Sexual harassment and serial bullying

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sexual harassment

Sexual harassment has nothing to do with mutual sexual attraction and little to do however with sex.

” Sexual harassment in most cases starts off innocently, then intimacies slowly develop from being bearable to unbearable ” is what I read on a website about employment law (!) This looks like rather confused reasoning. How could actual harassment start off innocent?

It implies that a person who harasses does so ‘by accident’. (and that sexual harassment mainly concerns the experience of the victim) Could you, for instance, also say: ‘Murder activity usually starts off innocent, until it becomes unbearable and the person that undergoes it dies’? Maybe an outrageous comparison. But, sexual harassment can -and mostly does-  aim to demean, extinguish, destroy and disarm a victim. Psychic murder.

Sexual harassment all too often will be interpreted and excused as ‘passion’, ‘nature’,  ‘sexual-attraction-which-simply-exists-between-woman-and-man‘ , ‘lust’ or even ‘infatuation’. These are misconceptions perpetrators gladly exploit.

When sexual harassment at the start ‘seems innocent and then slowly but surely becomes unbearable’, then it did not start guiltless, but subtle. Intentionally!

The perpetrator starts his/her harassments with small acts that are open to different interpretations.  Then he/ she searches, and increasingly finds, room and opportunity to violate his/her targets’ integrity in more gross ways. The intended effect: as soon as the victim realizes there is no question of innocent acts and the besieger will not stop, it feels, or actually is, too late to effectively take action.

Karin Bosman accurately and painfully describes how this works in the oppressive autobiographical account ‘Spitting on Hans’ tosti.’ She falls victim to the manipulations of her employer who uses her strengths and qualities to entrap her and turn her life into a living hell for two years. Constantly faced with loyalty conflicts, burdened with (misplaced) guilt and fear of consequences, for a very long period she sees no other way out than keeping the intimidations a secret to limit the damage for herself and especially for others. Until she can no longer endure and her attackers’ goal is almost achieved: She has become a shadow of her former self and she has started doubting the meaning of her existence.

Thankfully she eventually finds the strength to assert herself and speak out, receiving support from some brave co-workers. A new harrowing of hell has started, since now she has to review the grave emotional abuse she has been subjected to, and when she takes her employer to legal court. Once again she has to bear humiliations and being put to shame. Publicly, this time, namely in the courtroom, which this remorseless offender (and his grubby lawyer) with startling ease turns into a new platform where he can strike his victim once again. Finally Karin also finds strength, energy and above all the courage to write a frank account of her ordeal. And we should thank her for this!

‘Spitting on Hans’ tosti’ especially drew our attention because it so clearly outlines  the system of a serial bully.

Behind a mask of sanity and social status, here hides an immoral sadist and potentate who victimizes a long series of employees.   In all sorts of manners they are humiliated, belittled, undermined, threatened, embarrassed and finally badgered. Employees who (figuratively) ‘spit on the tosti’, i.e. revolt, become persona non grata. One is either ally or target, resistance is not tolerated. One unmistakable ‘advocate’ plays a part in this insane and sinister game. In this company fear rules. For those who choose to bury their heads in the sand and remain silent on the abusive situation, or actively agree with it, the benefits appear poor and questionable. Rather than certain, their professional positions have become more insecure. If they ever were.

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Help rid victims of their shame, break the taboo!
Karin Bosman found the courage to, despite the painful shame involved, show her vulnerability to the world and talk frankly about her ordeal, thus helping others who get victimzed by bullying and sexual harassment. Help her break the taboo, and break the silence. Tell people about this book. If you want a clear picture of why and how the unthinkable is possible, read this book.  Available here: 

copyright © Flourishh 2015
Photo:,  Drew Patrick Miller