I was a new worker—I’d only been in my position for a few months. He had been there for about 12 or 15 years, so he wasn’t a super-direct supervisor to me. But he was an established employee within the organization who wasn’t going anywhere.
We were having a normal conversation—you know, when, say, you went for vacation and you show your co-worker a cool photo from your trip or something like that. He said, “Check this photo out.” I look and it was a nude photo, and the way he showed me it was so natural. Almost as if it was normal to show some co-worker a photo like that, like it was a picture of his dog or something. It was very surreal.
I didn’t do anything about it, though. I was kind of shocked and I brushed it off. I went on with my work, and I just avoided him after that—we weren’t really friends anymore. At first, you don’t even realize it’s sexual harassment until after you think about it. At the time, I just thought, “Whoa, why would you show me that?”
I was the only Indigenous worker in an all-white organization, which doesn’t make it easy to make complaints. I felt like if I did come forward, the only one who was going to be punished would be me for causing trouble. He might get a little slap on the wrist or human resources would say, “Don’t do that,” and make him take a sexual harassment course. But, ultimately, nothing would have happened to him and I would have lost my job.
I was always wary with people as an Indigenous woman growing up in Canada. You learn that lesson very young. That experience changed me at the workplace. I wasn’t nearly as outgoing and friendly. I became a lot quieter, I kept to myself more, and I just didn’t bother talking to anyone, as a way to ensure it would never happen again. It was very unfortunate. I very much liked this person—I’d met his wife and all of that kind of stuff.
I’m just assuming that he had to have had other instances in his life where he did that to a woman and didn’t realize how awful he was being, or just thought it was okay with women to do that to them. But, I don’t think I was the first person who he ever did that to. I probably wasn’t the last.
It’s been such a long time that I’ve kind of worked through it. But now I work in television. It’s still a male-dominated industry and that time has impacted the way I treat those men when I first work with them. It makes you more cautious. It makes you a little more apprehensive when you meet new colleagues. But, in other ways, it makes you a little smarter and you’re a little more aware of how things can be.