Content Warning: Sexual Harassment and Sexual Assault
We’ve all had some issues at work, whether it’s a tough project or an influx of customers, or even something external like terrible traffic getting to the office.
It’s a whole other issue when coworkers begin misbehaving and harassing one of their colleagues.
But correcting an uncomfortable situation isn’t always as “simple” as reporting what’s going on to Human Resources, pointed out the “Am I the A**hole?” (AITA) subReddit.
Redditor ThrowRAGlitte-1117 kept encouraging his wife to report one of her coworkers, who had a history of making flirtatious comments toward her.
When his wife was reluctant to do what he said, the Original Poster (OP) was confused about what was holding her back.
He asked the sub:
“AITA for telling my wife she isn’t doing enough to confront her coworker?”
The OP’s wife was being made uncomfortable by a new coworker.
“My wife and I have been married for seven years, and we are in our early 30s.”
“She rejoined work a few months ago after maternity leave and has a new coworker in her team.”
“She immediately thought he was weird and tried to keep her distance, but he was pushy.”
“Over the past couple of months, he’s started flirting with her, complimenting the way she dresses, and says things like, ‘The view from my desk is fantastic,’ while looking at her.”
The OP encouraged his wife to report her coworker for his behavior.
“I want to be clear that I 100% trust my wife. But she’s getting upset about his comments.”
“I told her to go speak to HR (Human Resources) or to speak to this guy directly and tell him to stop.”
“But she keeps making excuses.”
The OP had heard enough of her excuses.
“I got pretty upset at her and told her it was clearly affecting her and it was annoying to me that she wasn’t doing something to address it.”
“She said I was being an a**hole for getting upset at her without understanding why she can’t do it.”
“What do I do?”
“And am I the a**hole?”
Fellow Redditors weighed in:
- NTA: Not the A**hole
- YTA: You’re the A**hole
- ESH: Everybody Sucks Here
- NAH: No A**holes Here
Some thought that while the OP had the best intentions, he was missing the point.
“I’m gonna tentatively say NAH. Yes, in a perfect world, OP, she should press. That being said, it’s really hard to bring up harassment as a woman anywhere. It’s (at best) a 50/50 chance whether people will believe you or side with a creep.”
“And unfortunately the punishments for women (at best; being let go, being mocked or shamed, at worst; facing violence) are a lot steeper than for the creep (being let go or mocked).”
“I’m saying NAH because I genuinely believe that if this were a perfect world, you’d be in the right. Unfortunately, your wife has more experience as a woman and in this work environment and is more likely to be able to predict how things will go down.” – r3allybadusername
“NAH with caveats. You’re under the impression that 1.) positive things happen for women when women push back when men sexually harass them, and 2.) your wife wants your suggestions.”
“Ask her questions, listen to her. Has she had to deal with this in the past? What happened? Men typically have not had to deal with this s**t, so they do not understand the very real, very scary consequences of not handling these situations ‘correctly.'”
“I put correctly in quotes because there is never a ‘correct’ way as we never know how the man will react and we are almost invariably blamed for not doing the ‘correct’ thing; which is the territory you are creeping into.”
“I’ve had a friend punched in the face for simply saying, ‘Not interested,’ when asked for their number, another followed home when ignoring the same request… We simply do not know what bulls**t consequence in the consequence lottery we will get when we are forced into these circumstances against our will by men.”
“So the least you can do is just give her a safe, soft place to vent and feel heard. It’s probably scary and frustrating for you to know your loved one is experiencing this, but think of how it is for her and just support her by listening.” – travelfar73
“I recently had to quit my job due to harassment that I reported. He still works there harassing others. They are giving him yet another chance. I couldn’t cope so I left.”
“She should report him, but I would lower your expectations about a resolution. She needs to do this when she is comfortable.”
“Working at a place where people know you reported someone is not always great. Even if they reprimand the harasser things may still not be good.”
“NAH.” – 2Whom_It_May_Concern
“She needs to articulate to you why she can’t do it, but I get it. Women are still discriminated against in the workplace.”
“I was sexually harassed by a senior guy with a great reputation who had gotten awards for his ethical values. There was no way I was coming away from any complaint unscathed. I was devastated but left it alone. NAH.” – Maximum_Ear1745
“I reported a guy for sexual harassment and had emails to prove it. I was told that my (male) boss was ‘tired of you girls not being able to take a joke.’ I was the third victim of his harassment and was told it was easier to fill my role if I quit like the others did than it was to fill the creep’s role if he fired him.”
“The creep eventually creeped on the wrong woman (someone harder to replace than him) and he was fired. He came back that afternoon and slashed my car tire and the other woman’s.”
“So many women have stories of reporting this s**t and having it backfire. There’s a good chance she’s scared of the backlash, of being told she’s overreacting or that she’s egotistical for thinking he’s attracted to her.”
“NAH. Your wife has reasons for not reporting it, and unless you’ve been harassed it’s genuinely hard to understand those reasons.”
“When I was in this situation my husband (then fiancé) was ready to storm the gates and drag this piece of s**t out to the street. I understand that instinct. You’re not an a**hole for thinking the system would or should be there to protect people from this kind of thing. But you can see from the various stories below that many of us have tried to ‘do the right thing’ and had it backfire.”
“So the workplace creep is the AH, the system is the AH, the general feeling of ‘am I ready to go through an ugly process where I’ll be doubted and possibly retaliated against?’ is the AH. You and your wife are just good people stuck in a s**t situation and trying to figure it out.” – Physical_Stress_5683
But others found the OP to be the AH because of his lack of awareness.
“YTA. I’m sure your wife is sick of you mansplaining something you will never understand.”
“Do you know what happened when I confronted a coworker over his actions? I was pushed up against the fridge with his hand around my neck. You have no bloody idea and are talking from a privileged position.” – NotTodayPsycho
“‘Mansplaining something you’ll never understand.'”
“This is the crux of the issue.”
“OP can seek knowledge about this and empathize, and hopefully take a lot of stories here to heart. But he’ll never truly UNDERSTAND his wife’s situation. The fact that it’s so common for people to ignore sexual harassers and abusers even when it’s in the cubicle next to you.”
“This is a deep-rooted societal issue, and more women in OP’s wife’s position have lost their jobs or public and workplace favor, thereby stagnating their careers, for speaking up, than creeps have been given a warning letter or slap on the wrist.” – Summoning_Freaks
“A coworker put my literal life in danger by being wasted on the job. When I complained after the incident, I was told to ‘deal with my personal issues.'”
“I then quit and my boss told everyone he fired me for my ‘personal issues.’ References were a problem after that and none of my applications panned out.”
“So, saying nothing is SAFER, both for physical safety and future employment.”
“OP will hopefully grasp all this after these testimonials in this thread. YTA.” – realdappermuis
“YTA for getting mad at her. It’s hard navigating unwanted attention in the workplace. A lot of people will still label women as sensitive complainers. He has been there longer than her and he probably won’t get fired, so she will have to keep dealing with him and he will be salty and mad.”
“What she may want to do is talk to some other female coworkers and get their take or some strategies from them. For sure, this isn’t the first time he has behaved this way, and they may know the best strategy.” – rchart1010
“I think you are unintentionally YTA because you haven’t experienced being a woman. Workplaces are not much better than high school, where the bullies are protected and their victims are punished.”
“Things that happen when women report harassment in the workplace:”
“1. They get labeled as a troublemaker and their careers suffer.”
“2. The bully feels slighted and their behavior escalates.”
“3. They get bullied until they quit.”
“4. They get fired for ‘false allegations.'”
“Etc. etc. etc… Can you now understand why your wife is wary of speaking up?” Spirited_Discussion74
The subReddit was appalled by the situation that the OP’s wife found herself in, but they were especially concerned by the pressures she was also facing at home through the OP.
While it’s perfectly reasonable for a husband to want his wife to be safe and comfortable at work, there are certain realities that he more than likely has not had to face, in the workplace and other settings, that his wife more than likely has already dealt with, even if it wasn’t at this magnitude.
In a perfect world, she could report the behavior, and it would be corrected, but more than likely, like so many other women, it may benefit the OP’s wife more to stay quiet and for her husband to simply be her sounding board going forward.
If you or someone you know experienced sexual assault, help is out there.
You can reach the RAINN National Sexual Assault Hotline by calling 1-800-656-4673, use their Live Chat tool: https://www.rainn.org/get-help, or visit the National Sexual Violence Resource Center’s website.
In Canada, help is available through the Ending Violence Association of Canada website.
International resources can be found through the Rape Crisis Network Europe website.