Workplace harassment: Porn, sex toys, groping and tears

By Bernadette McCague
BBC's UGC and Social News team

media captionWomen who have been sexually harassed at work

Parcels containing sex toys left at a work desk, a senior boss telling an employee he wanted to "ravish" her, and a young woman groped by an older colleague who told her she "loved it".

These are some of the experiences female readers have been sharing with the BBC after a survey suggested more than half of women say they've been sexually harassed at work.

Many of those who told their stories also said they felt unable to report what had happened to them because they felt embarrassed or feared they would lose their job.

Below are edited excerpts of more than 100 stories we received. Some names have been changed to protect identity.

'I left in tears and signed off sick'

"I was sexually harassed at work by two men, who had worked there for a long time. One of them said they would like to put me over the desk and ravish me and they would look at my legs when I was walking past. I did bring this up with a senior manager, but he shouted at me and said it was my word against my colleague. He pushed a piece of paper in front of me harshly and said: 'Do you want to go ahead?' I left in tears and signed off sick. I only returned to work for a short period and then quit." Jane, London

image copyrightScience Photo Library

"I was sexually harassed in my place of work for a little over two years by a male colleague. This took the form of uncalled for personal comments and comments of a sexual nature, made when there was nobody else about. I like to think I have thick skin but I stupidly tolerated it. So sadly, these individuals did get away with it." Sarah, Oxford

"For three years whilst at university I worked as a lifeguard. A male colleague only a year or two older than me would constantly grope me on the poolside in front of swimmers and other members of staff. I would constantly tell him it made me uncomfortable but he just continued and would joke that I 'loved it'. One evening, he followed me into the stockroom, with the door shut and the lights turned off. He immediately began aggressively groping my bum and grabbing my breasts and repeatedly asking me why was I snitching on him and why was I spreading lies about him. In tears I ran to my line manager to tell him what had just happened. The company did nothing." Imogen

"I worked for local government in the grounds department. I was handed porn by a co-worker. I was bullied by another co-worker about my gender, and when I asked to move teams because of the behaviour, I was made to feel like I was the problem and forced to have a meeting with said bully. I refused as I felt intimidated. I was then moved teams. Later I was told by my line manager that I had blown things out of proportion, and it was a male environment and I needed to adapt." Clare

image copyrightPA

"I was working at a part-time job during my A-levels. I started to date a guy who worked there and after a few months that relationship ended. After this, some of the other guys started mocking me for having a relationship with this male, and said how they 'wanted a slice' of me too. It was easy to laugh off a joke but it got worse, it became physical contact. So when I used to walk past them they would grab my bottom, they would make remarks like 'bend over for me'. I think the worst time was when I was on my knees cleaning a work top and one of the men grabbed my head and pushed it into his crotch. These guys were aged between 20-38-years-old. As a 17-18-year-old, I found it so uncomfortable." Becky

"I worked near a lab and one of the scientists took a shine to me. What started as some low-key flirting turned over night into a sustained campaign of extreme harassment. He would leave official looking envelopes on my desk which were full of explicitly pornographic stories about me. This escalated into gifts of underwear. Then I would start to find parcels on my desk which contained sex toys. The thing is, I didn't tell anyone because I was just so embarrassed. How on earth do you show a pornographic story with you as the main character to your co-workers or boss?" Melanie

image copyrightGetty Images

"This happened to me recently. As a professional woman in my 50s I am ashamed to say I did not report it because I was embarrassed and felt stupid. I was also scared that no-one would believe me or that I was making a fuss about nothing. The person who did the harassing was very senior in the company and did it in a really creepy and horrible way - coming into my room and stroking my hair and kissing me without any encouragement at all. I was frozen to the spot and didn't say or do anything." Sharon, Grimsby

Some of our male readers also got in touch with the BBC to share their experiences.

"I frequently get touched on the upper arm, called 'darling' or 'sweetheart'. I do not like it, I do not invite it, and am unsure how to respond. I am male and the perpetrators are female. I would feel a wuss if I were to complain. This does not just happen to females." Simon

"In my mid 20s, I was subjected to persistent sexual harassment by an older, more senior, female at work. Male colleagues thought it was hilarious watching us play dodge around their desks as she was continually trying to corner me and touch me. It was aggressive, very unpleasant, embarrassing and very difficult to manage. I only did so by avoiding her as much as possible. It went on for some years and never went through any formal process as the only reaction I got from anywhere was mocking and amusement. Having experienced this myself, I can imagine that it is difficult for anyone to deal with persistent harassment at work, particularly by senior colleagues, but also that it isn't just females, and may be even more difficult for males to deal with." Dominic

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