Just a drunken man going too far? Part 2

I’ve been wanting to write this blog for a while. Ever since I first blogged about the assault on me by a work colleague.

That was awful, horrific, and I’m only now beginning to get the help I need to try to get through it.

What happened afterwards, though, was almost worse.

I was fairly happy in my job. I loved the job itself – Project Manager for a creative agency. I had some great colleagues – people I classed as friends. As it turns out, only one of them was really my friend. And she continues to be an amazing friend to me – I’d be lost without her. You know who you are!

I had some issues with my manager. It’s hard to describe them without sounding petty. But I’m sure you all know what it’s like to work for someone you don’t respect. Someone who you know will do everything in their power to look better than you. I was stressed and I started making mistakes. Not sending things to clients on time, or making promises I knew the designers couldn’t keep. So that gave her extra ammunition to get at me. I was thinking about leaving, but not seriously so. It was something to say to myself – to know that I could get out of there if I really needed to. But I didn’t want to.

Then came the assault. I’ve blogged about all the details before. The Monday after it happened I went in to work. I mentioned what had happened to a couple of friends. It still felt so unreal and I think I needed somebody to tell me that I wasn’t going mad. It turned out that this man had come on a bit strong to one of my friends a few weeks earlier. She too had told him no and, luckily, he’d got the hint and left her to it. But to me, this validated what had happened to me – he had form, I wasn’t alone.

It took me a while to build up the courage to say anything. In the meantime, the man who had assaulted me had come up to my desk – asking me if I was OK, had I enjoyed the rest of my weekend. I couldn’t believe that he had the nerve!

I told me manager and she was shocked. She clearly didn’t know how to react – who would? She got his manager in as well – the Creative Director of the company. He was really angry. I felt like they were on my side. That the right thing would be done.

That feeling lasted about 5 minutes.

“Is that all that happened? Are you sure it wasn’t more serious”, “Was he just a drunken man going too far?”, “What do you want us to do about it”, and various other questions were fired at me by my manager, the Creative Director and the Director of the company who had now got involved. I had no answers for them – I was in shock, still trying to make sense of it myself – what the fuck did I know? I needed them to make the decisions. I needed someone to take over, to fight my corner. Nobody did that. Eventually, they decided that they would give him a verbal warning over his behaviour and suggested to him that he apologised to me.

During the rest of the day he emailed me, texted me and came over to my desk a number of times wanting to talk. I couldn’t stand to be around him. But eventually I felt I had to talk to him. So I went in to a meeting room. He came in after me and sat far too close. I moved my chair. I didn’t want him anywhere near to me. He mumbled his way through excuses of being too drunk, how ashamed he felt, how sorry he was. I thanked him for apologising to me. Told him I couldn’t be around him and left.

For me, that wasn’t enough. That didn’t take back what I was feeling, how angry I was, how ashamed I felt. For my manager and the other bosses, however, the issue was closed.

The next day was my birthday. I had booked a half day. So I only had to get through work until lunchtime. That was all. It was a disaster. I spent the whole morning at my desk crying. Eventually, my manager took me aside. “You’ve got to find some way to get over this and move on, you can’t let it affect your work”. WHAT THE FUCK?! Don’t let it affect my work?! Sit there every day working hard while the man who assaulted me sat a few desks away? Brief designs in to him? Go to meetings with clients with him? WHAT THE FUCK?

I tried going in to work two more days that week. It was useless. I couldn’t focus. I’d sit staring at my computer, tears streaming down my face, unable to work out what to do next. My manager suggested I take a few days off to “get my head together”. I had no sick leave left but plenty of annual leave so she suggested I took the next week as holiday.

Whilst I was off I spoke to a rape crisis team. I felt like a bit of a fraud – what happened to me wasn’t rape. I hadn’t fought him off. I hadn’t been attacked physically. But I needed to talk to someone. They asked me if I’d thought about reporting the incident to the police. I had. But I didn’t know what to do. Amazingly, at this time, I still ‘didn’t want to cause any trouble’. But as the day came for me to go back to work, I knew I couldn’t go back. Work felt like they had dealt with the ‘problem’ so I felt my only way of getting any resolution was to go to the police. The rape crisis team set it all up for me and I spent a few hours at the station going over my statement. They then said that they would be looking to arrest him during that week and was I absolutely sure I wanted to go ahead. I did. And left thinking I’d done the right thing.

I could go on in minute detail about what happened in the following few weeks – I remember every last bit. But I won’t put you all through that!

In short – I was screwed over. Work backed the man completely. To the point of my manager creating some notes supposedly made at a meeting where I said I was over it and felt like they’d dealt with it perfectly at work. Notes I never saw. But notes that were enough to cast doubt on my story with the police. Nobody who had been on the bus could really back my story up because I hadn’t said anything to them. It was my word against his. And he had a whole company backing him up. They dropped the case.

I then got invited to a disciplinary at work. For unauthorised absence! This was absence I’d had to take as unpaid sick leave as I couldn’t physically be at work. I’d not spoken to my manager because I couldn’t. She had made me so fucking angry that I couldn’t trust myself. I knew if I spoke to her I’d kick off and I couldn’t afford to do that.

I countered their disciplinary with a grievance. Against the man who assaulted me and against my manager for her appalling way of dealing with it.

I got to attend a hearing. With the man’s manager and the director’s PA. I took a colleague with me. It was tricky finding someone who felt they could come, but thankfully a wonderful person came with me. She was a total rock. Throughout the hearing I was asked why, if it was so terrible, why didn’t I scream or shout, why didn’t I make it known what was happening? Was I sure it wasn’t “just a drunken man going too far”. The more they said it, the more I doubted myself.

Unsurprisingly, they decided to rule against my grievance. I could have appealed, but I didn’t have the energy. By this time it was two months after the attack and I was still off work, still trying to deal with it. I couldn’t handle fighting work as well as the demons in my head.

Realising that if I ever went back I would be on my own, with no support from any of the directors, I decided to leave. So I did. I signed a piece of paper that meant I could never go back and fight them for constructive dismissal. I didn’t care anymore. I just needed to get out of there. After I left, one by one, all the people I thought were my friends drifted away.

I started a new job soon afterwards but I wasn’t ready. I even cried during the second interview – I don’t know how the hell I got that job. They put up with me for three months, but it was clear to everyone that I wasn’t ready to be working and they didn’t extend my contract past my probation period.

My career got put on hold the day that man decided to attack me. I’m now in a decent enough job (though I’m on sick leave at the moment) and my employers have been beyond patient in letting me be off sick, particularly as I really don’t do a great job when I’m actually at work. To them I am truly grateful – I don’t have it in me to go through it all again.

Now I have to find a way of dealing with the anger I feel for them. All of them. The bastard who attacked me, and the fuckers who let him get away with it.

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  1. karensmate

     /  December 7, 2011

    Oh Polly love you have been through a terrible trauma. Try to be strong babe, always remember you are a better person than any of them. *huge hugs* xxx

  2. Sarah Wilding

     /  December 29, 2011

    Hi Polly, I don’t know if this will help but hopefully it will make you feel a little validated even if it is just by me. I read your blog today and it made me sad – I know that I haven’t seen you for a very long time (over half my life if not yours!) but the Polly that I remember is a beautiful, intelligent and kind girl who generally seemed very happy to me. I’m sad that you aren’t happy any more but I know that you can be again!

    I have to admit that when I read your blog I felt like I was missing something or maybe misunderstanding a part of you – I’m ashamed to admit that I did just wonder if it was ‘just a drunken man going too far’. I was worried about my attitude to it and I talked to my partner who told me a story that surprised me and really made me think again. When he was at university he worked in a bar which he enjoyed and was good at. A new girl started who was relatively new to the job but was his superior. She was pretty and nice and he got on with her well but not in a flirty kind of way. The only problem was that she kept pinching his bum. Most people would think that surely that was a good thing- it must show that she fancied him etc. Robin didn’t like it – he felt that, as his work-colleague it was completely inappropriate and it made him feel violated and very uncomfortable. He asked her to stop several times and she never took him seriously. Eventually he took it to his manager who was very supportive. A meeting was arranged between everybody – the woman was mortified and apologised profusely. She never did it again and remained on good terms with Robin whilst he worked there.

    I don’t imagine that that will help with your feelings of anger towards your previous employers – I hope that it doesn’t make you feel more angry! Robin pointed out to me that being sexually assaulted by somebody that you work with is completely different from sexual assault by a friend or stranger. Although physically the same things might happen and the loss of trust can be the same or worse it is impossible to get away from people that you work with. As you pointed out, you would have to converse with them every day and relive the feelings that they have engendered in you every day making it very difficult to come to terms with your terrible experience.

    I think that what I really wanted to say Polly (in a very long-winded manner) is that I am sorry for being part of the ‘drunken man going too far’ brigade and that I think I understand – at least a bit-now. I hope that I will be less blinkered in the future!

    I really hope that you can learn the value of you and begin to enjoy life again soon.

    (I also apologise for my terrible grammar and punctuation – feel free to correct me – they don’t teach English at doctor school!)

    Love and hugs,


    • Thank you Sarah. that means a lot. I guess a lot comes down to how the situation makes you feel. For me, it was terrified. But many people have thought the same as you, I hope they all talk to someone else about it! xx

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