Sexually Victimized by a Co-Worker

Reader’s Question

Hard question. I have a friend/co-worker of 6 years who in the recent past has displayed some sexually deviant behavior towards me. What should I do? Everything started about a year after he got married; we had been friends for about 1 year before that. He started coming into the office paying me visits, and after a awhile he started calling me on the phone every day about 3:30. The conversations were innocent enough and upbuilding on both ends. It started to concern me though when he started to talk to me kind of in a seductive way. After talking to my husband about it, I first tried to put an end to the phone calls because I thought he was taking more of an interest in me than he should, and we stopped talking. He was very hurt not knowing why I had cut him off; when I finally got up the nerve to explain to him that I felt he liked me more than a friend, he totally denied it and then I thought to myself how stupid I was to think he could like me in that way.

About 2 weeks later, I tried to make amends with him and apologize to him for thinking that. He accepted my apology, and told me that I was a good friend to him. As I was getting ready to walk away he grabbed my hand and only half caught it and grabbed it again immediately and held on to it tight, passionately. I do remmeber his eyes blinking slowly and him getting that flushed look right before I ended my apology. At the moment he grabbed my hand, I could feel a sudden rush of emotions in him, but I held back from embracing him or from allowing him to embrace me. Later I asked him about why he had held my hand, if he was trying to tell me something and all he would say is that he did it as a friend — although it felt like a lot more, again he denied liking me more than a friend. I read up on Bipolar after he told me he suffers from depression, and manic hypersexuality seems to fit him, but he denies having it, although his grandfather and cousin both have it. Also I’ve noticed he acts like a different person during those times, his voice even changes, usually to a sinister, low tone or to a child’s voice. When i’ve confronted him about these occasions he denies remembering anything or says that I’ve made them up.

He can be a very loving person but with an undercurrent of cunning, manipulative and calculating hues, secretive and inconsistant with telling the truth. I catch him at lies often but he seems to believe his lies. Just to give you an idea of what I’m talking about, he once invited me to meet him in a stairwell at work; when I arrived I did not find him so I entered the building through the door. Seconds later, he was in back of me out of nowhere. I asked him where he’d been because I did not see him and he told me he was in the closet underneath the stairwell looking at me through the crack in the wall and then opened the door to the dark closet and invited me in. Of course I said no that’s ok — creeepy! But after that he seemed disoriented, clumpsy, flushed and drowsy.

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Another time I was on the phone with him and asked him if he had received my e-mail and then all of a sudden he starts hyperventillating, panting heavily, passionately over the phone — what the heck! My e-mail was in response to his e-mail where he wrote me that he found me to be a very desirable person and friend and I had written him back telling him that I had always wondered if he liked me more. Well, after that he did it again but he denied that he meant it in that way (sexually). It’s as if I’m dealing with two different people?

Then he started acting very strange every time he’d see me drinking water: he’d get flushed all over and become very aroused. He often looks like he’s in a daze or trance of some sort and he’ll give me those bedroom eyes. Once while in a trance after looking at me drink water he started making vulgar hand and mouth gestures, but almost as if he was looking or seeing something else or someone else and not me. After the last time I confronted him after he came on to me in public, I asked if he had feelings for me more than friendship (we are both married), and he continues to say no. So we stopped speaking but then he’d just come into the office, he wouldn’t greet me but he would just stand by my desk and stare and stare at me, a very creepy, piercing stare, like I want to devour you stare, getting flushed and tense all over. Often I’ve noticed he blinks slowly during these times almost like if he’s having a seizure. When I approached him he got very angry, yelling and denying it then broke the yelling by saying in a child’s voice “but what did I do? I don’t even know what I did?”

His behavior is very confusing, bewildering and the only clue I got before all this started is he told me he was having problems with his emotions and that it was unwise for him to have any contact with anyone of the opposite sex and that he needed time and space. Since that time it’s always been back and forth, one minute he tells me leave me alone, the next he’s coming on to me, saying “oh if only I wasn’t married”. Then again denying he meant those things!

What do you think could possibly be the problem? I am very worried about him — and myself. I don’t think he’d ever hurt me but one day he told me that our feelings don’t have to be mutual for something to happen between us. It did kind of scare me to think he might be alluding to rape. What else could he mean? I worry he may try to hurt someone he doesn’t know.

Your insight would be very much appreciated as I am seriously thinking of speaking up and letting someone know (someone who can do something about his behavior). I don’t want to make any accusations; he’s been a good friend for a very long time, but it’s become very obvious to me he needs help. I want so much to speak to his wife and tell her but I don’t know her well and am very afraid of how she’ll take things — although if I were her I would want to know if my husband was doing these things. I have read Behind the Shadows about sexual addiction and 2 books on DID recently; just going off of memeories I have of how he acted towards me, these books seem to describe him very well, but again I am not a doctor or therepist. I continue to bump into him still even though we no longer work together and the bizarre behavior continues? By deviant behavior, I mean voyeurism. I’ve caught him at other times staring at me behind a wall; almost like a little boy watching something he knows he shouldn’t, he has that look on his face. Are voyeurs known to rape? Is it possible he could have Dissociative Identity Disorder and one of his alters be a voyeur and he not remember what he is doing or saying to me during those times?

Psychologist’s Reply

You have good reason to be alarmed by his behavior. His behavior toward you has become totally selfish — preoccupied with his personal needs and fantasies with no respect for you in the situation. You are being victimized by this individual and the “good friend” you knew has gone. As most healthy folks do…you’ve tried to figure it out, talk to him, explain your position, and shown concern for his feelings/situation. He is not doing the same for you at this time — for whatever reason. His behavior is called “sexual grooming” — an orchestrated set of comments, glances, off-color comments, seductive behaviors, and sexual hints designed to prepare you for additional sexual propositions. This is not a friendship! No matter how you protest — his behavior continues.

I would recommend detaching from him socially. I’ve created some guidelines for detachment in my article on this website entitled Identifying Losers in Relationships. Focus on protecting yourself rather than diagnosing his behavior. Notify your supervisor that his behavior toward you is inappropriate. Discuss the situation with your husband and let him know the steps you are taking. Do not agree to meet with him “to discuss the situation”, for dinner, in the stairwell — nowhere! His behavior is voyeuristic for sure and he’s engaging in everything from exhibitionism and voyeurism to obscene phone calls. While voyeurism rarely includes rape or physical violence — the sudden onset of this behavior and the intensity of his fantasies tells me that voyeurism may be only a part of his psychiatric picture at this time. You need to keep you distance — at all times.

In the US, this behavior is often considered “creating a hostile or sexualized work environment”. In corporations, this is very serious. If his behavior does not stop with your detachment — and he still pursues you — you may need to notify your personnel department for further action. In short — his behavior is sexually deviant (bordering on criminal) and you are being victimized by it. You should address this quickly before additional sexualized behavior surfaces on his part.

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