Sexual harassment and the solo entrepreneur

by Theresa Reed on October 10, 2018

Sexual harassment and the solo entrepreneur

I remember that day with crystal clarity. The man sat down at my tarot table and began shuffling the cards. He had been to my office before so he was not a complete stranger. But he was always a bit odd. I chalked it up to nerves.

I laid out the cards and begin to read when I noticed some subtle movements under the tablecloth.  My eyes met his and he had a weird, sweaty look on his face. In a flash, I realized that he was touching himself. I froze for a minute and then blurted out “what are you doing?” He made some anxious excuse about needing to use the bathroom and then spent an awfully long time in there, finishing his “business.”

Meanwhile, I sat there terrified. I was alone in the office. He never pulled a stunt like this before. Was he planning on sexually assaulting me? What was he thinking? Why me and why do something like this during a professional consultation? Who the hell does this to a tarot reader??? I got my cell phone nearby just in case. He came back, sat down, and we completed the reading. After he left, I had a bit of a meltdown. I banned him for life after that incident.

Sadly, this wasn’t the first time a male client acted inappropriately with me. Over the years, I have dealt with men who have gotten too close during a session, asked for hugs and pressed in a bit too tightly, or acted flirty in a degrading manner. The scary part about this is that I don’t have a boss or human resources to protect me. I’m on my own.

I’ve talked to other female entrepreneurs who have experienced this too. From the aesthetician that had to stop seeing male clients because they used waxing sessions as a way to get off to the massage therapist who has had no shortage of men asking for “happy endings” and then pretending they were joking. It’s an unpleasant side to being a woman working solo. (PS sexual harassment isn’t exclusive to women – I know men who have had some icky situations too.)

Most of the articles and stories about sexual harassment in the workplace that I’ve read are usually directed towards those who work in an office setting with a boss and coworkers who may or may not intervene.

But what about those of us who run a one-person business and deal with people in an intimate setting? We are extra vulnerable because we’re left to our own devices with little support when someone gets out of hand.

In an ideal world, that would never happen. You’d be able to run your business without worry about someone making unwanted advances. But let’s be frank: if you’re dealing with the public, the risk is always there. You need to have strategies in place to minimize those chances. You also need to know how to cope when and if it ever happens to you.

Here are a few suggestions:

  1. Screen people as thoroughly as possible. An intake form will give you an idea of what they are all about. This won’t guarantee that a creep can’t get through but it might help. 
  2. Take all of their information at the time of booking. That means full name, phone number, email address, etc. People are less likely to do something gross if they know you have their information.
  3. Install an alarm system in your office. This will add a layer or protection. 
  4. Create strict boundaries and policies. Make sure these are posted on your site. When the client books with, you send them a link to your policy page. 
  5. If you want to see people in your residence, only see them when someone else is home. If the client is aware that your spouse or other family members are in the other room, they’ll be less likely to make a move.
  6. You may also want to choose to work in an office away from your home. If you work at a different location, choose a setting where other businesses are nearby, preferably in the same building. This can act as a deterrent or, at the very least, if something does happen, you have people close at hand to help you out. For some folks, like tarot readers and the like, you may want to see people in a public environment like a coffee shop
  7. You may also choose to end in-person sessions altogether. This will eliminate the problem. I work virtually over the phone now – if your business is one that doesn’t require physical contact, this is the way to go. I’ve never been happier.
  8. If you are working with someone and they begin acting inappropriately, end the session immediately and show them the door. Do NOT keep going. 
  9. Ban the perpetrator as soon as they act up. Refuse to work with them in the future. Once a line is crossed, you must never allow them in your presence ever again. Block their number and their emails. DO NOT ENGAGE.
  10. If something physical happens, call the police. Tell someone. Speak up! Do not sweep this under the rug. Chances are, if they are bold enough to pull this with you, they might be doing it in other areas of their lives.
  11. ALWAYS trust your instincts. If a client feels “off” or if a session seems to be heading in a direction you don’t like, don’t ignore it. (The Gift of Fear and Other Survival Signals that Protect Us From Violence
    by Gavin de Becker.)
  12. You don’t have to work with everybody who comes your way. If someone wants to book a session and you’re feeling weird about it for any reason, refund their money. You don’t need to explain this to them either. Better to be thought a bitch than to put yourself into an uncomfortable or dangerous situation.
  13. Above all, do not blame yourself is something happens. Unwanted sexual harassment is not your fault. It should also never be part of your job to put up with it. 

The #MeToo movement has given us an opportunity to talk about this openly. By discussing sexual harassment, we can find a way to put a stop to it. This is not the time to let creeps get away with gross behavior.  We must push back. 

You don’t have to put up with it. EVER.

Be safe, my friends.

xo

Theresa

If you found this post helpful,  you might like these posts too: Best safety practices for your spiritual business and Safety First.

@Theresa Reed | The Tarot Lady 2018

image from stock photography

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