"My married boss sexually harassed me”

"My married boss sexually harassed me”

Karen* thought that she had found the perfect job - until it became a living hell when her boss started assailing her with lewd come-ons and "accidental" caresses.

As told to Azlinda Said

"I met Mr Lim* eight years ago, when I became his personal assistant. He was married with children. I thought he was a great boss, patiently teaching me what I needed to know and making sure I didn't miss my meals.

What you did not know about sexual harrassment in Singapore

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    Corrina Lim, executive director of the Association of Women for Action and Research (Aware), says sexual harassment is “offensive, unwanted, and unwelcome behaviour of a sexual nature, consisting of repeated or singular acts, from verbal to visual and physical acts. Sexual harassment is not just about deriving sexual pleasure from an act, but is about asserting power over the victim”.

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    272 had been sexually harassed at work before

    52 of the 272 were men

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    Most of the people surveyed were harassed by colleagues; the rest, by their superiors.

    The offenders tended to be men more than women.

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    1) Approach your HR department as soon as possible

    “State the facts. Do not tell anyone else in the company, as HR needs to look into the matter and decide what to do next,” says Andrea Ross, managing director of Robert Walters (Singapore, Vietnam & Malaysia), a professional recruitment consultancy.

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    2) Put everything in writing

    “Include any documents you have as evidence. HR should go through them with you and understand the information clearly. If need be, record the entire conversation. Your identity should not be revealed in the report,” says Erman Tan, vice-president of the Singapore Human Resources Institute.

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    3) Get psychological help

    “The company should offer to send you for counselling. If you feel emotionally unstable, the company should encourage you to go on leave,” adds Erman.

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    4) What happens to the accused?

    Andrea says: “The company should give a warning to the person accused. Sexual harassment can mean gross misconduct, and the one committing it can be asked to leave the company immediately. But it’s also important not to damage his reputation if the accusation turns out to be unfounded. If it’s a very serious case, the police should be called in to handle the matter.”

He seemed to care a lot about me and never raised his voice. I thought I was the luckiest employee in the world - until he started making sexual advances towards me.

Inappropriate behaviour

The problems began one year after I started work. Mr Lim took me out to lunch one day, saying it was a reward for my good work. During the meal, he kept telling me how good I looked and smelled that day. I was flattered, so I thanked him.

After lunch, he asked me to accompany him to the nearest shopping mall - he said he needed to buy a birthday gift for his wife and would appreciate my advice.

We ended up in a lingerie store, where he held up bras and nightgowns against me. He said I was about the same size as his wife, so he was using me as a guide.

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