Hotel blames woman's sexual assault claims on her outfit

Jessica Ankomah

A woman who accused hotel staff of sexual harassment during her stay was slammed by hotel management who allegedly blamed the ordeal on the woman’s outfit.

Mariah Nonnemacher, 26, was eating breakfast at the Enjoy Hostel in Paris, when a hotel staff member overstepped boundaries.

Nonnemacher, who was accompanied by friends, described how the staff member made her feel uncomfortable reportedly staring at the group of women before asking if they had boyfriends and trying to get their phone numbers.

A trip with friends turned into something much more unpleasant due to a staffer, says Mariah. Photo: Facebook/mariah.nonnemacher

While she and her friends rejected the man’s advances, his behaviour continued.

The next day, Nonnemacher was preparing to check out when the same male staff member blocked her on a staircase and gestured to her chest.

“He said, ‘You’re showing too much cleavage, it’s not appropriate’,” she told BuzzFeed News.

“There were people in the landing and the lobby around to hear. It’s embarrassing, for one, and not that I should have to explain it, but I wasn’t wearing anything provocative.”

Dressed in a V-neck top, a shirt over the top of it, jeans and boots, Nonnemacher maintains the encounter had nothing to do with her clothes.

“Even if it had, it was very much victim-blaming — a ridiculous, misogynistic view,” she said.

She said she checked out of the hotel, and then emailed the hotel’s manager to report the incident.

Mariah reported the incident to the hotel manager - but was left outraged at his response. Photo: Twitter/MariahRhae

The hotel’s manager replied, saying he would investigate. But a second email from him left her furious.

“After investigation, I am really sorry to tell you that... it turns out that you were dressed provocatively with a plunging neckline,” the manager said in his email, which was shared on Twitter.

“This is a mistake, because when travelling and frequenting a hotel where there are many men, it is more prudent, to avoid any harassment to dress as well.”

Nonnemacher replied to the manager, saying his response was not appropriate.

The next email from the manager read: “What kind of girl are you? You don’t recognize all what I said?! I am sorry, I can do nothing for you.”

“You do what you want at your home, but not in a public area! My hostel is not a club to date and/or to have an affair!”

The tourist told BuzzFeed News that response left her with a “burning rage.”

“It’s a combination of being embarrassed and powerless and angry about it. You just feel like there’s nothing you can do about it,” she said.

Nonnemacher said she shared her experience and the correspondence between her and the hotel on Twitter and Facebook saying she wanted to warn other female travellers considering staying there.

Mariah has gone public with her experience to warn others. Photo: Facebook/mariah.nonnemacher

“I just wanted to warn other girls who may want to stay there”, she told BuzzFeed News. “If anything were to happen with one of their staff members, they don’t respect personal boundaries — if you were dressed ‘risqué’ it’s your fault.

“Stay away from this place — it’s bad.”

In a response to BuzzFeed News, Enjoy Hostel’s manager Paul Benichou said the hotel was “trying to protect” Nonnemacher.

“A young lady coming to the breakfast room and dressed very provocatively. We said, ‘Miss beware cause it is a public area here, with many men and we want to protect you’,” he said.

“We have made an action of prevention. That’s all. And I was shocked that this client consider we process harassment. It was not that at all. Exactly the contrary!” Benichou continued. “I consider men and women are equal, strictly. But women are prey in our nice city. And need to be informed and protected. I do my job by protecting my guests.”

“I was totally surprised she feels attacked, so I said to her it was a misunderstanding, that we are well educated and fair. I [apologized.] Now this lady has decided to make the buzz on internet to destroy our reputation?! It is a nasty attitude! Not fair at all. I am disgusted.”

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