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I'm nineteen, female, and stuck working at a very unprofessional outback horse boarding place. I live in a bush town that's on the cusp of small and medium.

The employees (4) all live on-site and work in exchange to live there in trailers for free. They drink during work, smoke near the horses on the job and are generally very "bogan". This is unfortunately not unusual for the outback workplace attitude here in Australia. But I try my best to remain amicable and friendly.

The issue is this male worker (47), lets call him John, is extremely inappropriate and has long a history of sexual harassment and violence against his co-workers.

The manager can't fire John since he is the owner's brother and live on-site with the owner. The owner is very aware of John's misconducts, but simply doesn't care.

The manager is afraid of being fired since that would render him homeless since he works to live in the trailer on the property.

Recently, John and another co-worker were drunk and got into a fight that ended up having a police report filed, of course, John hasn't been fired because of nepotism.

Long story short, John has been making really uncomfortable passes at me and I'm afraid to tell him 'no' since he has a history of violence. I ignored him the first few times and eventually politely said "I'm uncomfortable with your compliments." But he just ended up getting really upset and without saying anything, started banging around doors, slamming tools around and stomping loudly. It's a mercy that he ignored me for the rest of the day... as if that were a punishment.

Overall, this situation horrifyingly scary, I feel as if my voice has been sealed in my chest and I cannot speak or breathe. I am not tall or strong and have no way of defending myself against this man if he gets violent or pushy.

I'm afraid to bend over to pick up things because he stares, I'm afraid to drink from my water bottle or even eat because he makes 'jokes' about "putting other things in my mouth", so I don't bring food to work anymore, and I'm afraid to be left alone with him. There isn't a need for a lot of staff so often it's only two people at once working.

I've stopped my hygiene routines; brushing my hair, wearing baggy work clothes, washing my face and applying deodorant - hoping that my smelly teen sweat, oily messy hair, flaring red acne will put him off.

I constantly feel dirty and gross, I constantly feel like I need to scrape my skin raw. I constantly feel anxious and so very angry. I told my mother about this but she just said that this is something that all women have to experience and that it's just life and now I don't know if I'm just overreacting, or if I'm wrong for feeling uncomfortable and if I should be enjoying the attention.

I've only been working here for two weeks before John made me increasingly anxious to be around, to the point of near panic attacks and shaking.

This is an internship I was stupid enough to take because I thought I wouldn't have any other chance in this shitty town. I signed a contract with my university and the workplace to remain here for three weeks of work. I'm on my last week now and I'm torn between putting up with John for another week and completing the internship or quitting and losing the merits of the internship and possibly the only internship I can find here.

I just have to make it through six more days but I just don't know how to manage this. John's behaviour has only started getting worse and more invasive.

I've tried everything, I've tried telling the manager, I've tried telling John to stop, I've tried being as unappealing as possible to the point of neglecting personal hygiene but he hasn't backed off.

My head is just full of worries, I can't tell when I'm overreacting or when I'm being valid. I don't know whats gut-feeling or pure anxiety anymore.

I'm afraid of what he will do if he learns that I'm leaving, if that will make him think he has nothing to lose, if he tries something like he has in the past with ex-female workers.

There is no bathroom to run and hide in, nor is there a staff room. There is a nearby gas station but it is about 3.4 meters down the road, an small heaven at this point.

It's been a long rant but I wanted to give as much insight into the situation as possible.

My question is: What else can I do to last this week with John? Anything, even if it sounds absurd, I'll take any method.

Thank you for reading.

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2 Answers 2

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  1. Phone up your university, explain that you are not safe in your current situation and it is affecting your health.
  2. Tell them (do not ask them) that you are leaving immediately.
  3. Get out, get somewhere safe.
  4. Contact your student representatives or equivalent at your university for support.
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    #1 - I would go further than that and explain you are being sexually harassed. They will surely have to do something then.
    – komodosp
    Jun 21, 2022 at 13:48
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    Seems to me that an individual, with a history of "sexual harassment and violence against his co-workers", should be reported to the authorities. While I agree that the situation should be reported to the university, the details of the situation, might be beyond the ability for a university employee to handle.
    – Donald
    Jun 21, 2022 at 14:08
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    @Donald I don't disagree with that. But that's not the immediate problem here. Jun 21, 2022 at 14:09
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    Also, the university must be made aware that this is not a safe place to be sending vulnerable young students.
    – HorusKol
    Jun 21, 2022 at 18:49
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Call in sick. Surely there is something you can fake for a week. It's probably not the right solution, but it is an easy one.

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  • It's a short-term solution, but it doesn't help the OP complete her internship and satisfy course requirements. And who knows where she'll be sent to complete the internship.
    – Stuart F
    Jun 21, 2022 at 16:23
  • "it doesn't help the OP complete her internship" I don't know how exactly these work, but i would assume being sick last week of internship would not jeopardize OP's education. That's hers to consider. "And who knows where she'll be sent to complete the internship." Sounds like they could hardly send her to worse place.
    – J. Doe
    Jun 21, 2022 at 16:46

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