Woman Files Sexual Harassment Complaint, Is Suspended From Work For Five Days

10 Mar

Trigger warning for talk of sexual assault

If a woman is sexually harassed or assaulted in the workplace, then she must have done something to cause it.

At least, that’s the message being put forth by the Toronto’s parks and recreation department, where late last month a woman was suspended from work for five days after accusing a male co-worker of unzipping his pants and rubbing his penis against her in the lunchroom.

Susan Rose was responding to a comment made by her colleague John Maynard with, “I will punch you in the dick.” Maynard then became, in her words, “aggressive,” saying, “Do you want to punch me in the dick?” while unzipping his pants and walking towards her. Rose turned away from him and grabbed onto another colleague’s arm, but felt Maynard pressing his body up against hers. She then heard a third colleague tell Maynard to wash his hands, which he did, finishing by wiping his hands dry on Rose’s back.

Rose filed a report on the incident, and an internal investigation found that there was “some merit” to Rose’s claims (the main contention seems to be over whether or not the accused actually pulled out his penis – since Rose was turned away from him, she cannot reliably say whether or not that part occurred). In a February 28th decision letter sent to Rose, parks general supervisor Jim McKay said that the claims of workplace harassment against Maynard had “been addressed,” though he didn’t mention whether any disciplinary action had been taken. In the same letter, Rose was told that her own comment – “I will punch you in the dick,” which she says was a joke typical of their workplace environment – was “inappropriate” and “in violation of the City of Toronto’s Human Rights and Anti-Harassment Policy.”

The letter then went on to say, “The city aims to create a climate of understanding and mutual respect. All employees are responsible for respecting the dignity and rights of their co-workers.”

The letter also says, ““By your own account, you regularly participated in banter and inappropriate workplace behaviour with Mr. Maynard.”

Rose was suspended for five days beginning on February 28th and will be required to take a course in human rights, anti-harrassment and discrimination.

I’m not going to argue that what Rose said was appropriate – obviously it wasn’t, a fact that she admitted in an interview with the Toronto Star. However can we just talk for a hot second about the fact that she was suspended for harassment and violation of human rights while Maynard seems to have gotten off scot-free? Can we take a moment to think about how absolutely fucked up that is?

Let’s review the facts here: a woman is made visibly uncomfortable by the sexual actions of a co-worker, she files a report about the incident, and she is basically told that she is at fault for having said, in jest, that she was going to punch him in the dick. Like saying “dick” is some kind of magic spell that charms penises right out of the pants that contain them. Like Maynard can’t be faulted at all for whipping his junk out, because she made a joke about his dick. Like making a joke inappropriate for the workplace is somehow on equal footing with physical act of pressing your genitals up against someone.

Suspending Rose and forcing her to take an anti-harassment course are the equivalent of saying, “she was asking for it.”

Telling Rose that she regularly engaged in “inappropriate” banter with Maynard is the equivalent of saying, “his actions are the predictable end result of all the sexual jokes both of you have engaged in.”

The decision not to suspend Maynard is the equivalent of saying, “boys will be boys and, honestly, what did you expect?”

How do we even live in a world where a woman reports an incident of sexual harassment and is then punished because her workplace decided that it was all her fault? Jesus Christ.

If you’ve ever needed proof of rape culture, if you’ve ever needed proof that we live in a society that downplays sexual vioelence while regularly shaming and blaming victims of sex crimes, well, here it is.

Still not convinced? The comments on The Star’s coverage of the story are even more enlightening:

‘She got what she deserved. She wants to be one of the boys when it suits her. Her comments caused this who situation to occur and now she cries foul.’

‘She wants him to be punished for things she did also.’

‘ … it was she who started it by threatening to assault his private parts.’

‘sounds like she was a willing participant in antics that got out of hand’

‘Sorry, but I don’t quite believe her side of the story. She lost me when she got into the standard dialogue of being traumatized, degraded, him being violent, etc. Assault? Please. She won’t be bullied? Give me a break. Why do I get the idea that she’s a problem employee?’

‘Why is everybody getting so uptight about anything remotely connected to sex? How long before society can shed its phony Victorian attitude.’

These are the kinds of things that victims of sexual harassment and sexual assault are used to hearing: you must have done something to deserve this, you started it, you wanted it, you liked it. I don’t believe you. It doesn’t sound that bad. It sounds like you’re the one with the problem. This is what you get for daring to be a girl who wants to be “just one of the boys.” This is what you get. This is what you get. This is what you get.

No. This isn’t what anyone “gets.” Sexual harassment is not the natural consequence of telling an off-colour joke. Sexual assault is not just a regrettable thing that happens when a woman spends too much time in the company of men. No one else has the right to tell a victim how they should or shouldn’t feel about being assaulted.

And people wonder why more victims of sexual assault don’t come forward.

Susan Rose

Susan Rose

16 Responses to “Woman Files Sexual Harassment Complaint, Is Suspended From Work For Five Days”

  1. genderneutrallanguage March 10, 2014 at 5:40 pm #

    Rose got punished not because “I will punch you in the dick” is some sort of magic spell. She got punished because she helped create and reinforce an environment where this behavior was common and accepted, then filed charges about it.

    Rose was not some sweet innocent helpless little girl that a stranger jumped out of the bushes and assaulted. She is a full grown woman that helped create and reinforce an environment of inappropriate and sexual jokes. Yes, Rose is AT FAULT. ROSE is AT FAULT in this situation because Rose CREATED the situation. This doesn’t mean ALL WOMEN are at fault for harassment or that women are at fault for ALL harassment. It means that harrasment happens on an incident by incident basis and needs to be examined incident by incident to determine who is at fault. Rose was, as you stated, engaged in inappropriate behavior. Vagina is not some magical wand that takes away all responsibilities when they become a liability to you.

    Furthermore you are making the truly asinine leap that “didn’t mention any disciplinary action” is the same as “Got off Scott free”. Both Rose and the guy should have been disciplined for engaging in inappropriate behavior. I do belive it would have been criminal activity, a violation of HIPPA, to include The guy’s punishment in the letter To Rose since such punishment likely includes group thearpy type mandates just like Rose was ordered to do.

    • aqilaqamar March 10, 2014 at 6:20 pm #

      Both of them need to reprimanded. But even if rose showed her vagina and rubbed it or forcefully had it rubbed and then just wiped her hands on a guy’s back I would want strict action against her too because she is sexually harassing that guy. Yes, I do agree there is more of the story maybe the guy got fired and other stuff included with the termination.

      • genderneutrallanguage March 10, 2014 at 8:34 pm #

        Two things. Fist There is little to no evidience that he showed his penis, only that he unzipped his pants and pretended. While this is crude behavior, it is of similar quality to “I’m going to punch your dick” that Rose said.

        Second, why are you talking about how he got off scott free since you clearly and explicitly do not know what action was taken.

  2. aqilaqamar March 10, 2014 at 5:57 pm #

    Reblogged this on Iconography ♠ Incomplete and commented:
    It seems in this case that one person has to be punished more than the other though if the actions if one is more aggressive than the other. The man reveals his penis and rubs it on a woman but then also washes his hands and wipes them on her back until dry. The last detail obviously shows a high degree of perversion for if I did that rub myself up on a man and then wipe myself off on him; regardless of my gender or sex that man might punch me and him punching me would get accolades of self-defense and post-inquiries would still make me look “heroic” in the eyes of my colleagues. My manhood needs preservation the same way a woman’s womanhood needs perservation. Even if I had not punched him for assaulting me with her or his privates should I suspended for complaining? Even if I provoked the person to anger should not that person yell back at me or ask me to step outside to settle this with him or her rather than casually showing off my genitalia and saying that because that person said they will punch it I will just flaunt it and also press it against another’s body to show my anger. That is lewd. Really lewd; makes no sense really.

  3. aqilaqamar March 10, 2014 at 6:05 pm #

    If this was a regular office joke then why would that guy act so violently? It makes no sense. At the end of the day if he was pissed off at someone else why put it out on someone not responsible so disgustingly? Makes no sense. I would want a psych eval even if their positions were changed or if he did this to a guy because maynard’s behaviour is disturbing and uncalled for if they were colleagues who knew one another. I think there is more of the story that we don’t know like if rose was always instigating fights with this guy shouldn’t she have been reprimanded before this situation? Either way showing off your genitals , for all sexes and genders, to others inappropriately is a sexual harassment crime. If rose is culpable for other charges then she should be reprimanded accordingly but maynard must also be reprimanded for his actions. We live in a stupid binary world which prefers to hold one against the other without understanding it can’t always work like that.

  4. Freckled Feminist March 10, 2014 at 6:59 pm #

    I wonder, if it had been a boy who had said “I’m going to punch you in the dick”, would it just have been dismissed as ‘boys will be boys’? Probably not. But the moment a girl threatens to speak out against sexual harassment in the work place she is somehow assumed to be some sort of sexual predator. Sad.

  5. Freckled Feminist March 10, 2014 at 7:00 pm #

    Reblogged this on Freckled Feminist and commented:
    A sad story. Perhaps an inappropriate comment, but in no way whatsoever condones the response.

  6. Beth Berger March 10, 2014 at 8:40 pm #

    This story is unbelievable! Thanks for sharing.

  7. westwickletimes March 10, 2014 at 8:46 pm #

    Whatever someone says to you, if you rub your penis on them (clothed or unclothed) it’s a sexual assault. The police should have been called immediately and the woman supported by her employers to make a complaint. How this has been handled in any other way is beyond belief.

    Perhaps a quiet word should have been administered about appropriate language in the workplace after a respectful amount of time, but to suggest it somehow had a connection to what followed is a disgrace.

  8. Mario Savioni March 10, 2014 at 9:10 pm #

    Clearly, the man was at fault and should be fired.

  9. Emmica March 10, 2014 at 11:06 pm #

    This is ridiculous, thanks for shedding light on the matter. Like you say, of course her comment was inappropriate but why hasn’t Maynard been reprimanded for his actions?Penis out of he pants or not, it was a clear invasion of Rose’s space and an act of sexual harassment. The ‘boys will be boys’ argument is such bullshit. Great article, thanks.

  10. Brian Dunseith March 10, 2014 at 11:58 pm #

    I am saddened by this article in so, so, many ways.

    1. I am saddened by the author’s bias, which allow’s her to become an apologist and rationalize behaviour that, were roles reversed, they would not.

    2. I am saddened by the author lowering themselves to the same base and shameful abuse of logic. These very tools which have been used to oppress and marginalize for entirely too long – refashioned to new, yet familiar, purpose.

    3. I am saddened that the actual facts have been twisted to serve a narrative in a way that would make a Fox News anchor proud.

    4. I am saddened by the polarization that extremist behaviour such as this causes amongst us, and the untold damage it does to the credibility of REAL human, gender (and other social rights) activists. Heroes who are fighting the good fight for REAL SOCIETAL change – often at very real personal risk.

    Articles this poorly written become prime fodder for those who ARE actively fighting against human equality. These become flash fires of distraction which actively focus attention away from those where facts are qualified and calls to rage merited.

    Instead of rallying pitch fork chants and throwing lynch mobs for straw men – the author could do REAL research, learn an acceptable modicum of critical objectivity, and use this platform to address legitimate issues and lead conversations which actively advance the cause instead of (passively slowing it down).


  11. Swati Nitin Gupta March 11, 2014 at 12:34 am #

    Reblogged this on Swati Nitin Gupta and commented:
    Sexual assault against women is not just a problem in India ladies. It is a Virus that has spread all over the world and now all we women have to do is find its ANTIDOTE quickly. The society has sick mindset and the tag BOYS WILL BE BOYS is something I have come to hate with all my might.

  12. juliamariedavid March 11, 2014 at 6:20 pm #

    Both parties are certainly at fault here. However, it is clear that Rose was being targeted for speaking out. Shame. Both parties should have received disciplinary action.

  13. Athena March 13, 2014 at 1:02 am #

    Both parties behaved inappropriately. Both parties should have suffered some consequences. The author failed the readership by failing to get all the facts. NOT a model case of sexual assault being the “fault” of the victim.

  14. Kelsey Lynore March 14, 2014 at 2:28 am #

    This is soooo common. 😦

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