our security guard slept with an employee, then asked her to pay him for it

A reader writes:

I’m desperate for some guidance and hope you can help me. I’m fearful that I’m about to lose the friendship of one of my colleagues after I had to report to HR what he told me about someone else where we work. HR made me disclose from whom I got my information, and I told them if asked, I would deny telling them. But I don’t know that I can live with this secret hanging over our relationship and always wondering if my friend knows it was me who told HR about it.

My friend, Marco, told me one night over dinner that one of the security guards where we work was also a male prostitute. I don’t have a problem with that. But he also told me that the guard had sex with one of our coworkers, a woman who thought it was a romance, and who was shocked when the guard demanded money from her afterwards. She refused to pay him, and later found that he had vandalized her car. It is my understanding that the vandalization happened on the work premises, because I asked Marco if they had seen him do it on the security tapes, and Marco told me the woman didn’t report it. She was embarrassed and maybe even afraid, and just wanted it to go away. After the vandalization, she paid him.

It was about three weeks ago that Marco told me this story, and I haven’t really thought much more about it since. That is, until the Harvey Weinstein story exploded. It’s been a trigger for me, having left my career behind in the motion picture industry for just those same reasons, and getting angry all over again about male-pattern abuse. It made me think of the woman whose car had been vandalized by just the person who should make her feel secure — a security guard! To me, that is such a violation, and not the type of environment at work that she should be subject to have to endure.

So I made the decision to speak with the guard’s supervisor, as she is someone I feel could understand where I was coming from, since she herself had been married to someone in the film industry. She asked me if I would be willing to report this to HR so they could do a discreet investigation, and I agreed. However, once we were talking with HR, they made me disclose who told me the information, because I really didn’t know enough about the players in the story to even identify the woman. I begged them to obfuscate their inquiry so that Marco wouldn’t know the information came from me — it seemed to me from when he told me the story that there were others who knew also, which could diffuse the source.

However, I am now uncertain if I should confess to Marco what I’ve done, because I know after I left, they called him up to HR to talk. Of course, I would prefer if Marco never finds out it was me, but I have a feeling he will always suspect, and I don’t want that hanging over us. Please advice me what to do in terms of approaching or not approaching Marco.

I don’t think you’re absolutely obligated to tell Marco that you shared this with HR, but it sounds like you’ll feel better if you’re honest with him.

Yes, ideally you would have alerted him ahead of time as a courtesy … but that would have been just a courtesy, not an opportunity for him to talk you out of it (since you should have reported it regardless). And please don’t beat yourself up about not having done that, because handling this stuff can be really hard. It’s normal to be afraid of pushback, afraid of being told that you’re making too big a deal out of something, and afraid of being pressured to stay quiet. And those fears aren’t groundless — that stuff happens. A lot. The important thing here is that you got the most crucial part right: speaking up.

But it does sound like you’d feel more comfortable if you went back and talked to Marco now. You could say this to him: “I want to tell you that I was really concerned by what you told me about the security guard demanding money from a coworker who had slept with him and vandalizing her car. Honestly, the Harvey Weinstein stories and all the reports of people who knew about his behavior but didn’t say anything made me feel like I couldn’t just say nothing and so I talked to HR about it. I realize you didn’t share it with me with the intention that I’d report it, but I don’t think we can stay quiet when we have an employee doing that to someone here, especially a security guard who’s supposed to be making people feel secure. I hope you understand.”

Also, just to be clear, when you report this kind of thing to HR, they often will need to require you to disclose more details than you might prefer to disclose, because they can’t properly investigate otherwise. A good HR department will agree to protect their sources when it’s possible, but often they do need to share where information came from in order to follow up it. That can create some discomfort for people — but it sounds like it was very much the right choice for you to make here.

Read an update to this letter here.

{ 409 comments… read them below }

  1. Antilles*

    If Marco hears about this and is more angry about you “breaking a bro code” or whatever than about *the security guard committing crimes and using power to manipulate women*… Well, then Marco is a jackass and you shouldn’t lose an instant’s sleep over losing THAT ‘friendship’.

    1. Been there*

      To be fair MrGigalo doesn’t seem to be an upstanding and understanding kind of guy. So maybe Marco fears retribution of the vandalism/violence kind.

        1. Been there*

          Oh for sure. I’m just saying that Marco’s hesitance to be involved as a named participant in the investigation may be out fear vs. bro loyalty. There’s a very real possibility of retribution for him.

          1. Antilles*

            True, but even then, Marco’s reaction to OP shouldn’t be anger or ending the friendship.
            My point is this: If Marco finds out about OP’s involvement (via HR, directly telling him, or whatever), his reaction towards OP will say everything you need to know about whether Marco is really worthy of being called a ‘friend’.

            1. Been there*

              Eh, anger out of fear is a real thing and I wouldn’t count it against Marco. Anger out of bro loyalty I would.

              1. Bubbles*

                True. Haven’t met Marco but have seen first-hand retribution to a colleague who reported severe racial bullying in a place where I worked some years ago. The bullies were sacked on the testimony of practically all of the department but perceived her as the “instigator”.
                I think HR need to seriously consider the safety consequences of people who bring these allegations to light and implement measures, even if these (sorry) cost money.

            2. thisiswater*

              And if Marco is upset because he is unable to avoid the security guard and therefore has legitimate and realistic fear for his safety is he still just a bro? We have no clue any it was so important to Marco that this remain quiet

        2. Anonymoose*

          Abso-effing-lutely. This is irrefutable at this point (unless we learn somehow that this didn’t happen at all, of course). But a security guard 1) propositioning women while at his professional job (nuh-uh, youre out), and 2) attacking colleagues personal property (nope, double fired).

          I wouldn’t feel the least bit bad about informing HR, regardless of my friendship with Marco. In fact, I’d be disappointed that Marco himself didn’t feel the need to protect the victim and inform his own leadership or HR as soon as he heard about it. This is precisely why these things keep going – people assuming it’s not their place to report something.

          1. Artemesia*

            This was one for police; extortion and vandalism — this is not really just an HR matter, this is a police matter. Being fired should be the least of his worries. I realize that the victim has to agree to do this.

            1. Wintermute*

              That’s a very common misconception, but the prosecutor decides who is charged. The prosecutor often gives great weight to the preference of the victim (and as a practical matter it’s hard to prove some crimes without a cooperating victim/witness) but it’s still entirely at the discretion of the prosecutor to prosecute and the police to investigate.

              It is rare unless the police or prosecutor feels it’s a very obvious case of public interest (organized crime, etc) but there is no reason they can’t go forward without a cooperative victim.

          2. Anonymooser*

            “[the security guard was] propositioning women while at his professional job (nuh-uh, youre out)”

            I have read OP’s letter three times and do not see anything that says the security guard was doing the propositioning, only that he and the female co-worker had sex. We don’t know who made the first move, only that afterwards the guard demanded money.

            To be clear, what the guard did afterwards was very wrong regardless and he should be fired. But saying that he “propositioned” the co-worker is assuming something that has not been stated.

            1. Alli525*

              I think this is a grey area. I think it’s safe to assume that he always intended to ask her for money after sex… so he may not have been upfront about that intention when he was flirting with her or returning her advances or whatever, but if he at any point said “I’d like to have sex – shall we?” or obtained consent, I think it’s a reasonable reach to call it propositioning. It doesn’t have to be as explicit as the term usually implies. But that’s just my opinion and I’m not a lawyer OR a sex worker.

      1. JenB*

        Or maybe Marco was respecting the victim’s wishes not to report it. Victims of sexual harassment often face consequences when the harassment becomes public – sometimes greater consequences than the perpetrator. Also, when someone has already been subject to something embarrassing and/or traumatic, sometimes taking control away from them by reporting it yourself just subjects them to more embarrassment or trauma. Reporting something is NOT always the right thing to do, especially in a system where victims are often punished when they come forward.

        1. Anonymoose*

          How can he respect the victim if he still told her story to someone, but not the most important someones (the folks who can actually change the victim’s environment for the better)?

          1. Ted Mosby*

            It’s possible he wanted to warn other people that the security guard is a criminal and a creep. It’s something I’d want to know before asking this guy to walk me to me car or something.

        2. Katherine*

          The victim’s wishes don’t trump the safety of all the people at the company who are unwittingly working in the presence of a demonstrably dangerous person.

        3. Katherine*

          The victim’s wishes don’t trump the safety of all the people at the company, who are unwittingly working in the presence of a demonstrably dangerous person.

        4. Bubbles*

          Indeed. Heaven forbid women HAVE SEX with somebody they are attracted to and are lead to believe feels same way about them, to boot! In the 21st century and all… He “da man”, she “da skanky ho”. Can you just imagine if it were a female employee who did what this excuse of a man security guard did??

          1. Susanne*

            Um, no, civilized people don’t talk about others as “da man” and “da skanky ho.” What world do you inhabit?

            1. Julia*

              They don’t, but it is true that usually, men get applauded for sexual promiscuity and women get slut-shamed.

            2. Bea*

              You’ve honestly never heard someone slut-shamed before? The real world that we live in is full of scumbag pieces of shit who do things like demand a woman pay them for sex afterwards, then vandalizes her property when she tries to deny his demands. I envy you for living in a world where everyone is civilized and these pieces of trash are fired and thrown in jail.

              It’s like you’re asleep over there when a major name in Hollywood just got rolled out as a predator and we have an OP wondering if they should worry about losing a friendship over reporting this sick behavior.

        5. Wintermute*

          I really can’t agree with this. Reporting is always, 100% the right thing. You may face consequences for it, that’s true, and they can be awful, but that doesn’t change a thing.

          People fail to do the right thing for personal safety reasons all the time, there’s no shame in that either, but that still doesn’t change the situation.

    2. Antilles*

      (bugged out posted before I could add my second sentence here)

      So you shouldn’t feel worried about telling him. If it’s really seeming awkward, you can go ahead and say that (with Alison’s mention of just how icky the guard’s behavior was, just to make sure that’s crystal clear). And from there, his reaction should be at most, a mild annoyance over “man, I wish you’d given me a heads-up before I got a cold call into a room with HR and Legal; man was I freaked out”. Anything angrier than that at you? Well…

    3. irritable vowel*

      I didn’t get the impression that Marco told this story in the context of “get a load of how baller this guy is” at all. This may be in how the OP presented it, but it sounded like it was either told to her completely objectively or perhaps in sympathy with the woman. So, I don’t think that we can assume that Marco has any loyalty to the security guard that he’d be pissed about the OP “betraying.”

  2. JB*

    Marco should have reported this. Why didn’t he?

    Assuming he doesn’t get in trouble for not reporting it, there’s no reason he should be mad at you (even if he does get in trouble, that’s his own fault, but he might predictably get mad).

    If he was covering for this gigolo, then that’s a crappy thing he was doing, and you should reevaluate friendships with people who do crappy things and then get mad at you when they get in trouble for it.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      It sounds like he may have been going on the fact that the victim didn’t want to report it. So often that muddies the waters for people and makes them think they can’t speak up either. (They can! But it often complicates things for people.)

      1. AdAgencyChick*

        Yes, I think we shouldn’t be too quick to blame Marco, for this reason and for that posted by Been There above. Especially since security guards are often physically imposing people.

        I hope HR handles this well, with an eye to the safety and potential for retaliation for any employee involved in the investigation.

        1. olives*

          And this one in particular was not *just* physically imposing, but also actually known to retaliate with violent acts in the past!

      2. 42*

        Maybe the OP can tell Marco, and at the same time give a link to this this post with Alison’s reply and the rationale behind it. It may help make things clearer for Marco.

      3. Tex*

        If Marco didn’t want to report it out of concern for the victim, then he shouldn’t be gossiping about it. It’s not totally clear if the story was told as a warning or gossip. If it was a warning, then maybe he should have left it at “I’ve heard disturbing things about Fergus Security Guard. Be careful.”

          1. Snark*

            And, like….sure, the correct course of action here is pretty clear with the benefit of no dog in the fight, but let the one with perfect moral clarity among us throw the first stone, eh? I can understand being confused about what to do, needing to process and decide what the hell to do with this information, and needing to use someone as a sounding board.

            And hell, Marco could very well have been, on some level conscious or otherwise, been using OP as his externalized conscience.

            1. Falling Diphthong*

              I’ve read that people who do really well on abstract written exams about complicated moral reasoning fall right down to average when they leave the testing room (or so they think) and are offered the chance to actually act on any of that stuff in their real life. It rings true.

              1. seejay*

                Moral decisions are really easy to make when you’re sitting in the comfort of your chair and just talking/thinking/typing about it.

                Much harder to put into practice when you’re faced with the actual situation and have to actual deal with the consequences and ramifications.

              2. Not So NewReader*

                There are so many variables. This is part of the problem with sentencing, we see people with the same charge and their sentences vary a lot.
                When taking an exam the scenario is set in concrete. Life is not like that, there are always additional information and additional things to consider, one more layer of complexity.

                1. Falling Diphthong*

                  Major predictor of whether or not parole is granted: whether the judge just ate. You don’t want your parole hearing to fall just before lunch or dinner.

                2. David A*

                  To Falling D: The study that hungry judges are more harsh was debunked: http://m.pnas.org/content/108/42/E833.long

                  Basically, the original study authors assumed judges order cases randomly. In this Israeli Court they were studying, actually they put inmates with lawyers before ones without, and ones with lawyers are more likely to get parole. That and a few related factors accounted for almost all or all of the variation, not judge hunger.

            2. Annie Moose*

              I totally agree. I mean, if I suddenly were made privy to this kind of information, I don’t know that I’d know the “right” thing to do either! It’d take me time to process it and go, well… should I tell someone? Should I talk to my manager? HR? The police? Should I tell the victim to step forward? Should I follow her lead and keep quiet? Should I ask other people what they think? Should I, I dunno, confront the security guard about it??

              It’s straightforward for we outside observers (and AAM readers) to say that going to HR is the right choice, but I’ve never actually had to report bad behavior to HR before, and prior to starting reading AAM, I genuinely don’t know if it would’ve occurred to me that that’s what you should do in situations like this. I get why Marco didn’t report it. And I get why OP waited three weeks to say anything. It’s hard to do the “right” thing–and to know what that right thing is–when you’re caught up in the middle of something.

            3. Nic*

              I’ve seen a video on stopping for a second and checking with someone near you “Was that thing that just happened really messed up?” If no one says anything, we manage to pass it over, but when someone asks the question we put it into perspective.

              Heck, I’ve had his happen with my own life. I’ll experience something and think nothing of it, then tell a friend and get a “Wow, that was REALLY messed up!” response that helps me to frame what happened.

        1. Ego Chamber*

          I’m not a fan of non-specific warnings (especially about people in power). What am I supposed to be careful of? Should I not let that guard escort me to my car in the parking lot if it’s dark and he offers? Should I not be alone in a room with him? Should I not talk to him about certain topics? Or at all?

          Also, if a general warning needs to be given about a security guard, HR needs to investigate whatever the reason for the warning is, see if that guard is capable of remaining in that job because getting general warning about a security guard would make me feel the opposite of secure.

          1. Property Manager*

            Something to consider, but possibly not super relevant: At my place of business the security guards are not here for us, they are there for the company’s property. The OP didn’t really indicate which type of security guard they were talking about.

            We in fact, don’t really see or interact with ours, as they patrol the property outside of when the buildings are occupied, to protect the company’s property, therefore the feeling of security provided by a security guard is not a thing. We see them and know them because they are employed by us. They are also not generally physically intimidating persons (in fact, one of our guards is this adorable older man who is barely 5′ tall; another is a young woman). They are not like bouncers in a night club. I don’t think it’s accurate to depict security personnel as all burly intimidating men.

            1. Ted Mosby*

              But there’s a huge gap between “not here specifically to keep me safe” and “not safe to be alone around.”

              1. Property Manager*

                Ted – I don’t disagree! There’s also a difference between relying on someone for safety, vs. a coworker. Some commenters have pointed out that it’s really problematic if this person plays a role in the safety of employees and interacts with them in this way (such as providing an escort to a person’s car after dark) — if that’s the case, well … I don’t know how this person could continue to be employed in this role. I’d expect them to be suspended during the investigation and the very minimum.

                If they are there to guard property and don’t need to interact with the employee? Maaaaaybe they can stay on during the investigation?

                1. Ted Mosby*

                  ah, I do see your point, and I think it makes sense, but in my opinion “here to protect us and maybe dangerous” and “here to do an unrelated job and maybe dangerous” are on the same level.

                  The fact that he demanded money from another employee and then did something fairly menacing and ruined their property means I would not trust him to be on my company property, near my other employees, or their personal property. He should absolutely not be in any role, no matter what it is. He didn’t physically harm here but I would consider that kind of threatening behavior a red flag that he might in the future.

                  BUT I see your point 100% and agree that it is valid!

                2. Zahra*

                  Not if they vandalized property, whether it’s an employee’s personal property (anywhere) or the business’s property.

        2. Tuxedo Cat*

          I would go easy on Marco even for telling the OP on that. He could’ve been warning the OP or trying to figure out his next steps.

          1. Anna*

            Because when it comes to assault, “I’ve heard” can often be code for “I’ve had this experience with this person, but I worry about the repercussions of being too specific, so I will say I’ve heard instead.” Do you think every woman Harvey Weinstein assaulted was specific in her warnings? No, probably not, because there were real consequences for them being specific. Basically, I’m not going to call it salacious gossip because for most women these warnings are about safety versus physical danger, not just “did you hear the latest.”

            1. Trout 'Waver*

              I’ve been the victim of such gossip and it really, really sucks. It was completely baseless, but was still very damaging to my reputation, which was the intended effect.

              1. Anna*

                That sucks. It also happened to my husband. It sucked for him, but in the long run the women sexual predators assault will suffer more than the guy who had a rumor made up about him.

                The thing is, the rumor needs to be investigated and the women who feel they need to warn others need to warn others. If the rumor is not true, that will come out and reparations can be made. But the greater danger is if the rumor is true and nobody warned anyone else about it.

                1. Trout 'Waver*

                  The view that “the truth will come out in the end and reparations can be made” is incredibly naive, in my personal experience.

                  Ideally, people take this kind of thing seriously and ostracize the predators so no rumors are necessary.

                2. Ted Mosby*

                  The assertion that you can just investigate sexual assault rumors and the truth will just naturally come out is inaccurate and illogical. Please do literally any basic research on how sexual assault cases are tried.

                3. Anonymooser*

                  The view that “the truth will come out in the end and reparations can be made” is incredibly naive, in my personal experience.


                4. Stephanie (HR Manager)*

                  I would echo Trout Waver and Ted Mosby. Really, this is so true. I do investigations, and they are not always definitive. My first reaction to the headline when the article came up was trying to unravel how I would investigate it. (In theory, of course, I don’t have enough details on this exact one.)

                5. Startup Hell Lisa*

                  The problem here is that “innocent until proven guilty” for the accused is “guilty until proven innocent” for the accuser.

                  If we only consider an accusation valid if there are three sworn witnesses or something like that, then MOST victims will be considered guilty of false reporting until proven innocent, since most sexual harassment and assault is purposely done without witnesses.

                  But if we assume the accuser is innocent until proven guilty, then the accused is guilty until proven innocent.

                  Balancing the interests of the two parties perfectly is impossible. Our system tends to bias towards the accused, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible for an accused to suffer unfairly. In a system biased towards the accuser, it would still be possible for an accuser to suffer unfairly. Drawing broad conclusions from personal bad experiences is dangerous in this kind of “no good solution” scenario.

                  Personally, I choose to believe accusers unless there is some reason to believe they are twisted enough to actually want all the negative attention that comes with a sexual assault allegation.

                  Being an innocent, reporting victim is a horrible experience. I used to be a victim advocate and saw it firsthand many times. Most people automatically disbelieve victims; so my choice to almost always believe victims is not a choice I make because I think all accusations are true, it’s a choice I make because I know I can’t investigate all accusations myself and the scales are already weighted against believing victims, so I like to put my toe on the scale in the other direction.

                  I once walked into a hospital room with a victim with a skull fracture and was greeted by cops who immediately told me they felt she was lying about her “preposterous” story of being kidnapped and held hostage by someone who had employed her as a model. She was not a model-looking lady and her speech was disjointed and slurred–they didn’t realize at the time that she was suffering from a severe concussion. When they found the photographer, his own camera roll confirmed her entire story, and this was not his first offense so he is now serving life.

                6. Anna*

                  My point is not that the truth will magically be found and it will all go away but that the number of women lying about their assaults is vastly outweighed by the number of women assaulted and I don’t really have a lot of sympathy to give for the “it’s just a rumor” side of things.

                  Basically, shit happens and sometimes it happens to you and sometimes people are jerks and I’m sorry that a jerky person happened to you, but I’ll be fucked if I don’t take a “rumor” of an assault seriously when I hear about it.

              2. The Sassy Vulcan*

                It’s really important to believe victims; false reports are rare. And considering that when I openly told people that Friend X had raped me, everybody shrugged and either called me a liar OR (even more commonly) said that that was too bad, but he was a “nice guy and a good friend” and so told me to shut up and stop making everyone uncomfortable (“don’t make a scene!”)—I’m really not shedding too many tears over the possibility that 1 man might rarely be the target of a false rumour when women are harassed, raped, and even murdered daily and yet the system still provides most of its protection to their abusers.

          2. Not So NewReader*

            Just my opinion but any time we are talking about others for any reason that is gossiping. So, “I heard Fergus won an award” would also be gossip.

            I am sorry about what happened to you, that is so wildly unfair and so malicious. I hope you are able to find good, strong people who see right through the situation. There are many out there.

            1. Specialk9*

              You’re of course welcome to your opinion, but language is determined by usage, and the majority use of the word gossip has these parts:
              1) Talking about someone not present
              2) Negative
              3) Private info – whether fact, speculation, or lie

              Gossip is never talking well about someone, and it excludes information needed to do what you need to do (eg one’s job, parenting).

              “You heard Fergus got an award?” – not gossip.
              “You heard Fergus got an award? And oh gosh coincidence, he’s sleeping with X, the head of the committee that gives the award” – definitely gossip
              “I have grave concerns about co-worker whose personal relationship with X jeopardizes X business.” -not gossip

        3. Anonymoose*

          “If Marco didn’t want to report it out of concern for the victim, then he shouldn’t be gossiping about it. ”

          That was also my point above. I just don’t get it, but maybe Alison’s point about him being confused about his options is correct. Who knows. I would personally really love an update on this letter.

      4. M-C*

        And obviously the victim here may have lots of reasons not to report it. Fear of embarrassment, knowing the gossip will spread like wildfire through the entire company, potential problem with HR policy against such a relationship to begin with, maybe she has a more long-term relationship already, other angles we may not even be able to think of? Fear of violence for sure, and justified as demonstrated by the vandalism. It’s often not the ‘best’ solution for victims to report..

      5. JenB.*

        But why would you report it against the victim’s wishes? Shouldn’t the victim get to decide whether reporting it is best for them or not? As a survivor of sexual assault, I would have been absolutely livid and horrified if someone took away my control of the situation by telling others about it without my permission, even if they had good intentions.

        1. sam*

          because continuing to employ someone who you, as an agent of the employer, now know has (1) engaged in sexually predatory behavior with other employees (and, regardless of how you feel about “prostitution” in and of itself, that, at minimum, requires an agreement up front – manipulating women into sleeping with you and only THEN demanding money, and when you don’t get it, committing violent acts against them/their property until they pay up is not “prostitution” – it’s extortion) and (2) committed acts of violence ON COMPANY PROPERTY, will both put the COMPANY in legal hot water if either of these things were to happen again and it turns out that other employees knew and did nothing to report it to anyone.

          I feel terrible for the victim in this case, but when this stuff happens at work, it can’t *just* be considered a personal issue.

          1. Anonymoose*

            Sorry JenB, I agree. In this particular case, it’s is just like the Weinstein case in which an entire system is built to support the predator because none of the victims were comfortable to come forward until there were a mass of them. By not reporting it, it perpetuates until this ‘security guard’ (what a joke) is allowed to harass more women who just think he’s a great guy (or whatever) until it’s too late. And I say that as an assault victim too embarrassed herself to report it as a young 16 year old, as well as a friend to a rape victim in young adulthood.

            It’s a REALLY tough road and you feel stuck between a rock and a hard place either way; I know it well.

          2. seejay*

            Agreed here.
            If it was two people that were at equal power levels and no big ramifications to the company and others in it (except maybe some drama), that’d be one thing… but what’s going on here is a sexual predator with some form of power over other employees. Yes, it sucks that someone took away the agency of the victim’s wishes, but when there’s a predator on the loose that could very well *use* their power over others, someone needs to say something.

          3. SSS*

            Many companies I have worked at have rules that if you know about illegal activity at the workplace and do not report it, then YOU are complicit in that crime and will also be fired when they find out about it.

        2. Dankar*

          That’s actually the guidance that’s been given at every training I’ve ever received. If someone comes to you, but makes it clear they don’t want you to disclose, you absolutely should not. It’s another violation of their trust, privacy and agency, and might actually leave the victim feeling even more powerless.

          Your responsibility is to listen, advocate, support and strongly suggest that the victim the victim come forward in her own time.

          1. Optimistic Prime*

            This actually all depends on your role and relationship with the person, too. When I worked in college student services, I was a mandated reporter per state law, and if a student told me that they had been sexually assaulted and were under the age of 21 (aka the vast majority of them) I was required to report it to my supervisor. We had posters all over campus declaring this. I also personally chose to explain it to students whenever I was in a situation that might result in that kind of disclosure because I didn’t want them to feel blindsided. In my current state, people who volunteer with folks under the age of 18 are also mandated reporters.

            1. Dankar*

              Right. I work with students, too, but I’m not a mandatory reporter. What I am mandated to do is to pass them along to the correct resource on campus, but it’s a huge NO on reporting things that are not mine to report.

              Those same training sessions stressed that I make my role clear before the students give details, as they might choose to retract their statements if they know whoever they’re talking to is required to report what they’re saying. I’ve never been in that situation, though my previous supervisor was, and it was such a difficult position to be in.

          2. Misc*

            The issue here is that there are two opposing interests to look out for:

            1) Not invalidating the person who was harmed and giving them agency,
            2) Protecting that person/others/your company from the person who caused that harm.

            Those are both really important, and sometimes, they aren’t going to be the same thing. As a friend on a one to one basis or in a therapy/protector type role? I’d always choose option 1. As a someone in a wider social circle of people I may need to protect, or as part of my job? I’d have to go with option 2.

            There’s no perfect response because the consequences are imposed from the outside (society), which means you can do everything exactly ‘right’ and it can still blow up on you, on the person who told you, on people around you, and ‘right’ is going to look totally different all the time. It sucks. The only thing one can really do is read threads like this to research the best range of responses and then apply them in context.

        3. Merci Dee*

          The victim’s right to report or not would definitely be something that I would think of as a thirty-party reporter. But I have to be honest — I would also be thinking about the other people that I could be turning into victims by =not= reporting. So, who would I have a greater responsibility to, the person who has already been a victim of this predator, or the ones who might be if I don’t speak up? Other people may not agree with me, but I would have to fall on the side of protecting the people the predator might come in contact with. I don’t think I could live with myself if I found out that the predator had gone on to offend again simply because I didn’t report what I knew.

          1. Jessie the First (or second)*

            It is especially an issue because the perpetrator here is a *security guard* and so is going to be regularly around all these people, will get to know their schedules, is in a position that many will assume makes him trustworthy (because he was ‘vetted’ by the company) and that people may need to turn to for safety.

    2. zora*

      Um, can we stop blaming any individual who is NOT the one who committed extortion and vandalism, tho???? It’s not the OPs fault, it’s not Marco’s fault, it’s not anyone’s fault except the perpetrator’s.

  3. Kiki*

    Just wanted to say thanks for speaking up, OP. I ended up having to leave a past job due to the actions of a male superior and the unwillingness of witnesses to corroborate my story for fear of losing their jobs. Even if this woman doesn’t know you, there’s a good chance she appreciates what you did.

    1. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

      Seconding this comment. Thank you, OP.

      And I’m so sorry, Kiki. This world can be truly awful sometimes. I hope things are much better for you now.

    2. Turquoisecow*


      She appreciates it, and so will an untold number of other women who have or will be in this situation. Thanks, OP, because I know that what you did took some courage as well.

  4. Snark*

    So I had the thought recently that we haven’t seen a real humdinger on AAM for a while, and had the presentiment that one would be coming over the pole sometime soon, and here we are and GAWDAAAAAAAYYYYYUM.

  5. Kj*

    Ugh. Just ugh to this whole thing. It is awful- I feel bad for the women who was harassed and for Marco and the LW, who both struggled to know what to do about this. I think the LW did the right thing, but I get why Marco wouldn’t want to tell HR- investigations can be brutal to the victim. I hope HR will offer her resources and support.

  6. Dust Bunny*

    On the other hand, sorta bothered by the fact that the OP “didn’t really think about it” until the Weinstein blow-up. Why wasn’t this a problem until *afterward*?

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      For exactly the reason that people traded whispered stories about Weinstein for years, without being the one to Make It Awkward and say something.

      1. strawberries and raspberries*

        Yeah, and this attitude (that is, “Why didn’t you say something before?” “Why wasn’t it a big deal until now?”) also takes for granted that we immediately believe people who have been victims of violence (directly or vicariously). (Sarcasm alert- WE DON’T.)

        1. Ego Chamber*

          Exactly. In my experiences with workplace harassment, there is a long period of victims being silent before one of them speaks out, and then it’s like a dam breaks and all the victims come forward because there’s more safety in numbers or something.

          I worked at a call center where there was this dude who was creeping on a lot of women. He would start weird, sexual conversations, and touch people, and sometimes lean on hands or step on feet and press down with his full body weight—I still don’t know what that was about, other than boundary-crossing. It didn’t stop until he tried to set a woman’s hair on fire on the smoke deck, then she told her closest work friends about it (me and a guy who took this stuff seriously), and we all went to HR because wtf? (My excuse for not reporting it sooner is I didn’t know he was doing this to other people, and I’m fine with telling creeps to eff off, so I thought I was handling it.)

          1. Foreign Octopus*

            It’s like Alison always says, people in position of authority take something more seriously if it comes from a group of people rather than an individual. As a group, it’s harder to deny that something took place.

          2. Julia*

            This. We had a security guy who sexually harassed not only female employees, but also female visitors. (We were an embassy, so we had quite a lot. Imagine going in for a visa and being harassed into handing out your phone number by the guy with the power to deny you entry!) He forced me to give him a hug once, even though I didn’t want to – but he was twice my size.

            The female visitors reported him to the female counter staff, who reported the incidents to their male boss. He laughed them off because it was “too troublesome” to deal with, even though all he had to do was call the security company and request someone else. Meanwhile, security guy kept cussing us out when we passed him by on our way in and out.

            Security guy kept harassing guests and our poor receptionist, until one day, he called me on my office phone, asked who was there (?) and when I gave my name, he hung up. He did that several times, and the last time, the guy in charge was in my office when it happened. THEN he finally saw reason and had the guy fired.

            I’m not in that job anymore because this was only the tip of the dysfunction iceberg, but while I was still there, the security guy would sometimes show up outside the premises and give us the chills.

        2. SarahTheEntwife*


          This. Here we have both “why didn’t you report this before??” and “why are you reporting a ‘rumor’??” in the same damn thread already.

    2. Mouse*

      Sometimes, due to any number of factors, it takes people a while to do the right thing. The important thing is that OP DID do the right thing. I don’t really think it’s necessary to chastise someone who wrote in to an advice column for their timing in stepping up to do something that nobody else would do.

    3. LCL*

      Maybe the Weinstein scandal has given hope to some abused people that society is glacially changing pace on this and might take it more seriously than has been done in the past. Without diminishing the victims in any way, I believe it shows how screwed up society is around this subject that it took a number of ‘perfect’ victims: beautiful, young, White, working in the entertainment industry, speaking up before many people finally believed harassment up to and including r@*# was a thing.

      1. Anion*

        I’m sorry, but I don’t think the Weinstein scandal has “proven” that harassment is a real thing. I don’t think anyone out there honestly thinks it never ever really happens, and even if someone believes it never happens “in real life,” the Casting Couch has been a thing for like sixty years at least.

      2. Misc*

        The other thing it does is help give a template. Knowing someone should do ‘something’ is very different from seeing a clear example and then going ‘oh! I can do *that*’.

    4. my two cents*

      I read that more as “definitely could not let this go” after the Weinstein stuff. OP didn’t know the players involved, let alone the lady’s name.

      I’ve had to call another company’s HR before, and it was awkward. Female engineer and her ‘senior’ male employee rang me at my desk on speakerphone. That dude was SO angry, he just starts literally yelling, full volume, at this young lady – calling her ‘so f-ing stupid’ and ‘told her not to call’…and it’s JUST a tech support call, and I was the ‘product expert’ for North America helping them complete their design.

      I was sincerely afraid he was going to hit her, based on his verbiage and volume. I stayed on the line as long as I could stomach it, and then quickly called her back. She was in tears, and apparently Dude was always like this. She was embarrassed that I had to hear it, like any abused partner would be. I promised I would call their HR and report dude, and she had hesitantly agreed I could, but then never got me HR contact info.

      And like, I’ve been yelled at, called names, inappropriately touched, talked-down to, etc. as a female engineer working in technical product support – I can ‘handle’ quite a bit without breaking cadence at this point my career. This was SO egregious, after a week I tracked down their US HR dept and reported it. I didn’t know dude’s name, but could give them the young lady’s name and that it was her superior.

      And then there’s the bit where I just…never knew what came of the report. It just hangs out there. Eventually she had contacted me from her new employer, and let me know that he had finally been put on a PIP after a freaking vendor (me) finally had called in and reported him.

      Had she strongly urged me NOT to report it, I would have had a Real Difficult Time making myself call into their HR.

    5. Astor*

      I read it as “I am so used to this kind of abuse being terrible but normal, that it didn’t even occur to me that I could do something about it. So I pushed it out of my mind.”

      Not sure if that’s what happened for the OP, but that’s exactly what I’ve done before.

      (And in case it’s relevant, this is an instinctual coping mechanism for me.)

      1. KG, Ph.D.*

        I’ll second this comment. It sounds like an awful excuse at first glance, but sexual harassment is so normalized in many sectors that it can be truly difficult to recognize it when it happens.

        I was sexually harassed in grad school. It was pretty textbook: I politely turned down a coworker’s proposition, and he responded by complaining about me to anyone who would listen and attempting to ruin my reputation. At the time, I was annoyed, but it honestly didn’t occur to me that what he was doing was sexual harassment. I was very accustomed to crappy behavior from jerks I turned down for dates/sex (not because I’m some sort of super-popular sex symbol, but because I dated online at the time, and it’s a thing that happens a lot in that sphere, unfortunately). Two years later, I was telling this story to my advisor — we were close — and laughing about it, and I realized that his face was looking gradually more and more horrified by my story, rather than amused. It finally hit me that I’d been sexually harassed. When your’e swimming in it, it’s often hard to see this kind of behavior for what it really is.

        1. SheLooksFamiliar*

          Same here, in undergrad and in my early working days. I told myself I was just being sensitive, I shouldn’t be so quick to judge, the guy would calm down if I just kept things pleasant, and so on. I thought it was, well, ‘guys being guys.’ It didn’t help that my possessive boyfriend angrily asked what I was doing to lead men on when I would complain about the rude comments, leers, and unwanted hands on my shoulder (and occasionally elsewhere). Clearly, I was the problem, right? I’m ashamed to say that I knew ALL men weren’t like jerks, but I sure thought they were the exception.

          I had a similar ‘aha!’ moment with an older, wiser friend. You’re so right: when you’re in the middle of it, it’s hard to have perspective.

        2. many bells down*

          I hesitated for an entire day before posting “Me too” because I kept thinking of all the incidents and rationalizing how that one “didn’t really count” and that one was just “a misunderstanding”. Totally agree.

        3. Misc*

          “sexual harassment is so normalized in many sectors that it can be truly difficult to recognize it when it happens.”

          It’s not something I usually run into overtly, but I just rewatched Leverage, which is about 87% great on the gender/feminism/consent front (stabbings!), and the one parody episode of the Office (which I had to look up after because WTF it was so painful to sit through) had an entire sexual harassment subplot that… did NOT pay off in the guy getting pulped, just in him being the Quirky Adorkable Sidekick.

          And they obviously had it because it was part of the whole ‘parody the original’ schtick, and it was SO JARRING. I was just sitting there going ‘why. why would they include this. why. what’s the pay off? when does he get stabbed? I DON’T UNDERSTAND’.

          It wasn’t the harassment that was upsetting. It was the normalising.

            1. Misc*

              I’ve seen that! That video is actually the most I have actually ever watched of the Big Bang Theory. It’s quite interesting watching stuff from a generation (well, a ‘media generation’) back that you know is popular and realising how… awful a lot of it looks now.

    6. Ol' Crow*

      I’m just curious since – do you know what it’s like to deal with the humiliation and shame of being sexually harassed/abused? The fear of not being believed and having your name maligned by those who don’t believe you or those who want to protect the abuser? The fear of being treated as the problem employee because you reported something that is generally complex and difficult for a company to deal with? The fear of losing your job over being that problem employee? The self-doubt as you try to figure out if you over-reacted? Losing your reputation because others like the perpetrator and are angry at you for costing him *his* reputation and possibly his employment? The very real fear of retaliation and knowledge that your reporting this will likely get around in the industry and make it difficult for you to find another job?
      Thing is, I do know what that is all like because I’ve lived it. So many people think it’s super easy to stand up and do the “right” thing, but it is not easy – it is really, really hard and there is so much to process on the way to reporting. In one instance, I did report and the EEOC went after that company. So I technically won, but I lost my reputation in that industry, I was fired from my job, and I actually lost friendships because women can be as hostile to other women going through sexual harassment and abuse as are men . There is another incident that I did not report because I was (and still am) so fearful of the person and their retaliation. This person has much more power and money than I do, and I have see firsthand what this person does to people who piss them off. And because I won’t take that risk, I have to now carry the responsibility (assigned by others) of knowing that many others will go through what I did just as I had to go through it because many others before me didn’t report it.

      think about this in the future when people don’t abide by your timeline of reporting (or not reporting at all).

      *I didn’t write this harshly if it comes across that way. I’m extremely frustrated at the lack of understanding I’ve seen from people around this subject.

      1. Clever Name*

        You have every right to post a harsh reply. What happened to you was shitty, and you didn’t make it happen, and you certainly didn’t deserve it. I remember a recent Twitter conversation when a man was criticizing women for not reporting rape. A woman replied to him, “Often women don’t report rape because nobody believes us.” The very next reply was another man saying, “I really find that hard to believe”.

      2. Artemesia*

        Al this. And of course you have to also get comments about how you are not that attractive so how could anyone want to harass you. The comment sections these days are full of comments from men who appear rational but are blaming all this on ‘women not speaking up’. It is always the fault of women. They aren’t tough. They overreact to a little teasing. They should just push back. And of course ‘they get themselves raped.’ Even rape is something that happens to women not something men do.

        Everyone in my generation had to swim in this water and knew the hazards of pushing back and being troublemakers who would never be hired or promoted. (or believed)

        1. anon today*

          Or on the opposite end of the spectrum, as I’ve experienced, you get comments like, “well, you’re pretty, so of course people are going to harass you.”

          It’s lose/lose either way.

          1. Julia*

            That, and other women saying, “well, it never happened to me, maybe because I use my woman power instead of being a weak and whiny little female”, which is such BS.

            1. anon today*

              Yeah. Among other things I’ve heard, “because you wear makeup, you’re asking for more attention so you’re to blame when they harass you”. Which is ridiculous because it’s happened when I have and haven’t been wearing makeup.

              Or, worse, the women who tell me I should be lucky to receive that type of attention because some people never receive attention from men. That one boggles me the most because I would do anything to stop such attention. It’s not flattering. It’s scary and uncomfortable.

        2. LCL*

          An analogy I have used elsewhere, not that I am defending this way of thinking, just illustrating how these matters used to be looked at is:
          The Weinsteins of the world are hazards out there like dog messes. Nasty and you don’t want to get to close to them and if you succeeded in not getting any rubbed off on you things were fine. Or, they were like, a malign force of nature. Of course you tried to avoid the danger, in the same way you tried to avoid being caught in an earthquake.

          It never occurred to many of us that we could fight back. And even those of us that would respond to physical threats, with threats of equal or greater violence, wouldn’t have had any idea what to do about a Weinstein type.

    7. Not So NewReader*

      No one said it wasn’t a problem before hand. A problem can get tremendously pressing once a person sees other people suffering the same harm and starts to recognize that we do have a responsibility to each other. This new level of concern can keep people awake nights trying to figure out how to handle it.

      Just my theory but I think OP’s friend decided to tell OP because he knew on some level that she would probably do something about it. It could be that it took him a bit to figure out who to tell.

  7. MommyMD*

    The whole thing from start to finish is very seedy. Marco is not a gem. The guard seems like a predator. And Harvey Weinstein has nothing to do with this. It should have been reported twice over by now. Be strong and do it. You don’t have to hide.

    1. Zinnia*

      Huh? The OP has clearly already reported. The question is only about telling her source that she was the one to give his name to HR as someone who could give them more info.

        1. Ennigaldi*

          This isn’t a black-and-white situation and you’re coming across as very callous to the actual humans involved.

        2. BethRA*

          Easy to say when you are not the one who has to deal with the consequences.

          I’m glad OP reported this. Doing so is hard enough for many people without the rest of us nitpicking the wording or timing or questioning motives.

    2. Liane*

      The OP *did* report before writing in. It was delayed longer than it should have been, but it was reported.
      Or did you mean, “Be strong and tell Marco yes, you blew the whistle on the sleezebag guard”?

      Note: the guard isn’t a sleezebag because his other job is sex worker–he’s sleezy because he *vandalized a car to intimidate someone*. Oh, and also because he didn’t make clear upfront he was offering a paid service/business transaction.

      1. JulieBulie*

        Right. “Sex worker” isn’t really accurate here. What he did was more like extortion or blackmail, since he romanced her instead of establishing a price up front.

        1. bohtie*

          exactly. if you’re going to sleep with someone for money, you establish that upfront (and you get paid first). (source: am retired sex worker)

      2. Temperance*

        Yeah, I wouldn’t consider this guy a “sex worker”, considering the fact that she didn’t consent to paying for the man’s services. I might even call him a rapist, since she did not consent.

        1. Lady Phoenix*

          I believe it is rape through lying. I heard of some cases about it but not enough to be precise.

          1. BetterInGreen*

            Oh please, no – don’t go there.
            What he did was deceitful and manipulative to the extent of being extortion (also incredibly dumb business practice for his sex-work, not getting an agreement to pay!) but don’t go watering-down rape by applying that label on apparently consensual sex.

            That’s feeding into some of the key arguments by rape apologists: “well, she probably wanted it and then regretted it after, so she called it rape” and “well, yeah, but it’s not really RAPE-rape, is it?”
            Just, don’t. Please.


            Person who wants to scream when others talk about how their sportsball team “got raped” when they lost a game.

        2. JustaCPA*

          She didnt consent to PAYING him – there is nothing in the OP’s letter that suggests the sex was anything but consensual…

          1. Consuela Schlepkiss*

            It seems to be sex under false pretenses, and that could be a serious consent issue: would she have consented if she were aware of the nature of the transaction? If not, and he was not clear about the fact he expected to be paid, her ability to consent is questionable.

            1. LadyPhoenix*

              Thank you. That was what I was thinking.

              And yeah, using sex to extort money and then trash her car? Dfinitely sounds rapey to me.

          2. OhNo*

            The sex can be consensual under particular conditions, but rape when those conditions are violated, at least in some jurisdictions. For example, when a woman consents to sex with a condom, finds out afterward that the man didn’t use one, in some cases the man could be charged with rape.

            Not sure if that type of law applies here, since IANAL, but I’m sure an argument could be made.

      3. Close Bracket*

        He’s sleezy for practicing sex work at his other work where he is in a position where people have no real choice but to trust him.

        I find that a fireable offense even without the vandalism.

    3. Kj*

      I’m not so willing to say Marco is at fault. Maybe Marco should have done more to help- but I suspect Marco was struggling with what do to. If the harassed co-worker was a friend who asked him not to report, I can’t fault him for not reporting. I’m not sure why he told the LW, but I can imagine some good reasons for doing so- such as warning them about a creep who works in security. I’ve certainly passed things on to my friends about people that weren’t trustworthy where I wouldn’t have gone to an authority figure. Is it perfect? No. But we make imperfect decisions with imperfect information. I can easily imagine some HR departments I have known blaming the victim or spreading rumors about her. Is that right? No, but it is reality. This situation is difficult all around. I’m glad the HR department seems to e be making good choices and I hope they support the victim and that Marco learns it is best to report, but I get why he might have acted the way he did.

      1. Tuxedo Cat*

        If the victim was explicit that she did not want to have this reported, I don’t feel like Marco should report it.

        I’m gong through a less egregious situation in my job, involving a friend. If I were to report the situation, they probably wouldn’t outright fire her but it would not be good and have huge ramifications for her career. I also don’t want to be yet another person who violated my friend’s trust.

        1. Ego Chamber*

          I understand your situation, and why you’ve made the choice you made. I wouldn’t criticize someone for not reporting harassment against the victim’s wishes, but I also wouldn’t criticize someone for reporting harassment against the victim’s wishes, you know?

          I’ve been in a situation where I was made aware that a supervisor was behaving inappropriately with 2 subordinates—one of them enjoyed the attention, one of them did not—and both made it clear that I was not to take the matter to HR. This man was clearly a predator, and at some point that kind of thing becomes about more people than just the known victims. Unfortunately, the “right” response can be incredibly context-dependent. It’s never an easy (or fair) choice.

          1. On Fire*

            Having been harassed and NOT wanting it reported, because I was handling it, but someone reported it anyway based on overhearing maybe 5 words – I was livid and still have nothing to do with the person who reported it. I wasn’t the only one the perpetrator was harassing; some did go on the record, and the company never did do anything about it. (I knew they wouldn’t – perp was related to the big boss – which was part of why I didn’t want to report it.)

        2. Mike C.*

          I really have to disagree here. That person is causing harm to others. How would you feel if they hurt someone else because you didn’t want to report it?

          It’s no different than finding out someone is sabotaging industrial equipment or falsifying purity tests of pharmaceuticals or anything like that. You do what you can to be sensitive but preventing further harm is of the upmost priority here.

          1. Mike C.*

            And maybe your specific example has some important contextual issues, but in general harm prevention should be the priority.

          2. Tuxedo Cat*

            I really don’t think it’s as black and white as you’re portraying things. With your example, the person is a perpetrator not a victim. Reporting those are a different beast, IMO.

            The situation is about pay and lost job opportunities, and it strongly appears to be based on race/gender. My friend can’t afford to lose the job. Too many people who are dependent on her financially. So how do you weigh that, the harm that can come from her losing even more opportunities and possibly her job vs. the small research group?

          3. Zahra*

            It’s much, much easier to report something when all the victims are perfect strangers who have not made their wishes clear. When it’s someone that trusts you, going against their stated wishes is breaking that trust. Most people don’t want to be perceived as untrustworthy in general, for good reasons.

            That’s why reporting sexual crimes/extortion/etc. on behalf of other people is hard. And then you add the fact that, too many times, nothing will be done about it or the abuser will face little to no consequences.

      2. Mike C.*

        I’m not going to lay into Marco here either, but I would like to point out that as a dude, it’s going to be a lot easier for him to report this stuff than it is for many, many women.

      3. Foreign Octopus*

        Marco reminds me of Colin Firth who recently came out and told people that when Sophie Dix had told him about being harassed by HW, he just sympathised. I think there’s a large part of our culture and society that doesn’t like rocking the boat and holds to the minding your own business type of thing. Definitely not saying that’s okay but just suggesting that it’s not always obvious to report this type of behaviour as the person affected by it, let alone someone who hears the story second hand.

    4. Ego Chamber*

      I think you may have misread this letter, since OP already reported all the information she had to HR, and the Harvey Weinstein scandal was the catalyst for her doing that—along with the fact that she worked in the entertainment industry previously and is now seeing an example the thing that drove her out turning up in her current industry—so that bit is entirely relevant to the OP.

      There’s no need to criticize people who didn’t report it sooner, that’s part of what keeps people silent to begin with.

      1. anon today*

        Seconding your last sentence so much. Passive aggressive comments about how it should have been reported before now doesn’t help anyone and is, in fact, a form of victim blaming without acknowledging legitimate reasons why people stay silent.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        I have been that slow reporter. My number one reason for being slow is to find a trust worthy person who will act on my information. I usually get pretty determined that I will not miss my target, I want to be effective in causing a resolution to whatever is going on. With that determination comes the step of finding an appropriate person who I think will indeed act on my information.

    5. Leatherwings*

      Not reporting something or being cautious in how you do it doesn’t make someone not strong. That narrative is really damaging.

      1. zora*

        “Not reporting something or being cautious in how you do it doesn’t make someone not strong. That narrative is really damaging.”

  8. Roscoe*

    So just out of curiosity, if something is reported, what happens if you refuse to name your source?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      It depends on the company and on the situation. Could be anything from to “there’s nothing we can do here if you don’t give us more information” to strong disappointment/disapproval to “your job depends on you assisting in this.”

      I will say, though, that if someone reported a serious situation and refused to give me details that would allow it to be addressed, it would severely impact my assessment of them, to the point that it would impact things like promotion potential. You don’t say “there’s a fire in the walls of your house and I know where it is, but I’m not going to tell you.”

        1. Jesmlet*

          “I will say, though, that if someone reported a serious situation and refused to give me details that would allow it to be addressed, it would severely impact my assessment of them, to the point that it would impact things like promotion potential. You don’t say “there’s a fire in the walls of your house and I know where it is, but I’m not going to tell you.””

          This is such an interesting point of view that I tend to agree with, but (and I feel like I’m gonna get crap for saying this) is also kind of reminiscent of all the complaints I’m seeing about the #metoo dialogue i.e if you’re not going to name these people in the industry, then you’re allowing them to continue their behavior, and why even bring it up? Not saying that’s a justified point of view of course.

          How do you know when to make an exception and can you actually consciously avoid a change in your assessment of them? Seems like this woman fears for her safety or at the very least consequences and recrimination. Does that not cover OP and Marco here if they choose not to name sources? Or were you speaking more generally and not about this specific instance?

          1. Allypopx*

            if you’re not going to name these people in the industry, then you’re allowing them to continue their behavior, and why even bring it up?

            Because that conversation is really discussing an epidemic of behavior.

            If you’re bringing up an incident in a company that can be dealt with but you withhold the information to deal with it, you’re stirring the pot without offering productive assistance to make it stop. That’s frustrating when, given the information, the situation *could* be dealt with.

            The issues in Hollywood are so cultural and widespread that a different conversation needs to happen.

            1. Jesmlet*

              What’s italicized is not an argument I agree with, just one that I see being brought up a lot. Unfortunately, if we’re discussing sexual harassment which the #metoo seems to be doing, I don’t necessarily think the entertainment industry stands alone here. Sure, it’s more egregious, but out of the 3 full time jobs I’ve had, I’ve experienced something inappropriate at all of them, and in 3 completely different industries.

              1. Allypopx*

                Ah. I was reading that as a Weinstein reference as opposed to a #metoo reference – sorry if my response wasn’t appropriate.

                We should all do what we can in the space we can. Sometimes that gets complicated, but I do think OP had a responsibility to report, and should be honest with Marco so if it comes up again he thinks to take that step himself.

          2. Delphine*

            Yep, that’s a criticism of the #metoo dialog I cannot get behind–victims and survivors should be able to share their experiences with a simple “me too” or a story of what they went through without feeling pressured to share names or report their own assaults. It’s different from *actually reporting* the incident to an HR department, for example, and then refusing to share how you know–with exceptions, as AAM said.

            1. Jesmlet*

              Agreed, but as far as I can tell, the only reason someone would refuse to name names is if they’re protecting someone and I think that’s an exception I’d be willing to always make. In the end, when asked, OP told them she’d heard from Marco. I can’t imagine a situation where someone would report this and keep a crucial detail to themselves for any other reason.

            2. Zahra*

              And #metoo, in Quebec, has led to some women recognizing they were the victims of the same person and they denounced as a group. 2 “local” celebrities this week. One had plead guilty to a sexual crime almost 20 year ago and then got total absolution a year or two later “because so much of his work is in the US and not having this expunged means unreasonable hardship.” (Let me tell you that a lot of people were very angry that a plea bargain had been reached in the first place.)

              tl;dr: Campaigns such as #metoo can lead to more reports when people realize that their #metoo is about the same person.

          3. Ask a Manager* Post author

            How do you know when to make an exception and can you actually consciously avoid a change in your assessment of them? Seems like this woman fears for her safety or at the very least consequences and recrimination. Does that not cover OP and Marco here if they choose not to name sources? Or were you speaking more generally and not about this specific instance?

            If someone says “I’m sorry, I’d like to share this info but I fear for my safety,” I understand that. I’m talking about the people who just don’t want to get involved or have to take a stand, who are much more common.

            1. Safetykats*

              And soooo many people just don’t want to get involved. I’ve had people come to me as a manager with issues that clearly need to be addressed, that have serious potential to affect the health and safety of those involved, and then not want to name any names at all. I always wonder what magical powers they think I have, that I can figure out who needs help without any names at all. And when management and HR finally get enough information to make something right, people come out of the woodwork very vocally wondering why nothing was done sooner, since everyone knew – although apparently only one of everyone felt any obligation to report. This does happen even when there was clearly no safety issue for other employees.

              If I understand the OP, the reason they needed Marco’s name is that she actually couldn’t tell them the name of the woman whose car was vandalized. Not wouldn’t – couldn’t. That would make this very hard to investigate.

              If it makes the OP feel any better, a good HR rep will probably interview Marco with a backstory that implies reporting from multiple sources, so that while he might suspect the OP passed along information he will also think that others have reported this issue.

      1. Anon for this*

        I’m curious about this in a specific situation. I was once sexually assaulted by a co-worker at a seasonal job. It was five years before I even got to the point of being able to tell my superiors I had been assaulted while on the job, by a co-worker. They did not push me to tell them who it was but made it clear that I could share if and when I wanted to and if I wanted to have something done we could figure that out (and in that case I obviously would need to tell them who had assaulted me).

        I wouldn’t say that I feared for my safety from my assailant at that point – would this be another exception or no? Do you think my superiors handled it poorly?

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Oh! I’m sorry, I didn’t at all mean to imply that I was referring to victims there. I only meant people who knew about a serious situation (but weren’t the victim) and refused to give information about it. I think the rules are very different if you’re the victim, and it’s up to you to decide for yourself what you do and don’t share.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            And actually, now that I think more about it, I would also exclude people who reported something without names but said “the victim begged me not to report this and I feel like I need to respect that but I want you to know that it’s an issue happening here, even though I can’t give you names.” That’s not ideal, of course, but I would totally understand that stance, and it would still allow me to do some other (less effective but still important) stuff like reiterate to everyone the system for reporting X problem, ensure we were making it safe and easy to do so, etc.

            1. Not So NewReader*

              Love this. It’s a great solution. I hope at some point you can write this in to a longer discussion with more points so that people can get an idea of how to handle their own situations. This is such relevant and important advice. Thank you, for opening this whole thread here.

            2. Libervermis*

              I appreciate this statement, because it’s more in line with best practices on how to treat survivors of sexual assault. The survivor should be able to make the choice about whether to report, and reporting when you’ve been asked not to is violating that choice – since the perpetrator also violated their choice, you can imagine how troubling and traumatizing that is.

              I hear what other people are saying about the need to protect the workplace and those in it, and I can follow that line of argument, but “protecting the workplace by reporting” takes place at the expense of the survivor. It’s not a harmless course of action.

        2. hbc*

          To me, it depends. What were you hoping your supervisors would do? If you told them because there are some general safety or training things they can do, or because it explains some past or current behavior, then no, there’s no judgment (or shouldn’t be). If you came expecting the perp to be punished and were upset that more wasn’t done, then they’d probably be wondering what you expect them to do.

          As the victim, you would also get much more of a pass on that than a third or fourth party. The fact that it directly deals with you removes the idea that this is just unsubstantiated gossip.

          1. Anon for this*

            I had been bringing it up because it was relevant to a discussion about broader issues within the culture of the workplace. I didn’t necessarily have something I wanted them to do with regards to that incident. But I definitely understand how it would be confusing if I did want my assailant punished and refused to say who it was. Thanks for adding another layer to how I think about these topics (more generally, not just with regards to my own situation).

            1. Jesmlet*

              As someone who occasionally steps into the HR role, I would rather know what happened even without the name than not know at all, and for me this applies to almost anyone – victim, secondhand, thirdhand, passerby on the street who thinks they may have seen something, etc.

      2. 42*

        But there’s potential proof in this case because of security tape. Which granted may be ling gone now. But for the sake of argument, let’s assume it still exists. Couldn’t the OP not name her source, and say ‘review the tape from this day’?

        1. Morning Glory*

          If the OP knows that information, sure. But what are the odds that Marco told the OP the exact date the vandalism occurred?

          1. 42*

            I interpreted it as being within a general time frame that could be narrowed down. I’m spitballing here, that’s all.

        2. JulieBulie*

          They could try to look at the tape (if they even have security tapes, a big if) (and if the incident took place recently enough that the recording would still be available), but I have a feeling that the blackmailing/extorting creep would have taken care to either do it beyond the view of the security cameras, or to interfere with the recording itself.

          Then again, there was the jacket/wallet thief a few months ago whose crime was caught on camera, so who knows. I figure a security guard would be smarter about that, though.

      3. Close Bracket*

        > You don’t say “there’s a fire in the walls of your house and I know where it is, but I’m not going to tell you.”

        But you do say, “there’s a fire in the walls of your house, and I’m going to tell you where it is, but I am not going to tell you how I know.” In this situation, you don’t need Marco’s name. You might *want* Marco’s name, but the important names are the security guard and the person whose car he vandalized. It’s awfully judgey of you to let withholding of information that isn’t necessary affect someone’s promotion potential, esp. when they are doing the right thing in the first place.

    1. Zinnia*

      Yes. Of course, you should be clear that your knowledge is third hand and you can’t testify to anything, but if there is a reasonable possibility something as abusive as this is going on, it needs to be investigated.

      1. Lissa*

        Why would that be sarcasm? I don’t agree rumours shouldn’t be reported, but it hardly seems like such an out there thought that it would need to be “sarcastic”…

      2. Snark*

        Oh, come on. I agree strongly that it should be reported, but there’s real and occasionally even valid concerns related to repeating thirdhand hearsay.

        1. NotThatGardner*

          yeah, but the comment was isnt *this* whole story a rumor – that is what i was concerned about.

        2. Anna*

          Because “it’s just a rumor” is being used right now and has been used to shut down discussion and shift the narrative to the victims seeking attention, wanting to ruin someone’s life, etc. I don’t hear anyone discussing Louis CK anymore so we can rest assured it was just a rumor that he assaulted women, right?

          1. Ann O.*

            With Louis CK, it is just a rumor. The whole Louis CK thing started with Jezebel’s interpretation of Jen Kirkman’s podcast and Jen Kirkman has consistently said that Jezebel was wrong in their interpretation. The only other credible person (because sorry, Roseanne Barr is not at this point) that I’m aware of is Tig Notaro and Tig Notaro won’t say what her issue is with him in any kind of way.

            Which is not to say that I’ll be shocked if anyone ever does come forward with a specific first- or second-hand report, but at this point, there is none.

    2. VintageLydia*

      Why not? They will investigate it and if there is no actual issue, that should be the end of it. If there IS an issue, then congrats, you just helped solve a serious workplace problem!

      1. M-C*

        Someone spreading false rumors deliberately would also be a serious workplace problem.. And the rumors would need to be openly denied, ideally. So I think if I were in HR on balance I’d investigate rumors

    3. Myrin*

      It actually sounds to me like Marco knows for sure that this happened (as well as “others who knew also”), although we don’t know whether he got that information from the security guard or from the woman. Am I missing something about this being just a rumour?

    4. Lison*

      Well if you are the only one to report the second hand information then nothing happens but if 14 people report the same behaviour happening then it should be investigated. It’s like if one company reports to the regulator that they had a lack of effect for their drug that used a supplier of a component versus several companies reporting the same effect using the same supplier. That’s why they make us do it. One experience is a data point lots is a trend. And there is no possible end of your career associated with reporting

      1. Ann O'Nemity*

        This reminds me of a child abuse prevention training that I recently attend. The trainer stressed that it’s better to report even if you don’t have all the facts or a first hand account. One such report may not be enough to trigger an investigation, but multiple reports would. It’s like, “Hey, we keep hearing that something isn’t right here. Let’s investigate to see what’s going on.”

    5. Juli G.*

      It’s why HR insisted on getting Marco’s name. They don’t want to blow this up over a unverified third hand account. But it was serious enough to warrant a report.

    6. OP/LW Here*

      Actually, the security supervisor who I spoke with originally even said that within rumors are usually grains of truth, which is why she encouraged me to report it to HR.

    7. Not That Jane*

      Well then, let me ask… suppose instead of sexual harassment, this had been a “rumor” of a terrorist/workplace violence threat from an employee. Would that change the calculation for you about whether or not to report it, or how seriously to take it?

    8. Not So NewReader*

      Things are a rumor until proven true, then they become the truth. If every unproven statement is a rumor and rumors should not be reported, then we’d be in a very bad way very fast.

      Some rumors need to be addressed, information needs to be sorted until a conclusion is made. Let’s say someone effectively reported a rumor about the WTC, or the JFK assassination or other tragedy. Those people would have changed the course of history as others would have stepped in to stop the tragedy.

      Some rumors are serious enough to justify reporting even if the rumor is not a proven event. I think it boils down to the severity of the rumor.

    9. Greg M.*

      I had a similar question but then I realized lets say someone 100% made it up. spreading that kind of rumor should also be reported to HR so overall ti’s best to report the whole thing to HR regardless.

  9. Liz T*

    This is (one of the many reasons) why sex workers generally get payment up front. This dude is (obviously) not an ethical sex worker, and I’m glad no one is tarring all sex workers with this particular brush!

    1. Anon today...and tomorrow*

      It’s funny…I read the letter and didn’t picture him as a “sex worker”. The fact that he calls himself a male prostitute doesn’t mean he is. He had sex with someone and then demanded payment for it. Sex workers don’t do that. Con artists might though. Scumbags would. But a legitimate sex worker would have negotiated price and terms before the act itself had even taken place.

      1. JM60*

        I don’t have much experience when it comes to sex workers, but don’t some of them use very vague language to negotiate just in case they’re talking to an undercover cop? I would think that a competent sex worker would be able to do this in a way that’s clear enough to a client that they’re expected to pay, and how much. However, I can imagine someone who doesn’t know what they’re doing misleading someone, and non payment is a moral issue. Non-payment can arguably be a form of rape.

        That being said, I think it’s much more likely that he’s just a thug who is retroactively demanding payment. And even if she really did owe him money, that still doesn’t excuse vandalizing her car!

    2. M-C*

      It seems more like a professional blackmailer than a prostitute indeed.. I don’t think anyone has yet mentioned that there are several levels of crime in the security guard’s behavior? And so the woman concerned and the company both would have grounds to press charges, and may well want to

    3. Temperance*

      He’s not a sex worker. He had sex with a woman under false pretenses and then demanded money from her.

      1. Ego Chamber*

        Exactly. At “best,” he’s a male prostitute who decided to branch out into extorting a sexual partner, and damaged her car when she refused to give him money she’d never agreed to pay—the extortion has nothing to do with his possible career in prostitution though (and I sincerely hope he isn’t intentionally confusing these 2 things).

  10. Anion*

    Ugh, I feel for you, OP. IMO this is a discussion you should try to have with Marco *outside* of work, if at all possible; it gives you the opportunity to fully explain and him the opportunity to discuss it, and both of you won’t have to worry about being overheard.

    I had to have a (somewhat) similar conversation with my daughter a year or two ago, after she reported to me some disturbing things her friend Alice was saying about her (Alice’s) brother. This came not long after hearing another (much more mildly, but still) disturbing tale told to me about the same family from another friend (my daughter’s best friend’s mom), so I called that friend–who had sworn me to secrecy, and whose confidence I had kept absolutely until then–shared the new knowledge with her, and asked her permission to tell her story to the school headmaster. We decided we’d go separately and each tell our own parts of the story.

    My point is, in that situation I asked first, but my friend agreed with me that the story–which she had very much hoped we could keep between us–had to be told. I imagine Marco will feel the same, once you’ve explained your reasoning.

    Best of luck to both of you, and to that poor woman who was extorted and abused.

  11. GumptionIndeed*

    I saw the summary line and my jaw dropped.

    I read then that supposedly consensual intercourse happened and the he asked for payment without discussing terms of payment first? Then he felt justified in vandalizing her car? And he’s security!? Security?!

    Such an abuse of a (a) woman; (b) relationship; (c) his position.

    OP, you did the right thing. That man is a problem.

  12. Tata*

    Thank you for speaking up!!!!!! If Marco ends up being upset with you, then he isn’t a friend or good person. Many times victims can’t speak up for various reasons…….scared, embarrassed, being intimated, blamed for being in situation, etc. By speaking up, you take the power away from the Weinstein’s & R Kelley’s of the world.

    1. JulieBulie*

      Totally. It occurs to me that there have probably been other victims at that place. And if he worked as a security guard somewhere else previously, there may be victims there too. Or he might just be getting started, with plans to “romance” more women.

      1. Allypopx*

        By being a security guard he’s in a weird position of power and by not being upfront he is not in fact a sex worker but is in fact a sleeze and an extortionist and he needs to be removed from the position he’s in NOW.

        1. Ego Chamber*

          “and by not being upfront he is not in fact a sex worker but is in fact a sleeze and an extortionist”

          I just had a disturbing thought: What if the security guard doesn’t see himself as a male prostitute or refer to himself as such, but that’s the term Marco (and/or the victim) and the other guys who’ve discussed this have come up with because “having sex with someone and then extorting her for payment” doesn’t explain the situation in a way they’re comfortable with?

          1. IMakeSigns*

            This is awful, but I think this is a definite possibility. Instead of actually prostituting, maybe he is trying to extort money from female colleagues with the threat of embarrassing them professionally.

          2. Not So NewReader*

            I am not sure how that is a concern. Does it really matter what he calls himself? Extorting money out if this woman after leading her to believe he was interested in her stands alone. He may or may not be a male prostitute, it doesn’t matter.

        2. Close Bracket*

          Yup. Maybe he is above board in his other sex work, but he was not in this case. EIther way, he is still in a position of power and should know better than to practice sex work at his security workplace.

          Shoot, even if he were a receptionist at his other workplace, he should still not practice sex work there.

  13. Multiple Emails*

    Here’s a script for how to talk to Marco, with a “duh, of course” attitude: “Hey Marco, I reported the extortion and vandalism to HR, because this is a situation that should have been reported to HR at once. Frankly, I’m surprised and disappointed that you didn’t already report it. Next time you know of a woman being victimized I expect you to speak up.” You don’t owe him an apology; you did him a favor.

    1. Been there*

      I think the LW loses moral ground and can’t really use that script since she didn’t report it right away.

      1. M-C*

        There is a reason why there are statutes of limitation. It’s hardly unusual to have to think about whether to report at all. And 3 weeks is hardly any time for something of this gravity, something that will affect several people’s work conditions. Good for you LW! Thank you for reporting at all!

    2. Jesmlet*

      I don’t think that’s fair… the victim didn’t seem to want it reported and I think it could go either way on what the right thing to do is. There’s no clear moral absolute here. Maybe he was just respecting her wishes?

      1. Mike C.*

        The victim’s explicit desires are not the most important thing to consider. Things like potential harm to others comes immediately to mind.

        1. Mike C.*

          And I know that sounds f*cking cold and in the real world I’d try to be sensitive to the needs of those who were already harmed, but it would be so much worse if I said nothing and allowed many others to become victims as well.

            1. Anna*

              I don’t think we need to be fatalistic about it. There are plenty of examples where reporting works, but it definitely doesn’t work if nobody reports.

            2. Mike C.*

              I’m not stupid enough to believe that there aren’t serious problems but nihilism isn’t the answer.

        2. Jesmlet*

          I don’t disagree that the victim’s desires aren’t the only consideration and I even said below that I tend to agree with reporting it always, but to chew out Marco and say he unequivocally did the wrong thing is overstepping IMO. There are conflicting priorities here and he came to a different conclusion than you or I would have but that doesn’t make him a bad person.

    3. Morning Glory*

      I think the language is unnecessarily aggressive since we don’t know what Marco’s conversation with the victim looked like, or whether she asked him not to say anything.

      Definitely explain, definitely say that this is the kind of thing that needs to be reported.

    4. Lissa*

      Does telling a peer you “expect them” to do something ever actually work? I can’t imagine reacting well to a script like this, even if I “deserved it”.

    5. floating*

      This seems a little ungenerous. Honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised if Marco is relieved that OP went to HR. I could imagine someone clearly knowing that this behavior is unacceptable and needs to be reported, but didn’t feel like he could do so without betraying the victim’s trust.

      1. Samata*

        This is exactly what I was thinking! Marco may hug the OP and thank her for having the strength and right mind he didn’t have at the time.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        I agree, OP can use this type of wording if Marco gets ridiculous but I think starting out with a softer approach is the route to go. I suspect that part of why Marco told OP is because he thought OP would do something.

    6. tigerStripes*

      How about “Marco, I had a tough time with this, but I realized I couldn’t live with this unless I reported it.”

    7. Isabelle*

      Marco is the worst kind of hypocrite. I would understand if he didn’t report it to HR and kept his mouth shut. But here he is, gossiping about it with OP and who knows who else. Gossip of this nature spreads like wildfire and is very damaging to someone’s reputation.

      1. Jesmlet*

        On the other hand, gossip like this can spread like wildfire and protect other women from becoming victims as well.

      2. SunshineOH*

        It’s not gossip if it’s true. And we all need to worry less about the “reputation” of a criminal. This is why things go unreported so frequently. “I don’t have proof so it’s just a rumor”, or “He has his whole future ahead of him.” Exactly NONE of that is the responsibility of the victim or any witnesses. Report it, and let the investigation play out. If it’s not true, that will come out too.

      3. Ego Chamber*

        He isn’t ruining the victim’s reputation, he didn’t even share her name with OP.

        Or… did you mean he’s ruining the reputation of a security guard who had sex with a woman and then extorted her and vandalized her car? In which case: no one should give a fuck about that guy’s reputation. Anything that happens to him as a result of his actions, he did to himself.

      4. Not So NewReader*

        This assumes that Marco knows OP to be a gossiping person. Perhaps Marco knows OP to be a resourceful, intelligent person who would seriously listen to him. It seems to me that he was right.

    1. The Bimmer Guy*

      I agree with you. The actual Esmé Squalor might disagree with you, though…or she might agree, depending upon whether or not reporting one’s coworkers to HR is considered “fashionable” at that particular moment.

  14. The Bimmer Guy*

    Especially since it wasn’t your friend Marco, but rather someone that Marco knows, I wouldn’t have any qualms about telling HR. Even if it *were* Marco, you were still right to tell, because this is inexcusable behavior, and, as you said, the point of security is to make you feel secure…not to vandalize your car over an unpaid sex-for-hire invoice.

    I don’t even think you owe it to Marco to tell him that the information came from you, although he might know anyway. It sounds to me like the story was passed around as idle gossip, which is disgusting, so it’s only natural that it got back to HR through some avenue or another.

  15. Lily in NYC*

    Someone felt the need to report someone on my behalf once, and I was so angry. I was handling it in my own way and was documenting before reporting it and this person caused the entire thing to backfire and made it so much worse.

    1. The Bimmer Guy*

      Interesting. And that is another aspect that we aren’t considering here.

      Just out of curiosity, was the whistleblower someone who had witnessed the incident(s), or someone with whom you had confided?

    2. Student*

      Just a thought to consider: Are you maybe misplacing some anger here? It sounds like your boss or institution let you down here by not holding the guy in your incident accountable. The person who reported it before you expected is an easier target to blame. However, if your institution responded badly to an independent reporter, it’s very likely they would’ve responded even worse to any evidence you brought them yourself, no matter how comprehensive.

      The biggest problem with this kind of stuff is people tend to ignore the comprehensiveness of evidence in favor of a gut response to who they like better and care more about and value – and in situations like this, the woman getting hurt overwhelmingly tends to not be the person the institute values more. In one of my experiences with this, the guy literally admitted every single thing he did – but told the boss I deserved it for not respecting his seniority (he wasn’t my boss! just a peer with a more senior job title!). And the boss turned to me and told me, knowing exactly what the guy had done from his own mouth, that I deserved it for defying someone who had some vague seniority above me. For the boss, it was never about the actual incident specifics, it was only about supporting whichever person the boss liked better to settle a dispute so we’d both get out of his office.

      1. M-C*

        Sadly, Student’s experience is far from unusual, and I agree with them wholeheartedly. Lily, I’m very sorry things went badly for you, but Student is right that you may think to redirect your anger where it really belongs, not so much toward the one person who tried to help you..

      2. Close Bracket*

        Lily is the victim, not the boss. I’m sorry that both your boss and your coworker were shits to you, but your boss’s response is not comparable to Lily’s response. Reporting with documentation goes badly enough, reporting without documentation goes even worse. This outside person should have assisted Lily in gathering documentation and offered to act as a witness rather than taking things out of Lily’s hands.

    3. Myrin*

      I hope this isn’t taken unkindly as I certainly don’t mean it that way, but what is the OP supposed to do with this comment? She has already taken action, so it’s not going to deter her from doing something, and I don’t think we should want her to retroactively feel bad about her approach to this situation.

    4. Lison*

      I’m not trying to not accept how it made you feel but what did you want that person to do? They witnessed you being treated badly and they reported what they witnessed. Should they have said nothing because they assumed you had it under control? That’s exactly why it keeps happening. Because it doesn’t get reported even when there are third parties involved and when the third party says nothing the victim assumed they will be on the abusers side because they said nothing and this is normal

      1. OhNo*

        In an ideal world, I think the third party would ask the victim what they wanted to do (or to be done) about the whole thing. But that can just add a whole other set of weird moral/ethical issues to the mix.

        There’s never going to be one perfect answer that applies to every single situation regardless of circumstances. But it can help to share possibilities like this one, because a situation like Lily in NYC’s would probably never occur to me if I was the third party in question.

      2. Close Bracket*

        They should have supported Lily in gathering evidence and offered to be in place as a witness, if the incidents were things that could be witnesses. Then they should have accompanied Lily when she took her evidence and reported it.

    5. Anna*

      I’m sorry it happened like that, but the truth is that the person who reported it probably still did the right thing. Maybe they could have spoken to you about how you were handling it, but I don’t think it’s fair to blame them for things not going in the right direction.

      1. Close Bracket*

        It’s not fair to blame them for a case with no evidence going badly? Maybe even with evidence, the case would have gone badly, but any thinking person should realize that collecting evidence can only help.

        1. zora*

          The person to blame is the perpetrator of the abuse/harrassment. There is a lot of focusing blame on the wrong people going on in these stories.

  16. VintageLydia*

    Can I just say that as twisted it is, I’m glad the Weinstein thing is highlighting workplace sexual abuse in a way I haven’t seen in a long time?

    OP, you did good. I understand why you didn’t report before, but I am glad you decided to do so now.

  17. Lissa*

    I wonder if this guy is actually a male prostitute or if he just sleeps with women and then cons/threatens them out of money? Not that it really matters. But I just finished the Dirty John podcast and thought of that creep even more than Harvey Weinstein here, a con artist who plays “romance” and then makes threats/demands.

    I know there’s focus here on what Marco should’ve done, or why the OP didn’t report it immediately but I really wonder how many of the “general population”, not AAM readers, would go to HR with something like this? I suspect it’s not that high a number. Which isn’t to say he shouldn’t, but more this is a culture issue that needs changing. For a lot of people it likely wouldn’t even occur to them that something could be done. Also I can imagine the woman herself is extremely embarrassed and may not want people knowing what happened, which does muddy the waters.

    1. Mes*

      There are a lot of good reasons to not go to HR. Being blamed, not being believed, being retaliated against, etc…

    2. JulieBulie*

      My first thought would actually be to go to the police, not HR. I don’t know if that’s a better or smarter option, but vandalism is a crime, so I think of the police first.

    3. Tuxedo Cat*

      In my experience, a lot of people take the stance that something isn’t their problem so they won’t get involved even if it’s clear that the victim wants help.

    4. strawberries and raspberries*

      Oh my God, the Dirty John story made me so, so, so, SO screamingly angry. Especially the subplot about the wife’s mother, who actually defended her older daughter’s abuser and later murderer at his trial because her daughter “didn’t treat him well.” Can you even imagine the level of latent rage and internalized oppression to even go there?

  18. Student*

    OP – Thank you for speaking up.

    As someone who’s been in the “me too” boat as well, I know it helps tremendously just to have somebody else look at your situation and say, that is wrong and should be stopped. Even if the HR intervention doesn’t get to the conclusion you’d want, know that speaking up like you did can be the difference between a woman who doubts her worth and herself, and a woman who really believes she deserves better than this.

  19. Delphine*

    You did the right thing, OP. When so many people feel trapped in silence, for whatever reason, speaking up is commendable.

  20. Isabelle*

    I find this very confusing. Why would someone who moonlights as a prostitute use his work as a place to find clients? That’s incredibly stupid and risky. How does Marco know any of this happened? Did the guard tell him? Did the woman tell him? Did he hear it from someone else?

    Don’t sex workers always agree the payment with their customers in advance? I feel that there could be something else going on between the guard and the woman than neither OP or Marco know about.

    1. Bow Ties Are Cool*

      1) Criminals are often not the brightest or most forward-thinking among us.
      2) Men who victimize women often assume (and not without cause) that no one is going to do anything about it.

    2. Tobias Funke*

      It’s easier to believe the woman is somehow up to something than it is to believe that there is a con artist using sexual violence out there?

    3. Jesmlet*

      So because you can’t wrap your head around a sex worker who brings his second job to his primary job (you must have never had a coworker involved in MLM – just because it’s sex doesn’t mean the crossing of boundaries completely changes), there must be more to the story that implicates the woman as well? Shitty people do shitty things. This is not some huge conspiracy with layers upon layers of hidden information.

      1. Isabelle*

        I think you misunderstood my comment. I’m not implicating or blaming the woman. From what we know she clearly is the victim in this. From their limited information, Marco and OP saw this as a one-off incident but it could be part of a bigger pattern of abuse, blackmail and extortion against women in that workplace. It’s worth investigating and hopefully HR are looking into this.

        1. Jesmlet*

          Maybe I did… I interpreted your added questions as not accepting OP’s version at face value. By this, “I feel that there could be something else going on between the guard and the woman than neither OP or Marco know about”, I thought you were implying that the victim was leaving out important context info rather than saying there was possibly something more sinister at play.

    4. JulieBulie*

      He is not a prostitute or sex worker. This woman was not a client. She thought she was his girlfriend. He is a con man and extortionist, and the woman was his victim.

      Less confusing now? It seems fairly clear to me.

    5. Tuxedo Cat*

      He can be a sex worker/security guard and an extortionist. None of these things are mutually exclusive.

  21. OP/LW Here*

    Thank you all for your kind support, I really expected to get beat up more here about not speaking with Marco first. I appreciate the understanding of how tricky this situation is and the nuances.

    HR waited a few days before they called Marco in, and apparently they tortured him – called him a liar when he said he had little information and said he could get in trouble for not reporting and also gossiping. I learned this when he called me to tell me what an awful day he had. After hearing some of what he went through, I confessed it was me who gave HR his name. I’m feeling so terribly guilty about what he was subjected to. Naturally, when I said I wished I had come to him first, he said he would have told me not to tell. Maybe I instinctively knew that and took action on my own. I don’t know. Marco gave me a hug and said we’re okay, but time will tell if there has been lasting damage to our relationship. I don’t have a good feeling, however.

    As for why I didn’t report it immediately when I heard, well, I guess I just didn’t know enough about the people, the circumstances, to feel it was my place to insert myself. That changed once the Weinstein story exploded and I subsequently saw the guard in the break room. It’s like I snapped and felt it was time to act.

    I also want to stress that all gossip is not idle. I cannot emphasize enough the importance of a ‘whisper network’ to know who to avoid so that you don’t find yourself in a compromising or dangerous situation. It is so important that women talk among themselves about people that might hurt them- sometimes gossip is very valuable information.

      1. Tuxedo Cat*

        How is Marco a jerk in this situation?

        With what he went through and without knowing more about the victim, it might’ve sadly been the best move to not report. HR calling him a liar seems extreme when he said he had little info.

      2. Anion*

        What? How is Marco “a jerk, too,” in this scenario? He was called into HR, abused and called a liar, and then told the OP it’s okay and gave her a hug. What about his actions here make him a jerk?

        1. Temperance*

          I wouldn’t use the word “abused” to describe what happened to him.

          He didn’t want this to be reported. That makes him jerky. He took the side of the abuser.

      3. Anonymooser*

        How the hell do you take “Marco is a jerk” away from this? The only potentially jerk-ish people are the HR inquisitors who didn’t believe Marco when he said he didn’t have very much information.

    1. Trout 'Waver*

      Your HR people suck.

      It sounds like they made up their own mind about Marco before talking to him. That kind of “investigation” is incredibly chilling and makes people not report stuff. Even very problematic stuff.

        1. Anna*

          I kind of thought she was reporting what Marco said, anyway, which would still make me raise an eyebrow at Marco’s perception of the whole thing…Maybe?

    2. Nerdling*

      Marco telling you not to tell would have been asking you to put other women in your workplace in danger of being the guard’s victims down the line. You absolutely did the right thing.

    3. Knitting Cat Lady*

      From what you write here it sounds like HR at your company sucks.

      Could be the other people involved knew that and didn’t report because of that.

      And I totally get why you didn’t report sooner.

      Things like that are like a constant dull ache that you’ve had so long that you’re used to it. And then something happens that makes you feel the pain very clearly and sharply and you finally realize that, actually, it. doesn’t. have. to. be. like. this!

    4. Jesmlet*

      You did the right thing in all regards. Marco could have behaved differently, but I can’t help feeling that HR did not do this correctly either. Obviously what you heard about that conversation was through Marco but did they seriously say, “he could get in trouble for not reporting and also gossiping”? Threatening someone to report someone else is not the right way to go about resolving this situation. Would they have treated the victim the same way because she chose not to report it?

      Also, your last paragraph is so true and on point. In a perfect world, we’d all feel comfortable taking this stuff to people with the authority to do something, but in lieu of that, warning others of what you’ve experienced or heard is important and should not be put down as spreading rumors or causing drama.

    5. NW Mossy*

      Not to overly malign your friend here, but I’d take Marco’s claims of “torture” with more than a few grains of salt. It sounds like he did stretch the truth by claiming ignorance when they spoke with him, and it’s not uncommon for HR to push people with knowledge to disclose so that they can do a proper investigation. It’s certainly awkward and uncomfortable to be a party to an HR investigation, but if you don’t have reason to believe that your HR regularly engages in hostile behavior, bear that in mind to.

      And as a sidebar, you are not responsible for Marco’s feelings. That’s Marco’s job, and it’s not a job you can even do effectively because you’re not sitting at his emotional control panel like the feelings from Inside Out. He’ll feel what he feels, and it’s not on you.

    6. Detective Amy Santiago*

      Thank you for doing the right thing. I hope that your HR department will do something to actually help the victim.

      1. Juli G.*

        I’m kind of wondering whether Marco disclosed the victim’s name. I’m not sure why HR would go after him so hard unless the victim denied. I suppose they could be incompetent or protecting the perpetrator.

    7. Wannabe Disney Princess*

      I think I blacked out after reading the description of how HR handled it. That is a frightening revelation on its own (regardless of the situation that lead to it).

      I think it’s quite admirable how you stepped up to the plate when nobody else would.

    8. Turquoisecow*

      Your last paragraph is so true. Sometimes gossip is idle and sometimes it’s based in truth. In a social universe like a workplace, it’s best to have an ear open to it, even if half is false. It’s one of the ways we avoid predators.

      You did the right thing, OP. For all we know, that woman was not the only person to be victimized by the security guard, and she probably wouldn’t be the last. On behalf of all women, thank you.

    9. Tuxedo Cat*

      Your last paragraph is so true in many situations. In academia, the whisper network is sadly the only thing some of us have to protect ourselves and each other.

    10. Close Bracket*

      Wow. I am sorry for how this is playing out. You are totally right about the whisper network.

    11. Not So NewReader*

      Marco sounds like a heck of a guy. I think you probably will be okay. He may not confide in you like that again*, if the situation arises but I am sure he will think about all he saw and learned here.
      *Confide again. When we confide in people it puts a huge burden on them. I think he will know not to give you information that he is not prepared to act on himself. Which is the way it should be. He may handle things differently , such as bringing others with him.

      I hope that he goes back to his boss and tells her how things went. I hope his boss has more spine than HR.

      And it’s true women do get warned about other people sometimes.

  22. Squirrel*

    I really hope that the Weinstein case (and the others that are coming out because of that) helps make people feel more comfortable reporting bad/illegal behavior in general, definitely sexual harassment/assault at the very least. So many people don’t want to “cause drama” or worry about getting a “nice” person in trouble, so they don’t do or say anything–not to go into the whole issues victims have with being taken seriously, or blamed for the situation. The shitty person caused the issue in the first place and if they didn’t want to have to deal with the consequences of their actions, they should not have taken those actions to begin with.

    I’ve seen basic mean/bad behavior (such as rudeness, name-calling, etc.) go from bad to worse in my friends group, simply because people don’t want to stand up for themselves or others. The antagonist learns their behavior is acceptable (for a given value of it) and continues being shitty. I really hope that people stop accepting terrible treatment–of any kind–of themselves or others.

  23. Anon for this*

    I disagree. I personally feel it should always be a victim’s choice whether information is reported or not. That doesn’t mean a victim has to keep the information to herself. She can tell her friends or a therapist and expect support and not be forced to report. I personally take issue with mandated reporting laws for that reason. I used to work with teenagers and a 17 year old was old enough to know if she wanted to go through the reporting process or not. That 17 year old couldn’t get the support of a teacher or counselor though as they were mandated reported. So she’d keep it private until she was of age. It’s sad. It’s where good intentions have tragic consequences. I agree that a 5 year old can’t decide whether to report but a mature teen should have that right. I’m going off track here but it is all related.

    The woman who slept with the security guard may not want that information to be public. She may not want people discussing her sex life at work. Insisting on reporting takes that choice away from her.

    1. Andy*

      There’s def validity here…but if I know a thing and the thing means that there’s a good chance people will be hurt in the future then it becomes incumbent upon me to SOMETHING.
      If all the harm is in the past, if it’s reasonable to assume there will be no future harm, the ethical scales weigh more heavily on victim preference.
      Yes to some extent a victim should have rights over their own story. But there is an argument for the protection of future victims.
      Also: This woman didn’t really sleep with a security guard/sex worker. She was tricked into thinking she was sleeping with someone with whom she had a relationship, her boyfriend. Then she finds out that she is betrayed, physically and emotionally. Then she gets her vehicle vandalized.

    2. Jesmlet*

      I was a mandated reporter at my last job and I thought about this a lot. On the one hand, you want to protect the victim from being subjected to something they are clearly not ready for. But on the other hand, you want to do everything you can to prevent other people from becoming victims. Maybe I err too much to the utilitarian, but I do think mandatory reporting is important.

      1. Jennifer*

        Honestly, I don’t know what I would do in this situation. I know what I “have” to do, but I can understand why a victim doesn’t want to be victimized more by having to deal with the consequences that will happen to her if she does. Especially when the chances of him being harmed are slim to none and the chances of her being harmed more are high.

      2. Kj*

        I’m a mandated reporter who has to call pretty often. There have been times when I didn’t want too. But there are ways to report and have it go better for everyone. The mother who tearfully confesses she hit her child with a belt and says she never wants to do it again? I call with that mom so she and I can talk to CPS together. Mandatory reporting is important and there are ways to make it kinder if you need to. I am clear with clients about when I HAVE to call before I call. But I let them have impact on what I say and sometimes be present for the call.

    3. Nerdling*

      I do get that (I’ve been there), but this is a security guard. This is a person with implicit authority who is using his position to take advantage of his coworkers. He’s putting them in literal danger – and not just the woman he initially targeted, but other women who might come after. The OP reporting this even though the victim chose not to is a step toward protecting ALL of their female coworkers. I don’t blame the guard’s first victim for not wanting to speak up (especially given HR’s “stellar” response), but I don’t think that should tie anyone else’s hands from taking steps to remove a dangerous person from the workplace.

    4. Student*

      I think you are missing big parts of the issue here, though.

      A crime was committed here. Part of why we punish criminals is to deter them from doing it again to somebody else, and deter others like them.

      It’s easy to make the call you’ve made if you look only at one victim and one witness at one frozen moment in time and never look further.

      What about when you look at the next victim he does this to? What was that person owed? If the witness hurts the first victim a bit (and the amount of hurt inflicted through “revictimization” is strictly less than what the actual perpetrator inflicted on the victim), but saves the second potential victim from ever being harmed, then for society as a whole, that is a net benefit. From the second victim’s perspective, the case is very clear-cut in favor of reporting.

      Additionally, very often, I think you’d find these original victims are much more willing to suffer through reporting if they actually get the criminal to stop. A huge part of why they don’t want to report is because they believe it won’t change anything. You don’t find people who fail to report, for example, attempted murders unless they deeply believe that it won’t make a difference, even though the report may be traumatizing to give. Often, in sexually-related crimes, the victim’s report doesn’t change anything. Having a bystander witness can make a huge difference in overcoming the credibility issue in such cases, though, and can be the item that makes a difference in the end.

      The suffering in reporting comes *specifically* from not being believed, and having somebody standing there who says “I believe, I saw it, I heard it, it is true” itself mitigates the re-victimization effect itself.

      1. Gazebo Slayer*

        Yes – I think people would be much more inclined to report if they know the perp is going to get fired or go to jail and that *they* aren’t going to get in trouble or get humiliated for reporting.

    5. Artemesia*

      It stops being her personal business when extortion and vandalism are involved. Everyone at that company is in danger with this guy as a security guard.

  24. Not in NYC Any More*

    I’m going to be the outlier here – and yes I know evil thrives when good people do nothing – but I can’t help feeling that the victim is being victimized again. She asked that it not be reported and her wishes were ignored. I would support encouraging her to report the incident, or asking if it was OK if I reported it, but I don’t think it is right to dismiss her expressed wishes. I can see how she would feel powerless in the original situation, and now powerless again because others feel they know what is better for her than she does. She’s the one who will be dealing with the situation long after we all go back to our lives. I just don’t see that the answer is as clear cut as everyone seems to be making it.

    1. Andy*

      you are correct in so many ways, and I agree with this in so many ways, but there’s also the future victims to consider.
      There WILL be future victims unless this man is stopped.
      What if I found out that my child was hurt by someone that was on the whisper network…I might feel that my child was not just a victim of the predator, but of all the people who didn’t speak up.

      1. Anon for this some more*

        The whisper network is useful for situations where you have vibes or suspicions but don’t know. You can say “I got some bad vibes from him. I wouldn’t work late with him alone” on a lot less evidence than it would require to go to HR or the police. Sometimes we “know” before we KNOW.

        Posted in wrong spot below.

    2. Jesmlet*

      I agree with this: “the victim is being victimized again” and this: “I just don’t see that the answer is as clear cut as everyone seems to be making it”, but not the conclusion you’ve drawn from it. Whisper network can only protect people so much. If someone with the power and desire to act finds out about a predator in the workplace in the beginning, how many people would they be saving if they fired him, called the authorities, or anything in between? I know it’s a bit callous, but I do feel the end justifies the means.

    3. Anononon*

      The issue with the victims being revictimized is a real thing, but the flip side is no rapist or abuser is held accountable. It’s an ugly truth that in order for justice to be done and to prevent the predator from attacking anyone else, they have to go through that pain.

      I work with a young woman who was raped. Her sample was finally tested years after and matched two other rape kits. They’re trying the rapist and the young woman is worn out, which is completely fair, and would like to back out. But it’s too late. They have to subpoena her now because she’s refused to be in touch with the DA. It sucks for her, but the truth is this guy raped two other women they know of and who knows how many actual other victims are out there? As painful as this is going to be for her, subpoenaing her testimony is the right course of action.

    4. Tuxedo Cat*

      This is what I’m thinking too. We can argue that whatever she goes through would be helping the greater good, but it’s a huge ask especially if it becomes a criminal case. A real person at the end of the day is affected and to what extent could be pretty big.

      1. Anna*

        And real people will be affected if sexual predators aren’t held to account and stopped. It goes both ways. The best we can do is be as kind as possible to the survivors.

  25. Lady Phoenix*

    “Security Guard” is as much as one as he is a sex worker: a shitty, manipulative one.

    Sex workers treat their work like any job: tell you the service upfront as well as the cost. The fact he pretended to be her lover only to demand cash and than vandalize her car when she didn’t makes this dangerous close to rape, if not actual rape.

    This man needs his ass to be fired yesteryear.

  26. Anon for this some more*

    The whisper network is useful for situations where you have vibes or suspicions but don’t know. You can say “I got some bad vibes from him. I wouldn’t work late with him alone” on a lot less evidence than it would require to go to HR or the police. Sometimes we “know” before we KNOW.

  27. Yet Even Another Alison*

    If I get flamed for this – so be it. I support these women completely – I am absolutely horrified at what some of these sexual harassment victims have gone through. But this “back-lash” against women who ” don’t just report it” that I hear about is just beyond me. Imagine if you will….you are single, you have debts, you have children, you have a very limited support system (financial, emotional, etc) – and you need the job to SURVIVE. You are not going to do ANYTHING to rock the boat. Telling HR is NO protection. They work for management and they (management) are often the culprits. I have seen HR get overruled by management time and time again. They ADVISE management. The nature of sexual harassment is the harasser is in a position of POWER. What do folks not understand about that? Please, think before you speak and say nothing if you cannot be supportive to a sexual harassment victim. Thank you.

    1. Consuela Schlepkiss*

      I think about this a lot. I’ve worked at places (state universities and companies) where your employment indicates that you consent to truthfully participating in these types of investigations, and where there are policies in place that have bright lines where conduct indicates that an investigation must occur, even when victims have the option to report but not investigate in other cases. The rules state that third parties with knowledge of misconduct have to report, because it’s about preventing the company/institution from liability. I think people may sort of blithely overlook these provisions in their handbooks, because how often does it ever come up? In your example, the employee is doubly screwed. I don’t know what to do about that.

    2. Tuxedo Cat*

      I see that with racism and sexism, and there are a handful of times where I reported things that have happened to me and part of me wishes I hadn’t because of the aftermath. It not only hurt me, but also it didn’t even help anyone. Even when the culprit is found guilty, the victim more often than not professionally suffers. In my case, I was professionally hurt in ways I probably don’t even know about at this point.

      From where I’m sitting, there needs to be a huge cultural shift so that these incidents don’t happen and when they do that victims get treated fairly.

      1. Student*

        “From where I’m sitting, there needs to be a huge cultural shift so that these incidents don’t happen and when they do that victims get treated fairly.”

        That is true. But it will not, it cannot, happen first. Some women have to make this a big deal first, and have to risk suffering more harm, in order to get to the point you want to reach. Some women have to suffer deeper harm, and get no justice, in the quest to get to the point you want to reach. It’s neither fair nor right. However, taking the risk, and suffering through more injustice, is the only way to reach the world you are envisioning. If not now, then when? If not you, then whom?

        So yes, sometimes women will try to push each other into stepping into the inevitable traffic accident that is reporting sexual harassment. Some of it is self-serving – please suffer through this process so I don’t have to; some of it is an attempt to get other women to join us on the highway before they see us mowed down, so we can reach that critical mass that finally slows the cars barreling toward us; some of it is exactly as naive as you think it is.

        It is necessary for progress, as unjust as it is. Just like the monstrosities that African Americans suffered through in their quest for equality. Just like the monstrosities women of the past suffered through in quest for the vote. Just like the monstrosities minorities and women will suffer through in the future.

        Consider the realistic alternatives. We’re a gender, so we can’t leave and form an independent community (not that that’d be easy if we could!). We could do what? Take up arms, stage a coup, against the gender that has an overwhelming advantage in weapons possession and prowess? Take up political power, against the gender that has a deeply entrenched political advantage? Try to out-finance the gender that has the overwhelming amount of the world’s wealth? Wait quietly, and politely hope that this stops?

        1. Gazebo Slayer*

          When one of my former coworkers told me that our boss – the owner of the company – was groping her and had cut her hours in half when she wouldn’t have sex with him… and was deliberately giving her bad references so she couldn’t get another job… my first instinct was to stab him. That is literally what I wanted to do.

          If the authorities – employers, law enforcement, etc. – won’t deal with harassers and won’t punish them, and make their victims’ lives hell instead, I guess it’s up to us. Maybe not by killing them and hiding their bodies really really well, but… I’m thinking of that letter where an abused wife framed her innocent coworker for embezzlement. Now considering that she framed an *innocent* party, I was appalled, but… if someone is a harasser, that’s quite a different matter. I’ve seen some horror stories on here about creative methods of sabotaging someone’s job, and maybe it’s time for the whisper network to start applying those. “Accidentally” deleted files and shredded records, “accidentally” changed data… Risky, but I sure wouldn’t blame anyone who did it.

  28. Recruit-o-rama*

    I would love to live the the black and white world that some of the commenters on this post live in. Many of the unfeeling, cold, morally superior posts on this thread make me sad for the world.

    OP, you did a courageous thing, and I know it was hard and I know that your heart was always in the right place. Nothing is ever as simple as so many people would like to believe. You had a lot of conflicting emotions and it’s ok that you took some time to come to your decision because there were a lot of players who needed to be considered. Ultimately, you did the right thing, and you deserve credit, not derision for your timing or for your conflicted feelings about your friend.

    1. Collingswood*

      I agree. I’m a bit shocked by all the comments that portray this as a clear cut issue without considering, or perhaps despite considering, the impacts to all parties. I commend the OP for trying to consider all of this and do what she thinks is the right thing to do.

  29. Elsewhere1010*

    The thing that makes no sense to me (and I have to put this bluntly even if in bland terms) is that no sex worker should ever inform the client after the fact that what just happened was a commercial proposition. If they try to collect after the fact without first having set a price, it indicates that no matter what they’re story, they’re not professional escorts. Extortionists, maybe. Or a sex worker amateur who has no idea how their business works.

    I’m feeling there’s more to this story than the OP knows about.

    1. OP/LW Here*

      I’m not really following your logic here, but I can assure you that I have stated everything that is known to me.

    2. zora*

      I think you answered your own question here. Marco, and maybe some other people, have called this guy a male prostitute, but that doesn’t guarantee that he is a good one or an ethical one!

      He didn’t treat this woman as a client, he took advantage of his day job to manipulate a woman for his own financial gain. Just because a professional sex worker would not do these things does not immediately mean that the story is completely wrong. It just means that this “Security Guard” guy did an unethical and illegal thing. I don’t see why that’s so hard to grasp. Basically, it’s Occam’s Razor.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      Just as a lame parallel, a jewelry thief could self identify as a gemologist. People can present themselves in any number of ways, it does not mean it’s an accurate description.

    4. Undine*

      I’ve heard a version of this story before. (Woman staying at a hotel, went to bed with a waiter, who then claimed to be a male prostitute & extorted money.) Basically, he’s pretending to be a consensual sexual encounter and then using physical threat + shame to extort money. The “Oh by the way, I’m a prostitute, pay me” is a total con. However, I’m sure he’s claiming to be a prostitute, that’s part of the modus operandi.

  30. Stellaaaaa*

    I’m confused as to why people are calling Marco a bad dude or chastising the OP for not reporting sooner. This is a story about a security guard at OP/Marco’s job that vandalized their coworker’s car. That’s a pretty serious warning to anyone who might be thinking of saying something. Where are the commenters who are usually so sympathetic to people in dire financial straits? I would have to think long and hard before risking my $15,000 investment on a statement to HR.

      1. Stellaaaaa*

        And she did the right thing anyway! I wouldn’t even blame her if her letter was, “I want to report this but I might not do it because I can’t afford to lose my car.” She’s clearly on the correct side of the issue. It would be different if she had specific knowledge or had seen the vandalism with her own eyes. She took a huge risk on mere hearsay because her conscience is so strong. She doesn’t deserve to be criticized.

        What’s next? Are we going to attack the woman who was blackmailed for continuing to work for the same company as the security guard?

        1. Recruit-o-rama*

          Well probably, blaming the victim is a time honored tradition in all things sexual harassment.

        2. Tuxedo Cat*

          Not to be glib, but he vandalized a car because the woman refused to pay. How is he going to react when he’s being questioned for criminal activity?

    1. LCL*

      We are supposed to believe the OP. And I do. But, I think there is something untrue in her post that she had no way to know. I think the security guard shaded the truth to Marco and made up the lame story about payment for services rendered . The guard vandalized her car because he is one of those creeps that like to hurt the women they sleep with. Marco repeated the lie because he believed it, and it did happen, it’s the motivation part of the story that’s bullsh17. Which doesn’t change anything anyone posted. OP, this is a hell of a dilemma. Reporting was the right thing, but I understand why you are doubting yourself.

    1. ThisGuy*

      I thought the two golden rules of prostitution were…
      1) Get the money first.
      2) Don’t kiss on the mouth.

  31. Merci Dee*

    I know that this isn’t the whole point of this letter, but it’s something that I want to just throw out there.

    This is a fine example of why I think sex work should be legalized. By decriminalizing and taking away the stigma that sex workers are typically under, we make life safer for the worker and for those who use those services. By criminalizing this particular type of work, we’ve created an instant pool of ready-made victims who are too scared to go to the police when someone harms them or those they work with. And we’ve also created a group of customers who can’t go to the police when they’re victimized by a worker or other associate (Imagine, for a moment, if you went into any restaurant and ordered a meal. You sit down to eat, you enjoy your entree and a lovely dessert. You pull out your wallet to pay . . . and your server runs up, bashes you in the face with a pipe, steals your wallet, and runs out. But you can’t report this abuse and theft, because eating in restaurants is illegal and you could get locked up for admitting that you did it. How fair is that?).

    Legalize sex work. Institute licensing and mandatory health testing for the workers, and get these people into safe environments where they won’t have to worry about losing their lives for their work. Get rid of the adversarial relationship that sex workers have with local and federal police, so that they have reliable resources to turn to if they find themselves in danger.

    The system, as it is, is ridiculous.

    1. Student*

      This isn’t sex work. This was an extortion scheme. This wasn’t a woman who went looking for a prostitute and had a bad experience because sex work is illegal. He’s not a prostitute; he’s a mugger with a story.

      This is a guy who had sex with a woman with no pretense of payment, and then extorted her by claiming something like he’d tell other people she’d slept with a sex worker, and when that threat didn’t work on her, he attacked her property to scare her into paying “protection” money.

      I agree that sex work ought to be legalized. However, I think this is a really, really terrible story to pick to try to make a case for it. There was no sex work involved here; bringing up the issue just diverts from a real and completely different problem. If he hadn’t threatened her with revealing that she’d unknowingly slept with a prostitute, he’d have a different hook with another stigma ready to try to extort her – maybe involving sleeping with somebody with HIV or a different STD, maybe something else entirely. The extortion hook isn’t the core problem, it’s the criminal act of extortion, tied with sex, tied with actual vandalism and implied threats, tied in with his job as company security.

      1. zora*

        Well yeah, but I think the point Merci Dee is getting at is, if sex work was legalized, and then this exact same situation happened, the woman would have nothing *legally* to fear in coming forward. Precisely because the problem here had nothing to do with ‘sex work’ but with the dude manipulating someone to steal money from them.

        1. Anion*

          Except the victim in this case had nothing *legally* to fear coming forward in the first place. She did not consent to pay for sex. She had sex with someone who then extorted money from her. She is not a “jane” (or whatever a female john might be). Of all the reasons for her to fear going to the police, the one she didn’t need to even consider having was the idea that she could be busted for engaging a prostitute, because she absolutely did not do so in any way. Laws legalizing sex work would not have made one bit of difference in this case, which is about extortion, vandalism, and harassment, and not about sex work at all. We have zero evidence that the victim in this case thought differently, or that she was foolish enough to somehow think that being lied to and extorted by someone who claims after the fact to be a prostitute means that one is a patronizer of prostitutes rather than the victim of a lying extortionist.

          This “prostitution” business is a red herring, which in actuality has nothing at all to do with this story.

      1. Merci Dee*

        Yes, I realize that. Both by customers, and by random predators who view them as easy targets that are heartbreakingly hard to trace. My point was not which group is victimized most, provider or customer. The point is, victimization on either side would be curtailed to a massive degree if sex work were legalized.

        I don’t consider this letter an example of sex work at all, for all the reasons discussed here and in other portions of the thread. But the guard called himself a sex worker, regardless of the fact that he should have called himself an extortionist, and this just reminded me of my opinion about the legalization of sex work – nothing more, nothing less.

    2. Chriama*

      This is pretty much the worst possible example you could use to make your case. This guy wasn’t victimized, the woman was. He extorted her, then vandalized her car when she refused. He’s a con man, and if sex work was legal he would have done something else to extort her.

      1. serenity*

        Exactly. There are some people making odd parallels/analogies with this case, and seeming to miss the point that this was about extortion, property damage, and threats.

    3. Annie Moose*

      No, this is like if you’re invited over to your friend’s house for dinner, and at the end of the meal they insist on being paid, and damage your belongings when you protest that you were led to believe this was just dinner at a friend’s house. It’s not actually a restaurant, and the legality of restaurants has nothing to do with it.

  32. Amber Rose*

    This letter is astounding. Real life is so very dramatic, it defies all attempts at writing fiction that surpasses it.

    LW, you are very emotionally involved in all this. Which is not surprising! For your own sake, consider taking a step back, or talking it out with someone you trust or a counselor or something. Feelingstalk with your friend may have to happen for your own peace of mind, but it can wait for you to sort your thoughts and cool down from what was probably a stressful chat with HR.

  33. President Porpoise*

    So, I’m going to share my experience here to try to give some depth to the discussion of whether it’s in the victim’s best interest to report sexual harassment and/or assault *trigger warning*. I wnt to preface with this is strictly my experience and my veiwpoint, and I don’t want to push victims or observers into any particular path. I don’t know the depth of your circumstances, and it’s a bloody difficult web to untangle.

    I was molested as a very, very young child by a cousin, and the abuse went on for several years. Frankly, I knew that something bad was happening, but the full extent of the horribleness was lost on me until I hit about the age of 10. I think my parents might have suspected something – I remember a conversation with them about physical boundaries and my cousin when I was about 5 – but I didn’t say anything to them at the time. When I learned more about sex and crime in general, I realized what had happened. I was horrified and felt, so so guilty about my involvement. I felt like if I had said something, I could have ‘saved’ my cousin from commiting this horrible act. I felt unclean, like I had sinned. I felt this way for years. As a teenager, I reported the abuse to my local religious leader. His response was that I needed to repent. Messed up, right?

    Anyway, I continued to blame myself and suffer depression, suicidal thoughts, all that, until I was in college and met my now-husband. I shared the experience with him, and he gave me great counsel and understanding, but did not push me to report anything until I was ready. Several years later, I finally told my family about it – all of my immediate family, who I felt had a right to know, and who conceivably might come into contact with this guy at some point. I also reported it to the juvenile crimes division of the police department which had jurisdiction over the location where the abuse occurred. 18 years later, I had no real expectation of any punishment being forthcoming, but I wanted a record, a file, of my statement and what little evidence we could gather on hand in case any other allegations might arise against him. As expected, the case went nowhere.

    I had close family members urging me to not report, to have forgiveness in my heart for this man, to not ruin his life. And sure – it’s been so long and I’ve had time to heal, so I can give him what forgiveness is available to me. However, it doesn’t change the fact that he commited a crime – a horrible crime. As a citizen, I have an obligation to do my best to protect the othr members of my community to my best ability – after making sure that I am in a safe and stable place myself (just as if I was reporting a car accident). Whether it ruins his life is purely a byproduct of his own choices, and I will not accept responsibility or blame for the consequences.

    But it took me the better part of two decades to get to this point. It is a hard, long, and frequently lonely road, with profound mental and emotional impact. If you can report without compromising someone’s safety (physical, mental, emotional, economic), please do. But if there’s an impact of their safety or livelihood, try to be considerate of that.

      1. dawbs*

        I don’t want to speak for the previous poster, but, honestly, IME, that attitude is distinctly unhelpful.

        If you are ruining his life ‘because he ruined yours’, you’re acknowledging his (continuing) power over you.
        It makes NOT reporting a point of pride “well, if I reported it, I would be acknowledging that he ruined my life–so, to prove my life is fine–it is GOOD, I will not report this. Instead I will bury this bit of information deep within myself.”

        1. Julia*

          I don’t think that’s the point. The point is that everyone always urges victims not to report “so they don’t ruin the poor guy’s life”, when no one ever gives the victims that same consideration.

          And fwiw, I almost never hear things like “you shouldn’t report that theft/murder because it might ruin the perpetrator’s life.” It’s exclusive to sexual assault, and thus shows pretty clearly how much more society values a man’s “life” and “social standing” over a woman’s.

          1. Dawbs*

            I know it’s not the point; as a person who has been there, I’m saying that sentence isometric that I found unhelpful/problematic.

            Because feelings are complicated and culture and roles are complicated. Because “he had disregard for you, you do what you need to heal” is only marginally different, but was a lot more palatable.

            Not that it necessarily matters here, but with the number of `me too`s in the world, people might appreciate knowing which sentences don’t work.

            1. Anon for This*

              I appreciate this perspective and it’s one I’ve thought about myself. It negates all the work so many survivors do to move past our assault and makes it seem like we’re broken people now, which we are not.

    1. Student*

      Always remember that these same “family members” did not urge him to, for example, apologize to you for wronging you or redress the grievance in any way. They expected you to do all the work of cleaning up this mess, a mess your cousin alone made, when you were the one attacked and harmed.

      And always remember that family is what you make of it in your heart. My blood family responded similarly to a similar experience. I cut them out of my life, and I’ve made a family of people who are not bound to me by blood, but care about me more than any of my blood relative ever did. It’s hard, terribly hard, to do – but it pays off quickly and deeply. Even if you never choose this path, please always remember it is an option open to you.

    2. But faaaaaamily*

      “I had close family members urging me to not report, to have forgiveness in my heart for this man, to not ruin his life.”

      To hell with them. You have no obligation to “foregive” your abuser, full stop. And tell these precious family members that you forgive *them* for making such an outrageous suggestions.

      1. Gazebo Slayer*

        Yes, and you don’t have to forgive those family members either. Tell them they’re going to burn in hell.

    3. Chriama*

      I’m so sorry about how your family handled that. Some people hide their discomfort behind religion (especially when it’s “family” or a close knit community). Forgiveness is something you do for yourself. You let it go, so it doesn’t eat away at you. That doesn’t mean you go out of your way to protect someone from the consequences of their own behaviour. You can forgive someone and still report them to the authorities.

  34. CES*

    I feel a bit confused here… quite a few people are applauding OP for speaking out, but I was under the impression it was considered a victim’s choice wether or not to report this sort of thing? I’m not trying to start an argument, I’m really asking. I’ve just always heard many times over, “It’s a victim’s choice whether or not to report, don’t urge them either way.” Even in work trainings you’re told to tell someone, “I am a mandatory reporter, if you don’t want this reported you might want to consider not telling me this.” This gives the victim choice, because maybe they don’t want to report it. I was always told this is the correct thing to do, did the opinion on that change at some point?

    At the least, I can easily imagine an HR department in which the victim is worse off after reporting (an unsympathetic person could see it as weird sex scandal at work), though I really hope that’s not the case.

    1. Stellaaaaa*

      I think the tune changes a bit once the abuse threatens to invade other people’s lives via the workplace. Additionally, notion of society enforces the idea of the public good. This dude used access granted by his job to vandalize a coworker’s car. It is absolutely a work problem. A security guard can’t be allowed to get away with that. How would you feel if you hired him to do security and you later found out that no one reported this problem?

      There is an argument that a victim’s right to dictate her own process should not override other people’s right to safety.

      1. Recruit-o-rama*

        And the argument on the other side of this is that this very thought process is what keeps victims totally silent. Victims of harassment, abuse and assault are OFTEN victimized again by the victim blamers so even though they deeply want justice, they are practicing self protection because they are scared. It’s not that they don’t care about potential future victims, it’s that they are raped again by their friends, family, co-workers, justice system, media and randos on the internet talking about THEIR responsibility for a perpetrator victimizing other people when they do speak up.

    2. SSS*

      No, harassment in the workplace is not a ‘victims choice’ for reporting. Anyone who witnesses it is expected to raise the issue, not just the person it is directed to. When it occurs at work, it affects more than just the direct victim. All other women at the company are in danger from this person, especially when he escalated to violence and vandalism for his extortion while performing his job duties.

  35. buttercup*

    Wow what….I really hope the LW gives us an update on this in the future, and that this security guard ceases to be a security guard.

  36. Undine*

    So I’m curious Alison, what does HR do in a situation like this, where someone comes with a serious allegation, but you can’t get back to someone who can report it first hand? You can’t (or shouldn’t) fire the guy on someone’s third hand say-so, but if it is true, you don’t want him there a day longer than necessary. What do you do now?

    1. Agrees with Undine*

      That is a good question, Undine – when, if ever, or what type, if any, personnel actions can you take if you have to base your conclusions on incomplete information or logical speculations??? It is not be a criminal trial so circumstantial evidence isn’t completely dismissed, but you don’t have anything solid. You can’t not address it because that runs a risk to the victim, others and/or the company culture.

  37. I'd rather not say*

    I don’t think I’ve seen it mentioned anywhere else, but isn’t vandalizing the car enough reason to report the security guard, regardless of any other sketching things he did?

    1. OP/LW Here*

      That is the ONLY reason I reported it. It wasn’t about the prostitution, I don’t care. It wasn’t about the jilted lover, I don’t care. It wasn’t about demanding payment after sex, I don’t care. It was about the show of force, the blatant bullying and intimidation, that compelled me to report this.

      Maybe what you are saying is, why wouldn’t I report the vandalizing of her car by a security guard, irregardless of the other things? It’s because of the other things, which might be construed as a lovers quarrel, that I didn’t want to insert myself into their business. But, like I said, the Harvey Weinstein expose triggered something in me, and when I saw that guard walking down the hall, it compelled me to reconsider the situation, my visceral reaction to him, and what I felt needed to be done. If I felt uncomfortable seeing him in the hall, imagine what the woman must feel when she sees him. That’s just not right. Not at work, especially.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        I get this. I think you did the right thing. The extortion aside, a person who would deliberately damage property like that over a personal dispute is not someone I would want ostensibly protecting company property or personnel. He’s dangerous.

      2. I'd rather not say*

        Oh, I wasn’t directing the comment to you LW, I was more making a general statement that the vandalism in itself is unacceptable, for any reason. It seemed like a lot of the discussion was going off on tangents about the other stuff, and glossing over this part. I get what you’re saying about not wanting to get in the middle of their business, and I respect that.

  38. Kismet*

    You know, if I were victimized by some jerk like this, only to find out later that people knew and didn’t report it, I’d be pretty pissed. It’s not just the previous victims who matter, but other potential victims too.

    If there’s backlash on the victims when something is reported, that’s not the fault of the people who reported the crimes/abuse, it’s the fault of the assholes who are blaming the victims.

  39. cncx*

    late to the game on this, but i know someone this happened to as well ( she thought it wasa casual booty call, turned out the guy expected payment). i can’t believe there are so many creeps in this world that something this strange has happened more than once.

    1. Stop That Goat*

      Yea, a friend went through something similar when he thought a bar pickup was a one night stand and she demanded money afterwards. There are a lot of bad folks out there.

  40. I Coulda Been a Lawyer ;)*

    Two problems with some of the above.
    If she doesn’t want her sex life discussed at work, she shouldn’t have sex with someone from work.
    And how do any of us know she is “victim #1”? She is the first victim OP knows of, but that doesn’t automatically make her the first or the only. Statistics tell us that the first known crime victim is rarely the first, and that most sex extortion victims will be female, but data is missing.

  41. nadine*

    If I were HR, at the least I would hold security and sexual harassment training. If it were up to me, I probably would have fired almost everyone involved in this telenovela. First off, sleeping with the security guard should be a no no because the security guard is probably insubordinate to the lady. Secondly, if this was caught on tape, then all those who saw the tapes and did nothing with the information defeat the entire purpose of the tapes in the first place. I hope your HR goes back to the training drawing board here.

  42. Another Perspective*

    In my younger days, I met a woman in a bar. After a few drinks, we went back to her apartment. Everything was great until the next morning when we woke up and I tried to leave. I let her know that I had to go home and get ready for work, but when I tried the door it was locked. I asked her for the key, and she responded by saying that I had to pay her money or else she would start screaming and claim that I had raped her. I gave her some money and then left. It was a lot easier than being jailed for a false rape accusation, or trying to find a way to properly defend myself when there was plenty of DNA evidence.

    Afterwords, I briefly considered going to the police, but I decided against it. Maybe she did the same thing to other guys, and maybe my coming forward and pressing charges could have prevented it. But it also could have had me imprisoned on a bogus rape charge, because I’m sure she would have denied everything and claimed that I attacked her. Additionally, say the prosecutor believed me and she were put on trial for extortion. At that point, I would have had to face the shame of having been swindled, as well as having the whole world know about my sex life, that I was going to bars and having one-night stands, etc. That is nobody’s business. I just let it be. I would have been horrified — and possibly imprisoned on false charges — if some do-gooder busybody reported this incident to the authorities without my approval.

    My point is that in most cases people need to mind their own business, especially when they do not have all the facts and have no way of knowing the potential consequences to other people. LW has no idea what actually happened, because she heard about the situation through the office rumor mill, third hand. She has no right to report a rumor and potentially ruin someone’s reputation (the woman, say if she is married), or get a potentially innocent man fired (the security guard, if he is not the beast everyone assumes he is).

    All I am saying is this – before jumping to conclusions, people need to remember the Duke rape case, the Jackie story in Rolling Stone, and maybe the guy in UK who just got released from prison after six years of being jailed on a false rape claim. And also what happened to me. The guy is not always the guilty one in these situations.

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