Updated: Oct 5, 2018
As a part of our Giveaway that ran for two weeks, we encouraged women to share their stories of sexual harassment, as an attempt to combat this issue, by bringing more awareness to it. The writer of this piece has chosen to remain anonymous, while sharing her experience with harassment, at the workplace. Most women suffer this a great deal, and we want to encourage women to speak up and get courageous enough to leave an opportunity if the work environment becomes unhealthy. Read her piece below.
I had never actually felt sexual harassment yes even in Nigeria until I was serving my country under the NYSC program. My boss at my primary place of assignment was someone I already knew beforehand for years, and he was known as a bit of a womanizer. He had worked with my mum while I was still in high school, so I was familiar with him, when my posting letter landed me at his office. Hearing stories about his womanizing was a bit crazy, with me thinking this man is just an oniranu, (a Yoruba word for nonsense man). But because of our history, I thought I was going to be exempt from his unwanted advances, little did I know what I was getting myself into.
Anyway, when I started at the company, all seemed well, and I felt safe because nothing was out of the ordinary, until those inappropriate comments began rolling in. "Come and give me a peck,” he will often say, which I jokingly brushed off. Not wanting any kind of awkwardness, I had to keep my emotions in check. I did not want to go from zero to a hundred, so people wouldn’t say this oyinbo (nickname for white people) has come with her wahala (trouble).
Despite my efforts to keep our relationship professional, he still went ahead with his advances. He tried to hug me, after attempting to lock his office door behind us one day and as a Naija (Nigerian) sharp girl, I quickly told him to leave the door open; like let the whole world see what’s happening, no need for closing the door. I was gentle, yet firm with my reasonable request.
I had to threaten that I'll report him to my mother when my failed attempts to stop the harassment were getting out of hand. A part of you almost starts second guessing if there is something you did that warranted someone to come at you like that. I started thinking; was I too nice? I wasn't ever dressed inappropriately to the office so I wonder why I was drawing such attention from him.
Maybe I should have put up a straight face from the beginning, especially when dealing with just him. But I came to the realization that some people are just nasty. They have no fear of God in them, and they have no respect for women. They like to use their little authority to take advantage of those who they feel don't have a choice but to remain within that environment. I made my stance known, by refusing to enter his office unnecessarily or standing far from his reach, if I had no choice but to go into his office. Thank God that worked and the harassment stopped. He got the point with all my avoidance tactics and side-eyeing.
I felt my co-workers were privy to this sort of behavior but just accepted it; sadly as most people do, thinking— He is the boss, and he can do whatever he wants. Which is a wrong mindset to have, and I was disgusted by everything. Other harassment went on in that office, with another man asking me to be his second wife since I wouldn't settle for being a side piece.
It was ridiculous, but I knew I was in the midst of non-Christians and my conduct was essential to reflect not just my moral stance but also to reflect Jesus, as His ambassador. So I wasn’t going to engage in anything immoral. If this were a full time job, I definitely would have had to handle it differently. And for all of you thinking why I didn’t report it to the HR department, that wasn’t even a viable option, because, he held a top managerial role in the Human Resource department!
If we have people like that, as part of departments, that are supposed to fight to protect the employees from certain crimes committed against them, who then will people run to when they are in trouble? A lot of work has to be done, maybe training of some sort should be put in place, teaching people about sexual harassment, the dangers and the penalty involved. Perhaps we should encourage people to seek help if they don't have self-restraint. No one is meant to be objectified; people should be able to feel safe at their workplaces. There are a lot of atrocities happening around the world, let us work together to make the workplace, a better and safe place.
Have you ever experienced a situation like this? leave your thoughts in the comment section below. Remember to like, share and subscribe to never miss an update.