my coworker shared nude photos of me at work

A reader writes:

I had a mutual relationship with my coworker for a few months. We kept this relationship on a low profile.

Recently, we got in a fight, when I found out that he had lied to me and had a girlfriend. He sent me a text calling me names and showed some nude pictures of me to other coworkers. Now at the store I work for, everyone knows about the pictures. Yesterday, three people came up to me and asked if what they were hearing was true.

I am afraid I might get fired for these pictures. What can I do? We have an HR department, but I’m afraid to talk to them about it because I’m afraid I may lose my job.

First, what he did is not only despicable on a human level, but it also probably qualifies as sexual harassment, which is illegal. If it comes to your company’s attention, they’d be obligated to act on it — and that should result in consequences for him, not you.

The only way you should get in any trouble here is if you sent him the pictures through company email or on work time. Otherwise, this was a consensual relationship between adults that took place in your own time, outside of work, and it’s none of your company’s business if you chose to send him photos of yourself. (I’m obligated to say here that it’s not a great idea to send anyone nude photos of yourself, particularly someone you’ve only been involved with for a few months, but I realize I’m fighting a losing battle on that one.)

It is, however, your company’s business that he shared the photos at work, and it should trigger a sexual harassment investigation by your company, which should result in consequences for him, not you. It’s not okay for an employee (him) to create this type of sexually hostile environment for another employee (you), and the law makes that pretty clear.

Now, obviously not every company handles this type of thing perfectly, and so there’s no guarantee that yours will. But he’s so obviously in the wrong here — not you, him — that I really hope you won’t let fear of getting in trouble for something you did outside of work prevent you from taking action and reporting his behavior. Any responsible employer would want to shut this down immediately and take action to prevent it from happening again.

And I’m sorry you’re dealing with this. This guy is an ass.

{ 221 comments… read them below }

  1. some1*

    LW, please don’t let any embarrassment or fear keep you from taking action here. When I was 19 I was sexually harassed by a co-worker (he had a live-in GF and repeatedly asked me out and asked other people to ask me if I’d go out with him) and I didn’t report it right away because I thought it was my fault for starting a general discussion about dating with him when it was slow. Yeah, now I know as a general rule discussions about dating don’t belong at work, but that didn’t give him the right to keep asking me out, just like you sending pics of yourself, that your ex obviously wanted to receive, gives him absolutely no right to share them with anyone, let alone co-workers.

  2. Rob Aught*

    If I may be blunt, not confronting this situation will allow it to continue. He clearly doesn’t have an issue with his actions and needs to learn a valuable life lesson. Maybe HR won’t handle it well and nothing will come of it, I get that. You won’t know until you try.

    It might be painful and uncomfortable, but it will be over much quicker if you confront the situation. Otherwise this is going to be something you carry and it will cause you to look like a helpless victim. Being victimized and being a victim are not always the same thing. Do something about it. In the long run you will feel better that you did.

    1. Anonymous*

      *IF* her HR dept is good, you are correct. Unfortunately there are countless women (and I’m sure some men) who felt significantly worse after reporting an indecent like this, when the complaint is totally mishandled, or worse, the act of reporting antagonizes the individual responsible and the company doesn’t put any support structures in place for those reporting harassment issues. Unless I had complete faith in the HR dept. I personally would at least hesitate about reporting an issue.

    2. Calla*

      There are lot of hurdles and considerations for people (usually women) to overcome when reporting something like this. I don’t think it’s fair to say that anyone who doesn’t do so is willingly being a helpless victim. Also, everything Anonymous said.

      1. Rob Aught*

        This is just another form of bullying and the reason the bully does it is because they think they can get away with it.

        Keep in mind, I am not blaming the victim at all. There may have been an unwise decision that was made that allowed this, but ultimately it was the co-worker who did wrong.

        Unfortunately, if he gets away with it there is a good chance he will do it again. There is usually a pattern to this behavior.

        1. Anonymous*

          Right, but the onus of him not doing it again is on him, not the OP. That guilt motivation for women to come forward is just some SVU bull which doesn’t take into account the OP and the fact that her life will go on after this incident. In a prefect world yes, she should automatically report this but its not so black and white.

        2. Calla*

          Saying “If you aren’t able to overcome societal conditioning that tells you women who do this are at fault, the fear that anyone you tell will blame you, the possibility of HR doing nothing, the possibility of retaliation from him, and everything else, you are just making yourself the victim” is a form of victim-blaming imo. People who go through this are people, not justice machines.

          1. fposte*

            Totally agreed. You don’t become more responsible for somebody just because he hurt you.

          2. Ellie H.*

            I totally agree. Of course, I also think that the best thing to do is go to HR, but I don’t think it’s fair to criticize any reluctance to do so. It’s such an uncomfortable and unfortunate situation.

            1. Escape is Possible. I hope.*

              There is not a doubt in my mind my HR wouldn’t find a way to fire me over something like this. Sure they would thank me for coming to them etc., sure the other dude would be subject to disciplinary action, up to and including firing, but in the same breath they would find a way to show me the door as well, legal or not.

              I have been actively trying to find a way out since I found out the kind of place I work for, but I am sure anyone here could make a list of the standard excuses… Bottom line, it pays the bills for now :(

            1. Rob Aught*

              I think in the rush to protect the victim people are reading a lot into what I am saying.

              There is a pattern to bullying. I never said it would be the victim’s fault if they continue. I am saying the bully will not learn if there are no consequences. At no point is the bully’s bad behavior the fault of the victim. I also re-read everything I posted and don’t see where I said that. I think people are looking for an implication that is not there.

              However, I am very big on people receiving consequences for their bad behavior.

              1. Jamie*

                I do understand what you’re saying and I believe it’s totally well intentioned and in a perfect world I absolutely agree with you.

                But many women know what it’s like to be sexually harassed at work – just going off the women I know personally it’s well over 50% at some time in their careers. I don’t know what the actual stats on this are, though.

                The thing is many of us have also seen people report things and seen them botched so badly that the victim is humiliated more. And sometimes things are handled well and the assholes get fired. That’s how it should be, if since that isn’t how it always is the wariness is understandable.

                At this stage in my life if I heard a whiff about harassment I’d be investigating and doing what I could to determine what happened and if true – help. When I was a teenager and working a part time job and my married middle-aged boss asked me back to his place because my mouth was so pretty and he could teach me how to give a really good b**w j*b…and when I said no spent the next shift pointing out to everyone how he could tell when I was cold and followed me into a supply room and blocked the door so I couldn’t leave…even after I was crying…

                I quit immediately and didn’t report it. I was a kid, it didn’t occur to me to report it and I was too humiliated to tell my dad. I was so embarrassed and so afraid people would blame me for bringing it on myself I told no one.

                So when I encourage people to come forward I really hope they do – because the message that it’s the predators that need to be ashamed and not the victims is important. And in many cases things are handled properly and the perpetrators are the ones forced out.

                But if you’ve ever been in a meeting where a claim of harassment has been discussed and there is skeptical looks and disbelief expressed before the facts are presented – even if it has nothing to do with you personally you understand that if someone doesn’t feel it’s a safe environment to tell their obligation it to themselves first.

                It’s a complicated issue – and it shouldn’t be – but as much as I would love for it to be as cut and dried as you’ve presented it just isn’t for everyone.

                1. harrassed*

                  The OP’s story makes me so mad, I really feel for the OP. And Jamie’s experience makes me mad and sad, specifically:

                  “When I was a teenager and working a part time job and my married middle-aged boss asked me back to his place because my mouth was so pretty and he could teach me how to give a really good b**w j*b…and when I said no spent the next shift pointing out to everyone how he could tell when I was cold and followed me into a supply room and blocked the door so I couldn’t leave…even after I was crying…”

                  This happened to me, twice. The first time, I was fired over it but given a poor (and illegal) excuse. I didn’t dare tell my parents what really happened and had to live with the shame of having been fired from my first job and treated poorly at that job, to boot.

                  The second time this happened, the married assistant manager grabbed at me every time I walked by, trapped me in cold storage, waited at my car for me, and gave me inappropriate notes. He asked me to come to work early to meet him in his car. He threatened to fire me if I did not. I quit before having to deal with the shame of a second firing. But again, I never told anyone.

                  I wish I knew then just a bit of what I know now. That the behavior was completely inappropriate and not my fault. Creeps like this often are very skilled at manipulating their victims into thinking the creep’s behavior is the victim’s fault.

                  I do hope the OP is able to report her co-worker. No guarantee it will go perfectly well, but taking this step may help the OP lose the feeling of shame regarding what her co-worker did. As Jamie mentioned, this issue is complicated and I hope the OP comes to some sort of closure on this, whether she reports the co-worker or, perhaps, finds work elsewhere and leaves that environment.

                2. AnonForObviousReasons*

                  Jamie & harrassed: I totally understand how awful it is to speak up. I was sexually abused when I was about 7 or 8 and I didn’t tell anyone until I was about 20. Unfortunately, the longer you wait, the harder it is to say something.

                3. Jamie*

                  AnonForObviousReasons – I am so sorry. And for everyone else whose had to deal with the shame which should have been squarely placed on the shoulders of the predators.

                  I hope you found healing.

                  And people really need to stop hurting innocent victims this way. People shouldn’t have to carry these kinds of scars through their lives because other people have no idea how to be a human being.

                4. Kay*

                  Reading your comment Jamie put me right back to when I was 16. I had one of my supervisors block me in to one of the walk-in fridges and tell me that I “looked cold and needed his heat”. He wouldn’t let me out and kept trying to take off his shirt.

                  I tried to tell my supervisor about it and all I got was that I should just laugh it off. I walked out and never went back. I never told my family.

                5. Jamie*

                  You know what’s kind of freaking me out? My supply room was cold storage also, it was in a store and separate from the main freezer but still a freezer.

                  Just on this thread there are three of us who have had really bad work experiences in freezers. That’s such a bizarre coincidence. Like cold lowers their inhibitions or something.

                6. bearing*

                  Me too. Male, adult coworker (mid-twenties) backed me up against the wall inside the freezer when I was 14 and working at a fast food restaurant.

                  No cameras in the freezer. That’s my interpretation of this particular “coincidence.”

                7. tcookson*

                  Yes . . . the walk-in freezer or cooler is a secluded place with no camera and not much danger of other people passing through. My 16-year-old daughter has applications out at a few fast food places in town, and I’m going to warn her to watch out about the freezer. And make sure she knows to tell me if anything happens.

                  I’ve been harassed at work by customers, never (thank goodness) by a boss or co-worker, and especially when you’re young and self-conscious, it is just humiliating. You just want it to be over without calling any further attention to yourself.

                8. RubyJackson*

                  All this talk about blocking the door in the freezer reminds me of when I was on a business trip with my boss and staying in the same hotel. He followed me to my room and jammed his foot in the door and forced his way in, then tried to force himself on me.

                  A good rule of thumb when traveling with a male co-worker is to contact the hotel ahead of time and request a room on a floor higher than yours. That way, the male coworker has to get off the elevator first and can’t follow you to your room. And if you are on an elevator alone with a man, coworker or not, pretend you forgot something, like the room key, and go back downstairs to the lobby if you can. Or push a higher number than his. Or keep riding all the floors until the man gets off the elevator before you go to your room.

                9. NinaK*

                  Wow. Add me to the list of 16 year olds approached by her boss in “the walk-in” (cold storage) in the deli department at the grocery store where I worked. He walked in behind me, shut the door, and asked if I had thought about his ‘offer’ from the day before. The offer was whispered as he left the store …”I could take you to a hotel and take you places you have never been before. Think about LONG and HARD before you answer …” Barf. Disgusting! I brushed him off both times. The second time (in the walk in) I said “You know I am sixteen, right?” He started stammering … ‘uh, ….uh … I thought you were 18.” Total Dbag. He never bothered me again.
                  OP, good luck to you and hang tough. This is not your fault.

              2. Calla*

                I don’t think you’re saying that if they don’t report it and it continues it’s their fault, but I do think you’re putting an unfair burden on someone who faces many obstacles to reporting it. It is absolutely my wish that every single victim is able to report it and every perpetrator is punished harshly. But as Jamie says, that’s not always possible, and it’s important to understand why and not put any shame/disappointment/etc on someone for not reporting.

                Also, while it may not be your intention, saying stuff like “you’ll make yourself look like a helpless victim” and “being victimized and being a victim are different” sounds very similar to stuff like “victim mentality,” which IS frequently used to tell people that they need to suck it up or they’re imagining things or it was their fault.

              3. Rana*

                I think there’s a bit of tension in your statements here that we’re picking up on, and you’re not seeing just yet – and I don’t know if that’s because I’m female and have seen these dynamics play out personally, or because I’ve just read too many internet discussions about harassment and how we talk about it.

                Here are the parts:
                1) Bullies don’t learn if they face no consequences. Thus, a bully who faces no consequences will keep bullying.
                2) The bully’s actions against Victim A are not the fault of Victim A.

                Okay, so far, so good.
                Where it gets problematic is when Victim A is expected to take a role in ensuring that the bully in question faces consequences.
                1) As people have already pointed out here, the victim faces consequences for doing so – whether they are better or worse than the consequences of staying silent is difficult to determine in the abstract, as there are ample examples of both scenarios.
                2) By suggesting that it is Victim A’s responsibility to help with ensuring that the bully faces consequences, in combination with the assertion that a bully who does not will continuing bullying, you have, in effect, made Victim A at least partially responsible for any future bullying of Victims B, C, D, etc. (or of herself).

                It’s that very last part that’s a problem. It’s a very subtle form of victim-blaming, and it does come out of otherwise reasonable assumptions and a desire to prevent further harm, but it is victim-blaming, in that it implies that a victim is responsible not only for standing up for herself, but for future victims, and that if she does not, she’s enabling the bully’s actions somehow.

                Again, I don’t think that this is your intent, but it is the implication.

                1. JohnQPublic*

                  Isn’t it? Embrace reality. All it takes for evil to triumph is for good people to do nothing. We each are responsible for our actions and inactions, like it or not. As a society we don’t do enough to make it easy for victims to come forward, and I’m glad everyone here is not blaming the victim for what he did to her.

                  But a victim who doesn’t come forward is tacitly saying its better for him/her to take the chance that others get assaulted than to go through the ordeal of reporting the crime. I understand the motivation but its not a happy understanding.

            1. Grace*

              We had a third party vendor who harassed women in a 20-story building for years, me included, wealthy women clients & co-workers. The building manager screamed at me for reporting the harasser. It turns out the commercial management company was sued in federal court for nation-wide, class-action, pervasive sexual harassment just a few years ago, blew off all of their trainings, didn’t comply with the laws and created legal liability, brand and reputational damage for the companies in the building, customer service damage that impacted the companies’ bottom lines. When the company wasn’t responsive, we sailed up over their heads to the chairman of the board. Result? CEO lost his job, executives, head of HR, company was audited by the state and Ordered to get compliant, and across-the-board training. We paid a high price. But they paid one too as they all got fired.

  3. Lily in NYC*

    Ugh, this is every woman’s nightmare come true. I’ve never, ever taken or allowed anyone to take a nude photo of me, but I had a college ex take one of me when I was sleeping and showed it to his friends. This was before digital cameras existed so it was not even on my radar. I didn’t find out until years later at a reunion and felt so betrayed and humiliated. I also found out he let his roommate hide in the closet and watch us have sex more than once. I would have kicked him where it hurts really hard if he had shown up there.

    OP, I’m so sorry you are going through this and you did nothing wrong!

    1. T in Construction*

      What a creep!! So sorry you had to find out about that, especially at a reunion :(

    2. EnnVeeEl*

      Reminder to self: Raise my son to be a man and have respect for himself and other people.

      1. Elizabeth*

        There is a picture going around FaceBook right now that says “If you would teach your daughter about safety, you should teach your son about consent.”

        1. bearing*

          Consent isn’t a high enough bar for me to teach my sons. People consent to all manner of self-destructive and emotionally damaging activities.

          1. Jamie*

            Yep. With my boys I taught them consent as a matter of law, but the important stuff was about respect and doing no harm.

            Oh and that consent given while drunk or high is NOT consent and ffs take that as a screaming NO.

            1. Emily K*

              I had a friend in college who used to tell me that one of his sacred Rules to Live By was, “Don’t have sex with drunk girls.” I remember at the time kind of thinking it was a stupid rule, because hey, I often liked to have sex while drunk, and I wouldn’t want to be rebuffed by someone just because I was drunk as long as I wasn’t, “like, blackout drunk.”

              Years later I understood that he was wise far beyond his years to have figured that out so young in life.

              Drunk sex never really showcases the best of either person’s abilities. Wait until you’re sober for best results.

              1. Emily, admin extraordinaire*

                The other day I was watching The Philadelphia Story, and when Tracy is asking Mike why nothing happened between them the night before, his response is golden. “You were extremely attractive, and as for distant and forbidding, on the contrary. But you also were a little the worse – or the better – for wine, and there are rules about that.”

                That was in 1940. Society has forgotten how to behave. It’s so sad.

                1. Another Job Seeker*

                  You know what? That reminds me of an episode of Remington Steele, a comedy/drama/crime show that was out in the 1980s. Laura Holt and Remington Steele (private detectives) had been kind of sort of dating for about a year. Steele had tried to get Laura to sleep with him numerous times, but she wasn’t going there. In this particular episode, they were on a case, and the bad guys blew up her house. She stayed with him for a few days until she could find another place. Well, that first night she was so upset, and she was crying. He was talking to her to comfort her, and she said, “Tonight, if you asked me, I don’t think I could say no”. And you know what he said? “Tonight, I don’t think I could ask”. That’s the kind of respect people should have for each other. You are correct – too often – they don’t.

            2. A Bug!*

              Wise, wise Jamie.

              I’m pleased to see that lately there are more and more resources for parents who want to teach their children about meaningful consent in a variety of age-appropriate ways.

              1. Pussyfooter, aka. OneoftheMichelles*

                I Heard something relating to this on NPR a little time back.

                A woman being interviewed said that some teen boys didn’t understand why having sex with a girl who was passed out was not ok (note high-fives from their buddies, teen-boy social dynamics, etc.). These were boys doing time, who’d been convicted for rape. She said they didn’t understand why they’d been persecuted for something society seems to condone–until she asked them how they’d feel about it if one of their peers did that to their sister/mom/relative. Their typical response was something like “Ohhhhhhh!”

                I don’t know who this woman doing the study/interviews was, but she pointed out that too many young men don’t get any discussions from their parents about this. So they get old enough to do harm without the insight to do right. Sad all the way around.

                1. Pussyfooter, aka. OneoftheMichelles*

                  ps. I don’t think the OP’s personal jerk is that kind of ignorant. He lied to her to start the relationship and is trying to hurt her for having the brains to dump him when he got caught.

    3. LaurelWithanE*

      I don’t know about *every woman* having this be her worst nightmare. If it was her worst nightmare, she wouldn’t have allowed the pics to be taken in the first place. I managed to go several decades without having any naked pictures of me taken by anyone. It’s already questionable to get involved with a coworker (dont S where you eat)…but let them take naked pics of u? Really?

      1. LSG*

        One of my worst nightmares is being raped by a man I love. It’s a worse nightmare, for me, than the idea of being raped by a stranger. But I still get involved in situations where that would be possible — alone, naked, and vulnerable with a man I love — because I TRUST that man. If that man were to rape me and you were to blame me for it because you’ve managed to go your whole life without ever being naked and alone with a man, then — there’s no nice way to say this — you are a cruel and irrational person.

        This isn’t quite such an extreme situation, but it’s the same basic principle: we share intimate things with people we trust, and if they violate that trust the consequences can be horrifying for us without being our fault. Of course sometimes it’s unwise to trust people, but the person at fault is the person who violates the trust, not the one who bestows it.

      2. Forrest*

        I managed to go several decades without having any naked pictures of me taken by anyone.

        Holy victim blaming!

  4. fposte*

    If there’s any sanity in your workplace, it’s your ex that will get fired, not you.

    But there’s a relevant question here: how many employees work for your employer? Federal EEOC law only covers employers with 15 or more employees, and some small independents don’t have that many. Odds are you’re at a retail chain that easily meets the standard, of course, and there may be state law that enhances protection. (The business should still take appropriate action regardless of its size, because this is indefensible.)

    1. fposte*

      Oh. Duh. I just saw you have an HR department. That pretty much guarantees that your workplace falls under the law here, because an under-15-person business really isn’t going to have that. So please disregard the threshold stuff, and please do report this jerk–you are not remotely the one in the wrong here.

  5. nyxalinth*

    Oh no, how awful for you. This guy isn’t scum…the words I want to use shouldn’t be said here. If you don’t already, pay Captain Awkward’s blog a visit. This guy is the worst sort of Darth Vader boyfriend.

    I second everything else. Good luck, and remember, karma bites hard.

  6. Calla*

    OP, I am so sorry this happened to you. I do understand the worry and reluctance to go to HR. I was once assaulted by a co-worker and I was extremely nervous to report it because I thought the blame might be put on me for various reasons; I talked it over with a co-worker friend, who assured me the other person was absolutely in the wrong, and I ended up reporting it to HR, who took it completely seriously.

    Are you friends with anyone who’s been at the place you work a while? I did find it very helpful to say to my co-worker friend “This happened, what do you think/how do you think they’ll respond?” to give some idea.

    He is the one who is abusing the trust you previously put in him, and he is the one sexually harassing you. My heart goes out to you and I hope you find the courage to report it.

  7. mel*

    Wow, what a jerk.

    I would have a hard time sitting back and waiting for his punishment because that requires having faith that your employers don’t have the anti-female-sexuality bias that’s so popular.

    At the last place I worked, employee dating was strongly discouraged because my employers really didn’t want to deal with this exact issue. Impossible to enforce it, though. I had an issue once where a middle-aged man (I was still a teenager at the time) implied to our boss that we were dating, and nearly got me fired for it. After that, my employers didn’t even trust me anymore and called me a liar when I denied it. The whole process made me feel sick and violated.

    You might not lose your job over this (because it isn’t your fault) but your bosses’ general opinion of you might take a nosedive.

    1. JamieG*


      When you were a teenager, a middle-aged man claimed that the two of you were dating, and -you- almost got fired for it? WTH was wrong with your managers? Ugh.

      1. Job seeker*

        I agree with Jamie. By the way, where in the world was your mama? If that happened to one of my teenagers this mama would definitely have plenty to say.

        1. Jamie*

          It’s funny you mention that – you know how when kids are small we talk to them about stranger danger…I had the same talk with my kids when they started the work force.

          About possible unethical situations that could arise and yes, I specifically talked about sexual harassment. My boys rolled their eyes and it’s probably less of a risk to them but I made damn sure they knew to say something. And I made sure they knew they never had to be ashamed of walking off a job if they felt threatened.

          And yeah I wanted my boys to know how people can be and how it’s not okay and I wanted my daughter to know that just because someone is a co-worker or boss doesn’t make them safe.

          It’s the whole most people are decent but some definitely are not so don’t be paranoid …but be careful who you trust.

          1. TheSnarkyB*

            Jamie, you just sound like such an awesome and proactive and anti sexism and pro education mom. Just so awesome.

            1. Jamie*

              That is really sweet, thanks. :) I know they are going to make mistakes…my goal wasn’t perfect kids (good thing because that’s a bad goal) but decent human beings who hopefully wouldn’t make any major life shattering mistakes.

              And they have all turned into decent and tolerant people…but they are also all messy and all of them will walk right past weeds by the deck without pulling them until I put in a formal request…so some balls were dropped somewhere. :)

              1. Ruffingit*

                They are good kids who know how to have respect for others (=decent). But they walk past the weeds (=not perfect). I’d still say you’re doing a damn good job Jamie! :)

          2. tcookson*

            My daughter was irritated with me the other day because I printed off an article called “13 Things Teens Need to Know About Workplace Rights” and made her read it. And there was a quiz afterward.

            She said it reminded her of when I made her read a newspaper article about a local girl who met someone on the internet (whom she thought was a fourteen-year-old boy) and he turned out to be a forty-year-old creeper who raped and murdered her. There was a discussion and “quiz” after that one, too.

            She gets fairly huffy when I make her read these articles, but I find that newspaper features that hit close to home are very effective conversation openers for stuff like this. Now I’m going to find one that fits the bill for sexual harassment and give her another reading assignment. She’ll be so pleased.

          3. bearing*

            I just spent my entire swim workout thinking about 14-year-old me trapped in the freezer with my older male coworker (see upthread) and trying to figure out how I could teach my kids so they would not be as naive and confused as I was about why that happened to me and what I should do about it. Because at the time, I was so completely clueless that (although I avoided getting too near that coworker afterwards) it never crossed my mind that what he did was (a) illegal (b) grossly inappropriate (c) something I should have told my manager or parents or even (d) SUPER CREEPY PREDATOR BEHAVIOR. I parsed it as “something boys do to girls to make fun of them” and I was embarrassed that someone at work was “making fun of me.”

            I pretty much concluded that, at minimum, as soon as my kids start any job whatsoever, I need to sit down with them and have A Talk about what kind of behavior is appropriate and inappropriate in the workplace, and what they should do in questionable situations.

            1. Pussyfooter, aka. OneoftheMichelles*

              I’ve had a couple jobs where I was responsible for checking public areas late at night/closing. Not to mention working in two person teams for hours and hours. What *are* we supposed to do to safeguard ourselves (I’m including men here too–there’s all kinds of violence/craziness to pick from)?

          4. tcookson*

            Thanks for the tips, Jamie. I just shared some of these “freezer” stories with my daughter, and explained to her that sometime people are embarrassed to tell when something like that happens to them. We talked about being aware of getting cornered up in closed spaces with people (and discussed that the danger can come from someone close in age to herself or from someone older or even a boss). She swears that she would tell her parents if anything like that ever happened to her . . . I hope that is the case, and I hope we don’t ever have to find out.

        2. mel*

          haha! well I was on the older end of the spectrum (18 or so) and had already moved out and was 3 hours away from mum. And this fellow and I were on casually friendly terms (so it wasn’t totally out of the blue) but definitely not dating!!

  8. COT*

    Can anyone recommend any hotlines that might be helpful to OP if she needs someone to talk this over with?

    1. Anonymous*

      I think there is a hotline you can call where you jump in a time machine and go back to the extact moment right before you sent the nude pix.

      1. GoingAnonymous*

        Way to blame the victim. This isn’t about the fact that she shared something private with a person who lied to her about his relationship status, its about the fact that he shared something private with other people in the workplace. This isn’t the OP’s fault, the blame sits squarely at the feet of the person who broke her trust and acted in an unprofessional manner by sharing such things with coworkers.

      2. JMegan*

        Anonymous, that’s a terrible thing to say to someone.

        OP, your local YWCA would be a good resource if you need someone to talk to – ywca (dot) org or ywca (dot) ca.

        Good luck.

      3. Lily in NYC*

        Anonymous, if you are going to be a jerk, have some balls and use your real name. Or are you just an internet bully/coward hiding behind your “anonymous” handle?

      4. ExceptionToTheRule*

        Unless, you know, she didn’t send them to him, because no where in the note does it say she did. It doesn’t matter, regardless. Stop being THAT person.

      5. Anony1234*

        It wasn’t written diplomatically. The OP is not the first person to have done this. Therefore, with all the stories in the media, I cannot fathom why people continue to do this. It never ends well (case in point). This shouldn’t have to be a consequence for her, but unfortunately, it has become one.

        It still does not void what her ex-boyfriend is doing now. And I agree with what a few other people said. Ignoring it allows him to continue. Furthermore, it is not just sexually harassing her – it’s also harassment towards the coworkers because they may not want to see what he is showing them. He needs a pink slip, ASAP!

        1. Elizabeth*

          “It never ends well”

          Actually, I’d bet that in most cases it ends just fine. It’s never going to make the news if Person A sends Person B some nude photos, Person B says thank you and reciprocates, and a year later when they break up both parties respectfully delete any nude photos they have of the other.

          Problems occur often enough that I think people should be very careful about how they share pictures like this, button say that it will definitely explode is overstating it IMO.

          1. Ellie H.*

            Exactly – this is another example of selection bias.

            I would bet that among the people posting in this thread, there are at least several who have sent or allowed someone to take nude pictures, without incident. I think that actually doing that kind of thing has been around forever – it’s just so much easier to propagate nowadays with our technology. I agree with you totally that in most cases it ends just fine, but that this does happen often enough to necessitate using high caution.

      6. SW*

        OP, if you read comments like the one above, or hear crap like that from people you talk to, PLEASE ignore them. You are not to blame for trusting someone you were in a relationship with, and majority of the commenters here believe your ex is 100% at fault for this, NOT you.

        Anonymous: That’s a fucking horrible thing to say to someone who’s being unfairly harrassed. By your victim-blaming logic, I could say similar things about you:

        – If your ex shares dirty texts or emails you sent her and laughs about it with her friends, it’s your fault for writing it.
        – If your ex tells everyone how bad you are in bed, it’s your fault for having sex with her and being bad in bed.
        – If you get robbed at gunpoint, it’s your fault for going outside.
        – If you get your credit card number stolen, it’s your fault for using your credit card to buy things.

      7. Sara*

        That’s a douchy thing to say. When we’re close to someone (romantic or otherwise) we share things with them. There’s that basic level of trust there, that when things are over, someone won’t do that to you.

        Also, I take nude pix for my husband all the time, if we ever broke up I’d still trust him enough to not share these kinds of pictures.

      8. Katniss*

        I voluntarily model for a nude site and have for 11 years…that doesn’t give someone the right to violate me by trying to harm me by sharing those pictures in my workplace.

      9. nyxalinth*

        Well no, the obvious answer was for her to have had psychic powers and use her third eye to know that her boyfriend was a cheating creep (cheating on the other girl) and a vindictive, lowlife doucherocket of the first degree, and never gotten involved with him to begin with. I figure since we’re playing the blame game here, why not take it to its logical extreme?

        Sarcasm mode off.

    2. Calla*

      RAINN has phone and online (chat) hotlines, and many cities have assault crisis centers with hotlines. This may not fall under assault but it’s still a form of violation and I would think they should be able to provide some guidance.

      1. Anonymous*

        The guy is a jerk, no one is debating that. But isn’t it sorta absurd to relate voluntarily sending nude photos of oneself to rape or sexual assault? I mean, they were voluntarily sent, and when one sends photos of their bits and pieces out into the world there is always that chance that others will see. The coworker is gross and this shouldn’t be in the workplace. But it’s not like he hacked into the OP’s phone or something.

        1. KellyK*

          First, you’re assuming that she sent them to him, rather than that he just took them of her (with or without her knowledge). Second, having those pictures shared outside of the context they were given in, is *absolutely* a violation. No one is saying it’s the exact same thing as rape, only that hotlines that address sexual assault will probably be able to offer some helpful advice.

          1. nyxalinth*

            I was thinking of it terms of a violation as well. Now I suppose the MRA will come out of the woodwork, if they haven’t already…

        2. Natalie*

          Calling a hotline simply means the OP can talk to a sympathetic ear and maybe get some referrals for legal or social support, if she wants it. I don’t think RAINN would reject her call. But if it turns out she doesn’t meet their criteria, that’s something for their screener to handle.

          1. So Very Anonymous*

            Exactly. The RAINN screener might also be able to suggest other resources or organizations that could be of help if she doesn’t meet their criteria.

        3. Calla*

          I’m not relating it to rape or sexual assault (and in fact say right up front it doesn’t fall under that) — also, we’re assuming here she sent them voluntarily — but he IS sexually harassing her, he violated her trust in a major way in a sexual manner, and as a result I think those types of places could still be helpful as a first point of contact, whether they offer their own services or are able to refer her to some place else. And the question was “if she needs someone to talk this through with” so I’m also recommending that under the scenario that this has had a big emotional impact on her and that’s what is up for discussion.

        4. Jamie*

          She voluntarily sent them to HIM when they were dating.

          She did not voluntarily undress for her co-workers.

          I don’t know the legal definition but I would feel sexually assaulted, which I am sure is his point. He’s showing them to others to publicly degrade and humiliate her sexually.

          I don’t know where the law stands on this but emotionally I absolutely feel he violated her sexually.

          1. fposte*

            Agreed. We don’t actually know that she sent him the pictures or even consented to their taking, in fact, but ultimately it doesn’t matter–it’s his job not to be a jackass, not hers to completely jackass-proof herself.

        5. Victoria Nonprofit*

          Of course it’s not the same thing as rape (just as rape is not the same thing as sexual harrassment). However, the same principle applies: If I consent to have sex with my husband, that does not mean I consent to sex with his friends and coworkers. If I consent to showing a naked picture of myself to my husband, that does not mean I consent to showing that picture to his friends and coworkers. The fact that it’s easier to share the picture doesn’t affect my rights.

    3. Ruffingit*

      Here are a couple of possibilities:

      9 to 5 Job Survival Helpline (yes, this is real): (800) 522-0925

      National Sexual Assault Hotline: 1.800.656.HOPE

  9. Jamie*

    This is despicable – run, don’t walk, to HR.

    It comes to mind the OP might not be the only one being harassed at work in this incident. If the co-workers being shown these pictures don’t want to see them, which could be the case if he’s doing this to humiliate the OP, then the co-workers who had naked pictures shown to them at work have a case of harassment as well.

    I know if I were just trying to do my job and someone shoved a cell phone in my face with a naked pic of a co-worker I’d be making my own appointment with HR. Of course that’s me – if people are less sure of themselves or younger they may just feel really squicky and not say anything. This has to stop.

    And I say this with all the understanding in the world because I do remember what it was like to be young and trusting and easily in love…but everyone please stop trusting people with the big stuff until they’ve earned it. Make sure someone is a decent human being even when pissed…because everyone is delightful when things are going well. That was just a PSA and in no way makes this the OPs fault – she’s the victim here.

    (Unless it was actually taken at work and/or sent via company network in which case the IT in me just died a little.)

    1. Ellie H.*

      That’s a great point, Jamie. I don’t know if it would qualify as harassment toward me, but I would definitely feel motivated to report harassment of another person if I were showed nude pictures of a coworker.

      I have a good friend whose roommate’s ex-boyfriend was stalking her (the roommate, not my friend) and thereby sitting parked outside their house all night, driving around the block constantly, emailing my friend and her boyfriend to ask if they knew where the roommate was, etc. and I kept telling my friend to tell the police HERSELF, not just encourage the roommate to. Because you have a legitimate reason to report harassment, even if it’s not directed uniquely at you.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        It would indeed be harassment toward you as well. Just like if a coworker kept showing you naked pictures of random strangers, or porn, or whatever.

      2. Jamie*

        Kind of an indirect harassment – I guess. Just like if a co-worker had desktop wallpaper of pornography (or naked calendar – whatever) it is harassing to those who are forced to view it and don’t wish to…even if you don’t know the person involved. So I’d report it even if it wasn’t of a co-worker…but point taken in that one should report the harassment of a co-worker when it’s seen. Especially if you’re management and can do something about it – don’t turn a blind eye because they report to another manager and there are politics. If you are in the position to stop abuse and chose not to that’s pretty morally horrifying.

        1. Anonymous*

          Actually, it’s not even indirect under the law. That stuff all qualifies as real sexual harassment.

          1. Julie K*

            Exactly. My former partner’s co-workers nearly lost their jobs for sharing nude photos on a computer at work. What in the hell were they thinking? Someone walked by, saw them, was offended, and reported them.

  10. GoingAnonymous*

    OP I’m so sorry this happened to you. I can relate – at my first professional job, an anonymous person sent topless photos of me to my entire mangement chain and I was absolutely mortified. HR and corporate security notified me, explained I wasn’t in any trouble, and interviewed me to try to figure out who would do such a horrible thing. I remember just sobbing in my car after it happened, it was my worst nightmare come true.

    You can and will bounce back from this. I hope your company disciplines the man who did this and supports you through this difficult time.

    1. Lily in NYC*

      Oh, how awful. I’m sorry that happened to you. I am cringing thinking of my president’s office getting an email like that.

  11. bearing*

    Just out of curiosity and completeness (in case a different person finds this site via Google) —

    — What if the OP *had* unwisely sent the nude photos via company network and/or taken it at work? How would that change the advice that would be given?

    1. Jamie*

      IMO the ex is still wrong and should be immediately fired for harassment – it doesn’t diminish his responsibility at all.

      But you can’t ignore the violation of IT policy and just the sheer disregard for the company if this was sent using their resources and the person who did that could be disciplined for that as well.

      And not sending naked pictures of oneself over the corporate network is almost always against policy. It’s IT 101.

      1. T in Construction*

        Jamie, in that case, would the sender potentially get fired as well as the harasser? Or just disciplined?

        1. Elizabeth*

          Here, the sender would receive counseling about work appropriate behavior and appropriate use of corporate IT resources (I’ve been involved of a couple of those sessions as the IT representative). The harasser would get the same lecture, as well as separate sanctioning for the sexual harassment.

        2. Jamie*

          Depends on how the policy is written. Mine includes the phrase “up to and including termination.”

          You can absolutely lose your job over this. As sympathetic as I’d be to the victimized person I’d be seeing red over this.

          My written policy is buttoned up but as I tell everyone without exception as they sign my policy and I give them their login information just to remember one rule of thumb and they will be just fine…” nothing on the computer or internet that you’d be embarrassed to look at in from of me and X (woman who owns company).”

          It’s worked so far.

        3. Joey*

          Depends on:

          How they’ve treated similar issues in the past
          How many pictures/inappropriate stuff was sent
          How long she’s been there
          Her performance
          If there’ve been any previous issues with her
          How recent were they sent
          Whether the policy outlines any specific consequences

          But generally they’d probably be sympathetic and look to figuratively slap her on the hand

      2. Judy*

        “And not sending naked pictures of oneself over the corporate network is almost always against policy. It’s IT 101.”

        Interesting place you work in. Just injecting some silliness.

  12. EngineerGirl*

    He would be so fired where I work. They wouldn’t even wait until the end of the day – they would walk him out immediately.

    1. FiveNine*

      I am not clear that he shared the photos either on company time or on the company’s premises (or whether any of that would make any difference). I also hope OP is not reluctant to go to HR because she’s in some sort of supervisory role over this man.

      1. ExceptionToTheRule*

        According to the sexual harassment training we receive at my company, sexual harassment of this sort does not need to happen on company time/property. They’re co-workers and that’s enough.

        I’m not saying that’s the law, I’m not even saying that every company will have a policy like that. I’m also not attorney, nor do I play one on TV.

        1. Calla*

          Not to mention, not only are the jerky sharer of photos and the OP co-workers, he is also bringing the OTHER co-workers into it, and they’re approaching the OP at work about it. Regardless of where he shared it with them, it’s clearly a workplace matter.

          And regardless, the policy was the same as yours at my last place of employment. The incident I experienced took place with a co-worker after a work party – so not technically on company time/property, but when I reported it they told me they consulted their employment lawyer and they were within their rights (-slash-obligation) to investigate/act on it.

        2. Lindsay J*

          Yes, I had to step in and address a male employee on time because he was repeatedly messaging one of my female employees on Facebook and texting her. She had made it clear she wasn’t interested in communicating with him outside of work on numerous occasions, but he didn’t stop.

          They weren’t sexual in nature, but they were asking to hang out outside of work. The guy meant no harm, just clueless and a little socially awkward, but meaning no harm doesn’t give anyone license to continue to make someone uncomfortable.

          None of the incidents happened on work time or using work resources, however they had met at work and had to work in the same department so it was my/the company’s business regardless.

      2. Pussyfooter, aka. OneoftheMichelles*

        Argh! I didn’t even think of that.
        But doing this outside of work is probably a law enforcement issue. I know it’s flatly illegal in some places.
        I bet the OP has options whether this guy’s doing these things inside or outside of work.

  13. EnnVeeEl*

    OP – I’m sorry. Man, we’ve all made bad calls with friends and lovers, trusting people who shouldn’t be trusted at all. It happens. Please report this. I don’t care, this is harassment. Best of luck to you.

  14. Anon*

    This kind of post makes me despair… about humanity generally. The coworker is not just a jerk, he is abusive and predatory. Thank goodness this is covered by actual legislation.

    But the OP… this kind of post is what I think helps make people suspicious of “the unemployment crisis”. Because every other comment on this site is about the power of employers, and how in this economy the employers have all the power and about how the worker has to put up with terrible crap and never make a peep because they will be fired and lose their health insurance and how terrible it is. And often a non American will post a SMH post about how terrible US protections are and how all American workers live in fear…. buuuut apparently none of this is enough to stop people sending naked pictures of themselves to coworkers (!) after a few months of dating or lending $1000 to a coworker or getting trapped in weird carshares, or all manner of really crazy (and sorry, stupid) things that people post in with.

    I wonder if it’s not the opposite. Are people too complacent in their jobs? Is it that they feel almost too safe and that’s why they are so quick to blur the boundary. Because why else would people act so unprofessionally?

    1. Anonymous*

      So what you are saying is that people who don’t account for their actions, then come to AAM for a pity party, should actually live with the consequences of their actions? Fancy that!

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Please stop using multiple screen names here.

        The question isn’t about how she should conduct her sex life. It’s about dealing with a work situation. Please cut it out.

      2. Calla*

        OP isn’t here for a “pity party,” they’re asking for advice on how to handle someone sharing nude photos of them AT WORK. Which is inappropriate no matter what. The fact that you and a couple others are more focused on blaming the OP says more about you than her.

        1. SW*

          “you and a couple others”

          I think it’s one person who keeps changing their screen name to post more victim-blaming vitriol.

      3. Runon*

        The man shouldn’t have to live with the consequences of his actions? He took actions that should get him fired. He should have to actually live with the consequences of his actions.

        Also go back to the land of MRA.

      4. Joey*

        You can’t believe that women who wear short skirts and get sexually assaulted or raped had it coming. Cause that’s essentially what you’re saying.

    2. Katie the Fed*

      you can be a total doofus in your private life. You can make terrible, terrible decisions, date terrible people, live like a slob, whatever. You’re at work to WORK. Your personal decisions should have no bearing on your professional life. A mistake in your personal life shouldn’t haunt you in your professional one.

  15. Captain Obvious*

    I guess being the 4,824th person to have told the OP that taking nude pictures – especially in the cell phone camera/digital camera/social media era – might possibly come back to haunt them, would be overkill, right?

    Sorry OP. Hopefully you use better judgement next time.

      1. Lindsay J*

        And even if she did, that does not give him the right to show them to other coworkers or make her in any way responsible for him escalating the situation like this.

    1. Anonymous*

      ha.ha.ha. You sound like the judge in the Stubeinville case. I mean that in a bad way, if it wasn’t obvious.

    2. EnnVeeEl*

      What if he took the photos without her knowledge? We don’t know and it doesn’t matter.

    3. Katie the Fed*

      And I certainly hope you never make an error in judgment and get the shamy finger pointed at you.

      None of this has anything to do with the OP’s question. But I sure hope you’re feeling morally superior!

    4. some1*

      Nice victim-blaming. This is so “She shouldn’t have worn such a short skirt/been out alone at night/had anything to drink/been drinking underage” And it’s BS opinions like yours that make us women afraid to come forward when this stuff happens to us. We know at least one person will in effect tell us that we brought it on ourselves.

  16. Chinook*

    It might be good for the OP to approach TPTB or HR with the fact that nude photos are being passed around and not highlight they are of her. Don’t lie about it, but the nude photos are the issue, regardless of who is in them.

    1. Victoria Nonprofit*

      The fact that the nude photos are of her *is* relevant, though: She’s being sexually harassed. She can choose not to report it, of course, but that doesn’t change the fact that it’s happening.

    2. T in Construction*

      Yes this. Also, even if the ex was sharing nude pictures of his girlfriend who was not an employee, the manager needs to know because that’s a major disruption to have nude pictures being shared at work on company time. I’d reprimand him just for that, let alone the fact that it’s a current employee and he’s harassing her (AT WORK).

      Like Jamie said upthread, who wants nude pictures of their coworker shoved in their face while they’re trying to finish a deadline? :P

  17. Sarah*

    The responsible thing to do is to tell HR immediately. What if he’s a nut and goes to them first and says something like “this girl won’t stop sending me naked photos of herself, is that harassment?” He’s obviously of low moral character so you need to watch out for yourself. Once you’ve gone to HR something less responsible and yet fun is to take the little capsules off his tires and let all his tired go flat. I would also covertly tell his gf he was cheating on her (poor girl, she LIVES with this POS). Think of this as a good deed and not being vindictive, I would want to know if my man was doing this shit at work.

    1. Editor*

      OP, do not mess with his tires or try any other revenge. You don’t want to be hauled in by the cops for vandalizing his car and you do want to feel good about your own way of managing this situation.

      Do you want to fantasize about him getting kicked out by the girlfriend or finding his car damaged? Sure, if the fantasies make you feel as good as imagining you’ve won the Powerball or something. Just always try to take the high road.

      I hope you feel you can report it and I hope no one treats you badly for reporting it.

  18. OliviaNOPE*

    I had a situation at a temp job where the guy who sat behind me would talk loudly to his girlfriend about all of the disgusting things he wanted to do to her all day long. I asked him to quit it and he wouldn’t. Then he started talking to her about the b*tch in front of him at work who couldn’t mind her own business. Then he started alluding to how the girl should probably come meet me after work to kick my ass. I was maybe 22 at the time, a recent college grad who was stuck in a dead-end call center job because I couldn’t find work in my field, but this wasn’t worth it so I went to my manager and told her I was quitting and why. She stopped me and called HR and they ended up firing him instead. I was relieved but I don’t think I lasted much longer there because of course everyone found out and it was just crazy uncomfortable. At my current employer, a co-worker accused another co-worker of sexually harassing her. He insisted they were flirting and hooking up and she got mad when she found out he had a serious girlfriend. She took it to HR and they were both canned. I say all of this to say that you never know how it will go with HR, but that probably it’s best to tell them and also a good idea to start looking for another job pronto. In this case I’d even advocate quitting if you can in any way swing that.

  19. Katie the Fed*

    Good news, OP. Sexual harassment is illegal, and so is retaliation. If you complain to HR, your company would have to be off its rocker to retaliate against you, because you could slap them with an EEO complaint so fast their head would spin. And retaliation claims are usually a lot easier to prove than harassment.

    1. T in Construction*

      In this case, the harassment will probably be easy (enough) to prove because he’s been sharing the photos at work and he’s sent her threatening text message. Hurrah for evidence!

  20. Sara M*

    Hey, OP. I was sexually harassed at work, twice, in two different contexts. Both times, I reported it; in both cases, the bosses handled it _way_ better than I expected. (In fact, the second was only upset at me for not coming forward sooner, but he got over it.) In both cases, they reassured me that it wasn’t my fault (because it wasn’t), and they dealt with it firmly and appropriately. I didn’t suffer any consequences, but the perpetrators did.

    Give your management a chance. They just might surprise you with how well they handle this.

  21. Sara*

    I am just so bleeping mad reading this and other stories. I really feel for you guys, we all make mistakes but acting out of misguided trust shouldn’t ruin our lives/livelihoods.

    Acting out of malice, and douche-baggery on the other hand….those those ppl deserve to have their careers destroyed. Hopefully HR will take care of this, and karma will kick this guy in the nuts.

  22. Allison (not AAM!)*

    Add me to the “PLEASE go to HR immediately” camp. And I’d love to hear a follow-up once the scumbag has gotten his comeuppance! Best of luck to you, OP – nobody deserves that kind of humiliation.

  23. Yuu*

    Another upshot of coming forward; there’s a possibility that if he gets fired for sexual harassment, his girlfriend might find out. She probably doesn’t know how despicable this guy is either.

  24. Anonymous*

    I am curious what sort of action OP would take if her company is too small to have an HR department?

    1. Laufey*

      I work a company that is that small, and while we don’t have an actual department, there’s still some one that needs to handle employee paperwork and vacation scheduling, etc. That’d probably be a good person to start with. Otherwise, perhaps a trusted manager.

  25. Brett*

    Since I just commented on another post about telecommunications harassment….
    ” He sent me a text calling me names and showed some nude pictures of me to other coworkers.”
    As a larger issue than the workplace sexual harassment, because the pictures showed you in a state of undress and are being disseminated without your consent this may be an issue for the police rather than for your company’s HR department. Even more so if you are under 21 and it is absolutely criminal if you are under 18. With only a single text message involved, this is probably not criminal harassment, yet, unless that message carried threats.

    And that is the bigger issue here. This ex has demonstrated a strong disregard for you by taking these actions. Even if you take this to HR and this co-worker is fired, I would not count on his actions stopping there.

    1. Pussyfooter, aka. OneoftheMichelles*

      Depending on how shook up he gets from any kind of punishment, he might lash out more or hunker down and hide his grossness in the future.

      I know of a guy who started stalking his ex. He owned some guns, which he kept displayed in his living room. The stalking hadn’t gone on long before he ranted and raved at her, throwing in some vague suggestion of his own death–so she called 911, reported that he’d threatened suicide, and kept guns in his home. The cops showed up. He was ultimately kept overnight in jail for his own safety, and forced to answer lots of questions about his actions and weapons, etc. He Never Stalked Another Person. Completely knocked it off.

      Truth is, the more outrageously someone behaves, the easier it becomes to stand tall while they discredit themselves. Oh, and the more Authorities feel pressed to put a stop to it.

    2. fposte*

      I’m curious–if the OP is an adult and the pictures were taken with consent, what specifically would the criminal issue be? I’ve certainly heard of occasions where there’s a copyright claim that can be made (very useful in cases with web postings), but of course the cops aren’t going to enforce copyright.

      1. A Bug!*

        I’m sure it would vary state by state, but on a bit of Googling it looks like distributing nude photos that were obtained with the subject’s consent, but distributed without the subject’s consent, might give rise to a claim for ‘intentional infliction of emotional distress’.

        1. fposte*

          Right, but those are also torts rather than crimes, so that’s not something cops would investigate either. It sounded like Brett knew about a criminal statute, and indeed s/he does–I hadn’t heard at all about the criminal sexual harassment stuff with revenge porn. Very interesting.

          1. A Bug!*

            Aahh, I confess, I completely glossed over the word “criminal” the first time I read your comment and it had been too long since I’d read Brett’s to recall the context. Mea culpa!

      2. Brett*

        Some states have criminal invasion of privacy statutes specific to pornographic pictures (the so-called “revenge porn” laws). Others have criminal sexual harassment statutes that make it a crime to use sexually explicit content in harassment (sometimes with enhancers if the person involved is under 21); but that would be trickier because of the limited contact between the OP and the ex, having to instead rely on him contacting acquaintances and associates of the OP with intent to harass.

        That’s why I said it may be an issue for police, because revenge porn laws are not widespread and criminal sexual harassment laws have a lot of variation.

        Beyond that, a LEO might be able to help the OP obtain a temporary restraining order against redistribution of the pictures without consent.

      3. RubyJackson*

        Yes, there may be laws against dissemination of sexual content.

        Believe it or not, it’s actually illegal to swear on your cell phone, because the cell phone works by radio waves. So, same laws that apply to broadcast radio apply to cell phones.

        1. fposte*

          I’m not finding anywhere in the US where it’s been a crime to sext between consenting adults, though–it’s the involvement of minors or harassment (which is definitely here, and Brett’s pointed out the ongoing trend of “revenge porn” legislation) that makes it a problem. I’ve heard the FCC thing and think it sounds a little urban legendy, but even if it’s true, their enforcement arm isn’t the local cops, and it’s the cops thing I was really querying.

          1. One of the Annes*

            NPR recently aired a good story on the revenge porn phenomenon and how state legislatures are needing to play catch-up with drafting legislation to combat it. (Apparently there are websites dedicated to having exes post pornographic photos of their former partners [without the partners’ consent].) As I understand it, in most states, victims don’t have a lot of recourse legally.

  26. Pussyfooter, aka. OneoftheMichelles*


    Please buck up your courage. Pull up a copy of your resume or an award you’ve earned and remind yourself how helpful and capable you are (or whatever helps you feel stronger when you’ve had a nasty shock).

    I vote for telling a more senior co-worker and asking if HR can be depended upon. Or talking to your boss. Or HR, if that’s most comfortable. And, of course, supportive-type level-headed friends outside of work.

    If you don’t report him, things will stay the same at this job. If you do report him, it will at least show you which of your co-workers/management are “keepers” to rely on and learn from in the future.

    He’s behaving inappropriately on company time–Sic him!

    1. ExceptionToTheRule*

      Be careful of involving co-workers with the specifics if you are at all on the fence about going to HR. My company has what is essentially a “mandatory reporter” policy. If a co-worker comes to talk to me about being sexually harassed, I can get in trouble if I don’t escalate it to HR.

      OP – whatever you decide to do, please make an informed decision. Good luck with whatever you decide to do.

      1. Pussyfooter, aka. OneoftheMichelles*

        Yeah, Exception made my point better than me. Get help to make an informed decision.

  27. Liz in a library*

    How awful! I’m so sorry OP. I don’t have any additional advice, except to please ignore the shaming that (thankfully only rarely) appears in this thread. There is absolutely no excuse for this jerk’s behavior.

  28. AB*


    I’d look at it this way: there is very little to lose in terms exposing your personal life and privacy at work by reporting this issue to HR, because, well, the amazingly unethical coworker already did that.

    I’d say that the odds are all on your side in reporting to HR. I find it hard to believe that HR would not take the necessary steps to end the harassment, and as word got out that the coworker was punished, I believe that things could only improve for your professional standing at work.

    We hear so much “HR fear of lawsuits” that I’d think they would be much more inclined to deal with it the right way, making the perpetrator suffer the consequences of his acts.

    Of course, like others have said, there is always a risk of you being impacted, say, if HR decided to punish both by firing you two, but I’d say that the potential gains of reporting far outweigh the risks here.

    Good luck, and please come back later to tell you that it all ended well for you (and hopefully badly for your terrible coworker…).

    1. Joey*

      You really don’t know if its worth it to report it without knowing how good her HR department is and whether or not she used company devices to take or send the pics. So I wouldn’t encourage it without considering those factors.

      1. AB*


        I’m with Allison (not AAM!) below, and don’t think that “how good her HR department is” would factor in my decision if I were in the OP’s shoes.

  29. Allison (not AAM!)*

    I don’t think “how good her HR department is” should factor in at all. If she goes to HR, makes a DOCUMENTED (at least on her side) complaint and they do nothing about it, then she has grounds for legal action – which I would encourage her to take. That would make the company as unconscionable as the scumbag. And if they DO take appropriate action, the matter would be solved.

  30. A Bug!*

    The few (or maybe just one or two? Good job undermining your point with sock-puppetry) people waggling their fingers at the OP as if she* doesn’t already regret having trusted this guy are completely missing the point. Other people have already explained what the true issue is at hand, but I wanted to comment a little as well.

    It’s true the saying, “When you share something private you lose control over its privacy.” It’s a good thing to be mindful of, and it’s good to be aware of potential risks. OP allowed the guy to have control over those photos, no question.

    But what she didn’t give to this person is her permission to share those photos. He misrepresented himself as a trustworthy person, and the OP was entitled to believe him, whether or not you think that was reckless to do.

    Yes, there are things people can do to manage the risk they expose themselves to in all areas of life. But. That an incident would have been avoided if they’d made different decisions doesn’t make them responsible for the unethical acts of others. Full stop. Because if you’re going to suggest the OP bears responsibility here, then so does every victim of everything, ever.

    Oh, you used a debit terminal that had a skimmer installed and now your bank account’s been drained? You should have been using cash. You got mugged when you had $500 in your wallet? Well, what were you doing carrying cash?

    It’s just a totally useless thing to do to someone who’s already anguished about a personal violation.

    Neither the OP nor anybody reading these comments needs you to condescendingly spell out exactly why the OP is the author of her own misfortune. Because she’s not. Those pictures would not have been shared if that sleazebag hadn’t chosen to share them.

    And it’s mind-boggling to me that you appear to need that spelled out for you.

    *Making an assumption here for simplicity, apologies to OP if it’s wrong.

    1. KellyK*


      “Oh, you used a debit terminal that had a skimmer installed and now your bank account’s been drained? You should have been using cash. You got mugged when you had $500 in your wallet? Well, what were you doing carrying cash?

      Exactly! This is just such a perfect illustration of the victim-blaming mentality. It doesn’t matter what you’re doing or how careful you are, if anything bad happens, someone will be right there to tell you it’s All Your Fault.

    2. JMegan*

      “Those pictures would not have been shared if that sleazebag hadn’t chosen to share them.”


    3. Rana*

      “But what she didn’t give to this person is her permission to share those photos. He misrepresented himself as a trustworthy person, and the OP was entitled to believe him, whether or not you think that was reckless to do.”

      Very well put.

    4. TheSnarkyB*

      It’s a bird! It’s a plane! No, it’s A Bug!
      congrats to you – awesomely put.

    5. Lindsay J*

      Thank you. Those (that?) person was making me so mad. I don’t think any response I posted would have been nearly as articulate.

  31. HR IsItLegal?*

    Speaking as an HR Manager- If I were brought this situation It would immediately be investigated. As much of the facts we know in OP’s situation he’d be terminated (regardless what else was found) and no action taken upon her.

    1. Joey*

      That sounds more like a personal opinion than a professional one. You really can’t make any type of legitimate disciplinary recommendation without knowing key things that are missing like policy and practice.

      1. HR IsItLegal?*

        Hence the phrase “as much as we know in the OP’s situation…” which is all we do know and can answer on.

  32. AnonForObviousReasons*

    I feel for you. I let my ex take sexy (not nude) pics of me once. Bad mistake. He showed them to at least one friend and then openly admitted it to me and thought nothing of it. For all I know they could be posted online somewhere. =( I was also sexually abused when I was a kid. Thanks to both assholes, I like to keep a low profile on the internet and avoid posting pictures of myself anywhere, just in case someone recognizes me at a random website. I hate to say it, but you may live in fear from now on and be haunted by this for the rest of your life. People have committed suicide after this kind of bullshit harassment. While I don’t support their decision, sadly, I can understand why.

    Morals of the story:
    Don’t ever let anyone take nude pictures of you.
    People aren’t worth trusting.

    1. Katie the Fed*

      I’m sorry about what happened to you, but this advice is completely irrelevant to the question at hand.

      1. AnonForObviousReasons*

        Oh, excuse me for explaining why I understand how awful she feels. I’m not the only one who posted a story here. I really don’t get how that’s irrelevant.

        1. Katie the Fed*

          The moral of the story about not taking naked pictures isn’t exactly helpful when that ship has already sailed. She didn’t write in to ask if she should have done it in the first place. She wanted to know how to handle a situation at work. A lot of people seem to be fixated on reminding her that it was a bad idea. I’m sure she already feels bad enough without a bunch of people telling her that she should have never taken the pictures.

    2. Pussyfooter, aka. OneoftheMichelles*

      Yikes! Let’s not freak the OP out even worse!

      Regarding “you may live in fear from now on and be haunted by this for the rest of your life. People have committed suicide after this kind of bullshit harassment.

      These cases are sadly true, but extreme. The two I know of involved years of abuse by adults of children who made sort of slave/stars out of two little girls on recurring websites with videos/dialog for a very long time. (Sorry to gross everyone and myself out) Both women have grown up to become the focus of ground breaking legal actions, by the way. One is pursuing further legal options and getting counseling. The other is happily married with a family of her own.

      My impression is that most people are affected by wrongly shared still photos more like a mortifying moment when something very embarrassing happened once in high school.
      It might still be cringe-worthy in 20 years, but I doubt the OP is doomed to be “haunted” forever.

      Let’s keep things in perspective for everyone’s sake, please.
      And, yes AnonForObviousReasons, I very much give a damn about what happened to you–just not sure it’s not scarier than the OP needs to worry about. Let’s cross that bridge *if* we get to it.

      * * * * *
      ps. Anon…, if you really feel as despairing as your post sounds and that no people are worth trusting, I hope you fight for your happiness and get help with that. I hope you get pissed off enough to insist on finding the good ones. It took me many tries.

      I was emotionally abused by a *psychologist* and couldn’t bear to seek help from another therapist for several years. When I finally made it to a new one, I flatly told her on day one what had happened and that I wasn’t staying if I wasn’t given complete access to all my records from day one.

      I expected to be turned down, but was totally fed up, so what the heck? She said “Ok!” to trying it. (It’s not really workable–too complicated to make her feel like I’m looking over her shoulder all the time. BUT SHE WAS WILLING TO TRY. And by the time she begged off, ‘cuz it was messing with her ability work, she had proved that she was trustworthy. [plus I do have full access at her office, even if I don’t use it]) Any caregiver who treats me with less respect deserves my skepticism.

      And I recommend Alison’s post on June 11th, “10 Danger Signs When You’re Hiring New Employees” for anyone trying to start mental therapy. If I’d known about #6 on that list, I would never have been at the mercy of such a cruel, incompetent psychologist. (Now it’s funny that her psychiatric co-worker demonstrated almost all the other problems on the list, to the point that she posed little threat. She was just so obviously bad I double checked all her advice and was extra cautious with it.)

      The fact that other people have survived far worse things than me, yet are able to have rich, enjoyable lives–with trustworthy friends/lovers–means that safe people do exist. It’s just extra hard to recognize and build relationships with them after experiencing horrible horrible stuff. Still doable.

      Yeah…got to work on that conciseness-y thingie.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        Ugh. My mother is a psychologist who has to deal with many patients who have been to incompetent therapists (and many of her patients are sexual abuse survivors to boot). She gets so MAD at those boobs!

  33. just me*

    I believe there is a proposal in California to outlaw “revenge porn” where an ex-lover posts compromising photos of the person after they’ve broken up. I know it doesn’t completely apply to this situation because the ex boyfriend is not posting the photos, but showing them to co-workers, it does show that these things are starting to get the attention of lawmakers and authorities and that it is not ok.

    For those of you with children entering the workforce, OSHA has a good campaign with educational materials for teenagers:

    1. tcookson*

      Thanks, just me. My daughter has some applications out for her first job, and I’ve been looking for some literature on teen workplace issues; this will help!

  34. Julie K*

    OP, if you’re reading the comments, could you give us an update once you decide what you want to do about the situation? I hope it works out in your favor.

    1. Pussyfooter, aka. OneoftheMichelles*

      Yes, please. There is so much we don’t understand. Hope we are helping.

  35. Marina*

    Is there any possibility the OP could be let go for “immoral conduct” or something awful like that…? It seems pretty unlikely, but every once in a while I hear of a case where someone gets fired for something they did unrelated to work…

  36. Another Job Seeker*

    OP, I’m sorry to hear that this is happening to you. Hopefully, you’re focusing on the multitude of uplifting comments and not the few that are blaming you. You are not to blame – the idiot is.

    I just wanted to suggest that you consider your work environment as you make the decision about whether you plan to take this to HR. In some work environments, the system works as it should – and the management team would get rid of that person. Unfortunately, that is not always the case. A co-worker was inappropriate towards me. I posted about it about a year ago at My name was “Job Seeker” there, also. I won’t re-hash all of it here, but my point is that going to HR makes sense in some work environments but not in others.

    Keep your head up, continue to reach out to others (hope it’s helping you), and I also hope that you find peace.

  37. Cheeky, But Nice!*

    Alison, thank you for answering this question. I have wanted to ask a similar question for a long time (to anyone), however guilt, shame, and fear of losing the credibility life and family I have struggled to acquire and maintain has prevented me from ever doing so.

    I did some foolish things as a youth, and I am in constant fear these perfectly legal, but morally suspect (depending on the individual) acts are laying recoiled in a dark corner, waiting for me to let my guard down before lashing out to destroy and everything I have worked for.

    As I would never deny responsibility for what I did, I’ve felt powerless for over a decade have been terrified of making even the shallowest inquiry… Because no one is ever inclined to take and answer a question at its hypothetical value, anyone whom I would trust as an expert on the topic I could never go to about this, as I feared doing so could only make things worse.

    So thank you for your answer and thank you for answering, though the OP didn’t state my case exactly, I feel a little better knowing there might be a person or two out there that would give consideration to my case and wouldn’t just tell to accept I am screwed for life for having an imperfect past.

  38. LSG*

    Just wanted to say how nice it is that the vast majority of commenters are vigorously standing up for the OP instead of scolding her. What a kind, thoughtful commenting community!

    I think most of the aspects of the question have been touched on, but I did want to recommend A Gift of Fear. I know it’s been recommended before, but it might be worth a look. I don’t want to scare you, OP, because almost certainly this guy is just your basic non-terrifying enormous jerk. However, one of the pieces of information that you have about him is that he’s willing to violate your sexual boundaries to hurt you. Whatever happens to him, I hope you make decisions thinking about what you need to do to feel safe.

  39. sai*

    I agree that the comments here are so thoughtful, just want to add a point…Coming from a conservative society like India I have often seen the victims looking uncomfortable even after the offender got punished .. SO OP KEEP YOUR HEAD HELD HIGH no matter what the outcome is (am sure your HR will act strong)

    When I was 19, I myself once handed over a middle aged stalker who followed me for some 15 days to female police squad(my proudest moment in life!!) but all I got from my Prof’s the next day was a cold if I didnt handle it mom has always taught me to NEVER keep these things discreet

    – Always SHOUT or talk in a loud voice, if someone is making inappropriate advances. could even be a weather discussion but it will startle them and make them STOP (especially moments like the freezer situations above!)
    – At the first advance/ inappropriate comment, make it very clear that it was unwelcome. (Cold stare/ immediate moving back/ even push if required)
    – TALK – nothing wrong in telling a female work colleague that a guy made an inappropriate pass.

    I dont think any of this would get you in trouble- More power to us ..lets not cower down, but give it back to the people who think we will take sh*t!!

  40. Emily*

    I’m sorry if this has already been said since there are so many comments here, but it needs to be plainly stated that by accepting your HR department might not handle it ideally and therefore not reporting it is nonsense. HE did something wrong. LAWS are in place to deal with behavior such as this. THE COMPANY is responsible for hostile work environment (which has plainly been created). But the company can do nothing if they never get a report of wrong doing. If they handle it improperly there are proper channels for dealing with that in-turn.

    By opting out of the systems in place you weaken the power of employees everywhere to use those systems.

  41. This*

    “First, what he did is not only despicable on a human level, but it also probably qualifies as sexual harassment, which is illegal. If it comes to your company’s attention, they’d be obligated to act on it — and that should result in consequences for him, not you.”
    ^^^ This

    Stay proud. This scumbag violated your rights, and the Employer ought to fire or at least discipline him. You are not the one who should feel embarrassed, although your feelings are perfectly understandable. You should not tip toe around the incident. Make sure a SUPERVISOR is on notice–telling a trusted co-worker is not enough–ask for the policy manual and review the harassment provisions, and be sure report the incident exactly as the manual instructs you to. Schedule a consultation with an attorney specializing in employment law and stay in contact with him or her regarding developments in your evidently hostile workplace.

  42. Tracey*

    Of what happened to me, he told me he trusted me. I hope and prayed for a friend to talk to, I was so lonely I did the wrong thing, I sent him some photos of me that were nude, but artistically changed. He didnt say anything, but wanted to keep texting. I didn’t feel right about it, I was still hurting over what happened at work, told him that, and that I wouldn’t be texting him, that I didn’t want to continue with whatever it was we were doing and stopped.
    A friend of my from work calls me, she’s asking me a bunch of questions about the situation at work, than she ask me if I sent any photos to anyone else. You guessed it, I was being set up by someone at work to see if I sent nude photos of myself out to strangers, I fell right into it. Deceived again, I said I make mistakes all the time. I guess everyone sees what a fool I’m, that I did this to myself. I didn’t know on my own time I can’t do what I want, I didn’t hurt anybody but myself. But so many people wanted to hurt me, they set me up to show I’m just a bad person showing nude photos and talking about sex. I know I was wrong, it doesn’t matter that I was lonely and sad. I wanted Human compassion with a man. Sorry for being human, I’m not a saint, nothing but a sinner. Burn me at the steak, sew an S on my cloths.
    So I’m screw at this college, maybe everyone will get what they wanted from me, to be gone. Being hated and judged by others is a hard thing to live with, no I’m not going to get revenge or hurt myself, I have to live and try to find peace in my life. No more men to talk to, no more sex talk or any sex. I have learned my lesson in life, just don’t trust anybody. If anyone reads this, thank you, and I’m sorry.

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