Thursday, 28 February 2013

Groping and Grappling

It was one day when I walked past his office. With a cry of 'Greenie!' my boss threw his arms around my waist and held on tight making piratical noises. I squirmed until after he few moments he let me go, laughing to himself. It wasn't overtly sexual but made me feel very uncomfortable. The boss who I shall call Trevor was in his 50's, maybe younger. I was 21. It was his business, and he tended to recruit men in their early 20's. He was loud, bouncy and charismatic. Friday night drinks were a big part of the culture. But he had a habit of roughly mauling the more junior staff. He would bound up behind one and start massaging your shoulders, or playfully slapping you on the back of the neck. It was being grasped around the waist that prompted me, for the only time, to raise how uncomfortable this made me feel with a colleague. His advice was straight forward, tell him to stop. Looking back I wonder why I didn't. It was largely about the culture Trevor had created. One of my workmates, a similar age to me was being repeatedly and publicly threatened with the sack. Another guy was sacked, basically for answering back. It was true he was less likely to pick up on guys further up the pecking order. But he didn't have to. He could also be generous and charming. The pay was good, it was a lively young crowd.
So if the only alternative to confrontation was to put up well then, well take the easy route. I did not see him that often, it was not normally me he picked on. Path of least resistance.
Trevor could also be remarkably hard to get hold of if he knew you wanted something. His PA. was a charmless character who delighted in the role of gatekeeper and chief informer.
When I hear talk that the victims of abuse need to toughen up etc I do think of Trevor. He did not scar my life but he made what could have been a very enjoyable period less so. But hearing stories now about abuse in various institutions I do have some sense of what it must feel like to be a victim of that, and how easily it can thrive. Also how hard it is to change from the bottom up.