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Was I sexually violated?
October 6, 2013 7:35 PM   Subscribe

Was I sexually violated? I keep obsessing about this, I don't know if the other parties care or have declared me a pariah

Here's the siutation...I'm tired, loopy, disregulated because of health and trouble with other parts of my life. I had to go on an errand to pick something up from The Boss of my part time job. He asked me come over and look at something on his computer and sit on his lap. i sat on his knee, then his lap, he dry humped me. he got a slightly hard, and then took my hand and put it on his crotch so i could feel that he was slightly hard. I walked away. I wish I showed better judgment especially since his gf works for the company. A few days later, i was feeling guilty i told his girlfriend about it. Just told her that i sat on his knee because i was embarrassed about the dry humping part. initially, when she asked if i was okay via email, i said to her that i was having a hard time, because she was wondering why i was acting weird that night when she showed up about 20 minutes after this happened. I feel like a total problem. and that she hate me, and he too. I feel like i am getting the cold shoulder. even though we have cleared the air over email and we have even had a face-to-face conversation recently that went well. Was this my fault? Was I sexually violated? How do i move forward. This is weighing heavily on me. I am obsessing about it. I am so disgusted with myself. I was not intoxicated, nor under the influence of any other drug. I don't do that kind of stuff any more, so please don't accuse me of being drunk based on past posts.
posted by Jewel98 to Human Relations (42 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
What he did was absolutely beyond the pale. It meets, I would think, any jurisdiction's legal definition of sexual harassment, and many jurisdictions' legal definition of some degree of sexual assault (him putting your hand on his genitals).

I am so sorry this happened to you. It was exactly one person's fault---his.

As to how you move forward, that's dependent on a lot of variables. If there are workplace sexual harassment policies in place and you feel the people charged with enforcing them have integrity, reporting this incident to them might be a good option.
posted by Sidhedevil at 7:43 PM on October 6, 2013 [9 favorites]


This is so wildly inappropriate that I don't know where to start.

Yes, he assaulted you. You don't have to do anything about it (report him to higher-ups, file a police report, whatever) if you can't deal right now (or ever), but yes, he assaulted you, and unless you're leaving out some massive secret affair with him that would lead him to believe this was consensual (but still really not okay for at the office!), then no, it's not your fault and you didn't cause it and you didn't do anything to "deserve" it.

You can call your local rape crisis line. They will not make you go to the cops. They can offer your resources for places to process this.
posted by rtha at 7:43 PM on October 6, 2013 [21 favorites]


You were compelled to do something sexually you didn't want to do. That sounds like sexual violation to me.

This WAS NOT YOUR FAULT AT ALL.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:43 PM on October 6, 2013 [19 favorites]


Seriously??? If any boss of mine asked me to sit on his lap, and then placed my hand on his genitals (???!???), it would be police report and lawsuit time.
posted by cairdeas at 7:45 PM on October 6, 2013 [12 favorites]


Your boss asking you to sit on his lap is always inappropriate. The question of whether you were sexually violated is one for you to answer yourself but this certainly fits all the criteria and, if you are looking for validation for your feelings, there is nothing wrong with feeling hurt, angry, guilty -- any of those emotions are perfectly normal. This is NOT your fault and your boss's actions were inappropriate.

That said, how you react next is up to you. When something inappropriate like this happens in the workplace, you need to decide what if anything you want to do to address it. Your options, if you wish to take this further (and I would if I were you, but it is your choice) are to talk to HR or to get a lawyer. Your boss's girlfriend is not part of this situation and her feelings are not relevant to the question of whether you were sexually violated.

You need to decide how you want to handle this and get a lawyer or contact HR. Do not talk to anyone else about this.

If you do not want to pursue any legal action, I would still recommend getting therapy. This is a potentially traumatic experience and it looks like you have a lot of feelings to sort out. I'm sure there are MeFites or others who can recommend resources in your area. You need to realize that this is not your fault but you also need to realize that the way to work through your feelings is not to discuss them with your coworkers. Very very best wishes whatever path you take.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 7:48 PM on October 6, 2013 [5 favorites]


What your boss did was so far in the wrong I don't know where to begin.
posted by zippy at 7:48 PM on October 6, 2013 [5 favorites]


I also don't think any reaction of yours was "wrong," or put you at fault in any way. What he did is so shocking that I think a great many people would freeze up and not know what to do, or go along with it in the moment out of shock. That doesn't make it your fault in any way.

I just also want to say, about this,

I was not intoxicated, nor under the influence of any other drug. I don't do that kind of stuff any more, so please don't accuse me of being drunk based on past posts.

I completely believe you that you weren't under the influence. I just want to say it doesn't matter, if you were under the influence of every drug known to man, that still doesn't make it your fault. That would actually make it even worse, because it would mean that it happened while you were incapacitated.
posted by cairdeas at 7:51 PM on October 6, 2013 [34 favorites]


In the moment, in a novel situation, you might do something like sit on someone's lap even though you don't really want to or are freaked out or whatever - especially if they have more social power than you do. It's such a weird request, right? Maybe you even think "this can't really be anything wrong, it's such a weird request that maybe I'm just not understanding what's going on and it's actually perfectly normal".

I too have an uncomfortable lap-sitting story in my past - not as traumatic as yours, but a situation where someone who should not have made such a request made it, I sat rather unhappily and then got up when it became clear that this person expected things to progress. We had flirted a little in the past, in a way that I had assumed was totally harmless since this person was very taken; this person was older than me and had more social power. Although it was not as unpleasant as your situation, I tell you this because hey, I know how you can end up sitting on someone's lap and not want to be there at all.

And yes, this was sexual harassment, it was inappropriate, it was not about you. You should not feel guilty and you should take whatever good advice I'm sure will be given in this thread.

This person acted creepily without getting any kind of consent from you and in full knowledge that you had reasons why you would be freaked out and hesitate to say no.
posted by Frowner at 7:52 PM on October 6, 2013 [5 favorites]


Your boss was wrong and gross and creepy, yeah. Also re: your end note - it doesn't matter, even if you had been the most drunk of your entire life, what he did was wrong and violating.
posted by elizardbits at 7:53 PM on October 6, 2013 [5 favorites]


I am having a tough time thinking of ANY job where it would even be appropriate for your boss to have asked you to sit on his lap. He is the one who was wrong here.
posted by needs more cowbell at 7:53 PM on October 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


No, it was ABSOLUTELY not your fault.

Yes, you were DEFINITELY sexually violated.

There are no grey areas here; what your boss did was 100% unacceptable. Please contact a sexual abuse centre in your area, and talk to someone confidentially about what to do next.

In case I wasn't clear: you are zero percent at fault here. Look after yourself.

Your boss is a scumbag and his girlfriend needs to get some sense. Jesus.
posted by Salamander at 7:54 PM on October 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


There are no other secrets, there is no HR, this is his company. I just wanted to know if I was in the wrong because I can't tolerate (though I am trying to tolerate them) the feelings I am feeling. I am in therapy. Everything in my life for the last 6-8 weeks has been terrible, so i don't know which way is up. I thank you all for your responses.

I am a person that is overly compliant, a people pleaser. I plan to pull back from the organization, just continue to do what i do on a contract basis for them, and not interact in person with any of them. This is a very, very part time job, run by a very unstable individual. The contract is almost over, like less than a few weeks left, so I'm outta there as soon as it is over.

I'm just the type of person that somehow gets herself in bad situations when things are bad in my life which is pretty much always. i am working on it all. I need to turn things around (that is, commit to self care) so stuff like this does not happen.

Thank you one and all for your time.
posted by Jewel98 at 7:58 PM on October 6, 2013


What he did was absolutely and totally wrong and you are not at all to blame. I don't know where you live, but there are probably people here who can suggest legal or personal counselors in your area.
posted by Joe in Australia at 7:59 PM on October 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm just the type of person that somehow gets herself in bad situations when things are bad in my life which is pretty much always.

Honestly, it sounds to me like you are very vulnerable, and possibly in precarious life circumstances where you might need to put up with some unpleasant situations to survive, and predatory people recognize that and try to take advantage of it. They would do it to any one of us is they thought they could get away with it.
posted by cairdeas at 8:00 PM on October 6, 2013 [36 favorites]


Following up on your last response: yeah, I tend to agree to things when I shouldn't, too. I don't think it makes me a bad person either. I'm sorry you had such a horrible experience and I hope everything works out well for you.
posted by Joe in Australia at 8:02 PM on October 6, 2013 [4 favorites]


I am a person that is overly compliant, a people pleaser.

Just in case you're thinking that this makes you partly at fault: no. Just no.

The fact that someone takes heinous advantage of your vulnerabilities is still 100% on them.
posted by Salamander at 8:03 PM on October 6, 2013 [23 favorites]


It would also be really great if you called a sexual assault hotline, even if you don't plan to take any actions against this man and just want to finish out your contract and be done with all of them. I think it would be really good because I really hate the idea of you being tormented by bad feelings about this, and I worry for you, and I think it would be good for you to receive some support and kindness over the phone.
posted by cairdeas at 8:04 PM on October 6, 2013 [17 favorites]


I'm sorry this happened to you.

You didn't do anything wrong. You didn't deserve for this to happen to you.

What your boss did was absolutely wrong.
posted by jaguar at 8:05 PM on October 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


If you're in the US, you can call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1.800.656.HOPE(4673) to get connected to your closest rape crisis center, 24 hours a day.
posted by jaguar at 8:07 PM on October 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


I didn't think of the rape crisis line, and it is great that someone posted a number. i can call a local one too, and see what they might have to say. I also have a great therapist, and speak with him often and thought that would enough. i have been dealing with physical health issues this week. I know i will give that number or numbers a shot. It seems the mefites have spoken.
posted by Jewel98 at 8:13 PM on October 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


This is not your fault. I'm so, so, sorry this happened to you.

Jewel98: "I'm just the type of person that somehow gets herself in bad situations when things are bad in my life which is pretty much always. i am working on it all. I need to turn things around (that is, commit to self care) so stuff like this does not happen. "

The example I think of is— if you left your door unlocked and someone stole your television, then the thief still committed a crime. You may have not been 100% vigilant but that doesn't make it your fault and it certainly doesn't make it okay to steal.

Many assertive people get flustered when talking to their boss. It's an unfair power dynamic. That's why we have laws to protect workers from sexual harassment. "Compliant" people do not deserve to be sexually assaulted any more than anybody else. Please be gentle with yourself.
posted by yaymukund at 8:17 PM on October 6, 2013 [6 favorites]


I need to turn things around (that is, commit to self care) so stuff like this does not happen.

Commit to self care for your own good and happiness, but please please please do not believe for one second that turning your life around will make this any less your fault, because already it is not your fault.

No matter what you think you did to bring this on yourself, he broke the law. Do you see a single person here saying otherwise or asking if you ever flirted? No. Why? Because he broke the law.

You are not to blame for his actions, and I'm so sorry this happened.
posted by whoiam at 8:19 PM on October 6, 2013 [6 favorites]


I'm sorry this happened too, and agree with everyone 100% that this person assaulted you and took inappropriate advantage. I'm really glad you're in therapy - please bring this up there - and though this is a difficult experience, it's really encouraging that you are talking about it, seeking to understand it, and really being on your own side. What other people have done has no bearing on your own value or strength, and you can make your way through this, using the resources that are here to help when stuff like this happens. Keep up the good work. Again, you should never have been put in that position and I'm sorry you had to experience it - but you will get help and get through it.
posted by Miko at 8:24 PM on October 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


I want you to follow EVERY WORD of cairdeas' excellent advice.

I'm so very sorry this happened.

Yes, you are in a very vulnerable state generally, and predators take advantage.

Make those calls to rape crisis hotlines. Get support. Check in here if you are unsure about advice you are getting IRL. I am confident professionals trained to help people involved in situations of sexual violation can and will give you direct guidance and support.

But if you need to double check anything, I'm sure wise people here who have been through your situation will check in with you if you ask for help here again.

Where is your therapist in all this??

Every therapist I know will take your phone call and counsel you in a crisis.

This qualifies as a crisis. Call your therapist, too.
posted by jbenben at 8:25 PM on October 6, 2013 [7 favorites]


This was not in any fashion your fault, and it was a very bad thing, and because it was a very bad thing, it's okay if you don't feel okay with what happened so soon afterwards. That doesn't mean that therapy isn't helping--it does take some time to actually process this kind of thing. Feeling gross for awhile does not mean that you will feel gross forever. It would be great if one could invent a way to make the feeling go away immediately, but nobody's managed it yet. A lot of us have been there, though.
posted by Sequence at 8:34 PM on October 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


If you felt disoriented afterwards, it would be because his actions were so beyond what is acceptable by any standard that it caused you cognitive dissonance to experience it.

You were assaulted.

It's not your fault.

Follow up with the resources others have given. MeMail me if you want to talk.
posted by RainyJay at 8:36 PM on October 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


It was not your fault, and I'm sorry this happened to you.
posted by xingcat at 8:37 PM on October 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


I need to turn things around (that is, commit to self care) so stuff like this does not happen.

...implies this was your fault. This was not your fault.

Yes, by all means continue in therapy, but also consider a self-defense class. There is HUGE value in learning to say NO loudly and forcefully and it will make you more confident in general.
posted by DarlingBri at 8:45 PM on October 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


Others have said this, but I am going to seriously drive the point home on this one.

EVERYBODY has felt like this at some point. Strong people, smart people, confident people, pretty people, kick-ass people, you name it. We have all found ourselves in a very uncomfortable situation that has left us questioning our worth, our judgment, and feeling ashamed. Not only are you not alone in feeling what you are feeling now, but I assure you the vast majority of people you know have felt this way about something at some point or another, but they are too embarrassed to talk about it.

We encounter situations like this in life so we can learn. It only takes one "sit on my lap" or "let me rub your shoulders" from a creepy boss to know you never want to go back there again. And now you know. You have nothing to be ashamed of, he does. Clearly this guy has no sense of boundaries. Even if the situation had been optimal (you both being peers not boss/employee, his not having a girlfriend, a history of mutual attraction, etc) and he wanted to hit on you, you DO NOT hit on a woman by having her sit on your lap and "dry humping" her like an dog that needs neutering. That is disrespectful in any circumstance.
posted by evilcupcakes at 8:56 PM on October 6, 2013 [12 favorites]


I was afraid that there wouldn't be an appropriate workplace structure for you to find assistance and recourse. I am so sorry that this man took advantage of his position of power like that. That is just terrible of him.

Please take good care of yourself. None of this was your fault in any way. I'm a pretty tough cookie by most people's accounts, and I have also been the target of sexual harassment/abuse in the workplace because sexually abusive people are abusive, it's what they do.

I do think self-defense classes can be a great way to get practice in defending yourself and your boundaries. And therapy, and talking with the good folks at the resources already linked.

And telling trusted friends, if that feels comfortable right now, or later.

Telling us was an important step. We are in your corner. Some of us have been there ourselves. You are the farthest thing from a pariah; you are a brave comrade.
posted by Sidhedevil at 9:54 PM on October 6, 2013 [11 favorites]


We are in your corner. Some of us have been there ourselves. You are the farthest thing from a pariah; you are a brave comrade.

Exactly.
posted by cairdeas at 9:59 PM on October 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


I didn't experience this, but I can understand doing something you don't want to in the moment, like when I hugged this completely random, strange guy on the train just because he told me to. He had waited until just the two of us were alone to even talk to me and then asked as I left, and after I was wondering why I even did that. That's not as bad as what happened to you, and I'm not really affected or anything, but it's just the same idea. It doesn't mean you wanted to do it.
posted by wholecornandsalt at 1:31 AM on October 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


Everything above. This was not your fault. I would be surprised if the GF actually sympathizes with you, but that would be because she has her own agenda to deal with. The guy who did this took advantage of you. He was wrong to do this. He's a predator.

You mentioned counseling. I hope your counselor helps you gain some insight. Your state of mind (well-being) is the primary issue. Legal issues are secondary. Your counselor ought to be able to advise you about your legal options, even if she isn't prepared to help go forward with them yourself. Rape counselors (the hotline mentioned above) ought to be able to help you evaluate that prospect, and they would be the ones to do the legal heavy-lifting for you. The wear and tear part is what you discuss with the counselor you mentioned. I hope the legal options are there for you if you wish to employ them.

Healing is such an empty word to apply to what you will do now. I hope you get this sorted out. Being strong isn't only about standing up to bullies like him; sometimes it's about learning to define yourself, and knowing that help is there for you when you need it. There's nothing wrong with pleasing people. But you don't have put up with their abuse. You being vulnerable doesn't give anybody a license to hurt you.

However that works, I hope you will accept the sympathy and good wishes expressed here for what they are worth. Don't let bastards like him grind you down.
posted by mule98J at 1:37 AM on October 7, 2013 [3 favorites]


This is not your fault. Please practice assertiveness, though. When a man asks you to sit on his lap, and you don't want to, you say "No" and walk off.

Leaving this job would be an excellent idea. Forget about the contract.
posted by Houstonian at 2:43 AM on October 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


the assaulting you was his fault, but in the future anytime someone asks you to sit on their lap i would just say "no". that is a very odd and creepy request to be asked by a coworker, i can't imagine any work situation where that would ever be ok.
posted by camdan at 4:19 AM on October 7, 2013


You need to trust your instincts more. If you feel violated or intruded upon, you need to speak up.

If someone asked you to kill a puppy, I'm sure you'd decline voiciferously. Therefore, if someone asks you to do something that you know in your gut is inappropriate, sexual, or even something you plain don't want to do, decline voiciferously!

Find your voice and use it. Speak up. "NO! I don't want to sit on your lap!"

Practice it.

Call this asshole up and tell him, "I'm not returning to work for you, you creepy, creepster!"

Don't go back.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:48 AM on October 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


What he did is so shocking that I think a great many people would freeze up and not know what to do, or go along with it in the moment out of shock.

Yes, shock can absolutely have this effect.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 5:51 AM on October 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


These people advising you to just say 'no' are NOT saying that what happened was your fault.

They are saying that what happened was so outside of anyone's realm of possibility-thinking that it is very unlikely that you would have had the "NO" tool already in your arsenal of possible responses. Now that it has happened, you COULD conceive of the possibility of saying "NO" if it happened again, and that's the advice they are giving you - to practice for the future.

But still... What he did is so shocking that I think a great many people would freeze up and not know what to do, or go along with it in the moment out of shock. It wasn't your fault.
posted by CathyG at 7:16 AM on October 7, 2013 [4 favorites]


Call this asshole up and tell him, "I'm not returning to work for you, you creepy, creepster!"

Don't go back.


Phoning an employer and calling them names is very, very risky indeed, no matter how much the employer deserves it.

I would caution against urging the OP to do or say something like this when, from the sounds of things, she may be reliant on this man not only for her income, but also for her professional reputation.

If the OP thinks of herself as someone who just keeps on messing up her life, then what happened was that she was suddenly presented with a choice between messing up her job, and complying with a request to be victimized.

If she had said "no" so forcefully, he could have taken the position that he was being unfairly accused (for example).

I am not suggesting that the OP should take this lying down, or that she should consider herself hopelessly overpowered and just give in. I am trying to point out that the OP's choices will have looked very different to her at the time, than they would to those of us in a less vulnerable position.

I've had people urging me to scream at my boss, sue, whatever, and say "oh believe me I know about the risk to career and reputation from doing so" (and this was coming from someone who had never sued and in fact never had a legitimate job for most of her adult life). I didn't follow these people's advice, because they weren't the ones who were going to deal with the unemployment, bad references, and loss of opportunity that would have been the natural consequence of my responding aggressively against someone who was far less vulnerable than I was.

OP, you can and should stand up for yourself and protect yourself into the future, but please don't feel weak because some people will urge you to respond aggressively. That usually isn't the best way to protect yourself.

I would suggest, OP, that if you have other clients who can recommend you then you should focus your efforts on them, while extricating yourself from this client as quickly as possible.

Most importantly, you should ask the hotline where you can get legal advice about your employment situation.
posted by tel3path at 9:55 AM on October 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


OP, while you have support from your friends and family, therapist, the crisis hotline, mefi, what you do now is your decision. Staying silent, leaving your job, and pressing charges all come with their own sets of pros and cons. Only you— and maybe people close to you that you're comfortable talking to— know you well enough to advise you on how to proceed.

The latter two options also vary depending on where you live. When you talk to the crisis hotline, they can talk to you about local laws or organizations that might be able to help.
posted by yaymukund at 10:34 AM on October 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


One more vote for hell yes you were violated. There are no circumstances in which his behavior is okay. And even if you were drunk or high, even if he was drunk or high, even if there was no threat or quid pro quo, it would *still* be absolutely wrong, even criminal.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 10:46 AM on October 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


Thank you, one and all. I am confident his gf is on his side, and possibly another female employee, too, will no longer talk to me online. I could care less about the latter, especially since this is a very part time position and not my only means of income. I have a completely different full-time job in a completely different field from which I draw a salary, and plentiful benefits. I can walk away from this and pursue something else as I have made many connections.

I had been ruminating over it all weekend. I had to post on here and see what others people thought just to get out of my own head. The situation totally ruined my weekend, but you all helped redeem my sunday night so I was ready to go for a very busy Monday.

Thank you!
posted by Jewel98 at 5:13 PM on October 7, 2013 [3 favorites]


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