My Own Sexual Harassment Hell

My own sexual harassment hell

My Own Sexual Harassment Hell

Obviously I can’t comment on what is going on in Hollywood right now with this case but I wanted to share my own personal experience of something similar to what the victims are claiming and what I learnt about abuse as a result of that experience. Part of that is to unburden myself but mainly to show that you don’t have to be a movie star or high powered executive to experience an abuse of power.

Back in 2007 I was in my second year of my Social Work course and on work placement. I had loved my assignment. My practice supervisor, who was the professional assigned to guide me through my placement and assess my capability to be a social worker, had been brilliant throughout. He had supported me and become a friend. I almost saw him in a father figure role. I trusted him with some personal things during the 10 weeks and he had shared the same. It had felt like a really great professional relationship with genuine care for one another.

A few other students had been in the same setting on placement but with other practice supervisors, and as a farewell, we all planned on going out for a meal and drinks together. There was a large group of us. My fellow students had told me they had bought “thank you” presents for their assessor so I took their advice and bought him an engraved pen. I took him to one side and gave it to him. He almost started crying which I felt was a bit odd but as we had worked together for a while, I just assumed he felt sad that it was coming to an end.

We all went off together, jolly and having fun. His wife had come along with us and everything seemed great. A few of us were dancing in one pub and my assessor came up and asked me to dance with him. His wife was stood close by so I wasn’t alerted to anything. Then he leaned in and told me he loved me. At first I thought he meant like a friend (I have told friends I love them after a few drinks plenty of times) so I naively said “love you too” back. It was then that he looked at me and said “you do? What do you want to do about it?” and looked at his wife. Suddenly I realised that he meant romantic love.

And I did a really cowardly thing and ran off. A few of the others followed me and I told them what had happened. They stayed with me to reassure me and calm me down and eventually came and told me he had left with his wife.

I couldn’t quite comprehend it all but over the next few days I began to feel really violated. Like he had taken advantage of me. I spoke to university who basically told me I should meet him (apparently he was devastated) and couldn’t understand that I no longer felt safe being around him on my own. He then sent me an email explaining why he loved me and how hurt he was now that I couldn’t talk to him. The office he worked at was opposite my flat at the time and I was terrified to leave the flat or answer the door in case it was him.

But no-one understood. People actually laughed when I told them. So then I started to think maybe I had over-reacted but my body was telling me differently. My body was telling me that this wasn’t right and that he had abused his position of power.

And I got my proof a few weeks later when he failed my placement. He took everything I had told him in confidence and used it to smear my name. He was trying to ensure I didn’t pass my course because I had rejected him. Luckily because I had told the uni what was happening they got another member of staff to assess me and they wrote me a glowing report.

It took me a long time to recover from that and if I’m honest I think I still have some wounds. I struggle with authority now and followed this experience up with an experience with a bullying female boss. As a result i have worked hard to build up my own business, to be by own boss and to distance myself from people in positions of power but that is changing. I am learning to trust MYSELF and that means trusting my instincts again. I’m not always right and probably act over cautiously, making sure I put very clear boundaries in place quickly, but I am no longer letting this experience dictate my professional life.

It has lead me into the field of Narcissistic Abuse and to help others who may have experienced similar and worse. So in the bigger scheme of things, it did me a huge favour but at the time it caused me a lot of pain and anguish.

That is why I have shared my story. To let anyone who is experiencing this know that they are not alone and that it can happen to anyone, you did nothing wrong. And to trust your instincts. If it feels like abuse then there’s a good chance that it is and there is no shame in that. If you need more one:one support or would like to chat, please do contact me at


The Painful Catch-22 of Caring About a Narcissist

The Painful Catch-22 of Caring About a Narcissist

My own sexual harassment hell 1This is the dilemma of caring about a narcissist:  If you are true to yourself, you lose a narcissist’s approval. If you are true to what the narcissist wants, you lose yourself.

Narcissists are desperate to see themselves reflected in those around them. If you aspire to goals narcissists hold dear, believe what they believe, and act in ways they think are right, they feel validated.

On the other hand, if you hold values or behave in ways opposite to what a narcissist wants, the narcissist feels invalidated and will often rage, sulk, belittle, withdraw or reject you.

Narcissists seek to cultivate sameness. Follow what a narcissist preaches and you are told you will be safe, protected and will avoid rejection and wrath. But if you honor your values and truth, you are often told you are bad, wrong, defiant or weak. Follow your own path, narcissists warn, and you will be abandoned and disliked.

If you uphold what the narcissist wants, you may be accepted, though that acceptance is generally conditional and temporary. And even when you are liked or loved by a narcissist, their love is not based on who you really are. It is based on what a narcissist chooses to see in you.

My own sexual harassment hell 2

This dilemma is akin to the words above the entrance to Hell in Dante’s Divine Comedy:  “Abandon All Hope, Ye Who Enter Here.”

With a narcissist the Catch-22 is:  “Abandon Yourself or Be Abandoned By Me.”

It’s a painful dilemma. If you care about someone with narcissism, it hurts to be repeatedly rejected and abandoned, especially when the rejection comes as a result of honoring yourself. It hurts to know that another person wants you to give up yourself to curry their favor. Being abandoned by a narcissist in ways large and small can bring a deep loneliness.

Yet while it hurts to disagree with a narcissist and have them accuse you of betraying them, it also hurts to betray your own values. That, too, brings a deep loneliness.

Only you can decide which path hurts more; which path has fewer costs and more benefits. That you have to make such a calculation in an important relationship is, in itself, testament to the dysfunctional dynamic inherent in knowing a narcissist.

If you do choose, as William Shakespeare wrote, “To thine own self be true,” here are four steps you can take to being true to yourself in relationships with narcissists:

1) Create a greater context for your dealings with a narcissist

If you must have dealings with destructive narcissists, you don’t have to play their game or accept their rules. Rather than feeling you are battling for survival or just trying to get by, create a broader context for having them in your life.

For example, view dealing with a narcissist as an opportunity for personal growth or as training in how to hold on to yourself in difficult circumstances. Or see it as a learning opportunity to observe firsthand the kinds of behavior you want to avoid.

When you have something at stake that matters to you it can give you a sense of purpose beyond just trying to survive around a narcissist.

2) Focus on process, not content

Narcissists distract and confuse others. When they are confronted or embarrassed they will act out, blame, belittle, bully or otherwise avoid responsibility.

Focus on what they do, not what they say. Their words are often attempts to make you question yourself. Their arguments are generally distractions. If you refute one argument, they will come up with another, and another, and another.My own sexual harassment hell 3

You don’t have to take the bait. When faced with a narcissist who starts ramping up his or her array of defensive and offensive tactics, remind yourself:  “They are most likely trying to evade responsibility.” This gives you the opportunity to keep your eye on bigger issues, such as taking a stand for what is right or for individual responsibility and accountability.

3) Make friends with your feelings and desires

Narcissists are often uncomfortable with others’ emotions. While they give themselves lots of permission to express and pursue their feelings, they tend to shame and block others from expressing emotions.

This unfair and destructive double standard isn’t healthy. Let yourself have all your feelings and desires.

Check in from time to time and notice what you might be feeling or desiring. Then tell yourself, “All my feelings belong. Feelings aren’t logical. I don’t need to justify my feelings with reasons. Feelings just are.”

Emotions are messages from different aspects of yourself. They just want to be heard. You don’t have to necessarily act on them.

4) Concentrate on intrinsic not extrinsic rewards

Narcissists fear looking inward so they focus on external rewards such as material possessions, status, attention, power and approval. While these have their place, our most authentic motivations tend to be intrinsic.

Intrinsic rewards and motivations include qualities such as self-awareness, self-acceptance, love, being who you really are, having a vision for your life, contributing to the greater good, spirituality and intimacy.

Narcissists may judge you only on how well you play their game of accumulating extrinsic rewards. Don’t do the same to yourself.

When you have a dilemma or feel stuck around a narcissist, ask yourself what your deepest internal motivations and values are, and proceed from there.


Photo Credits:

Swirling Illusion by Andrey Korshenkov
Abandon Hope marker by Zapomicron
Serpent Shadow by Chompoo


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