The one that told me to use my beautiful skills and to do “anything” to get a job

Until last week, I was a trainee at DGCOMM. One can find oneself in a kind of crazy spiral once a traineeship has ended. Several questions arise: where to apply, what is the next career move or how to find your way in today’s world.

I am only 23 years old; therefore, I have quite a long career ahead of me. However, during the last months of my traineeship, I found myself in a few unsettling situations. I was having drinks with staff members from my unit and suddenly one of the male colleagues in his 50’s came to me and started asking me about my plans after the traineeship.

I had barely spoken to him during my traineeship; therefore, we did not have a close relationship. He started telling me that if I wanted to stay in the European Parliament, I should go after “all men, like him, and use my ‘beautiful skills’ that I have as a young, and pretty woman”. At that moment, I did not know how to react. Now when I think about the moment, I really wish I said something. He then continued telling me how I should go to elderly men’s offices and say that I want a contract and that I am willing to do “anything” to achieve it. He told me to say to the men that I am a lesbian, quoting him “because you know, that turns us on even more”. I was utterly disgusted. It was the first time that something like this was happening to me. Of course, he also suggested going after certain Directors from certain DGs in the European Parliament. He told me that if I were intelligent, I would follow his advice.
After saying I had to go home, I went to one of my colleagues in complete shock, and she told me that he had a reputation of trying to flirt with colleagues at work and trying to touch them inappropriately.

How can a person like this continue to work in the European Parliament? I remember getting home and starting to cry because of how vulnerable and terrible he made me feel. How small he made me feel. How he had the audacity to start telling me these things without even knowing me, which only made me reflect on how belittling he acted towards me.

I know who I am, and I know what my values are that is why I would never engage in behaviour like this nor would try to go down that road just to land a job in the institutions. Sadly, if this person had said this to a woman that is unsure of her future, insecure and with a different perspective, he could have pushed her to go down that road.

My friends told me to talk to Human Resources; however, I just did not have the energy to do so. In addition, different colleagues from my Unit told me how disgusting he was, but did not do or say anything at all, so why should I or anybody else stand up against these perpetrators.

Until I reached your website, simply through Twitter, I thought about sharing my story with other women, rather than just with my friends. I wish as women did not have to go through these things, but sadly, it is a reality, at least in the European Parliament.

Men can be victims too!

Since I’ve learned that the European Parliament will discuss sexual harassment in the parliament again I would like to bring the issue of male victims forward. I’ve worked for several years in this parliament and was mainly part of the Greens. I had several experiences with female members of the group not respecting my limits. Think of sending flirtatious messages but also touching me at several personal places of my body. I always thought: what if this was a man? There would have been zero-tolerance.

Many male employees have shared this experience among each other. There’s another story that happened years ago. A young employee that was harassed by a liberal female MEP who is still today very active for this group in parliament and already works in this parliament for over 20 years. Male victims are never taken seriously and therefore I didn’t dare to share my traumatic experience.
During one of their annual receptions he was pretty tipsy just like any other young employee. It’s the right we have as young people.
While dancing and chatting with colleagues surrounding him, she (and she’s way older) clearly started flirting with him. I have eye-witnessed it myself since I was joining another ALDE colleague. I have no idea if the young employee was provocative or just being nice. At a sudden point she started to kiss him on the dancefloor. It was so embarrassing. But above all: He didn’t give her permission to kiss her. She was very waisted. And she absolutely wanted more. I will not go into those details. But she insisted on having more physical exchange with him.

Without giving his consent she was basically touching him everywhere. A lot of people could see it but didn’t do anything about it. If this was a male MEP, would everyone kept quiet? It would have been a completely different story. I have left the party, very confused, and until now I’m still a bit ashamed about it. I was that typical bystander. I did get in touch with him afterwards, he was extremely emotional about it and felt ashamed. I never want to work in this parliament again. That’s for sure. But I hope with this testimony you’ll all pay more attention to male victims!

The time he asked me out and then masturbated in front of me behind his desk

A former male MEP, who is now doing quite well in consultancy in Spain, thought it was appropriate to continuously message me via an online LGBTQI+ dating-application. He sometimes asked me out even when he was back in Madrid.

In his message, he wrote: “Why don’t you come over for dinner? “I will take you somewhere nice. Just a few drinks…”

He kept insisting, even though I made it clear I wasn’t interested. 

After all of this, I found it hard to believe that this was a well-known MEP. So I told him I would pass by his office to see if it was really him and tell him his behaviour was not appropriate.

I knocked the door and he told me to come in. And at this very moment, he was masturbating behind his desk. I stood by the door, frozen and in shock. He attempted to approach still with a visible erection in his pants, and then he hugged me. I was frozen; I did not know what to do. 

Repulsed, I just said I had to go. 

I really want this man who is supposedly straight and married to stop harassing young men and taking advantage of his position.

This happened when I was a trainee in the European Parliament during the summer of 2018. That is how when I heard about the #MeTooEP movement. And yes, I am sharing this quite “late.” I guess I just decided to ignore it and move on, but as I said before, I want to stop this man from harassing young men and taking advantage of his position of power, which he still has in Spain.

The one who thought I would ”fit the profile”

A MEP, his assistant and his intern approached me and my friend one Thursday at Place Luxembourg (Plux). After introducing themselves, they asked if we wanted an internship at their office because we had “the profile they were looking for”.

When I asked what such profile was, they just stared at my breasts and my skirt and smiled. Informal workspaces are also places where sexual harassment can occure!

The time he sent out inappropriate suggestions late at night

A MEP with a prominent position within my political group has been contacting female staff members on their private social media profiles on numerous occasions making inappropriate suggestions late at night. Furthermore he uses his position to make contact with female trainees, and later on taking them out for dinner. It is more than obvious that this prominent figure has misused the power gap for his advantage for years. Victims of such behaviour, specially the trainees, are often not in the position to recognize such misbehaviour at first glance.

The time I got gym stimulation

I’m a lawyer-linguist from a Nordic country and like to keep myself healthy fit through doing various sports, such as barre, trekking and krav maga. However, having a good body is not an open invitation for me to o stare at my body when in the gym or in collective classes. (It is often middle-aged men who clearly have decided they somehow have the right to observe women in this fashion, and then simulate taking part in some activities just to be able to do so (it’s clear that they are not there for the sports)). I’m now searching for a female-only gym.

The time I was at lunch

I was at the entrance of the canteen of my building with a colleague one day. It was 12:00 o’clock, there was no one around yet. Just me and my colleague chatting before entering the canteen. A man approached and physically pushed me aside just to reach the compartmental waste bin to throw his chewing gum. I asked him why he thought it was necessary to push me. He then verbally assaulted me by telling me that I didn’t know how to behave like a lady, that I was just a cunt. I was in shock, and I proceeded to ask him what kind of language was he using. He answered: You heard me. For two weeks I was afraid to go eat in my canteen in the SQM building. And I finally only got an appointment with the psychologist at the EP Medical service one month later. The man is still around, sometimes staring aggressively at me. I’m not even sure if this is a harassment or not, but I find it disturbing that he still looks at me through his forehead and shakes his head as if I was a piece of shit to be thrown that can be thrown in the waste bin.

The Time the elevator stopped

It happened during the peak of the #metoo debate: I stepped inside an elevator in the ASP building which was full. A young man wearing a suit stepped in, walked past me and then brushed my hair. I initially thought he might have caught my hair accidently. At the next floor, all the people leave the elevator and I am left alone with the man. He smiles at me, steps closer to me and says: “Don’t worry, I don’t harm women, not even beautiful ones.” A little startled, I uttered an ironic “well, that’s good to know.” To which he replies: “you never know as a man these days, I could get arrested for touching a woman.”

The Time I received an unwanted hug

During my first week of my internship at the European Parliament, I was warned that a certain MEP (also known as a head of a religious organisation) is a ‘”harasser” and that I should try to avoid being alone with him.

Sometime later, I was chatting with another intern in my mother tongue in the elevator. Suddenly the MEP that I had been warned about entered the elevator. He looked at me and  wanted to know who I am, who I work for and chatted me up in other ways. Before I could leave the elevator, he gave me a hug without asking for my permission.

He was later fired from the position at his church for repeated sexually inappropriate behaviour.