The Yomiuri Shimbun Dear Troubleshooter:
I’m a homemaker in my 30s. I was sexually harassed at a company where I worked until several years ago. I’m still haunted by the memory of that terrible experience and feel extremely upset.
It happened at a drinking party with coworkers — I was verbally abused by my boss and a male colleague there. I was told such things as “You’re really stupid,” “You’re useless” and “I’d never want to sleep with this woman.”
They also asked for agreement from other young male employees by loudly saying, “Hey, you feel the same about her, don’t you?” I was so shocked, all I could do was sit there.
I’m confident that I did my best at the company. I left soon after, but I still vividly recall the incident and feel so frustrated and angry. I have a relative who works in the company’s personnel department, so I’m struggling with whether to report that I was sexually harassed.
I don’t know how to deal with my feelings. Please give me some advice.
E, Tochigi Prefecture
Dear Ms. E:
I was astonished at the vulgar behavior and dirty comments you were exposed to. I cannot believe there are still people who say such things at a time when awareness about sexual harassment is supposed to be increasing. I imagined how upset you were, and I felt sad, too.
I believe you still feel extremely distressed not just because you have a painful memory. You are probably overwhelmed with a mixture of anger and sorrow. You’re angry at yourself because you did not argue back, and you’re sad because nobody defended you.
I do hope that you aren’t discouraged by such nasty comments and are proud of yourself. I suggest you share your feelings with friends who will offer a sympathetic ear.
I assume that you didn’t take action at that time because you thought colleagues would use the same old excuse that they were just joking under the influence of alcohol and label you as a bitchy woman who complains about every trivial matter.
From now on, if you or women around you receive similar comments, I advise you not to deal with it all on your own, even if you find it difficult to report such incidents to your workplace. Instead, consult a women’s rights hotline provided by the government or similar services.
Junko Umihara, psychiatrist