Some pages take such a long time to be finished, for whatever reason. This page is one of them. The idea behind it came to me more than a year ago - maybe even longer - but each time I tried to work on it, the words would not come. It was hard even to string two sentences together. Or it just didn't seem worthwhile to write such a page. And yet, at the same time, I knew I had to include it. One day in the future, perhaps, but it had to be written. It felt important somehow. It felt important to me.

It was one of those things that stayed at the back of the mind, coming to the forefront every now and then, prompting, urging, and then it quickly retreated, unsure of whether it wanted to make itself known. Apparently, even the pages themselves could be shy.

The incident in question involved a male co-worker - in the same building but not someone that I worked closely with - who came down to my work area. I think it was during, or just after, lunchtime, and my co-worker at the time, another woman, whom I was assigned to work with, was seated at another desk.

The male co-worker did what he had to do and made small conversation with my other co-worker. I hardly talked as I was aware of his flirtatious behaviour - he was unmarried but living with a woman - and hardly knew him, anyway. He mumbled something about me, that I shouldn't work too hard - or something to that effect - as he passed behind me and then caressed my upper arm before he walked away. I was stunned. And I wondered if my female co-worker had noticed it. Even if she had, she probably thought nothing of it. I felt that it was an invasion of my space, that I was not only touched, but caressed, by another man - that I hardly knew - and I was troubled by it. It was overly familiar and I didn't like it. I realised it wasn't anything overt, that he hadn't propositioned me or grabbed or fondled me. It was a simple caress and he thought nothing of it. The thought of that infuriated me even more. How dare he. From that moment on, I made it a point to avoid him as much as I could, allowing myself to only say hello or to wish him a good morning if our paths should cross. I was distancing myself from him and I felt that I had to.

Later, when I worked by myself and a young woman was assigned to help me, he would appear a few times to talk to the young woman, taking her away from her duties. Talking was fine but she was already taking her time doing her job and I thought that he should know better, being in a responsible position in another department. If they wanted to go on a break or have lunch together, that was fine. Now was the time to work and he was taking her away from that. Whether she welcomed the interruption or not was beside the point. She was there to work. I knew what he was up to. I wasn't his supervisor but I could at least turn to my own supervisor and seek her advice.

She was made aware of the problem - and it was a problem as I was responsible for getting the work done, whether I myself was doing the work or was overseeing someone else - and said she would talk to his supervisor.

I was a little leery of that at first as I realised there were those who didn't see things the way I saw things. And I also realised that there were those who even welcomed such interruptions. I was interrupted many times due to the nature of the job but his was not the sort of interruption that I would welcome anywhere.

When I confided in my supervisor, I didn't mention the time when he caressed my arm, only the times when he would interrupt the young woman's work. Perhaps I should have but I felt that I would making a mountain out of a mole-hill.

Some time later, I felt a little out of sorts, that I had stirred the pot when I shouldn't have. I told my husband about it - but I only told him about the male worker interrupting my female helper several times when she should be working. I never told him that he had touched me. I didn't dare - and said that I felt as if I was the guilty one for having brought it out into the open. It wasn't as if the man had committed a crime and I had reported him. But it felt that way and, for a while, I even felt a little self-conscious whenever any of his supervisors would cross my path as I felt that they were already aware of my complaint. I felt exposed. And I remembered why I usually kept my thoughts to myself.

Why are we the ones made to feel guilty? But no one was making me feel guilty. Is that why we keep silent, thinking others would think nothing of it or wonder why we were making an issue of it?

It wasn't nothing to me. It was a problem.

Touches. Touching. Unwanted touches. Unwanted interruptions.

Almost immediately after the "touching" incident, I confided in another co-worker who had once worked closely with that particular male worker. She seemed to understand but it upset me a little when she indicated that he was just being who he was. It was as if he couldn't help it and everyone else knew that he was just that way.

Much later, when another co-worker that I used to work with visited me in my work area, I told her what had happened, including the "touching" incident. She understood and even agreed with me. And she even advised me - if something similar should happen again - to bring it to a manager who was higher up - who also happened to be a man - instead of going through the chain of command, which was what I had done.

To be fair, that male worker's behaviour did change a little somewhere down the road. Perhaps someone else had said something. Perhaps "the powers that be" had decided that enough was enough. Perhaps ... Who knows ...

I no longer work there now. But I still sometimes wonder if I had done the right thing. Did I say too much? Should I have kept quiet about it? Or didn't I say enough?

It's behind me now and yet there are times when I still wonder about it.

 

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