“There are worse things that happen every day.” responded the head of the organization.
My female colleagues suggested I let it go because "things like this happen".
That is when I realized that the inappropriate behaviour I had experienced, the one that was on the verge of sexual harassment, had no language. No language for people to understand the incident, no language for people to recognize my anger and deep discomfort and no mindset with which we could look for a solution.
The ambiguity around sexual harassment in the workplace was frightening.
I (naively, perhaps) hoped that a formal complaint would make them sit up and take notice. Instead, they took the time to question my performance, my loyalty to the team and make me feel that I was dispensable. And what was implied with this, of course, was that he wasn’t.
Over the next two months, I felt angry, I felt discouraged, I felt helpless. I felt alone. But I knew this was my fight.
I was determined.
"I didn’t want him punished for what he did to me. My battle was for no woman to have to experience what I did."
A few others began to speak up about how they had experienced harassment as well.
The organization couldn't ignore it now. He left.
“You are brave” said some. “We admire your determination.” said a few others. These cheerleaders were silent when I needed them most.
By then, I had moved on.
I had been lucky to have friends who offered me support, listened to me, helped me be informed and stood by me while I stood up for myself. This kept me going. I wanted to offer this support to others too.
Now, I work with organizations and individuals, helping create safe working spaces. I support them to find a language to talk about conflicts and about harassment in the workplace.
Ranjitha Jeurkar is a communications professional. Having experienced empowerment through NVC, she is now passionate about sharing it with others to support them speak up for their needs, manage conflict, deepen their relationships and achieve inclusion. She is the Director of Connext Coaching and Facilitation, that works with individuals, groups and institutions.
She can be contacted at email@example.com