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I’m an eighteen year old female, and I just started my first day at my new work placement as a farm-hand. I spent 2 weeks searching for a work placement so I was very excited and grateful. I’m afraid that if I leave, I won’t be able to find another place and I need a placement for my University course.

However, the manager warned me to stay away from one of the men there because he is an older predator with a seventeen year old girlfriend and told me not to be alone with him.

Now I’m feeling unnerved to go into work when he’s there and afraid to be left alone with him.

I live in Australia where most self defense items are illegal: pepper spray, pocket knifes, etc. What can I do to protect myself?

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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – motosubatsu
    Jun 17, 2022 at 8:33
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    Is the placement managed by the university? Jun 17, 2022 at 10:48

4 Answers 4

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As both a woman and a manager, I have a LOT of concerns about how your manager is handling this situation. They shouldn't be warning a teenager to stay away from a(n alleged) sexual predator, they should fire the man if actual sexual misconduct has occurred. If there's no proof or even allegations of misconduct other than the relationship age gap, then they should never have said anything to you. By doing so, they are - intentionally or not - trying to make you responsible in the event something happens; i.e., "I warned her to stay away, but she didn't listen."

You need to escalate this, because it's NOT your responsibility as a student in a work placement role to handle any part of it. If you have access to your manager's manager or some other person in a position of authority at the farm, and are comfortable doing so, speak with that person. (@GeoffreyBrent makes a good point in their comment below, which is that there's a real possibility the farm's upper management may be part of the problem. You know the situation and the people involved better than us Internet randos, so use your best judgement here. If in doubt, skip this step and go straight to your university.)

Explain what your manager told you and see what the grandmanager says. If they're remotely competent, they'll deal with the situation as appropriate - first and foremost by ensuring your safety regardless of the truth of your manager's allegations. Without knowing whether there's proof that the man is any kind of sexual predator, it's hard for anyone on this site to say exactly what should be done. But roughly speaking, if there is proof of misconduct, the man should be fired; if not, your grandmanager needs to address your manager's allegations with your manager. (As commentors have mentioned, since a 17-year-old is of legal age in Australia, calling the employee a "predator" solely because of an age gap could get your manager in legal trouble. But again, that's not your problem; the most you can and should do is make your employer and/or your university aware of the allegations.)

If you're not able to escalate to someone at the farm, then escalate to your university. I totally understand that getting a work placement is important, but it's NOT worth the risk of being sexually assaulted (or getting drawn into some weird feud between your manager and the other employee, or whatever's going on here). Make noise until your university either gets your employer to deal with the situation as above, or gets you a safe placement.

Again, whatever is going on here is NOT your responsibility. While you should always be mindful of your own safety, no manager in their right mind would ever tell a teenager to "stay away from" a potentially dangerous coworker and then wash their hands of the situation. Escalate this with your employer or your university (or both) until you feel safe, either at your current work placement or a new one.

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    May be worth going to the university before escalating to grandmanager. If this farm is employing somebody who the manager considers predatory - but is unable or unwilling to fire - there's a good chance that the grandmanager is part of the reason for that "unable or unwilling". Jun 16, 2022 at 6:52
  • @GeoffreyBrent That's a good point, though it's also very possible that OP's manager has some unknown grudge against or feud with the employee, and the grandmanager is entirely unaware of the situation. I updated my answer to reflect.
    – thatgirldm
    Jun 16, 2022 at 12:52
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    Also, I think it is important that the university knows that placement may not be safe and so they can investigate and decide if they want to keep putting students in that situation.
    – ColleenV
    Jun 17, 2022 at 2:23
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Your manager has told you not to be alone with him. Setting aside the fact that your manager shouldn't employ someone who can't be trusted not to attack other employees, you can ask your manager to help with this situation. For example, if you are with BadGuy and another person, and that person leaves, should you leave with that person rather than stay with BadGuy alone? Can you buddy up with someone else and the two of you always stay together? I don't know your working environment so I don't know if that's feasible, but your manager does.

Another option is to talk to your contact at the university. Not to say you want to leave, but to get advice. The university should know about this, and can also give you suggestions for how to be safe. (This may include the university telling the manager not to employ predators, but that's up to them and not your worry.)

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  • +1 For contacting the university. If it works at all like here in the Netherlands, there'll be a (or multiple) coordinator that oversees the placement. They should be contacted ASAP, so they're aware of the situation and can advice on what to do next (or handle the entire situation).
    – Dnomyar96
    Jun 16, 2022 at 5:50
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    My interpretation of the situation is that the manager cant get rid of the guy in question. I see the mangers direct comment more as an invitation that the OP reports any kind of problematic behavior so that they can get enough reason to fire the guy. What needs to be clarified: if the guy aware of the guideline by the manager? Should the OP communicate that to the guy? Is any attempt of the guy to organize an occasion where he is alone with OP to be reported?
    – Sascha
    Jun 16, 2022 at 10:45
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The fact that an older man has a 17 year old girlfriend does not make him a predator. It's legal enough in Australia.

So I would take this information with a grain of salt and wonder why the manager is bad mouthing one of your colleagues. There is no mention of a criminal history or previous harassment. So it's bad management to make a new hire uncomfortable and frightened from day one.

How can I protect myself from a sexual predator at work?

The same way you protect yourself anywhere, if you feel uncomfortable with someones manner, then leave if you can and report them to authorities or find other people nearby who may assist you. If physically assaulted, slap, scream, bite, run or anything else you have to do to defend yourself.

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    The fact that an older man has a 17 year old girlfriend does not make him a predator. That’s true, but it also doesn’t make him not a predator. You seem to be assuming that the existence of the 17 year old girlfriend is the only reason for the manager to be reaching the “predator” conclusion, but it seems a lot more likely that there are other much more damning details the manager didn’t want to go into.
    – Dan Romik
    Jun 18, 2022 at 1:41
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    @DanRomik I just go with the information given in the question. And my answer covers the fact that no other information is mentioned. You're right, anyone could be a predator, in fact one sort of 'grooming' is to frighten the intended victim with other people. But there is no information given to base anything like that on. Suggest you read my answer fully. Everything is covered.
    – Kilisi
    Jun 18, 2022 at 1:49
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    I guess I’d just go with Occam’s razor here. If I’m a young woman and my boss warns me that a male coworker is a predator, in the absence of any other information I’d start by assuming that’s probably true and act accordingly. In particular, in a workplace context I’d conclude what the top-voted answer basically concludes, that the boss is nuts and highly irresponsible to expect me to work and to be left to take care of my own safety in such an unsafe environment.
    – Dan Romik
    Jun 18, 2022 at 2:00
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    @DanRomik great, feel free to do whatever pleases you
    – Kilisi
    Jun 18, 2022 at 2:02
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I think you took his "warning" way too seriously, he probably said that he's a sexual predator in the sense that he finds him dating a 17 year old unacceptable or weird, not in the sense that he actually harasses random young ladies.

Are there any other women working there that have been harassed or men that had seen him in "action" who could confirm what your manager said is true? Ask around to know for sure.

Coming from a male's perspective I can tell you that us men often "joke" about things like these in a way women may not completely understand. When we say someone's a "predator" or that "you shouldn't be left alone with him" we don't mean that that someone will come over and start harassing you, we jokingly mean that he's a ladies man and might hit on you.

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    You're assuming a lot here that you just don't know.
    – Old Nick
    Jun 17, 2022 at 12:09
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    I assume the others are assuming a lot more.
    – theMan
    Jun 17, 2022 at 12:17
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    A responsible adult wouldn't joke about this to a stranger less so to a newly fired very young employee on her first day unless the aim is to either warn or scare her off.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Jun 17, 2022 at 19:45
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    OP never said the manager was a guy, AFAICT. Where are you getting that from? Jun 19, 2022 at 23:53
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    Stop it with the "guilty until proven innocent", people. There's nothing to overanalyze here, literally nothing happened, just some guy that said some things and some people that overreacted on the internet.
    – theMan
    Jun 21, 2022 at 13:20

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