Sexual Assault in the Hospitality Industry

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I saw it happen again tonight in one of my hotel worker groups. It’s the dirty little secret you aren’t warned about before you start working in hotels: sexual assault.

It happens more often than you think.

I worked at a hotel from 2006-2015. Most of the time I was by myself at night. Most of the time, I don’t think I’m much of a prize to look at. That didn’t make me immune from sexual harassment by a guest. I also had a policy of not entering a guest’s room when I was there by myself. I know the sweet old couple didn’t understand why I wouldn’t, but I needed to be consistent so no one could ever accuse me of anything when I declined to enter their room. One night someone was quite insistent that I should come in and see that his television wasn’t working. I told him I quite believed him and since I knew I couldn’t fix it the only alternative was to move him to another room.

I handled myself fine, but there were two other incidents involving co-workers while I was there that were quite ugly.

I don’t know all of the details of the incident that happened two nights ago to an acquaintance. I just know she posted in our group looking for support and one person – who is the manager of a Hospitality Company – had the nerve to tell her she must have deserved it, without even knowing the details.

And you wonder why it happens so much?

For years, any female who worked in a hospitality type setting just had to deal with this boorish behavior. Managers would side with the guest citing “the guest is always right.” I saw it happen at the hotel I worked at an I lost a lot of respect for management after that. In one case, my co-worker was harassed and grabbed by a guest. She was uncomfortable with the situation but didn’t want to press charges.

As far as my general manager was concerned, that was it. He left a voicemail for the guest telling him not to do it again. I nearly lost my shit when I heard that. The proper way a manager should handle it would be to say “That’s fine that you don’t want to press charges. I do not want him in this hotel around any of my employees, therefore he is being evicted.” This person did approach me at the desk but I wasn’t nice to him at all, simply giving one-word answers to any questions. He also went into the water-park where the supervisor there gave him the frosty treatment. They were supposed to be long-term guests who were doing construction locally, but they left the next night anyway for some reason.

The second very bad incident goes back to that water-park we had at the hotel. Most of the attendants were local high-school kids. It could get crowded at times and we’d have up to 3 at a time in there trying to monitor people. I came in one night around 9 to a crowded hotel. I was sitting in the back talking to workers about some of the chaos when one of the girls came down to ask for help in the water-park. Someone was in there harassing them. The women at the desk – my age or older – threw up their hands and said “well, what are we supposed to do about it?”

Again, I lost my shit. I said, quite loudly “You go down there and you tell whoever it is that he better knock it off or you’re calling the cops. These are teenagers you’re talking about.” It turned out this person wasn’t even a guest. He was a local hanging out at the hotel because he had friends staying here. He even played like he was pointing at something so he could slide his hands across one of the teenager’s breasts “accidentally.” My co-workers were more worried about the “guests” and this man’s very-pregnant wife hearing me calling them out about their inaction.

Again, my manager didn’t do much of anything. There was no re-training on how to respond to this type of incident, once he was told what happened. He washed his hands of it, saying “I wasn’t there so I’m not responsible.” Yes, yes you were responsible. It’s you always letting the “guests” do what they want under the guise of “the customer is always right” that led to the climate that we had to accept sexual assault as part of the job.

MY hotel is not the only one it’s happened to. I started talking to other hotel workers on the internet when I’d have slow overnights and the stories out there are sometimes unimaginable. It doesn’t just happen to females, either.

Reporting it is a double-edged sword for many. Many companies only care about the liability on their end so they do whatever they can to make it look like it was the employee’s own fault. A popular way to shake off any liability is to say the employee is guilty of “fraternization” and fire them, figuring they’ll not fight it. Sexual assault is such a personal thing that many don’t want to go through a trial and the company knows the odds are in their favor. Imagine losing your job on top of being raped for reporting it?

What’s to be done? I’d like to think it’s been getting better lately, but I still hear on a regular basis from hotel workers where guests seem to think the people who work at hotels, especially women, must be prostitutes, or can find “someone” for them. They seem to think that their sexual desires are a part of hospitality. Managers need to step up to the plate and make sure these people know that behavior will not be tolerated. Sadly, though, a manager’s response tonight was to immediately tell my acquaintance she deserved it.

If you’re in a situation that you think someone might need help, there’s no harm in asking them, or even getting a cup of coffee and sitting in the lobby for a while to watch out for them. Sometimes just the presence of another person is enough to discourage them.

As always, be nice to those in customer service roles. They put up with a lot.

4 replies »

  1. This is disgusting behavior! Assault is a crime, rape is a crime. It should be immediately reported to the police and if management doesn’t take it seriously, then they should be named in the law suit as complicit in the crime!

  2. Dear Patti, What you write is quite horrific precisely because it is true and happens more often than anyone would believe. Thank you for bringing it to our attention. Everyone should always be alert to how other people are being treated. The art of looking away is often practised very successfully but that does not make for a better society.As a teacher in a special school i spent a lot of time talking to boys and girls about what is expected behaviour and the realities of going along with it. It worried me dreadfully that there are still girls who expect to be treated disrespectfully and men who think that is what they want.

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