update: my coworker kissed me and now his wife is emailing me

Remember the letter-writer whose married coworker kissed her and who then received an angry email from the coworker’s wife? Here’s the update.

Thank you for posting my letter in the first place, Alison. I felt really supported by the readers and read each and every comment. The advice I received was so insightful and on point.

At the time though, I felt really confused, ashamed, guilty, sick. I was searching for a way to blame myself so that I could avoid the situation in the future. A bad frame of mind, that’s for sure.

I’m sad to say that the outcome of this situation is that I avoided my colleague for several months (to the extent that I was able to, considering our work involves a small level of collaboration). In the end, I chose to let it go and choose happiness.

However, I was able to have a follow-up conversation with the offender very recently. My objective was to advise him that I would be attending the upcoming company Christmas party (an overnight stay at an exclusive hotel out of town) and to let him know that I expect to be treated respectfully. During this conversation, I asked him if he came clean to his wife and told her the truth. He stated that he indeed had taken responsibility for his part in the situation. To which I replied, “What do you mean by ‘your part’ in the situation?” He then stuttered, “I mean, I took responsibility for what happened, she knows the truth.” Which to me means that she knows nothing of the sort.

So, sensing that there certainly would be trouble at the upcoming festivities, I finally had the courage to tell my manager what happened. I took my manager for a walk around the block and told him. He then surprised me by telling me that he already knew. Apparently the offender had sat him down back in June when his wife initially reached out to me. My manager also shared with me that my version of events matched the version of events the offender reported to my manager. This gave me some peace. I’m still left feeling a little unsettled because my manager knew about it for months and never spoke to me about it, which feels wrong (even though I’m not sure why it feels wrong).

{ 183 comments… read them below }

  1. AMG*

    So have the festivities taken place yet? Did your manager or anyone go back to your coworker to tell him to behave and/or keep his wife in check? We are going to need another update after the feativities take place! Thanks for the update, OP. I’m glad you are feeling better about this whole mess.

    1. The Letter Writer*

      The festivities are this weekend. However, I won’t be attending after all. Ooof. There is so much I would like to say about a workplace that does not take the care to ensure the human rights of everyone under it’s roof. I don’t know if my manager provided the offender with any sort of behavioural correction. I will keep you posted!

  2. Helena*

    I think it might help to look on the bright side of your manager not mentioning it – it means your manager is able to be discreet about these kinds of things. Considering some of the letters that AAM has gotten, that can go a long way.

    1. Monodon monoceros*

      I was going to say the same thing. I think it’s actually to his credit that you didn’t know that he already knew.

      1. agree*

        The other thing I’d say is that it probably indicates both that (1) the manager doesn’t blame you at all for what occurred, and (2) your co-worker really was honest with him about what occurred. Surely if your manager blamed you and/or the co-worker had presented it as if you were in any way at fault, your manager would’ve raised it with you sooner. The fact that he didn’t probably means his attitude towards this has been “OP shouldn’t have had to deal with this in my first place, co-worker was entirely to blame, this is something to address with him rather than with OP.”

        1. Mister Pickle*

          In the absence of any single obvious best practice for handling this kind of situation, I can see some advantages in adopting the approach “keep my mouth shut and wait for OP to approach me”.

          I can see that OP might think it odd that her manager didn’t mention it to her, but at this point in time, maybe it’s most important to have confidence that your manager is on your side and that he can keep a secret.

          1. Anonsie*

            Agreed. The manager may acknowledge that if the LW didn’t approach him about it, it may mean she doesn’t want to talk about it with him in the first place.

      2. nep*

        This is the sense I had as I was reading the letter — that it was impressive that the manager kept it to himself. Was surprised to see how LW felt about that.
        On another note, how unfortunate to have to work with someone whom you’ve got to go out of your way to ask for some respect during an upcoming outing. Yikes.

        1. Anon.*

          Too late to the party, but I agree. I think your manager handled it well because he didn’t want to bring it up to you because he though you may have felt uncomfortable talking about it with him. It seems like the inappropriate behavior has stopped, and that’s all you can really hope for. Even though you’ve been wronged, there’s not much for people to make things right.

          I’ve been in situations where men have behaved totally out line with me at the workplace, and even after reporting it nothing is done. In the past I’ve gotten that I must have interpreted things wrong; I must be super uptight and misunderstanding of an affectionate, friendly person, and so on.

          Even though you feel slighted because of what happened, and no one can blame you for that, you, as the recipient of unwanted attention and his crazy wife, seem like you have things under control and the support of the manager who probably can’t take any further action unless something else happens again. Your co-worker, at this point, would be stupid to make any moves on you. He knows the consequences, and he must know he needs to keep things under control.

          1. The Letter Writer*

            Not sure if it was a supportive move on my manager’s part or perhaps a more “head in the sand” approach. I’ll never know. However, I prefer to treat data as historical rather than anomalous and therefore might conclude (with three years of data) that my manager is indeed an ostrich.

            1. kozinskey*

              Yeah, I see why it would be unnerving to find out your manager had known about the incident for months without talking to you about it. I’m not quite as impressed as other commenters seem to be with your manager’s silence. If it had been me, I would have appreciated my manager coming to me to let me know that he knew about what had happened & to let him know if there were any further issues. Doesn’t have to be a long conversation, but a simple heads up would be nice.

    2. Joey*

      I’m trying to imagine if I would say anything. I’m guessing I would probably let her know that co worker spoke to me and ask if she would like me to intervene. Either way Id let her know that just because it happened away from work doesn’t mean we can’t do anything about it.

      1. Maggie*

        EXACTLY. I feel like I’m the only one (besides you) that thinks it’s incredibly dismissive to shrug off what happened. Was he just happy that he didn’t need to do anything about it because she wasn’t pressing it? Did their HR Dept tell him ‘don’t do anything unless she complains?’, I really feel like there is more to this, and it’s driving me crazy that I will never know.

        Douchbaggery all around (except for the OP).

          1. Monodon monoceros*

            To be clear, I think it probably would have been best for the manager to say something, but on the other hand, I don’t think the manager was entirely wrong, or had bad intentions, in not saying something. I certainly don’t see any outward douchbaggery in the manager, and as I said up thread, I think it’s actually pretty good that even though he knew, the OP couldn’t tell. That’s certainly a lot better, for example, than him not saying anything and also totally changing his behaviour towards the OP.

        1. The Letter Writer*

          Thank you Maggie. I wasn’t sure why I was feeling weird about my manager knowing all this time and not mentioning it. It does feel a tad unsupportive. And I do feel that he was happy that he didn’t need to do anything about it because I didn’t press the issue. Also worth a mention is that there is no HR department, no sexual harassment policy, and no procedure in place for managing complaints. This for a company which operates globally with approximately 150 employees. Perhaps there is a fine line between “leading edge” and “bleeding edge.”

          1. neverjaunty*

            This is a company that is asking Santa to bring them a huge sexual harassment lawsuit for Christmas (or someday), anyway.

      2. TOC*

        Agreed. Being the victim of this unwanted kiss must have been a pretty lonely and scary incident for OP, who was worried about losing her job. I would have wanted my boss to reach out–not to force me to make a big deal out of it, but just to let me know that they have my back if I need any assistance.

      3. Karowen*

        I couldn’t find the proper words, but this is what I was thinking. Thanks for articulating for me, Joey!

    3. Barefoot Librarian*


      This is a very good point indeed.

      I’m glad things have at least been discussed openly at this point, OP. I know shedding light on something uncomfortable can sometimes be very healing and at least, I assume, the offender will not feel comfortable acting inappropriately in the future.

  3. Not So NewReader*

    I can understand that it feels wrong that your manager did not say something back in June. But, I am thinking that the manager felt you were not the one having the problem, your coworker was the one having a problem. Maybe he felt that he handled it when your coworker told him. It could be that he saw you avoiding the coworker and knew there was no involvement on your part and he did not need to say anything to you.

    It sounds like you might have a good boss. I hope if you have any further concerns you go to him immediately and do not wait.

    1. Maggie*

      “I am thinking that the manager felt you were not the one having the problem, your coworker was the one having a problem” Then the manager is incorrect — she’s a victim, too. Her manager blows.

      1. sunny-dee*

        I think he means a disciplinary problem. I could be misreading, but I took Not So New to be saying that the guy was the one causing the problem, not the OP.

        Also, this is a really delicate subject. He could be taking the fact that the OP hadn’t mentioned it previously as a sign that she didn’t want him or anyone to know, and he was trying to respect her space.

      2. The Letter Writer*

        Exactly. I was having a problem. I was dealing with this completely unsupported and alone. It’s always nice to have people in your corner. Especially a manager who finds out a team mate gave someone an opportunity to atone and the reward for that was a twisted story and a call from his wife. Assault x 2.

        1. neverjaunty*

          Your manager probably hoped doing nothing meant the issue would go away forever. Sorry you had to deal with this ostrich.

  4. Harryv*

    I remember this vividly. I’m so sorry you have to go through this. Not sure how I would be able to handle if I were in your position.

  5. Jeff A*

    Alison, I wonder what your take on the manager’s decision is? Should s/he have said something to the OP about it after having the conversation with the offender?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Ugh, I think it’s tricky. On one hand, I totally agree with people who are saying the manager probably figured, “This is the coworker’s problem, and I shouldn’t add additional awkwardness for the OP by raising it with her.” On the other hand, though, I’d also be worried that the OP might be feeling uncomfortable in ways that I could help with (by assuring her that the offender had been sternly warned nothing like this was ever to occur again and that I had her back) or even harassed (in which case I’d have an obligation to check into it further or report it above me, depending on the company’s harassment policy). Some of it too would depend on my knowledge of the OP, but I’d err on the side of checking with her, I suppose.

      1. fposte*

        I think this is one of those moments for me where hearing about an individual’s response will influence how I would handle anything like this in future. I don’t think it’s unreasonable for the manager to feel that he didn’t need to talk to the OP, but it’s left her feeling isolated and uncertain about this, and that’s an outcome I’d prefer to avoid.

        1. The Letter Writer*

          Thank you fposte. I did feel isolated and uncertain. I also felt that I could not approach my manager about it because of a history of sweeping uncomfortable issues under the rug. Our regional office has 18 staff. Four women and 14 men. No policy on sexual harassment, and no procedure for complaints. Oh, and no HR.

      2. Mister Pickle*

        One thing I’d like to know: did the manager know that the coworker’s wife had contacted OP? It is not obvious. OP’s original letter was published 15 July 2014 and contains the phrase “Fast forward to the present day. I received an email from his wife …” The update letter is published today (11 Dec 2014) and contains the phrase “Apparently the offender had sat him down back in June when his wife initially reached out to me”. I know that there is a variable delay between submission and publication of a letter to AAM.

        If the manager had no knowledge of the wife’s email, I’m inclined to support his apparent decision to keep quiet.

        If the manager knew about the wife’s email – I’m finding his actions a bit odd.

        Although even then, I’m disinclined to judge him because he had to make a decision at the time based on his superior knowledge of the circumstances and the people involved.

        1. Layla*

          I would rather not know my manager knew that a co-worker kissed me & if he knew and I never know he knew- that’d probably be for the best

          The wife’s email is escalating matters- but i may still wish it’d just go away without anyone else knowing if it stops there

      3. The Letter Writer*

        Thank you Alison, I can accept both perspectives. And because I was feeling isolated it would have done wonders to have my manager throw some compassion my way. Not an easy position for anyone though.

  6. OhNo*

    I can see how the manager knowing for so long and not saying anything can feel a little off. It could be possible that he saw it as “not a big deal”, and so decided it wasn’t worth it to bring up with you, which would make me a bit uncomfortable (if for no other reason than it clearly was a big deal for you, if you had to deal with nonsense like the coworker’s wife getting involved). It’s also possible that your manager thought it was just an interpersonal issue, and not something he should get involved in, or that he thought it was something that you should have to deal with yourself – both of which would, again, make me a bit uncomfortable if it were me.

    So, OP, why not ask why your boss didn’t say anything for so long? Especially if it feels weird to you, it would probably be better to get the reason straight from the horse’s mouth. Then you can decide for sure if your boss was just trying to be discreet and kind, or if there’s some underlying unpleasantness that you might need to keep an eye out for in the future.

    1. Zillah*

      I’m not sure I agree that it was “clearly” anything – not to the manager. The OP never said anything to him about the incident, nor does it sound like she began to treat the coworker radically differently after it – and since the coworker admitted that it was entirely his fault, there wasn’t any he-said-she-said to get to the bottom to. I can understand why her manager might conclude that he shouldn’t bring it up to her.

  7. jordanjay29*

    I wish the OP well for the upcoming festivities. Nothing would be worse than to have to be forced to relive these events when faced with the offending coworker and his wife. I hope, for your sake OP, there are enough friendly (but not too friendly) coworkers at the party so you can enjoy yourself.

  8. Corporate Attorney*

    I understand why the manager’s decision seems odd, but I can see some reasons why the manager might have opted not to say anything. My guess is that the manager was horrified for you, but felt like this was very obviously your co-worker’s fault and problem – not yours. The manager then likely felt that it wasn’t fair/right to impose further distress/embarrassment/etc. on you by bringing it up. That would be my guess. Arguably, it would have been better for the manager to have addressed it with you to make sure that you felt comfortable/safe in your working environment with this co-worker, but I can see how the manager really could have viewed this as the approach that would be kinder and more fair to you.

    1. Ezri*

      This is what I wanted to say – the manager heard what happened, which put OP’s coworker squarely in the wrong. He had a conversation with the offender, so there was no reason to make OP uncomfortable over a situation she handled correctly and professionally.

      1. Hlyssande*

        Yeah, but by not acknowledging to the OP that he already knew about the incident, the OP was thus isolated like so many victims of harassment and assault. That feeling of being alone in it, of not having support, can be utterly devastating to someone who is trying to deal with and recover from a bad experience.

        Just an acknowledgement – Hey, so and so told me about this thing that happened, are you okay/do you need anything from me? – would have been a good thing to do.

        1. Sunshine*

          The more I think about it, the more I agree with this approach. At first I sided with the manager, thinking he didn’t approach OP because he didn’t want to make her more uncomfortable, but you’re right. It also left her unsupported. Awkward all around.

        2. Ezri*

          Oh, I agree, especially after reading how the OP felt about it and other comments here – this manager didn’t use the best approach, and I think he should have reached out just to let the OP know he was aware of the situation and it wasn’t going to impact her negatively. I think Corporate Attourney and I were trying to say that the manager’s behavior might have been caused by awkwardness rather than deliberate malice.

    2. Joey*

      There’s no arguably about it. Non confrontational at its best. Outta sight outta mind. Whatever you want to call it. I wouldn’t buy the I didn’t want to add additional awkwardness excuse from the manager. That’s hoping the victim doesnt complain to you so it’s not your problem.

      1. Corporate Attorney*

        I disagree. You’re assuming the only the reason the manager wouldn’t mention it is out of ill-intent. I don’t think the manager made the right decision, but I can easily see that being the result of well-intentioned, but poor, judgement.

          1. Chriama*

            Agreed. Manager was hoping the issue was ‘resolved’. I can sympathize with that, I guess (we’ve all made bad decisions and I see no evidence that manager wouldn’t have supported OP if he was sure something needed to be done), but I definitely don’t condone it.

          2. sunny-dee*

            We also don’t know what the manager said to the other employee. It’s possible that when the guy confessed he was severely disciplined and told to stay away from the OP and the manager has been watching him like a hawk since. It may not be that he left it for things to work out — he may have ensured that they worked out and was trying to spare the OP any further embarrassment.

            I don’t know that that is the case, either. The point is, we don’t know.

            1. Natalie*

              Even in this scenario, the manager doesn’t know why OP didn’t report it. Was it because she didn’t feel it was warranted, or because she felt intimidated or didn’t know that outside-of-work stuff counts or some other issue. The only way to find out is to check in with the OP.

  9. Artemesia*

    While this seems to have worked out i.e. the co-worker didn’t lie to the boss. The fact that he went to the boss reinforces the idea that when something like this happens, it is important to get in with your story first before the well is poisoned. It doesn’t have to be an actionable complaint, just a heads up and how you handled it so the boss isn’t caught off guard or doesn’t hear a lie first.

    1. Joey*

      That’s not universal. Most good managers don’t start deciding what to believe until they consider credibility and other first hand accounts.

      1. Artemesia*

        You have worked in more sensible places with more level headed managers than many of us have then.

  10. Omne*

    As a manager I wouldn’t have mentioned it to you either. The reason is that I would have figured that for whatever reason you had chose not to tell me, whether for personal reasons or you had reported it higher up. I would have respected your privacy in order to not make you uncomfortable since you had nothing to do with creating the situation. I would however have informed my boss of the situation so they had a heads up in case something happened later.

      1. Omne*

        Not in this case. We have a comprehensive process in place for reporting this ( large government agency) – there are several avenues including anonymous ones. Since the OP wasn’t responsible and had done nothing wrong based on what I was told I would let them decide what they wanted to do.

        I suppose part of my response is due to the fact that all of my direct reports already know they can come to me with anything, and very frequently do, regarding work or personal issues. It’s a very tight knit group and everyone looks out for everyone else.

        If I didn’t trust my manager already simply having them tell me they were trustworthy wouldn’t necessarily make me believe it.

    1. TOC*

      But what if OP didn’t bring it up because she felt intimidated, harassed, or in fear for her job? Just because she didn’t say anything doesn’t mean she was totally fine with the situation.

      1. Hlyssande*

        This + 1000

        Honestly, I don’t think I’d ever trust that manager again if I found out long after the fact that he’d known what happened all along and didn’t say anything to me about it. The manager should have had the OP’s back in this and offered whatever support she needed. But he didn’t. That support is critical in helping someone recover from an assault (and yes, it’s legally assault to forcibly grab and kiss someone).

        This is exactly the kind of culture that makes people hesitant to speak up in the first place.

    2. Artemesia*

      but what if the story you got was that the OP had come on to this guy and his wife was upset about it? I’d be worried gossip was out there that put me in the wrong in this situation.

      1. sunny-dee*

        If that were the story that the manager got, though, the OP would have been in the wrong and, in that case, almost certainly would have contacted her.

  11. Preston*

    I hate to ask this but, how much had the OP and the offending guy had? The original story involved this happening at a bar/pub.

    I think the way the manager handled it was good. I don’t see what is gained by continuing to discuss the incident.

    I am not surprised by the OP not trusting the guy. That is justifiable. I would probably just avoid the guy at the partly. Hopefully his wife won’t make a scene. The sad thing is the wife probably thinks the OP is some way complacent or the initiator.

    1. HRC in NJ*

      It doesn’t matter if the OP was rip-roaring drunk – her co-worker had no business kissing her.

    2. Brigitte*

      When you feel compelled to start a question with “I hate to ask this, but….” it’s a good indication that you shouldn’t be asking the question.

      Why does it matter how much the OP and her co-worker had to drink? I’ve been similarly cornered by a colleague, and the fact that he was intoxicated didn’t make me feel any better about it.

      Also, the coworker was surely sober when he told his wife and blamed the incident on the OP. Even if he was intoxicated at that point, he crossed the line not once but twice.

      1. Preston*

        I hated to ask because the OP mentioned pub/bar and yet didn’t say anything about how much she had or he had to drink. Drunk people do really stupid things.

          1. Preston*

            Never said she did. I just was curious. An incident of kissing at a bar/pub that was inappropriate or unwanted. My first thought is going to be… how much has someone been drinking. I don’t think that is unreasonable. Drunk people do stupid things.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              But the OP didn’t do anything, which is why people are confused about why you’re talking about her alcohol consumption. Do you really just mean you were wondering about the coworker’s alcoholic intake, not the OP’s?

              1. Mister Pickle*

                This. I’d be curious how much the coworker had to drink because I believe that sometimes people use drinking as an excuse for acting up. If the coworker was totally bombed out of his mind, I might give him a bit of sympathy. But my sense is that the coworker falls into the “excuse” camp here.

                The OP’s alcohol consumption possibly affected her reaction time in pushing the coworker away? 750ms versus 250ms if she was cold sober? Not seeing the relevance.

              2. Preston*

                Both. Also, where was this group of people mentioned in the original posting, were there any witnesses?

                1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  But why would her drinking be relevant? Are you saying that if she had a few drinks, she forfeited the right to be upset by an unwanted grope from a coworker? Or that her memory isn’t reliable? Or that she may have drunkenly invited the groping and either not remember it or not want to acknowledge it? Because those are the only three things I can imagine would drive you to ask the question, and they’re all really, really misguided things to say in response to these two letters (and pretty damn offensive).

                2. Windchime*

                  Uh, usually people who grab unwilling people to kiss them don’t do it in front of witnesses.

                  This whole line of questioning is offensive.

                3. jamlady*

                  Preston, your line of questioning is horrendous and I hope to high heaven I never have to work with someone like you. Being put in a situation like the OP is bad enough without her place as a victim in the situation being questioned.

                  No one has the right to touch me without my permission, intoxicated or not, and even when drunk I am very aware of what should and should not be happening. Even smashed, I would never give a married coworker the right to touch me in any manner. She’s a much more level-headed woman than I – he would have ended up on the floor if it were me and I likely would have faced consequences for my actions, though he would not have faced any for his. Even in a situation where she’s done nothing wrong, there were no consequences for this man, and we have people like you questioning whether or not we should put some blame on her because she consumed some alcohol. Shameful.

                  To the OP – I’m very glad this situation seems to be behind you. I do wonder about your manager’s choice to ignore the situation for so long. I would also feel uncomfortable with what he did. I wonder if you’re considering moving to another company, perhaps one with more appropriate harassment policies in place (not to mention an HR department)?

        1. Mike C.*

          How much do you think she should drink before you start splitting the blame between herself and the married guy?

          1. Preston*

            Here is the deal. When I read the original letter, the things stuck out:
            1. How much drinking the two
            people had.
            2. Where were these other coworkers mentioned.
            3. Has the letter writer and the male employee ever had any kind of relationship
            4. Why did the wife confront this woman.

            Number 4 really isn’t too important other then the OP probably should avoid her. Number 3 is marginaly important if one doesn’t know the individuals and might be relevant if the OP wants to pursue this as assault. Number 2 is important because witneses would be nice, and considering that is not mentioned I am guessing they were gone. So you have the OP and some dude at a bar, probably drinking and he gets the alcohol induced idea of sticking his tongue in her mouth. Was it bad, yes, never wrote it wasn’t. Is it worth firing someone or pursuing this with law enforcement… well I am not going to judge.

            I will say this, being drunk doesn’t excuse behavior like this but I am willing to give a little slack. That doesn’t mean this guy deserves man of the year, but it gives me a little compassion towards him making a mistake. It is a mistake that he can’t make again though.

            I think that a lot people jump on these kind of stories because one wants to believe the victim.
            But for action to be done, some questions have to be asked. Asking for clarity should not be offensive assuming the story is true. I did find some of the comments about sexism and whatnot on here overly emotional in tone, but not surprising.

            Hope that helps…

            1. Scarlet*

              “Pursuing this with law enforcement…..!”

              What do you think this is, 1690s Boston? In your opinion, should we be getting ready to sew a red letter on someone’s chest, is that why you’re considering contacting the sheriff?

              A bridge somewhere is missing its troll.

            2. Ask a Manager* Post author

              The OP has given zero indication she’s ever considered pursuing it with law enforcement. I’m not sure what you’re talking about with that.

              Furthermore, as I and others have repeatedly been saying, whether she had been drinking is totally irrelevant here, and it’s offensive to keep bringing it up, especially if you’re not willing to explain why you think it’s relevant (as I and others keep asking you).

              You’re also raising all kinds of other issues that have nothing to do with the letter, and everything to do with victim blaming. Please stop.

              1. AnonAcademic*

                I am suspecting more and more that “Preston” has drunkenly tried to snog a coworker in the past and had it not go well, since he keeps on white knighting for the OP’s coworker.

                Also, anyone else notice this gem?

                “I did find some of the comments about sexism and whatnot on here overly emotional in tone”

                Man, don’t you hate it when something sexist happens and people have FEELINGS about it?

                1. A Non*

                  I know. We should all be totally calm and treat it as not a big deal when society stacks the deck in a way that is really dangerous to us. And clearly if someone’s emotional that absolves you of all responsibility to listen to them.

            3. The Letter Writer*

              Here Preston. Read this:

              “Somewhere out there is the perfect female victim: the woman who would be taken at her word about sexual violence. I’ve never met her, but she must exist. Because whenever any of us are victimized, and others enjoy the luxury of deciding whether or not to believe us, we’re reminded that we’re not her.
              That woman’s never had a drink, flirted with the wrong guy, or shown any skin between neck and knees. She’s not stupid enough to walk home alone, but also not stupid enough to invite a man to drive her home; she’s successful enough that she doesn’t need to sue for money, but also not so ambitious that she’d sleep her way up; she’s pretty enough that we can imagine men wanting to sexually assault her but not so pretty we think she’s asking for it.” – Shannon Gormley

              For the full article:

    3. Lily in NYC*

      Oh man. Sitting on my hands so I don’t write something I will regret later. The answer to your awful question is: it does not matter.

      1. Artemesia*

        The real issue here to me is not the kiss — although inappropriate — but the fact that he lied to his wife and it then spilled back on to the OP and into the workplace. A drunk co-worker who behaved inappropriately wouldn’t bug me that much — it’s happened and I fended it off. I would be enraged to hear later from his wife about how I came onto him. That is soo much worse than a sloppy kiss shoved away.

      2. Jessa*

        Thank you Lily, I have been shaking since I read the “how much to drink,” I agree with you. I’m not the only one hand sitting here.

        The answer to the question is “It should never ever have been asked. Period. Full Stop.”

    4. Snarkus Ariellius*

      The OP’s actions are completely irrelevant.  The alcohol intakes of both of them are irrelevant.

      He is the offender here; she did absolutely nothing wrong.

      Please don’t try to cast out a red herring.

        1. Snarkus Ariellius*

          Yes it is a red herring.  It’s a red herring because you’re strongly implying in your original post that alcohol is some how responsible for any of this.  Not only that, you felt the OP’s alcohol intake was relevant.  why would that ever be relevant for you to know?

          Both of those beliefs are extremely misleading.

        2. just passing through*

          Let’s take your question to its absurd conclusion. Fill in the blanks for us, please:

          1) OP did not have anything alcoholic to drink, so therefore _____.
          2) OP had a couple of alcoholic drinks that evening, so therefore ____.

          What’s your point?

          1. Preston*

            just passing through,
            The more he has to drink the more forgiving I might be…. might be. How much she had to drink, well I might question her judgement. I have been to a lot of office events/work events and such with booze. I don’t drink so sometimes being on the few sober people means you get some entertainment. Like I said drunk people do stupid things, and today not much surprises me. I have seen some crazy stuff happen that probably causes for some awkwardness for those involved.

            1. just passing through*

              >> How much she had to drink, well I might question her judgement. <<

              Her judgement to not be standing next to someone who might grope her? I'm still missing your point.

                1. Kelly L.*

                  Read the original post that this is an update to.

                  One minute he was standing next to me, and the next minute he had his hands on me and his mouth on mine. I immediately said NO and pushed him away while he protested with an entitled “Come on!”

            2. Kelly L.*

              You’re questioning her judgment? Wow.

              Whether he was drunk or sober, he was inappropriate.

              Whether she was drunk or sober, she did nothing wrong.

              Booze is indeed a red herring here.

            3. just passing through*

              >>The more he has to drink the more forgiving I might be<<

              Forgiving of a sexual advance upon someone? What?

              1. Preston*

                just passing through,
                Yes “forgiving” as in I might… emphasis might cut some small amount of slack.

                I would also appreciate if you would quit hacking up
                my posts to take things out of context.

                1. just passing through*

                  >>I would also appreciate if you would quit hacking up my posts to take things out of context.<<

                  Your context is right up there for all to see, Preston. I like to quote the specific part that I am addressing.

                2. Scarlet*

                  Preston: I think I may have seen you on the “Dear Prudence” Slate message boards. If you’re the same person, people take issue with your gendered stereotypes. If that’s you, I suggest you cut out the behavior here, as it’s not going to fly. If that’s not you, then I apologize for the mix up.

                  Wherever you come from, suggesting that someone is to blame for getting groped or sexually assaulted, whatever she’s had to drink or not to drink, just isn’t cool.

            4. Snarkus Ariellius*

              You keep saying that drunk people do stupid things, but are you aware that mentally competent adults are still responsible for their actions, regardless of alcohol level?  Ever heard of a DUI?

              Do you understand that given what I posted in the above paragraph (adults still being responsible for their actions no matter what) that that’s why alcohol intake is irrelevant?

              There’s no reason to ask it except to cast doubt on the roles of each individual in this situation — a situation where there’s only one offender.

              That’s what people are reacting to.

              1. Preston*

                Never said he wasn’t accountable.

                I think people are reacting to the idea I questioned a part of the story that seemed conveniently vague.

                1. Snarkus Ariellius*

                  So if you never said he wasn’t accountable, does that mean he was accountable?  And if he is indeed accountable (drunk or not drunk), then you have to agree that alcohol is irrelevant right?  So why are you asking then?

                  Conveniently vague, huh?

                  You really do have an agenda here.

                2. fposte*

                  It’s not “conveniently vague,” it’s “utterly irrelevant.”

                  He doesn’t get to assault her whether she’s drunk or not. You’re out of step with the law here.

                3. Observer*

                  Why is that question even relevant?

                  I find it very interesting that you keep on refusing to explain why you think that her alcohol intake is relevant, and in what way she could or should have prevented someone from attacking her. Let’s call it what it is, since the more polite “groping” seems to offend you.

              2. L McD*

                Yes, this. Like, I have a list of behaviors I’m more likely to forgive if somebody’s drunk. Stumbling, spilling, maybe even saying something inadvertently inappropriate or hurtful depending on the context. Sure. But you don’t grope a non-consenting coworker just because you’ve been drinking. Sorry. Nope.

                I know there’s always someone who wants to play World’s Greatest Detective whenever a woman talks about being assaulted, but no one is being asked to evaluate the veracity of her story, and it’s completely irrelevant to the question at hand. No one is being asked to figure out how the coworker should be punished or how severely. Nothing about her story is even slightly in the realm of unbelievable, so raising the question merely because she was assaulted is super, super gross.

            5. TOC*

              An unwanted kiss is an assault. No one deserves or “asks” to be assaulted no matter their condition. OP is zero percent at fault here, no matter how much she drank or didn’t drink. The coworker is 100 percent at fault here, no matter how much he drank or didn’t drink. What’s so hard to grasp about that?

              1. Mister Pickle*

                An unwanted kiss is an assault.

                Ummm. In this context: no, it is not an assault. The jails are not packed with men and women awaiting trial because they made an unsuccessful pass at someone in a bar. I’m sure there is some legal definition by which one could say “this was assault!” but please let’s be real: calling this “assault” is a mere rhetorical device that serves only to trivializes the use of the word “assault”. It may have been inappropriate, it may have been unwanted, it may have been uncomfortable. But nobody is getting arrested over this, and nobody is going to jail.

                1. fposte*

                  I disagree, because “assault” is still an absolutely correct legal term here. I agree it’s not an assault that’s going to send the cops out lickety split or get a DA licking his chops any more than a theft of $20 from your desk at work is going to bring the SWAT team, but that doesn’t make it not the crime that it is.

                2. Calla*

                  Jails aren’t packed with men who actually raped women either, so if that’s our measurement of validity here, the definition of “assault” is pretty darn narrow. Forced, unwanted sexual contact is assault if the victim views it that way.

                3. Calla*

                  @Mister Pickle: “Want to take this somewhere else?” is making a pass at someone (or whatever pick up lines people use). Cornering her and forcibly grabbing and kissing someone is way beyond that.

                4. fposte*

                  @MisterPickle–of course it can be a crime. Thinking you’re making a pass at somebody doesn’t make an assault non-criminal. I think you’re falling into the trap of thinking that what makes an act an assault is the hostility of the actor, and that’s not the case. There’s no “it’s okay to grope and kiss somebody without their consent if you like them” exception to the law that makes it non-assault.

                5. L McD*

                  I’m curious what part of this “context” makes it different. Would an unwanted kiss be assault in some other context? What mitigates this? The fact that they knew each other? That’s hardly implied consent.

                6. Observer*

                  What fpost said.

                  Keep in mind that he didn’t just make a pass at her. he grabbed her and tried to kiss her without her consent. And when she clearly objected, he protested.

                7. One of the Annes*

                  Agreeing with Mr. Pickle here. The coworker is a jerk, but he did not assault the OP. He made a gross and unwelcome pass. Calling this assault cheapens the term.

                8. MiaRose*

                  An unwanted kiss and/or grope is considered a Second Degree Sexual Assault:
                  “Second Degree Sexual Assault – a person is guilty of a sexual offense in the second degree if the person engages in a sexual act:
                  1) By force and against the will of the other person, OR;
                  2) Who is mentally defective, mentally incapacitated, or physically helpless, and the person performing the act knows or should reasonably know the other person is mentally, or physically helpless.

                  I’m pretty disgusted with the people who are essentially downplaying the events in favor of the offending coworker.

            6. Snarkus Ariellius*

              I’m not going to cut you slack when you make such obvious misogynistic statements like this one.

              “The more he has to drink the more forgiving I might be…. might be. How much she had to drink, well I might question her judgement.”

              In context.  Out of context.  That’s a highly sexist thing to even think let alone say.

              1. Preston*

                So basically a story like the OP’s deserves not one bit of scrutiny at all? One can not ask a single question? Really?Do you write for Rolling Stone perhaps? I would suggest you read my last paragraph of my first post in this update.
                I would also add the OP said this was originally a group of people who went out. Were there any witnesses to this incident?

                1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  Whoa. We believe OPs here unless there’s specific reason to have real doubt about their story (which there isn’t here) and we don’t accuse them of making up fake assault allegations.

                  I’m going to ask you to stop posting this kind of thing. I can’t tell if you don’t understand why it’s outrageous and offensive or not, but regardless, please end it here.

                2. WTFMan*

                  So, as long as OP’s sober and has witnesses, she’s a “legitimate” victim, in your book, but if there are no witnesses and/or she had a few drinks, now she’s what? Deserving of sexual assault? A liar about that sexual assault?

                  I think you need to Google the phrase “rape culture” and give some serious thought to your part in it.

                3. Snarkus Ariellius*

                  Your gendered assumptions and agenda are what deserve scrutiny here. I notice you didn’t address your double standard in your response to me.

                  And AAM is right. We believe OPs around here. If you’ve ever read this site before, the OPs get PLENTY of scrutiny but in a very different way. There are many examples (the woman whose husband resigned for her and the tampered drinking water) of people criticizing and telling the OPs their view might be skewed. But that’s based on the facts at hand and not someone’s gender.

                  Also we don’t demand a group of witnesses from OPs either. This isn’t Law & Order.

                4. Formerly Bee*

                  This is an advice website, not a magazine or newspaper. If people lie in their letters, which are also completely anonymous, they won’t get advice that’s relevant to them. So yes, I believe the letter writer. Why not?

            7. BethRA*

              So, in your words, being drunk gets him off the hook (at least potentially), but puts the OP on it?

              Do you really not get why that’s a horrible double-standard?

              (even putting aside the fact that he kissed and groped her, and later lied to his wife about it in such a way that OP was getting harassed and threatened by her…)

            8. Bend & Snap*

              Okay great. So he drinks too much, gropes her and gets a pass. She drinks too much, gets groped and her judgment is questioned.

              I am absolutely appalled at this disgusting display of victim-shaming misogyny.

            9. Tinker*

              Coworker drinks -> more forgiving. (decreases his culpability)
              OP drinks -> question her judgement. (increases her culpability)

              Alcohol truly is magical.

              1. Gov't Elf*

                Brilliant. This pretty much sums up our (hopefully evolving) gender stereotypes.

                OP, I wish you nerves of steel the next time you are alone with this co-worker so that you may draw a deep line in the sand.

            10. Windchime*

              So the drunker he is, the OK-er it is that he does something like this? Is that the point? Because that would be a big, full glass of “nope”.

            1. fposte*

              I see your response as roughly saying yes, though–that you would indeed let the co-worker off if he were drunk. And I think that would be a managerial mistake, because it would be telling your employees that as long as there’s alcohol involved, you forgive their assaults on fellow employees.

              Alcohol makes it likelier that people do stupid things. It doesn’t make those stupid things any more acceptable.

    5. beyonce pad thai*

      Just read this entire thread and your responses – wow. It makes me sad that there’s so many people who think like you, whose immediate response when someone (a woman, let’s be real) gets something done to her against her will is to go “Well, what can I possibly think up as reasons why she deserved it (even though there’s no reason to, whatsoever) and then vehemently defend my baseless assumptions?”

    6. nonnings*

      so, this whole thread had nothing to do with the OP and everything to do with the Rolling Stone article and the fact that you wear a fedora, right?

      1. Dr. Johnny Fever*

        Not a fedora. I’m banking on a trilby. The difference may be slight, but trilby seems to be *the* choice for MRAs everywhere.

        1. The Strand*

          Plus, when you consider the novel Trilby, and the fantasy about a Svengali controlling a lady, trilby hats seem more appropriate.

  12. Camellia*

    The manager knew about this? And the co-worker’s story matched the OP’s story? Meaning she was assaulted to the point she had to push him away and with a “NO”? And then she had to endure the wife’s email?

    Why was that person not fired immediately?

    1. sunny-dee*

      Pushing away and saying “no” does not indicate a severe assault. And there is a question (someone pointed this out upthread) over whether the manager knew about the wife’s email. (Maybe the OP can clarify?)

      More generally — this was not a sexual assault. It was wildly unprofessional and inappropriate and shows a lack of character and integrity in the coworker — any of which (as his manager) would make me question his continued employment. But it was not an assault. I had a good friend in college who was sexually assaulted. DO NOT minimize what happened to her.

      1. Jean*

        Why can’t we agree that the term “sexual assault” covers a spectrum of encounters that vary in length of time (from seconds to minutes to hours), amount of unsought, unwanted body contact (a brief kiss versus a ten-minute groping versus vaginal penetration), and degree of humiliation or degradation (in this case, the OP was able to push back immediately, both physically and verbally)?

        It’s a horrible experience to endure an unwanted sexual encounter (e.g. vaginal rape) but it’s also horrible to have a coworker–whom the OP previously viewed as “a trusted friend”–suddenly swing into grab-and-kiss mode. I don’t get any sense that the folks here who describe the unsolicited, unwanted kiss as a “sexual assault” are trying to minimize the dreadfulness of experiencing _more_ unsolicited, unwanted physical contact and activity.

        1. Zillah*

          Yeah, exactly. I can see why people feel this way, but this road leads nowhere good.

          I had two men (each old enough to be my grandfather, btw) make sexual comments to me as I was getting off my bus a couple weeks ago. They were fairly mild – nothing super explicit, and they didn’t follow me – but it upset me, because it made me feel objectified and dehumanized.

          It could have been worse. I’ve experienced worse. But that doesn’t change the fact that what I experienced was street harassment and unsettling. Calling it that is not minimizing street harassment. If it is, then what does count? Who gets to determine that?

      2. Patrick*

        I’m gonna go ahead and say that it’s up to the OP whether it’s sexual assault. This has nothing to do with you or your friend.

      3. Jean*

        Alison, my previous comment went into moderation. I was motivated to work out the nuances of the term “s*xual assault” not to start an argument, but if I have caused offense I apologize! That was not my intention. (Maybe my anatomically-correct terminology tripped the alarm?) In future I’ll be even more careful to reread and consider all possible interpretations before hitting “submit.”

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          The spam filter acts on its own; it’s no reflection of my feelings about a comment! It’s just set to trigger when it spots certain words (and sometimes when it doesn’t).

      4. MJH*

        Actually in legal terms (at least in my state) this is assault. Putting your hands (or mouth) on someone without their consent is indeed a crime that can be prosecuted. Whether you want to go through the hassle of proving it, court, police, etc., is another question.

      5. The Strand*

        Call it assault, or harassment, the important thing is that it was unwanted. I think what’s important is that the person who was hurt gets to decide how to define it (outside a court of law, anyway – and OP never talked about pressing charges or the like).

        I really don’t like people measuring degrees of whether something was sexual assault. I was attacked by someone as a teenager, and a friend I confided in minimized it because my attacker hadn’t succeeded in penetrating me. Her attacker had succeeded. But, it was still a terrifying experience for me that I’ve never forgotten, it was still sexual assault, I lost friends over it (I was attacked by a friend’s older brother), and it impacted my behavior and sexuality for years to come. Her comment did nothing to help me recover, but instead ensured I would be more circumspect about sharing my experience with other women and men for several years. I know you feel defensive of your friend, which is awesome, but I’d like to share the other side of what “minimizing” can be.

      6. A Non*

        Sexual assault is a term that covers a lot of territory, both legally and colloquially – anything from an unwanted touch to rape. Someone saying they’re sick when they have a cold doesn’t minimize the experience of someone who has cancer. Someone with cancer saying “you’re not sick, it’s only a cold” is minimizing the experience of the person with a cold, and kind of being a jerk. (Telling someone with cancer that “I know how you feel, I’ve had a cold” is also a jerkish thing to say, but I don’t see that happening in this conversation.)

        I’m sorry for what happened to your friend. I think we’re all relived that the OP got away without anything more severe than what happened.

  13. Snarkus Ariellius*

    It’s funny how different people are because when I read the part about your manager knowing and not saying anything, I immediately thought, “Oh how awesome.  That’s exactly how I’d want my boss to handle it.”

    When embarrassing stuff happens to me, even when it wasn’t my fault, I still don’t want to discuss or hash it out with un-involved people.  You and I are different, but I’m offering a POV that would be relieved.

    Can you empathize with your manager a little bit?  Alison had a really good response that addressed acting vs. not acting.  There’s no one right answer, and without really knowing you beyond work, it’s difficult to say.  What would you have done?  How would you have approached you?  How would you anticipate such a reaction?  What would you have done if it was the wrong choice?  How would things have looked afterward?

    Not so easy, is it.

    That said, I’m dying to know…did the wife ever contact you again?

    Final thought: your coworker is still a major jerk.

    1. Scarlet*

      Yes, good discretion on the part of the manager. The whole office doesn’t need to know. This doesn’t need to become a thing.

      1. esra*

        It would have been nice if the manager had at least privately connected with OP to find out what her wishes were.

  14. BSharp*

    Hey OP–just a note to say I’m sorry you went through this. Please, when you feel unsettled or that little voice tells you to feel guilty, tell it to shut the hell up. You did nothing wrong, you couldn’t have known he’d behave in this way, and you didn’t sin by trusting him to be a friend. I had something similar happen (except my situation…exploded) and it was really traumatic. This would be a reasonable thing to go to a counselor for, even just 2-3 visits, to talk through and forgive yourself so you can move on.

    If it helps, here’s what let me forgive myself:
    * If the equation is “BSharp + FormerBoss = Disastrous Thing”, and I vary every possible thing I could have done or could have recognized, we still end up with Disastrous Thing.
    * If the equation is “BSharp + HypotheticalDecentHuman = ______,” there’s nothing I could have done that would have caused (or deserved) what happened. When I imagine the scenario with any decent, respectful, honorable person I know, they would never have created the mess that FormerBoss handed me.
    So, the problem in the equation was him, not me.

    Anyway, I hope that helps, and I’m sending jedi-hugs your way.

  15. Hlyssande*

    OP, I’m so sorry you’re having to deal with this.

    In your shoes, I think I would feel betrayed too. You were assaulted (if you feel comfortable calling it that, but harmed either way) by a coworker, and your boss knew about it for months? He should have at least said something, maybe directed you to the company EAP if you needed to talk to someone about it. Not cool at all, and still not your fault in any way.

  16. misspiggy*

    For me, the reason why the manager should have said something earlier to OP is to check whether OP wanted to add or correct anything. What if the coworker had ostensibly owned up to guilt with the manager, but hinted that OP had been encouraging him? The manager could have been side-eying the OP for months.

  17. Anna*

    I read through all the comments and was having a hard time deciding if the manager was wrong in not bringing it up or if the manager did a good thing. I can totally see the side for the manager having made the right choice in not bringing it up, and I’m not sure there’s an absolute correct answer to how the manager should have handled it, BUT I came down on the side of thinking the manager should have said something. Here’s why. The OP was assaulted and a person can feel unsafe, especially if the assaulter works there. It would have been nice for the manager to verify the OP felt safe in the office with this person.

  18. Dan*

    Honestly, I don’t think the OP’s moved on. It sounds like the guy hasn’t bothered her for months, the wife hasn’t contacted her again, her manager has spoken to the guy. What’s there left to fret about?

    OP, please pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and move on with your head held high. Your lingering guilt and doubt are self imposed. You’ve done nothing wrong and it sounds like your manager’s got your back. That’s better than most of us can claim.


    1. Scarlet*

      Hey, Dan, do you know that the Letter Writer was prompted to reply since it’s year end, and follow up about this? In her own words, she said: “At the time though, I felt really confused, ashamed, guilty, sick.” Then she said: “In the end, I chose to let it go and choose happiness.”

      Which is great! She did nothing to deserve this behavior towards her.

      We see so much judgement towards woman in society when these incidents happen, when she did nothing to deserve it. The guy kissed her. He was acting out; he had issues with his marriage. There are many stereotypes in society as to how a woman must have led a man on, sent the wrong signals, etc, if he kissed her. It’s a type of judgmental Puritanical projection. Cherchez la femme.

      But at the current date, she’s not fretting. She said she’s chosen happiness. And well done her.

  19. The Letter Writer*

    Thanks everyone for all the great feedback! I tried to reply to as many of the comments as I could and I really appreciate the support. (I won’t share the way in which this manager has handled an actual complaint because the comments section would blow up and bring Alison’s server down.)

  20. Lester*

    OP I don’t want to invalidate your feelings, but I would view this as a one time thing. There’s no indication that your coworker is going to try to do something again after you made your feelings known. I don’t mean you should pretend nothing happened, but don’t avoid company events, or wonder why your boss didn’t come to you after he heard “I tried to kiss Jane. She pushed me away and I won’t do anything again.” The groping part is another story, but I’m not sure if it was within the realm of normal trying to kiss you or something more.

Comments are closed.