I’m a middle-aged woman working in a man’s world – always thought I could laugh at their jokes and play along.. One man in particular assumed my lack of offense was a “come on.”
It was not.
Let’s start at the beginning.
I rejoined my company, and at first, I shadowed my colleagues to refresh my knowledge. M was one of these colleagues.
We got along well and I enjoyed attending events with him. At the end of October, M and I attended an event together. It was an early morning start so he stayed overnight in a hotel.
I invited him to dinner with my husband, my son, and I. It was a friendly gesture. We enjoyed a few glasses of with dinner and afterward, my husband and I walked M back to his hotel.
When we returned home, there was a text message. My husband said, “Oh you have a text from M!” I assumed he was thanking us for dinner so I asked my husband what it said. He read the text to me:“Fancy a f*ck?”
The following day, I told M my husband had read his text to me. He was mortified but I assured him we’d laughed it off, blamed it on the wine. M’s response was “Well. Do you?” I told him no and explained that I was very happily married.
This didn’t stop M from flirting.
I’m not completely innocent, I’m also guilty of flirting. I had a wicked sense of humour and an outgoing bubbly personality. This could be misconstrued, however I made it entirely clear to M that I was not interested.
I explained that I’d been with my husband since we were teenagers and that I’d never cheated on him. M stated that he didn’t want me to leave my husband, he just wanted to have sex with me.
I explained I don’t do casual sex and never wanted to be anyone’s “bit on the side.” He stated that he loved his wife but he enjoyed sex with other women.
Again, I told him I didn’t share his methods and wasn’t interested.
I should have distanced myself from M. I now deeply regret not doing that.
Perhaps I’d been naive, but I believed we could talk openly and be friends without a physical relationship. We got along well and had a great rapport. I thought I could handle this.
His flirting became more sexually explicit which I took as banter. He began texting me after events telling me how sexy I looked. I enjoyed the attention and the compliments and did not discourage him.
I was always clear that I would not cheat on my husband.
His text messages became more sexually explicit as he sent me messages about what he’d like to do to me, what he’d like me to wear, and what positions he’d have me in.
I told him it was not going to happen and he had no respect for me. I asked him how he’d feel if someone was sending messages like that to his wife. He apologized.
A short time later, started it again.
Around about this time, someone told me that M had had an affair with another coworker, E. I asked M about it. He said that she’d chased him, and what had happened between them.
E and I were friends on Facebok and we had a late night chat. She was tormenting me about my friendship with M and I explained that it was only friendship. I told her, he’d sent very inappropriate texts. She confessed that he had been sending her these too. We discovered the content of these messages were nearly identical.
She told me that he’d been doing this for 14 years. He’d pressed himself against her in the office and suggested he pop by her house when she was alone. He had stroked my legs under the table at events and told me he had a fetish for nylon on skin.
It became clear that M was a sexual predator and he’d been grooming me. I confronted him and he denied it, saying E had “lead him on.” I knew that one day he’d try blaming me too, so I saved E’s conversation. M is very charming and convincing. He started to behave better around me – and again, I thought we could be friends. I’d hoped we’d moved on.
What followed was a really bad period in my personal life. My father had terminal cancer. I held one of my daughters as she gave birth to a dead baby. Someone lodged a complaint at work claiming I’d been acting fraudulently.
Although management dismissed it as nonsense, I felt my reputation had been tarnished. I struggled feeling I was being judged. I knew I’d done nothing wrong and invited a full investigation. The matter was closed.
My father died and family issues meant that I couldn’t attend his funeral. I thought I could handle it but the pressure; I was being judged for not attending my father’s funeral.
M had remained a friend and I spoke with him about some of these issues. He told me his marriage was going through a bad patch and that he no longer loved his wife. Around this time, he started to tell me that he had fallen in love with me. I was emotionally fragile and wasn’t sure how to handle it.
He blew hot and cold – one minute he was telling me he loved me while the next, he ignored me while he sorted things out with his wife. I still refused to sleep with him as I maintained that I loved my husband and would not cheat.
I had developed feelings for him but there was no sexual attraction. I didn’t trust him. I knew he was a womanizer who had no respect for women.
On a few occasions when we were on the phone, it became clear that he was masturbating. I’d put the phone down when that happened. He was always sorry afterwards (especially when his wife caught him).
I went to meet him at his hotel one morning for an event. We were going to travel together, and I was early so he invited me to have a coffee. I felt I could handle the situation. As I was drinking my coffee, he went to the toilet and came out exposing himself.
I was mortified.
Immediately, I stood up to leave.
He asked me to touch it.
I told him he was out of order, he buttoned up, and we left. He said he was sorry; it wouldn’t happen again. I feel incredibly stupid now reading this, but I really believed we could be friends. He sent me a photo of his penis to our private email accounts, I didn’t report it at work.
At the beginning of April, his wife contacted the hotel where we’d both stayed on a business trip. She suspected that I’d spent the night with her husband. Of course I hadn’t – I spent it with a number of colleagues – including her husband – at dinner together.
Afterward, he came to my room with a bottle of wine – I felt safe. He sexually coerced me and had sex with me.
I did not stop him. I did not say no. He left immediately afterwards.
I felt dirty and confused. He had worn me down. I didn’t want to have sex with him but I hadn’t stopped him. I sat in the bath and sobbed. Then I showered. Then bathed again.
I just couldn’t feel clean.
The sex was unplanned and unprotected. I felt contaminated. I felt raped but I thought I couldn’t have been as I didn’t say no.
I felt nothing as he was doing it. It was like someone flipped a switch and turned me off. I remember feeling like I was standing at the bottom of the bed watching it happen to someone else. Like watching the TV with the sound off.
I was mortified that I’d cheated on my husband. I was so ashamed. I decided no one would ever know. I pretended nothing had happened. I thought I could go back to normal and forget it.
A few days later, I complained about M’s wife phoning the hotel. I felt I was being stalked and management queried why she was suspicious.
At this time, his line manager queried M’s mobile phone usage. He was my friend so I lied and said he’d never been inappropriate. I didn’t want anyone to know what’d happened and I didn’t want him lose his job.
I felt partially to blame for not stopping contact with him.
As soon as I’d given M a clean slate, he changed completely. He was doing his best to convince his wife that he’d done nothing wrong; he blamed me for leading him on and stalking him.
Around this time she started checking my – and my husband’s – Facebook page. M told me she was obsessed; that was going to contact my husband to tell him I’d had an affair with M.
She wouldn’t let it drop. I emailed her and asked her to stop cyberstalking me – I explained I wasn’t interested in her husband and if she wanted to talk to me, just call or email.
M enjoyed all the attention and wound me up about it. I reacted badly and struck out at him for his behavior. He’d told me he was my best friend; that he loved me.
Now, he treated me like a bunny boiler.
At home, my evening relaxing glass of wine became a bottle. It helped me forget. I became angry and argumentative. My husband desperately wanted to know what was wrong. I told him nothing yet became increasingly distant.
I drank to get to sleep but woke up three hours later when the wine wore off. I’d spent the rest of the night watching the clock.
For eight long weeks.
I argued with M, and told him I was disgusted at what he had done to me. He laughed at me and put his hand between my legs. I punched him in the face.
He was not going to touch me again.
Two months after the sex, I suffered a serious house fire. I broke down. I had nothing left to fight with. I told my husband what had happened. He was devastated, angry. I couldn’t cope and went to the doctor.
M’s line manager asked him not to contact me. I was off with stress and they knew he’d been sexually harassing me at work. We’d been chatting one day, and the next?
I asked him what the problem was. He ignored me. I was so, so stressed and couldn’t understand it! He’d groomed me for so long that I depended on his friendship. I was frustrated, humiliated, used, and lied to.
I emailed M and told him this. I’d lied to protect him and had (stupidly) thought we were still friends. He took my correspondence and using it to make me look like a stalker. He took a picture of his black eye and when he was told not to contact me, he reported me to management for assault and said I’d been harassing his wife and family.
To defend myself, I raised a grievance for sexual harassment. The case was heard and they believed him – we’d been having an affair for two years. He said I’d been blackmailing him to keep seeing me. I’d harassed him and his family after he ended the affair.
I was distraught.
After the house fire, I contacted rape crisis for counselling. I found the strength to ask my doctor for STI testing. Thankfully it was clear. I called the police and reported M for the sexually explicit images he’d been emailing me. As I was so distraught, they questioned me for ten hours solid and wrote a 35 page statement for a rape inquiry.
They took six weeks to get around to questioning M.
He told them we’d been having an affair and produced my emails. They charged him with nothing and spoke to me like I’d been wasting police time.
Work completed their investigation and found M was in the clear, but I’d face disciplinary action for assaulting and harassing a member of staff. They concluded that I was trying to ruin his reputation.
Talk about a no win situation.
I had a severe meltdown and called the Samaritans – I was suicidal.
Since, I’ve had a few relapses and have taken sleeping tablets together with wine. My husband is scared to leave me alone.
My rape counselor says I am suffering from PTSD. I have lost 8 kilos and now weigh less than 55 kilos. My guts are constantly on fire. I cry at the drop of a hat. I haven’t worn a skirt for 6 months as I feel vulnerable.
I have forgotten what normal feels like and have aged about 20 years.
My husband is supportive, but he’s also a wreck. M stole our exclusiveness. I appealed the work decision a month ago and have a union rep supporting me. My employer has not yet given me a date for my appeal. M is back at work like he’s done nothing wrong. What M did to me was horrendous and I’m being punished for it.
I have lost my faith in Justice.