My fault?

Lots of you have commented about some of the things my boss has said (see here, here and here) and suggested that I should document it all for a potential sexual harassment suit.

I’m intrigued by this. I mean, I don’t really get it. Thing is, and may be it’s just me, but I soooo don’t see his comments that way. Ok, yea, they are a bit creepy sometimes, but I think he just does it to be funny. Like the time he said, “I thought about you last night – when I was nude”. Surely he was just trying to be funny?

I’ve also played this little game with him. Like the time he said, “I thought about you last night” to which I retorted – “were you nude?” That stumped him, for once.

So surely the comments are all just part of this elaborate game we play? Or used to play? I haven’t really been playing lately.

And then I hear my therapist’s voice in my head telling me how I defend him whenever she criticises him. Really? I hadn’t really noticed that. Nor do I really understand why I do it.

May be it’s all my lack of understanding of boundaries? Aren’t they, as Castorgirl says, just those squiggly lines in the sand that you don’t even notice when you trample on them?

Isn’t this all just my fault for inviting such comments in the first place? And if this is the case, how could I possibly do something as serious as a sexual harassment suit?

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11 thoughts on “My fault?

  1. Eewww, Kerro. It’s not your fault, but, he is having an emotional affair with you. The same thing happened to me, went on for 18 months, except he was within boundaries with what he said. It’s that he was calling me, etc.

    I feel a post coming on – I’ll have it up in a few! It will explain it further.

  2. It makes sense this would be confusing, sexual abuse survivors generally suck at figuring out this kind of thing until we get the hang of it. We’ve had our boundaries crossed so much as kids we don’t know where they are at first, particularly about sexual stuff.

    I suggest reading up on sexual harassment – there’s lots of info on the internet, for example. You might have had a hand in encouraging it or condoning the overtly sexual flirting, but it’s his fault and it’s still very inappropriate behavour for a workplace. If his boss knew, they’d disapprove, as it’s just asking for a lawsuit and demonstrates a lack of maturity and judgment on his part. The kinds of stuff you described is definitely not allowed coming from a boss to an employee. it would probably be okay, between two single employees who enjoyed it, but when you add the married, and boss factors, it’s definitely not on.

    Whether you think you would do a sexual harassment suit or not, keeping notes is insurance in case he fires or demotes you to cover up his misbehaviour. This is a distinct possibility.

    I’d bet a lot of money he knows he’s out of line.

  3. Hi Kerro,

    He is at fault. Not you. You are not to be blamed. He calls you at home for you to entertain him, this is not normal or acceptable boss behavior. He says inappropriate and sexual harassing things. He is creating a hostile work environment for you. This is so a lawsuit waiting to happen. His company would be really pissed to find out that he is doing this, because it leads them open to being named in the lawsuit as well.

    For a lawsuit it would be good if you told him to back off and notated that as well as told others you work with. Then it would be best if you reported to his boss what is happening if and when he does it again. What they do will make them more or less culpable in any lawsuit. Most companies take this shit very very seriously. If you feel like you can’t do any of these things or the repercussions are possibly too much, keep a written record and it would be good that you at least tell someone else in your life while this is going on, so you have another witness outside the company who can testify for you, if that should ever happen.

    I would start by writing down all the things that he has done so far and keep that safe, never taking it to work. By the way, your boss is a sleeze.

    Good and healing thoughts to you.

    Love,

    Kate

  4. Kerro… those comments he made are very inappropriate. I can’t even begin to imagine how confusing this must be for you. I commend you for not playing-the-game with him lately. Don’t give in and talk with him like that anymore…that is my own opinion and suggestion. I agree that he is having an emotional affair with you. I am happy for you that you are figuring this out before anything else had happened. Not that you said anything could/would happen, but it would be horrible to discover the boundary had been broken after something else had happened.

    Lots of love and hugs,
    SIK

  5. Not your fault.

    Not sure I believe lawsuit is the way to go, as some of the other commentors indicate. If it was me, I think that would just be a lot of extra turmoil; and wrt career and work enironment not necessarily worth it, if you somehow otherwise can clear your vision and set limits.
    To me you seem strong, and with the hard work you are doing (in therapy) I believe it can help a lot to sort out what signals you are sending, and more importantly what you are “accepting” on his behalf. Again: set limits. Now your vision/perspective seems a bit out of focus wrt his behaviour and what is appropriate etc (without this implying any fault on your side of course); you just the need to see it -as it is- and deal with him. And I believe you can do it 🙂

  6. It is *NEVER* appropriate for sexual banter to occur in the workplace, especially between a boss and a subordinate. Never. Not. Even. Ever.

    I agree with SwordDance that you should read up on how the law works in your part of the world, and what is considered sexual harassment. Here in the US, something as simple as complimenting a woman’s outfit could fall into the harassment category. A friend of mine was reprimanded for telling a coworker that her hair looked nice. So yeah, pretty sure your boss is out of line. Your not knowing how to handle it isn’t your fault; many people wouldn’t know how to handle that.

    I also agree that you should start documenting it in case he starts to retaliate when you try to draw appropriate boundaries with him. He has very definite issues … don’t underestimate his capacity to be a jerk.

  7. I agree with David that it would be a good idea to read up on what constitutues sexual harrassment in Australia. I felt sad that in the US things have become so fragile that giving a compliment to someone would be construed that way.

    But it’s not your fault – NO WAY.

    The comment about thinking about you when he was nude is so inappropriate it’s shocking.

    Perhaps because of your background, the boundaries are skewed slightly but he’s taking advantage of that situation. Would he have said that to you in front of his boss for example? No way!

    It can never be said to be your fault per se but perhaps you need to do something to let him know that it is no longer acceptable and neither will it be tolerated.

    As a matter of curiosity if one of your close females friends were recounting this story to you, how would you interpret it? Would you think the comments were “innocent fun” or not appropriate? Sometimes it’s easier to view it as though happening to someone else to clarify how we really think about it – if that makes sense?

    Look after yourself.

  8. Hi, Kerro –

    Yup, I agree with everyone else . . . what is going on between you and your boss is not acceptable behavior. It sounds like he has been the aggressor, but it also sounds like you have not established a solid boundary.

    I have had some experience with this sort of thing . . . I allowed (and encouraged) the inappropriate behavior with my boss because I didn’t know better and I enjoyed the attention. It was very similar to your situation — phone calls at home, sexual comments, he was married, I was single . . .

    I thought he would not do anything hurtful . . .

    But, one night while we were on a business trip, he attacked me in my hotel room during a “strategy meeting”. I had never dreamed he would get violent until he had me pinned up against the wall, trying to kiss and grope me. I truly thought he was going to rape me and probably kill me. But, fortunately, he didn’t go much further than the kissing and groping.

    At that point, it became an all-out war between us because I was scared to death for my job, for my safety and for my life. Legal counsel told me I didn’t have a strong case up to that point, not even for the assault, because I had not set a strong boundary — truthfully, I hadn’t set any boundary up to that point.

    So, I had to set a very strong boundary — in writing — including consequences. Then, I held him to that boundary (and I held myself to that boundary). If I had not held myself to that boundary, my “case” against him would have been null and void.

    He tried to bully me into changing the boundary, but I didn’t, and he didn’t cross it. He walked right up to it, but he never crossed it. Finally, he left the company because it was “uncomfortable” for him. Good riddance, I say.

    Anyway . . . sorry to get preachy . . . I just understand so well where you are coming from with this. I totally understand your confusion. It is what happens with survivors until we learn a better way.

    My thoughts are with you!

    – Marie (Coming Out of the Trees)

  9. @Marie – wow! What a story and how brave of you to share. What really struck me was you taking ownership of the part that was down to you but not wiping yourself out by taking all the responsibility. It was a hugely powerful post. Well done you!

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