One day at my work we got a new intern, let’s call her Stephanie. Stephanie was straight out of school and our supervisor, who I’m going to call Martin and who was in his 50s, immediately developed a huge crush on her.

It was embarrassing to watch. He couldn’t leave her alone, he needed to be near her. If she sat in the lounge area in the office, he’d leave his desk and go sit with her. He would make up tasks they had to do together. Whenever she left the building, he’d walk her to the elevator.

A few weeks after Stephanie joined us, we had our holiday party at a bar downtown, and one of my coworkers asked me to help keep an eye on her. Apparently some of my female colleagues had been watching how Martin acted with her, and now they were banding together to make sure nothing bad happened at the party. 

It worked. We stayed between them and nothing happened. Stephanie ended up leaving first, sharing a ride with a couple of women.

She worked with us for another couple of months after that, and nothing changed. Martin continued to monopolize her right up to her last day. I remember saying goodbye to her and feeling a little flush of triumph, like, we did it! She got out safe!

Today I can’t believe how stupid I was. I am so mad at my younger, stupider self.

The purpose of that internship program was to try out young people. If you did well, at the end of the internship we gave you a job. That was the whole point. And Stephanie was smart and ambitious and talented and hard-working. We absolutely should have hired her.

So why didn’t we?

I think our bosses were protecting Martin. I think that if Stephanie had stayed with us, there was a real possibility that eventually Martin would have crossed some kind of line. But Martin was good at his job and our bosses wouldn’t have wanted to fire him. I think it was easier for them to just eliminate the risk by not hiring Stephanie.

Plus I think her presence just made everybody feel bad. Nobody felt good about watching Martin act like an idiot. Everybody was worried about what could happen. If Stephanie left, we could close the door on the whole mess. And so that’s what we did. 

Who was at fault? 

I blame all of us. Including myself and the other women who were congratulating ourselves for “helping” Stephanie. I look back and I am so sad at how low our expectations were. We were so pleased that Stephanie didn’t get raped or groped or coerced or intimidated. 

Stephanie deserved better and I’m really sorry she didn’t get it.