Sexual harassment often goes unreported, in part because of the accuser’s very real fear of retribution. Take, for example, Reddit user sammydodge who recently shared an experience in which she complained about a gym employee’s stalking behavior and was in turn reprimanded by management for reporting the harassment.
According to her post, Redditor sammydodge received text messages from a man she met years ago and had not spoken to since. She wrote that the man had a history of sporadically messaging her, sending “semi creepy texts every few months for three years since the one time [they] hung out,” to which she never responded. She did, however, respond to his recent text asking her whether the guy she shares a gym account with is her boyfriend. A screenshot of the texts she shared on Imgur shows her reply, stating that it’s “inappropriate” for an employee to look up that kind of account information. The man then responded, “I didn’t look it up.”
She then spoke with gym management who confirmed that the man who texted her worked at the gym. The manager then told her they had done “an investigation” on her, according to her Reddit post, and concluded that because she and the gym employee shared mutual Facebook friends and she’d posted about her relationship online the information was “public record.” Despite clarifying that the employee implied he learned of her relationship status via her gym account, the manager simply recommended she “be more discrete on social media.”
“I was made to feel like I was the one in the wrong, and that I was an idiot,” she wrote. “I tried to assert myself when something that made me uncomfortable happened, and was immediately made to feel like a fool.”
Fellow Redditors recommended she continue making complaints until someone listens. “Write a shitty Yelp review,” one Reddit user suggested. “Unfortunately, they'll care about that more than your safety.” To which she responded that she’d already done just that. Another user suggested she figure out who owns the independent gym, so she could report the incident to someone further up the chain.
Other users say she contact police and report the incident as stalking. The National Institute of Justice defines stalking as: “a course of conduct directed at a specific person that involves repeated (two or more occasions) visual or physical proximity, nonconsensual communication, or verbal, written, or implied threats, or a combination thereof, that would cause a reasonable person fear.” However, specific laws may vary state-to-state. “It seemed that from looking up my account info mildly creepy texting was escalating to stalking,” sammydodge responded on Reddit, saying she’d consider contacting local police if the situation continued to escalate.
The one actionable thing Reddit users suggests she do? Leave the gym. “Report that gym, the guy, AND that manager specifically to the better business bureau,” another Redditor suggested.
The statistics on reporting harassment, specifically in the workplace, show how rarely harassment is reported and how even more rarely the accused face any repercussions. A 2015 survey by Cosmopolitan found that 71 percent of women who experienced sexual harassment didn’t report it. The few cases that are reported result in a shockingly high percentage of the accused facing retribution. As Vox reports, to a 2003 study from the EEOC found that 75 percent of people who reported workplace harassment experience retaliation themselves.
An estimated one in six women will specifically experience stalking at some point in their life, according to John Carroll University. Keeping a record of stalking-related incidents, having a safety plan, and reporting the behavior to the police are all measuring you can and should take if you think you’re being stalked.
Regardless of whether HR isn’t taking your workplace harassment reports seriously or a gym isn’t responding to the stalking behavior of their employee, you should not have to feel unsafe. Continue making complaints to the appropriate management or authorities. Find a support system of friends and family who will help your report get heard. You should never be made to feel like your safety is an inconvenience; your safety is first and foremost a priority and the people around you should treat it as such.