What Happens after You Report Sexual Harassment
The Aftermath Of Workplace Sexual Harassment ①
Victims of workplace sexual harassment, how are you doing? Are you still at the same workplace? By any chance, is your supervisor leading the way in making you an outcast? The moment that a victim of workplace sexual harassment makes a complaint, another problem begins. There are many cases in which companies focus on quickly covering up the incident and show no intention of properly dealing with it. Victims are treated as if they were the ones making trouble, and even chased out of the organization.
It is due not just to workplace sexual harassment but also to the disadvantageous measures that companies take in its wake that many women are not enjoying their right to a safe and fair workplace. They are suddenly chased out, or endure each day at their workplace in relative isolation. The group “People Angry about Disadvantageous Measures for Victims of Workplace Sexual Harassment” (also known as “Fire Anger” for short) attempts to collect stories of this kind of situation and create discussion about ways to resolve it. This series will span four articles.
This article is based on the writings of a victim of workplace sexual harassment victim about what she went through after reporting the harassment.
January X, 2013
After a year of it, I couldn’t endure the sexual harassment by my boss any longer, and reported it to the company. When I turned in my resignation along with my complaint, the executive who has previously stopped me from quitting changes their attitude and tells me that that would be for the best. Coworkers who used to chat with me over tea every morning now won’t even say hi. The “document confrontations*” with my harasser and the company’s investigation continue endlessly. It is hard. I feel completely out of it. In particular, it is different from before in that now nobody in the company talks to me. That makes it harder.
March X, 2013
Finally, two months after I reported the sexual harassment, the company has reprimanded the perpetrator. Only the single incident that the perpetrator admits to has been acknowledged as sexual harassment. That the other incidents weren’t recognized as sexual harassment feels even more unfair than the inadequacy of the reprimand. There are rumors that I’m a ggot-baem [lit. “flower snake”; a woman who uses sexuality to defraud a man for financial gain]. They say that I used the perpetrator. That he has been treated unfairly, and I—the victim—am a ggot-baem, an evil woman like Jang Hui-bin. Even the female colleague with whom I was closest won’t talk to me. I’ve worked here for over 10 years. Most of my relationships are connected with this company. No one will listen to me. I want to die.
Who would spread such rumors? Finally, someone told me where these ill-intentioned rumors started. They started from the HR team that investigated the sexual harassment. There has long been a rumor in our company that if they want to get rid of someone, they spread bad rumors about them. It is disgraceful that these rumors were started by the HR team that investigated the incident, and the company’s intention to get rid of the victim instead of the perpetrator is incomprehensible. I have decided not to die but to stand up and fight against the company’s improper handling of my case. If I leave it to the company, the only possible outcome will be my quitting. So I have determined to tell the story of what I have been through to the world.
April X, 2013
Things as hard to endure as sexual harassment itself have continued to happen. There were several people who, far from helping me, the victim, tried to help cover up the perpetrator’s behavior. One coworker said they saw me acting affectionately towards the perpetrator. Another even lied and said they were there when one of the incidents—that actually happened when we were alone—took place, and that there was no doubt that sexual harassment hadn’t occurred. No one is helping me, the victim, but strangely, there is an excess of people taking the perpetrator’s side, even to the point of lying.
October X, 2013
The company has suddenly ordered that the one coworker who has helped me be put on stand-by. I was really thankful for this person’s help, but now I am sorry that it seems they are being disadvantaged because of me. But the company has also ordered me put on stand-by. They say that because I helped my coworker pack up their belongings when they received the order, I’m under suspicion of leaking confidential information. It seems that the company is determined to find a pretext to make me leave on my own.
The company has ordered me to stay in a windowless meeting room all day. They said that if I do other work while I’m in there, I could be punished according to company rules. From morning until evening I do nothing but stare blankly at white walls. The problem with hyperventilating that I’ve had since I reported the sexual harassment has gotten worse, so it’s often difficult to breathe. I’m barely getting through each day.
I wanted to trust my company. I’m a very loyal worker. Though my coworkers now shun me, I hadn’t wanted to hurt the company’s reputation, because it was our home—mine, theirs, and all employees’. I’ve tried several times to send an email to the company president, telling my story and asking for help, but there’s been no answer. There’s nowhere within the company that I can go to ask for help.
I’ve been released from my stand-by order. I no longer have to sit in a meeting room doing nothing. But my coworkers are still uncomfortable around me. They don’t talk about personal matters. The company sent out an email to all employees saying that I was causing harm to the company and not to become close with me or help me. The number of eyes that are monitoring me has grown. The company is trying ceaselessly to isolate me.
April X, 2014
The company’s attempts to isolate me and ultimately chase me out have caused me as much pain as the sexual harassment did. I desperately want this kind of problem not to happen to others. People say that it is rare to get a ruling that holds the business owner accountable and acknowledges the company’s responsibility for the workplace disadvantages a victim of sexual harassment faces. They say it will not be an easy fight. But even if it goes slowly, I want to move forward with it, one step at a time. Today I went to the Ministry of Employment and Labor.
May X, 2015
It’s already been 2 1/2 years since I reported my supervisor’s sexual harassment to my company. In the office, there is still no one who asks me to have tea for personal reasons, or acts as friendly as they did before. There is a rumor that my department head intended to give me a good performance assessment but HR stopped them. I don’t know if that’s true, but my performance assessments are now quite critical, in contrast to the time before I reported the sexual harassment. But I am hanging on, and as time goes by here, a few people seem to be recognizing the unfairness of my situation. The number of coworkers who give me a friendly greeting if we meet in the hall is increasing bit by bit. Before, coworkers used to avoid me like I had a contagious disease, but now it’s much better, thank goodness.
Because of my situation, sometimes people seek me out to ask for advice. In those cases, I tell them to stand it if they can. According to educational materials for sexual harassment prevention, if you are sexually harassed, you should clearly express your refusal. But when sexual harassment occurs daily or a victim expresses her feelings clearly at a workplace that doesn’t see sexual harassment as an important problem that should be properly resolved, her situation may very well get worse. This is because if she clearly expresses her feelings, it is common for the perpetrator to become more fixated on her or use his position to punish her.
So when workplace sexual harassment has occurred, the company’s response is vitally important. Because I want the company to wake up to this responsibility, I haven’t given up yet and have continued to tell my story. And it is out of a desire to keep this from happening again that I put forward my story here.
They say that there are countries with strong laws forbidding retaliatory harassment of workers. So that if a worker is disadvantaged because they reported workplace sexual harassment, the company is punished. I think that if I was a woman in a country with laws like that, I wouldn’t have gone through this terrible ordeal. As it has done in the past, I hope that our country continues to change, until one day it is a place where victims of sexual harassment can report the crime without fear of reprisal from the company. The world sure does change slowly.
* A “document confrontation” involves one person making a written statement about the incident(s) and submitting it to a third party mediator, who shows it to the second person. The second person then responds in writing to each part of the statement.
*Original article: http://ildaro.com/7205
By Hyeong-rim of Womenlink
Published: August 21, 2015
Translated by Marilyn Hook
◆ To see more English-language articles from Ilda, visit our English blog(https://ildaro.blogspot.com).
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