Trying To Get A Stranglehold In The Office

, , , , , , , , | Working | September 4, 2019

As a child, I frequently had other people grab my shoulders and back to jump up on me and put me in a chokehold or even straight-up use a jump rope to try to strangle me. This was a near-daily occurrence and resulted in me being sent to the hospital more than once, and I have scars on my neck from a few particularly bad incidents. The teachers and administrators at the school where this was happening refused to do anything, but that’s another story entirely. The short of it is that I spent about five years getting strangled on a near-daily basis.

As a result of this, I have C-PTSD and cannot stand to have people touching my shoulders and upper back, especially from behind, unless I’m very close with them, and even then, they ask for permission before doing it. Occasional brushes don’t seem to have as severe a reaction, but anything firm is a wild card. The result of someone touching — and especially grabbing — me there has a variety of outcomes, and there seems to be no correlation between the situation and the severity of my reaction. If I and the person who touched me are lucky, I’ll just freeze up for a few seconds. If we’re both unlucky, I swing at them.

When I started my new job, I explained all of this to HR, including that despite years of therapy, I’ve had very little improvement, and they cleared me and said I wouldn’t be held liable by the company if someone grabbed me and I had a severe reaction to it. Pretty much their only requirement was that every other month, I provide receipts from my therapist as proof I was still going, and we had to make a formal document describing my condition and their assurance I wouldn’t face retaliation for it. When my boss learned of my condition, she was kind enough to move me from my cubicle to the office next to her so it would be less likely that someone could accidentally “sneak up” on me. I also have mirrors on the wall across from the door — which I keep open — in case I’m turned away from my computer, and I have a sign next to my door asking people to please knock if my back is turned.

One coworker just flat-out does not get this. Every time he greets me, it’s by grabbing my shoulder or putting a hand on my back, and even though I’ve asked him to stop and informed him of my condition multiple times, it continues. There are times it feels he even goes out of his way to do it. It’s gotten to the point that even my coworkers who only know that I don’t like my back and shoulders being touched, not the extent of my condition, tense up when they see him next to me.

A couple of days ago, it happened again, but he was completely behind me and I had no way of knowing who it was that grabbed my shoulder. Instinct kicked in, and I spun around and punched him in the throat, then again in the nose. A few coworkers came over to help calm me down and get me seated in a corner so no one would be capable of touching me without me seeing first while someone else contacted HR. The coworker who kept touching me without my permission got there first and told them I walked up and punched him without a reason, and three people from HR ended up coming over to the area I work in.

Thankfully, I didn’t have to say a thing. My other coworkers vouched for me, as did a supervisor who knows the extent of my condition and has seen me talk to the other coworker about boundaries and why I didn’t want him touching me there multiple times. All three of the HR employees were furious.

Later that night, when I got home, I found a bruise on my shoulder where he grabbed me.

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