What I want you to know about sexual harassment at work

What I Want You to Know is a series of reader submissions. It is an attempt to allow people to tell their personal stories, in the hopes of bringing greater compassion to the unique issues each of us face. If you would like to submit a story to this series, click here.  Today’s guest post is by an anonymous writer. 

I am a waitress in a busy sports bar and restaurant. Much of the clientele are males of all ages looking to watch a football game or to celebrate a bachelor party. It is a multicultural environment, with staff and guests from all over the globe coming together. This provides me with an excellent opportunity to meet interesting and diverse groups of people. I enjoy this as I consider myself a “people person”, who needs regular social contact. I do not want to generalize and paint everyone with the same brush here. Having said that, there are some things I want you to know.

I am there to serve the guests. I am there to answer their questions about our various products and events. I can provide tourists with information on the city and help them to find their location on a map. If they are friendly and I have time, I would like to make small talk; chat about the weather, about where I am from, what they do or anything else of interest. If they have a problem or a question they can approach me.

I want them to know that I am not there to serve their EVERY need. I am not there to fulfil any of their sexual needs. I get paid to be friendly. Sure, I would consider myself a naturally friendly person anyway. My smiling or chatting however is not an advance or an attempt at flirtation. I am not trying to allure them or seduce them in any way. It is not an invitation to touch me. My slightly shy nature and the fact that I am not working in a secure position with a trade union is not a reason to take advantage of me. Would they do this at a bank or in a library? Nobody has, under any circumstances, the right to pinch my ass. Do they think I will not notice it? Do they think I will enjoy it? Do they think because I am too embarrassed and scared to complain about what happened that that makes it acceptable?

I want them to know that even though I will be there every week and if I recognize people as regulars I will say hello and greet them in a friendly manner that does not mean they can stalk me. I do not owe them something and I am not a possession. I have the right to make my own decisions whether they agree with them or not. I am not being unfair because I choose not to meet these men outside of my work. They do not have permission to go behind my back trying to get my phone number from people after I refuse to give it to them myself. They are not allowed to harass me constantly while I am working or before I even start my shift. I have been polite, I have tried to be firm, I have tried to be patient but enough is enough. Threatening to never leave me alone and making me feel scared and intimidated is not a way to attract me.

I may be one of few women in my workplace but I want my coworkers to know that I deserve respect. I have feelings too and they are being seriously hurt. I am made to feel self-conscious and paranoid constantly. I never know what to wear. All of the comments about my breasts, my weight, my clothes and my sex life are really getting me down. I feel less of a human. Like I have no personality worth getting to know. I admit I have suffered from insecurity all of my life and I have never been truly comfortable with my body but I deserve to be treated better than this. I don’t pass comments on anybody else’s appearance. Who I date or sleep with is nobody’s business but mine.

I am writing this today because I know I am not the only woman who has suffered at the hands of males who are overstepping boundaries and being highly inappropriate on a regular basis. This is something I wish to raise awareness of. I also want anybody else in my situation to know that they are not alone. For the time being I will have to remain anonymous as I am sure everybody will understand.

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