Hey folks, so I made a new friend, got to support someone I already knew, and saw a community take sexual harassment seriously and come together to protect and support the victims at a conference.
It’s been a long week and this was just a sidebar in it, but after a conference reception I was rather aggressively hit on by a guy wearing the conference’s badge. I gave him a pretty firm brush off and I wasn’t alone (a couple other women were with me at the time, the male friends in our group were lagging behind but joined us about ten minutes later) . . . he wandered away. About an hour later, one of the other conference speakers came up to me and my colleague looking rather shaken. She and another woman had been in a quiet corner trying to talk, and this man had been pestering them for the past hour. They’d come over to the group to get rid of him. She saw him hanging around the edge of the room and pointed him out, and it was the same guy.
People started breaking up for the night and the other harassed colleague didn’t see the man around, so she started back to her room. My (male) work colleague and I started making our way across the lobby to the elevator to go to our respective rooms a bit later, when we heard her calling our names. She’d noticed the guy again and thought he might be following her, so she asked us to escort her to her room because she didn’t feel comfortable calling security. We did and saw him following us, ducking around hallways in an attempt not to be seen, right when we’d gotten to her door. I went in the room with her, and my male colleague went to go get security, managing to get a walk-by photo of the guy to show security. The hotel security took it very seriously, took his name and photos and promised to escort him off the property and follow up. Male colleague sent the picture to the conference directors with an alert that someone with a conference badge had been harassing women and to keep an eye out for him if he showed up the next day.
The next morning, the conference organizers asked me and my colleague to come in and give statements regarding our experience. The conference organizers were infuriated that this had happened at their event and when they found out he was a vendor representative, I got the subtext that his company might lose its place at future events. As we were in the office with the conference organizers and hotel security wrapping up our statements, another woman came in to give hers. The same man had also harassed her to the point she’d felt physically threatened, and she’d gotten his full name. They found him on the premises again, and he was escorted off and ejected from the conference. By noon, he was on his way back home and the CEO of his company had been alerted to his behavior and apologized.
Word got around quick, and everyone who heard was disgusted by the behavior and supported the women who’d been harassed. There was no defense of the predatory behavior. I had a good discussion with the woman who’d gotten his name, and we’ve connected and plan to keep in touch.
Nobody should have to put up with sexual harassment in their work environment, but it was really good to see the right response to it happening.