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I swim twice a week in a sports complex. My hours are late and the place is almost empty.

A few days ago a guy started a chat with me while I was in the sauna. I saw nothing wrong with it, so I maintained the small talk, but then the guy asked me out.

I said I wasn't interested, but he wouldn't take "no" for an answer, though I told him no at least ten times. He also asked me for my phone number. Not wanting to give him a fake one I said "not interested, thanks" another time and escaped to the swimming pool. The guy followed me there.

He almost gave me a heart attack when he groped me in the water. What's more, the guy who swam in our lane told us off (probably thinking we were a couple) to take it somewhere else, then swam off, annoyed.

Other than him there was only the lifeguard (in quite a distance) and a few other swimmers.

As I couldn't get rid of the guy I escaped to the changing rooms and waited there for him to leave.

What should I do if I encounter him next time? Tell the lifeguard? But his job is to rescue people from the water, not from sexual harassment?

Environment: western, liberal

  • 12
    If you think this isn't an IPS issue, vote to close if you can or flag to close. Arguing about whether or not it's assault in different jurisdictions, however, is completely off topic and unnecessary. We're not a legal site and the OP is trying to find an interpersonal solution to her interaction with another person. – Catija Nov 1 '17 at 19:30
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11 Answers 11

343

This is not an interpersonal issue as such, it's a security concern. I don't advocate overreacting, or misinterpreting polite interest, but they guy has gone way beyond the pale.

You've done nothing wrong - it's he who needs a lesson in interpersonal skills. And the best way to teach him that is by informing security (or staff) the next time he so much as looks at you funny. In fact, you should have done so the second he accosted you in the swimming pool.

Don't worry about involving the life guard, or even bystanders. As staff he will know who to call in that situation. Immediately, and loudly state:

I've told you I'm not interested, please step away, and don't touch me.

Make it public, and make it loud. This creep may very well get kicked out, or even banned from the place, and that will be his lesson - hopefully he's a quick study.

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    @enderland google.co.uk/search?q=way+beyond+the+pale all the top results explain it. – RyanfaeScotland Nov 1 '17 at 23:21
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    @enderland phrases do not need citations. From the context it was fairly clear what they meant. – The Great Duck Nov 2 '17 at 1:49
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    I'd recommend substituting "could" for "should" in the phrase "you should have done so"; it's a common pattern for people to place undue responsibility on the victims of sexual harassment and assualt and it's worth considering ways one's wording contributes to this. – dn3s Nov 2 '17 at 3:11
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    Rather than waiting for it to happen (if it happens) again and then shouting, you might try to alert the lifeguard or security in advance to watch for it, and tell them the story, as an added protection (but still be loud or such if he gets near again). It may help if others already know he's not with you. – user271 Nov 2 '17 at 7:18
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    @AndreiROM "[...] but he wouldn't take "no" for an answer, though I told him no at least ten times. [...] The guy followed me" How is that not a problem? It's obviously harassment. I agree that directly talking to the relevant people is better than a whistle, and whether or not OP wants to report this at all is her decision, but if the lifeguard/security/whoever at the swimming pool do hear about it, it is plenty of reason to throw the guy out (or at the very least have a talk with him and throw him out when he does it again). – tim Nov 2 '17 at 18:09
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As an ex-lifeguard in a swimming pool, I can correct your assumptions. We are there for stopping fights between children, cleaning up mess people make, answering questions, etc for 95% of the time. The other 4.9% are for helping people who fell because they slipped, or got a bleeding nose etc. I never witnessed the 0.1% of the time you have to save someone from drowning.

Go attend the lifeguard, he'll keep watch of the guy, and if the guy doesn't stop harassing you he'll tell him to leave the pool.

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    @Arcene 100% agree here. As an ex-lifeguard.... while we are there to prevent the worse from happening, we are also there to "maintain peace" so to speak. Anyway in general I'd like to think that lifeguards are decent people, and I can say from experience that ANY lifeguard from the pools I worked at would have been glad to help you :) – Patrice Nov 2 '17 at 21:56
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I'm sorry this happened to you. You didn't do anything wrong - this guy kept harassing you even after you made it clear you weren't interested.

If you encounter him again, tell him once "No, I'm not interested", or "Go away", or "Please don't touch me" as loudly as you can - then absolutely report him to the lifeguard. They will know who to involve to help you deal with this guy.

You might want to consider reporting what happened to the staff at the sports complex. They may be able to warn the lifeguards to keep an eye open for patrons who are being harassed. Also, if this man has been harassing others, the more incidents the staff know about, the easier it is to build a case to warn/ban this guy.

Good luck

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    Leave out the please and just say "Don't touch me!". The please makes it more like a request and not an order, but it should be an order. Also, you and the lifeguards don't really need to build a case to kick him out or ban him. You aren't at court. It's not always fair but pools can ban people on first offense with nothing but your word required as prove. I've seen it happen. – Sumyrda Nov 2 '17 at 7:39
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    Also, you might not be the only one thus harassed - and if multiple people complain to the lifeguard, it is giving the perp even less of a benefit of doubt. – rackandboneman Nov 2 '17 at 11:31
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    I have a simple rule. The first No is polite. The Second is just NO. The third time, I will make you wish you had listened at one. I will be loud, I will be rude, I will NOT be nice. Stop being nice, it gains you nothing at the third time. – DCook Nov 2 '17 at 12:22
  • I wouldn't waste much time asking whether or not that person might harrass others - that would add one more uncomfortable detail about him, but it's beside the point. He's stepping too close to one person (you), ignoring what you told him, and that is enough reason to act. (He touched you in the pool - WTF?) – Sir Jane Nov 8 '17 at 10:18
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What you ended up doing, while a perfectly normal reaction, was actually quite dangerous.

You retreated to a place with (presumably) no other people, (presumably) only a single exit, and the only thing preventing the person you feared from following you were societal constraints - something he's already shown to disregard.

Don't ever do that again.

Among the fight/flight/play dead response, fight would have been appropriate. Had there been no people around, running away would have been the right response.

Fight in this case means shouting, to get attention of bystanders. You are conditioned to keep a low profile to not embarrass yourself and others, which prevented you from instinctively telling him off by screaming to his face. Go through the situation in your head a couple of times to condition yourself to the "fight" response.

If you wish to and can afford to keep a low profile (e.g. your situation before the groping, or now your current situation when you go swimming in that same complex again and either notice that man's presence, or are afraid of him showing up), making someone of authority aware of the issue in private is also an option. In this case the lifeguard would have been an appropriate choice - you lose nothing if he/she doesn't want to get involved.

43

Just to add another viewpoint...

I have actually been approached by a girl in a nightclub, looking a bit worried, she asked me if I would stay with her for a few minutes because this guy was harassing her. It worked, the guy disappeared and I stayed with the girl until her friends came to meet her.

Another time, years later, I got a phone call from my girlfriend. She was also worried because a guy who asked her for the time or something now seemed to be following her. I told her to talk loud and we spoke about meeting up very close by in a few minutes, even though she was on her way to catch a bus home, where I was. We even had a little joke, talking about how I had just got out of prison for attempted murder and stuff, I can't remember exactly, but it worked and he also disappeared.

So my advice would be along a similar line. If you feel worried that he's getting too boisterous, find somebody you can be friendly with, even a life guard. A person you think you would relate to would be best. Either strike up a conversation or tell them exactly why you want to talk to them for a bit. Pretend to wave to somebody far away, like you are there together. If you are out of the pool, you could phone somebody, a friend and pretend your meeting up. It could be a fake call all together.

But if it passes the point of annoyance then definitely go up to the nearest authority figure and tell them he is harassing you. Don't be afraid to get help off somebody. Don't let it get to the point of him grabbing you next time. Be polite, then be stern or/and use the tactics mentioned, then definitely seek help.

26

I used to work as a lifeguard at a pool and we occasionally had poorly behaved members. Most of the staff knew about who to keep an eye on and we would warn other lifeguards when we switched about problematic patrons. I can't recall anyone behaving the way you described but that person would have immediately had their membership revoked. Lifeguards do more than rescuing people, most of our time is spent managing patrons.

I would definitely report the incident to the pool's management because they need to be made aware of the situation. I would guess this is not a one time issue and this man will probably assault someone else if he hasn't already. The management needs to know so they can deal with him and protect other patrons.

In the future if something like this happens or even if you see him at the pool again tell the lifeguard on duty what happened and they will know to keep an eye on you/him.

You don't need to live with that kind of harassment and should be able to visit the pool without fearing what might happen. The best way to prevent it in the future is to speak up now.

21

You told him explicitly that you had no interest in him. Even after that he then followed you into the water and physically assaulted you.

This is a police issue. He absolutely is a threat (if not to you, then to the next woman) and if something happens again in the future then having reported the first incident weighs heavily in your favour.

It should also be reported to the lifeguard on duty who should have immediately removed him.

Please do not think of reporting this as an overreaction or assume that it will be a one-time issue.

12

As I couldn't get rid of the guy I escaped to the changing rooms and waited there for him to leave.

...

Tell the lifeguard? But his job is to rescue people from the water, not from sexual harassment?

If you ever find yourself in a situation where you legitimately fear for your safety, it is entirely appropriate to bring the situation to the attention of authority figures. The complex is there for you to swim, not for you to hide in the changing rooms. If you're not able to swim, then you are being cheated out of your use of the sports complex.

What you "should" have done: (note: I'm putting "should" in quotes because I want to emphasize that this is by no means "Things you should be bad about not doing" or anything along those lines. This is just what I, thinking about it removed from the stress of actually being in the moment, think the best way to handle it is.)

  • Once it became clear that he wasn't going to take "no" for answer, tell him that he's making you uncomfortable, and tell him that you don't want him to interact with you any further. If he does interact with you any further, talk to management/security/lifeguard, and ask them to tell him that if he continues to harass him, he will be banned from the complex.
  • When he touched you: loudly tell him to stop touching you. Go to management/security/lifeguard and ask that he be told to leave the complex. File a police report.

What you should do now:

  1. File a police report.
  2. Contact the management of the complex, ask them to, if not ban him from the complex, tell him that if he harasses you any further, he will be banned.
  3. If the management refuses to do either, have someone else tell him that you do not wish to engage with him any further, and if he interacts with you any further, you will ask that he be banned from the complex, and you will likely pursue legal action. Do not engage with him yourself if you can help it. If he interacts with you before you're able to do the above, just tell him the above yourself, and do not interact with him any further.
  4. If he interacts with you after you've done 3), contact the management and ask that he be banned from the complex.
  5. If the complex refuses, then your next action depends on your relationship with the complex. If it's a private complex, you should at least demand your dues be refunded, if not sue. If it's a public (as in, tax-payer funded), or if you have access to the complex from some long-term contract (such as it being part of your apartment complex or university facilities), then suing is definitely appropriate; you have a right to use the facility (in the former case, as a citizen, in the latter case, contractual), and failing to make your use of the facility tolerable is a deprivation of that right. (Note: further causes of action depend somewhat on the jurisdiction. If you're in the US, another cause of action would be Title IX.)
  6. If the complex does agree to 2), and he harasses you further, contact the management and ask that he be removed. If you see him in the complex after he's been banned, contact the management and call the police.
  7. If the complex bans him, but doesn't do anything about him continuing to show up (if he's persistent, they should prosecute him for trespassing), see 5) and 6).
5

I am a pool swimmer. Female. Nothing like this has ever happened to me in the pool, but it did once with the guy who hands out towels and locker keys, etc. I went to the office and complained and later that day got a call from the complex's attorney with an apology and his direct number if it happened again. It didn't.

I realize this is not your situation, but I have to believe that every sports complex, Y, JCC, neighborhood community association, has some kind of manager. Even after the fact, you should meet with that person and describe in detail what is happening.

In the mean time, for safe night swimming, swim in the lane directly in front of the guard stand. If someone is in the lane already, ask to split the lane or swim circles (not the best I agree, and you may need to explain why); and talk to the guard and ask for his or her help by keeping an eye out for you.

In the case of the guy telling you to get a room, pop into his lane and ask for his help.

Don't use the hot tub. At every pool I've ever used, even with dedicated lap swimmers using the pool, there are always people looking to make an earth connection in the hot tub.

I hate that the onus seems to be on you to modify your behavior. Please ask for help, from the guard, the manager, or the lawyer. Don't go this alone.

If it were me, and if none of these people were willing to get this creep banned from the facility, I would seriously think about changing my hours or changing my pool. I'm really sorry, you shouldn't have to do either, even if you can. But this is a dangerous situation and you trying to manage it by yourself could result in something even worse happening.

Please watch your back in the parking lot. Good luck.

3

Your saying "no" to him did not register. You have the options of using verbal communications to other people: shouting for help because you are being assaulted. Or using nonverbal means registering with him: kicking him in the stomach or groin. Hitting him in the face. It is well possible that he will see that as an invitation to physically overpower you: do it when others are around who might come to your help.

In either case you should loudly be yelling to make the situation be clear: "get off me creep, I told you so, don't touch me, don't keep pestering me. I don't know you, asshole. Help!"

This is a guy who does not take "no" for an answer: make sure that by the end of the encounter his personal details are known to the life guard and better yet to the police. You don't want him to get back to you outside of the pool complex. And you don't want to let him move to the next victim either.

This is rape culture shit that society is better off without.

And with the regard to the life guard: he is there to guard your life. Don't have any qualms about engaging him where your life is in danger. Make very clear that this guy is pestering and touching you against your explicit will.

The pool has an interest in keeping their patrons, and this guy is acting against that interest and will scare off (or worse) more than you. They have a duty to keep him from doing that if they are running a public facility, by all means necessary, including banning him from the premises and calling the police.

But for your own protection, you should want the police getting his personal information, not just have him banned from the pool.

1

Unwanted attention is asking you out a few times when you are not interested. Asking you out 10+ times and never getting a clue starts to become harassment. Groping you in the pool, especially when you made it clear that you are not interested, is definitely something else than "unwanted attention". You seem like a really nice and cool woman, and I would love to know more persons like you. I know some women would persecute men for much less then that.

I think it's time to draw some boundaries. Are you willing to stop swimming because of him? No? Then he will have to stop his behavior, and if he's not doing it willingly then you could use what you have at your disposal such as reporting him and getting help from friends (asking here is a good start).

We live in a social system, fortunately or unfortunately - that's another topic. That's why we (unfortunately) have to pay rent, taxes, etc.

There are some rules to the society we live in, one of them is that unwanted/forced sexual contact is not tolerated. This guy probably knows by now that he's disrespecting these rules, and that it might put him at disadvantage, socially speaking.

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