How I'm Coping With Sexual Harassment At Work

I've been really frustrated lately.  I am normally able to write very openly about my struggles and triumphs on my journey with Borderline Personality Disorder, but recently I've held back a bit.
The reason is complicated, and after giving it careful thought, I have decided that it's okay to open up about about some of the details here, especially because my progress in DBT is evident in the ways that I am coping and dealing with this hugely distressing circumstance.

Essentially, I've been dealing with sexual harassment at work.  My boss is an older man, a scientist who enjoys helping other people and who is very generous.  Unfortunately, he also lacks the ability to stay within healthy and appropriate boundaries with me.

I thought of him as a father-figure type, which made it all the more emotionally brutal when he continued to be inappropriate with me after numerous requests, in person and by email, that he stop.  I can't even express how filthy I felt each time he would say something out of line, leer at me, smirk, or do other graphic gestures while looking at me.  I know this must come from a shame place of past victimization, and I know in my heart that I have done nothing to lead him on or provoke the behavior. It doesn't make it feel any less icky.

I have had nightmares, panic and anxiety attacks, and episodes of dissociation since the last incident that occurred. I actually have not been physically at work since July 20th.  When I explained the situation to my therapist, she was cautious to put me on medical restriction to work offsite so as to not exasperate the PTSD symptoms that were showing up.

So, I've been at home, and for a brief period, because my boss began calling me excessively and triggered me, I was on complete leave and had no contact with the office.

I feel very hurt that his selfish, blatant disregard for my well-being is something that he thinks is okay and that I must now cope with the consequences of reporting his wrongdoings.  I miss my coworkers. I miss my routine...but I just can't imagine being in the presence of someone who violated me in such a way that he did back in July.

After the incident happened, I went in and out of episodes of dissociation until I misappropriated my anger at my boyfriend the next day. It was then that I realized how affected I was by the incident and how I needed to honor myself by standing up and not playing the victim.  I needed to let him know, in detail, how his behaviors affected me, and I needed to take care of myself.  

I did so through an email, and he replied with an email that would make your toes curl. Yes, he continued to communicate with me in an inappropriate manner, even when I confronted him about how upset I was over his violations.  I couldn't believe it.  When I explained all of this to my therapist, she felt that I needed to keep space from my boss for my own emotional safety.  I'm glad she did.

Since I've been away from him, the nightmares have decreased significantly, as have the anxiety and panic attacks; however, I am stressed about other aspects of not being at work.  Someone was hired to cover for me in my absence, and after only 3 weeks on the job, she has been assigned as my boss.  She's not really giving me very much work and has been condescending on a couple of occasions. It's clear to me that this woman hopes to have my job entirely.

The entire company and I have recently participated in an investigation, and the report is due in mid-October. At that time, our attorneys will work out the details of how to proceed.

It's been very difficult for me to wait out this very long process. It's been over two months since I haven't been at work, and it will be at least 2 weeks before the talks will start.  I have to find a way to live day by day, not wishing each day would end so that I'd be closer to that meeting.

Some days I just want to sleep the time away, but I've effectively engaged in Opposite Action - getting up and doing things - and this has helped with my sense of self-worth and overall well-being.  Because I am not really getting the satisfaction of completing anything beyond trivial work assignments that they are providing, I've been Building Mastery through completing other tasks. My laundry room, for example, was a disaster zone for years. It's now looking so tidy and organized, and it's actually a pleasure to be in there! 

I've also been keeping my house very nice, spending more time with my cats, writing more, and cooking from scratch.

Fortunately, the weather continues to be very mild here in Northern California as we step into the month of October.  I've been going for walks and have been able to enjoy the breeze through the windows when I'm working and relaxing.

I have my book coming out on Kindle in just days, and other than the work situation, life is actually good. I have my health.  I also have my DBT skills, and thank goodness for that.  What a difference they make.

I'm actually quite proud of how I am holding it all together while refraining from playing "the victim" and all of the drama that goes along with that role. Even in the midst of a true crisis situation, I am keeping my dignity and self-respect intact while continuing to work on creating a life worth living.  

That feels mighty good.

Thanks for reading.
More soon.


  1. Debbie,
    You are one of the strongest women I know, and to write about everything in so much detail, I don't know how you do it. I do admire you and often think of you.
    I am so sorry this has happened to you and I fully understand how uncomfortable this has made you feel.
    Keep going the way you are, day to day activities, and your inner strength will shine through. You'll get through this meeting, and with your boyfriends help, will be out the other end of it all and smiling, laughing and being yourself.
    Keep strong Debbie,
    Love from the UK

    1. Hi Bronwen,

      Wow. Thank you for this beautiful, encouraging comment.

      In kindness and love,

  2. You are so awesome to talk about this! And your book is just days away from being published! Halleluhia! Maybe you will make enough cashola you won't have to work! You could just travel, if you like to (I would) and write about your travels. I've been having similar problems with someone, but he is more of a stalker type and very verbally and physically abusive. I just had to cut off all communication because, I wanted to finish the RESPECT Inst. program and my cornea being gone during the RESPECT program was VERY difficult, but I perservered! I completed it! With your help and the help of my friends at the Psychosocial Rehab Center where I volunteer and attend groups. Also, now I have the "costochondritis" crap in my lung/ribs and that is very painful. I think you grow, like scars in your emotions from so many, many years of dealing with people like your boss and it gets easier every time. I have NO PROBLEM saying NO to anyone, anymore! Continue on your path - you are strong!!! You can do it. Don't let him live "rent free" in your head!!! Much Love and Peace! (((HUGS))) Proud of you! Keep it up, your doing just fine! ;)

    1. Dearest Lori,

      Thank you for your always supportive and kind messages and comments. Please be sure to take care of yourself with regard to the person who is violating your boundaries. This is very important. I am proud of you for all you are doing, despite enduring the physical pains that you face. You are a brave, strong woman!

      Huge hugs and love,

  3. You are wonderful and deserve none of that! It not easy to stand up to abuse. Good for you for acting on it. It can take a lot of practice before we're able to nip these situations in the bud.

    But... Its NOT ok for your new boss to treat you that way either. Personally I would say to jump over everyone's heads and demand fair treatment, but I know that to be a taxing and stressful situation. It's not fair for you to have your life limited or lose your job over this. And it's not ok for them to think they can get away with sexual harassment, condescension or assigning you less work. Don't let it get to the point that you snap at your bf over your new boss being shitty. If the company won't make it's employees live up to basic human standards I would suggest you file a complaint somewhere really high up (labour board?) and find a new job, or if you are unwell enough to need time off see about gov't support short term while you focus on healing, or medical based EI. But I guess I don't know where you live and what's available to you. Your health and comfort in your environment is serious business, and more important than a job, especially if your higher ups are consistently toxic.

    Much Love.



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