Frontline Harassment is a Cheer Up Luv Photo series focusing specifically on the experiences of key workers. Over the past year, with all the focus being on essential workers during the pandemic, I wanted to hear some of the stories from the frontline that rarely take centre stage.
The #FrontlineHarassment photo series was put together with a mixture of socially distanced in person shoots in London and FaceTime shoots UK wide, in line with Covid-19 restrictions. The testimonies on this page are just a handful that represent the many key workers, who are subjected to routine harassment whilst going about their jobs.
This photo series has been featured in Dazed, The Independent and It's Nice That.
All photography by Eliza Hatch.
“I was working in a busy A&E, when a man came in who was caring for his brother with learning difficulties. The man with learning difficulties was in a terrible state, and clearly hadn't been cared for properly as his clothes were soiled and he had dried faeces on his legs. I asked the brother to step out so I could complete personal care for the man, but he refused stating, ‘He doesn't need privacy.’ I asked the man with learning difficulties if he was comfortable with his brother staying, and he said he was. I began to undress the man, and when I bent over to pick up a towel from the floor the brother said, ‘You're giving me ideas, bending over like that. I've always had a thing for nurses.’ I told the man how inappropriate his comment was, but he still refused to leave the room. I continued with personal care, and although no further comments were made, I felt intimidated and frighted, and I could feel his eyes on me the whole time. I told a senior member of staff about the incident and they simply said, ‘Unfortunately its just one of those things.’ It happened less than a year into being a qualified nurse.”
“I was a young medical student on a placement. The comments came from a senior male consultant during a teaching session with other medical students present. He had a reputation for being ‘mean’ and ‘controversial.’ The first time it happened, I was in denial and in shock. Did he just..? Is that allowed..? No one batted an eyelid, so maybe it was all in my head. However after the second time, there was no ignoring it. Whilst teaching us, the consultant somehow ended up using an example of a woman who was running around naked on a beach, in this situation he specifically used my name. Multiple times. Let me assure you, it had no relevance to what he was teaching us. With support from my friend who was present, I approached the dean of the University who was supportive and relocated me to a new hospital the very next day. At the time I thought it was handled well, but it seems absurd almost 15 years later. But looking back, the consultant continued to teach, and I was never updated on whether he had suffered any consequences at all.”
“During one of my first placements, we had a workshop with real patients. We were split into groups, and in my group I was the only woman. One of the stations was to practice examining male genitalia. Everyone took turns, and throughout, the patient never made any comments. However when it came to my turn, the patient decided to give a running commentary on my technique. Saying things like, ‘You’ve got the perfect touch…I’ve not been touched like this in a while.’ The rest of my group and the teaching fellow laughed, so I laughed along nervously, not knowing what to do except speed through the rest of the examination, feeling mortified. I was upset not only because of his crude comments, but because I was the only person subjected to them. It made me worry, that if I was getting comments this early in my career, how much more harassment was I going to have to nervously smile through?”
“When I was a student, I was doing a placement in a hospital. I was leaning over the desk, and a patient walked past and groped my bum. It was so bullish and aggressive, I immediately thought, did this actually happen? I was absolutely stunned and instantly felt tearful. I went to speak to my mentor, and the first thing they asked me was, ‘Are you sure?’ I was so shocked.While I was crying, the same patient walked past again as though nothing had happened. My mentor’s disbelief and the patients nonchalant attitude, were the perfect gaslighting tools to silence a naive student.
Word soon spread about what had happened, and after that, It was clear there were people who ‘didn’t want to get involved.’This is not the first or the last experience I’ve had, but it was the first time I realised that zero tolerance is but a token, and that most people don’t want to get involved.”
“I’m a midwife at a hospital in London, and I had to go to the I.T. department for some training. I was alone with the guy, in a tiny room with the door closed, which I found intimidating enough. Whilst he was waiting for the computer to load, we were making small talk. He then asked me if I had kids. I said no. He asked if I wanted children. I said no. He asked me how my husband felt about that, and I told him that I don’t have a husband. He asked if I had a boyfriend. I said no. He kept saying he couldn’t believe a girl like me wasn’t married with kids already. I told him just because I’m a midwife doesn’t mean I have to want to have children. He kept mentioning how he had a friend who would happily marry me and give me kids if I wanted. He started saying how I was ‘one of those independent types’ and said I must be a born again virgin. I couldn’t believe he was saying these things to me, and I just laughed awkwardly not really sure how to reply. He then put his had on my thigh and said, ‘It’s okay, you’re just a girl who doesn’t need good dick.’ I honestly thought I had misheard him. It wasn’t until I went back of my office and told my colleague what had happened that it dawned on me how inappropriate it had been. I think I was even more shocked because it happened in work, and he was a colleague.”
“From medical school to this day, despite Equality and Diversity and being in the ‘caring profession’, being harassed for being brown still exists in the NHS. Throughout my journey in medicine I’ve been pestered about my commitment: ‘Your type just gets married and have babies.’ My ability: ‘Are you sure you don’t want a male colleague to do this’ and my knowledge base: ‘Wow you know a lot, you know considering.’ Then worse, refused treatment by a patient: ‘I ain’t being treated by no p*** .' More recently, as I started wearing a hijab, the level of intimidation increased from the overt ‘t*rrorist’ to micro aggressions such as, ‘Gosh, aren’t you hot with that thing on your head?’ Colourism in the NHS takes many forms and can be very subtle. Even making me feel the need to change my name from the two syllable ‘Andleeb’ to a more acceptable ‘Andy’ , this would allow me to ‘fit in’ and be seen as one of them. The endless round table meetings, policies, reports, investigations and enquiries into these issues mean nothing, if individuals themselves do not address their own behaviours before moving onto widespread changes in our working environment and society as a whole.”
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