Maria’s Story

I have been given the opportunity to give voice to the experience I had of being a target of Sexual Harassment within my workplace. I am a women in my 40’s; I work as an accountant and pride myself upon my high levels of competence and professionalism. Throughout my career I have never had any disciplinary action taken against me and I believe that I am highly respected within my profession.

In 2013 I started a new contract and as part of my role I was required to work in environments where I was often alone with my direct line manager. Over a period of 3 months my manager began to make personal and unprofessional comments of a sexual nature towards me. At first I tried to laugh them off, but as the comments intensified and I began to feel very scared, I directly asked him to stop, as he was making me feel uncomfortable. He told me that it was his word against mine and that he had the power to get me fired, so I had better get used to it. I was never physically touched by this person however the threats and comments that he made severely affected my physical and mental health. When his behaviour had gone on for a few weeks, I went to my GP suffering with anxiety and depression and she encouraged me to make contact with DABS Anti-Bullying service.

I write with the benefit of time to reflect upon my experience and I can see now that my anxiety level was extremely high, when I first made contact with the service. Under the care of my counsellor, I recognized and learned that I needed to give myself time and space to heal.

Once I entered the consulting room I received un-divided attention and as I talked about the things that had humiliated me, I learnt that what I had experienced was wrong and that I was carrying somebody else’s shame. During our sessions I was allowed to cry and simply permitted to live in the present and be myself. I became aware of my emotions and behaviours and this process significantly improved my well-being. As I began to recover I looked forward to my sessions with my counsellor as a time in the week where I could feel safe and express my feelings openly and honestly, knowing what I was saying was held in confidence.

It was suggested that I seek medical support from my GP and legal advice.  Through this and the support of my HR department, my line manager was disciplined, I received an apology and the harassment stopped.

This helped me to re-gain my self-esteem and I am now in a position where I can move forward from this traumatic experience fully whole.

I distinctly remember the last session where we evaluated my progress from the beginning to the end of my sessions- focussing on my state of mind, quality of life and willingness to change. I was awed by the fact that I felt so low at the beginning and after only 9 sessions with my counsellor, my mental and physical health had elevated to the higher end of the range, where I was able to see my situation clearer and felt much happier.

My current state of mind indicates that I have recovered because when I think of the harassment, I am no longer angry and I no longer cry and can focus on the positive in my life. The process of counselling has also supported my partner, family and friends because of course they were traumatised too. I am so grateful that I was able to access the anti-bullying service and strongly believe that this type of support needs to be available for anybody who has experienced Bullying or Harassment.