smartly but not directly.

I indirectly spelt this out to his manager who was working with us on the same project. I think he understood that I didn’t want to work with him anymore. He gave me the authority to do what I wanted.
I worked solo. I finished everything with that team, got my rating from his manager and got done with the whole thing.

Today I have moved to a different team. I am working on a different project now. I have no interaction with him anymore. But recently I got an email from him asking me about my whereabouts. He wanted to know how things were going with me. But I chose not to respond to it.

I haven’t spelt this out to the HR or to any other authority simply because I feel I do not have sufficient proof of what he had done to me. I didn’t want him to know that I had complained to the HR about him. I knew that even if I did complain he would continue working here because he had a good position in the organization. I knew I did not have sufficient evidence against him.

I was talking to another colleague recently. I realized that another employee too had got similar emails from him. He had tried to chat with her too. All this seems awkward and out of place and certainly, all these things do not count as ‘sufficient' evidence.

Workplace culture seems like such a beautiful concept. We all talk about things like feminism, equality, rights and justice. But companies still shield their ‘experienced’ employees from the complaints of the new employees. I realized this sad truth only after going through this experience.
Editor's Note:

When we get emotionally disturbed our intellect goes for a toss. So we are unable to think through things rationally or calmly. People take unfair advantage of us and the situation when they know that we are under confident. Maybe like this young girl we just need to figure out simple solutions/techniques to send a clear message to such people. Do share this story because it is really such a shame to see such things happening even today.