Sexually harassed by my female boss (CORRECTED

CORRECTION (PUBLISHED 11 MARCH 1993) APPENDED TO THIS ARTICLE

'THERE is very little difference in the pain of a man who is asked how large his penis is and a woman who is teased about her breasts,' says Louise Noakes of Women Against Sexual Harassment (Wash), a London-based helpline. But the tradition, says Ms Noakes, is that 'all men are harassers and/or subscribers to harassment. This is deeply offensive.'

In 1985, Wash had 105 clients, all women. In 1991, it had more than 6,300, including about 1,500 heterosexual men. Many would have been young men teased by women at work, but there are also cases of harassment by a female boss. 'Some women in authority have assumed much of their management style from men,' Ms Noakes says. 'They think, 'This will be a nice man to take away to a conference. Men have done it for years, why shouldn't I?' '

Only one sexual harassment case brought by a man has gone to an industrial tribunal in England, according to the Equal Opportunities Commission. He lost.

Men are reluctant to come forward, a spokeswoman says, because they think they won't be believed. Of a sample of 500 men who phoned Wash, only 2 per cent said their colleagues were supportive. Common responses were: you must be gay; or, hey, enjoy it.

The following case stands out in two respects: the victim filed a complaint with his union, and the union actually acted on it. It was several months before this civil servant confided in his girlfriend. 'I told him he ought to report it,' she says. 'Women report such things. Why shouldn't he?'

'I'VE been a civil servant for seven years. At the time, the woman was 43 and I was 41. She was my line manager. I'd been working in the department for about a year, and there was a promotion board due. One evening the whole office went out for a few drinks. She came up to me at the bar and said: 'Your promotion board is coming up very shortly. I think we ought to go away for the weekend.'

My first reaction was: well, what's happening here? Then I thought it was just the drink talking, and I walked away.

The second time was on a Friday, after everybody else was gone. I had to go in to see her about some work. After some pleasantries, it was basically: 'You either come to a hotel with me for the weekend or you can count your promotional chances as nil.' Her overnight bag was ready in the corner.

First of all, I thought it was a bit of a wind-up, but then I realised she was deadly serious. That's when the whole episode turned sour. I'm able to laugh as well as anybody else, but this was over the top. I was absolutely disgusted. If it had been a bloke, I would have punched him in the nose. But I just said: 'You're joking, aren't you?' and I walked out.

The next weeks were very tense indeed. I started to think seriously about quitting, just chucking it all in and leaving. I felt very isolated. There was nobody there that I could discuss this with. I just kept my head down and worked away. I was probably being more productive than usual because I didn't want to get involved in having a bit of a chat.

Other people on our team picked up on it. They didn't come to me, but you could tell they saw the sparks flying. They thought they'd just do their jobs and wait until it blew over. But it never did.

One Friday I found a weekend rail pass on my desk. Underneath it was written the name of a hotel. I rang the hotel to ask who had made the booking. They gave me her name.

I realised that this was getting out of order. On the Monday after the rail pass I went into her office and tried to sort it all out right there and then. The conversation went: 'Why are you pestering me? Leave me alone, and by the way I'm seeing somebody about this to get it stopped.' She just said: 'Well, who's going to believe you?'

This wasn't going anywhere, and I was getting more and more tense. On the Wednesday I rang in and said I was ill. The doctor told me that one way of relieving the tension was to keep out of the situation. I was out for six and a half weeks.

When I went back, I told personnel that I thought I should be transferred. They agreed. She realised something had happened and that the ball was rolling. She knew it was getting a bit difficult. She was avoiding me rather than me avoiding her.

The situation had affected my relationship with my girlfriend. I was very tense. At work, I felt low; outside, I felt aggressive. When I came away from work the slightest thing would trigger off something in me.

In the end I had to tell people because you can't bottle it up. My girlfriend said: 'Right. Start firing on all cylinders.' The proverbial kick up the backside, that was what I needed. I realised, like she said, that it wasn't going to come to an end.

I went to the union about three weeks after coming back from my period off sick. I wasn't really that involved in the union; I didn't think they were going to do that much for me. Nevertheless, the union's response was: 'We'll get you out of there.'

I'm convinced it was the union pressure that got me my transfer, but I think it should really be the harasser who is transferred. What would have happened if I'd been her? I would have been out on my bum.

In fact, she was gone within six weeks after I left. I don't know what happened to her.

My line manager now is a woman, and we get on very well. The harassment didn't put me off working with women because I realise it was a one-off. But I did feel I was being used, like I was a product, and when someone uses you, they throw the empty box away. I had the feeling that had I gone along with her, I would have been humiliated. Afterwards I would have really got it. She would have ensured that.

What really got up my nose was that she had exploited a position of power. Call it what you will - she did have power over me and she was responsible for my promotion up the line. I felt very angry about that.

I think basically she was a very lonely woman. She'd put herself on a pedestal, and she couldn't relate to people very well. I can't say I feel sorry for her. I wouldn't even say I feel concern. It's wonderment, really. What motivates somebody like that?

It's a myth that man is the stronger, the hunter. Both sexes can be the hunter, both can be the hunted.

I got promoted three weeks after my transfer. That was two years ago. I feel a lot stronger. If I'd tried to stick it out, I think I would have gone under.'

Women Against Sexual Harassment, 312 The Chandlery, 50 Westminster Bridge Rd, London SE1 7QY (071-721 7592).

CORRECTION

We would like to point out, in connection with yesterday's article about sexual harassment of men, that Louise Noakes ceased to be employed by Women Against Sexual Harassment in January 1993.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Billie Piper as Brona in Penny Dreadful
tvReview: It’s business as usual in Victorian London. Let’s hope that changes as we get further into the new series spoiler alert
Life and Style
A nurse tends to a recovering patient on a general ward at The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham
health
News
science
Arts and Entertainment
No Offence
tvReview: No Offence has characters who are larger than life and yet somehow completely true to life at the same time spoiler alert
News
Chuck Norris pictured in 1996
people
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Lucas, I SCREAM DADDIO, Installation View, British Pavilion 2015
artWhy Sarah Lucas is the perfect choice to represent British art at the Venice Biennale
News
A voter placing a ballot paper in the box at a polling station
i100
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
The Queen (Kristin Scott Thomas) in The Audience
theatreReview: Stephen Daldry's direction is crisp in perfectly-timed revival
Sport
football
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Dublin

    £13676.46 - £16411.61 per annum + OTE: SThree: SThree Trainee Recruitment Cons...

    Ashdown Group: Marketing or Business Graduate Opportunity - Norwich - £22,000

    £18000 - £22000 per annum + training: Ashdown Group: Business and Marketing Gr...

    SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

    £20000 - £25000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Are you great at building rela...

    Ashdown Group: Database Analyst - Birmingham - £22,000 plus benefits

    £20000 - £22000 per annum + excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Application Sup...

    Day In a Page

    General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
    General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

    On the margins

    From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
    Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

    'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

    Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
    Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

    Why patients must rely less on doctors

    Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
    Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

    Flesh in Venice

    Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
    11 best anti-ageing day creams

    11 best anti-ageing day creams

    Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
    Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

    Juventus vs Real Madrid

    Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
    Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

    Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

    Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power