It started with the jokes. The ones with underlying sexual innuendo. I didn’t find them funny. In fact, they made me uncomfortable. But I was young and in my first job as a television reporter on a high profile current affairs show in Australia. He was an experienced cameraman who’d been at the broadcaster for years. So, I laughed along with him and the rest of the team joined in.
The jokes escalated to being more direct. Innuendos about my sex life. How much I was up for it, how raunchy I might be. Still, I laughed along. I felt instinctively that if I didn’t, it would be me who would be judged.
Back then the culture was predominantly a ‘boys will be boys’ one. To get ahead, a woman was pretty much expected to be one of the boys to gain acceptance. It didn’t cross my mind that his behaviour was inappropriate.
But there was one Producer who wasn’t like that. I worked directly with him and he was a rock of support.
The contract was for one year, learning the ropes in a regional station, after which I’d return to my home city. As the year progressed the cameraman’s behaviour graduated to him telling me he was annoyed with his almost-teenage daughter locking the bathroom door. He felt he had the right to walk in on her at will. He also joked how useful she was, as he made her fetch his beers, whenever he felt like one.
It culminated at my farewell party. I went outside for a cigarette and the cameraman followed me. He lunged at me trying to grope me.
I reported him to my boss the next day. Not only for what he did to me, but for what he had told me about his daughter. I was told he’d be given a warning. Whether that ever happened, I have no idea.
When I said goodbye to the rest of my colleagues, the supportive producer gave me a hug. He pulled me so tightly to him I could feel his entire body pressing against mine. He held me for an uncomfortably long time. Then I felt his erection. Sexual predators come in many different forms.
If it happens to you, what should you do about it? Do you want to take it further? It’s a decision only you can make. I’m not here to victim blame someone who decides they are not ready to take this step. But if you are, then there are options.
• Can you calmly confront the person whose behaviour is offensive? Perhaps they’re unaware that their conduct is unacceptable? If not, then I would suggest writing a statement as soon as possible and report it to your HR manager or a person in a position of power who has the duty to do something about it. You are legally protected from discrimination by the Equality Act 2010 and employers are obliged to abide by this.
• Contact the Equality Advisory Support Servicewww.gov.uk/equality-advisory-support-service
• Acas: www.acas.org.uk
• Citizens Advice Bureau: www.citizensadvice.org.ukor talk to a trade union representative.
• If you decide you’re not ready to speak out, talk to someone you trust, don’t sufferin silence.
• If you’re looking to join a new company, do your research. Ask them about their policies on this above all speak to current employees.