Recently, there has been quite a hike of campaigns and articles highlighting about sexual harassment. I have never spoken this publicly, but I am a victim of sexual harassment. It happened during my short tenure working in a multi-national company as an in-house legal counsel.
Thank Buddha, I decided to leave the (scary) place and got the bas**** fired.
After due consideration, I decided to pen this down with my thoughts about sexual harassment, on a victim’s perspective.
WHAT ‘HE’ DID?
The thing is, sexually harassment need not be ‘’WAH HE/SHE TOUCHED MY BUTT (or boobs)”. What happened to me was:
The “accidental” touch while trying to “use” your mouse to ‘’amend’’ you work
Sitting so near to the extent can hear his pulse and heartbeat (and smell his bad breath too)
Staring at me where I felt I was raped (by his eyes).
“Admiring” your body by staring with his non-moving big eye (balls) – pun intended
Requesting for a selfie *sobs
Saying how beautiful you are with the ham sap tone
Telling you that he wishes (wants) to see you in sports attire (also with the ham sap tone)
Staring while you are photocopying (I really don’t understand this – even in movies sexual harassment happens when the girl is photocopying)
WHAT IT REALLY FEELS LIKE TO BE SEXUALLY HARASSED
I guess there are only 2 words to describe the feeling being sexually harassed: FEAR and HELPLESSNESS.
Why is there always reluctance to speak up? Because the society is judgemental. Even before I wrote this article, I was thinking why I should subject myself to unnecessary criticism and comments.
Let me cite a real-life example to put things into perspective.
When the harassment happened to me, I was convinced I am not the only one. I (without thinking) went and ask around and hell I was right. One of the victims was my colleague - a 50 year old female who worked at the Company for almost 10 years. She told me that the bas**** touched her thighs and commented, “WOW so smooth - like Ipoh taugeh chicken”.
MY REACTION: WHY THE HECK DID YOU KEPT QUIET? (ok it was the F word but I prefer to remain elegant here). Her answer: I am 50 years old, who will believe sexual harassment will happen to an aunty? I will just be a laughingstock to others. Even I myself don’t believe he touched me.
See. FEAR OF BEING JUDGED
As for myself, the fear and helplessness come from the job insecurity. Just switched to in-house, new job, worried about performance.
See: FEAR OF CONFRONTATION, FEAR OF BEING JUDGED, FEAR OF LOSING THE JOB
Because of this fear, I was reluctant to bring this up and just swallowed the whole thing. Till one day I had dinner with a friend, and I told him what happen. He convinced me that I should not let that happen to me anymore (or anyone else), and that I should talk to my HR or do something about it. I gave some thought about his advice and brave through it by seeing HR.
WAS THE REPORTING PROCESS EASY?
Was the whole process easy? HELL NO. Before joining in-house, I practiced litigation. The naive me thought that, heck I this will be easy. I WAS WRONG – when the company investigated and I had to described everything in detail, GOSH. I was the victim, but I was questioned how sure am I?
Did ‘he’ really touch you?
How he touched you?
Do you have evidence?
Can you remember clearly?
The feeling of being questioned that way despite being the victim? Sigh. Not only I had to recall and explain everything single incident, I had to justify myself. I was even asked to give “photos” as evidence if possible.
WHAT CAN WE DO THEN?
Despite the above I was grateful that the Company did investigate. But after leaving the company, I realised the awareness on how to combat sexual harassment in Malaysia isn’t enough. The law is not comprehensive enough. The deterrent effect for sexual misconduct / harassment in Malaysia just isn’t great. My suggestion is to start small, starting from us as an individual. My humble views:
Be less judgemental
Try to refrain from making funny comments on sexual harassment cases. I know its hard, gossips are very fun to talk about and a great topic to laugh about. But baby steps?
Be less touchy and stare less?
Not only girls, guys (male) can be subjected to sexual harassment too. Maybe you think that slight touching is fine, but what if that someone feels uncomfortable? I have witnessed girls staring at good looking guys (I might be guilty of that sometimes hehe) and vice versa. People have confessed to me that it makes them very uncomfortable. An analogy, Have you ever had a friend or family member farting in public and say: please my fart is not smelly. That is not the point, the point is you farting in public makes people uncomfortable!
Once again, baby steps. Make a mental note not to do that? (well I am trying)
Be vocal (and drama) about it
I understand sometimes you do not want to make a scene, or even cause awkward situations. When it happens, I just want to grab a knife and stab them or even punch them. But not worth going to jail for this. My view – there are subtle ways to do it, i.e.:
When people stare and you and you feel uncomfortable, GIVE THEM THE DEATH STARE
When people touch you and you are uncomfortable, instead being polite, be drama about it and jump or shout (like how you jump if a cockroach land on your face)
When people say you are beautiful with a ham sap tone, tell them in a serious tone ‘’not funny and I am uncomfortable”
I am writing this article just to convey a message to all sexual harassment victims, that you are not alone. And you not wanting to be vocal about it, or choosing to keep quiet about it, NOTHING WRONG WITH IT. It doesn’t mean you condone those bas****’s behaviour. Just saying, believe in karma.