When Mariah Nonnemacher, originally from Arkansas but living in London, recently visited Paris with a friend, she had no idea she would soon be making international headlines.
The 26-year-old and her friend booked a stay at Enjoy Hostel in the centre of Paris, but soon began to feel uncomfortable when a male staff member began acting inappropriately.
Speaking to BuzzFeed News, Mariah said the man stared at them, asked for their phone numbers and queried their phone numbers. When Mariah’s friend left and she stayed at the hostel on her own, she said the man blocked her on a stairwell and told her to “pull her top up”.
“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.”
Mariah said she was wearing a plain, V-neck top, with a plaid shirt of her boyfriend's over the top, paired with jeans and boots.
When she returned to her home in London, she made a formal complain to the hostel's manager, who assured her they would begin a formal investigation.
But shortly afterwards, the manager, Paul Benichou, responded and told her she was to blame for her own harassment.
"After investigation, I am really sorry to tell you that...it turns out that you were dressed provocatively with a plunging neckline," he wrote, in an email Mariah shared on Twitter.
"This is a mistake, because when traveling and frequenting a hotel where there are many many men, it is more prudent, to avoid any harassment to dress as well."
After replying to Paul's email and telling him his response was unacceptable, his tone quickly changed.
"What kind of girl are you?" he wrote.
"You do what you want at your home, but not in a public area.
"My hostel is not a club to date and/or have an affair! OK? It is better to go somewhere else...next time. No need people like you."
Mariah said the response left her feeling "embarrassed and powerless", and she's now shared the whole exchange online, in an effort to warn other female travellers.
"I just wanted to warn other girls who may want to stay there. If anything were to happen with one of their staff members, they don't respect personal boundaries," she told BuzzFeed News.
"If you were dressed 'risqué' it's your fault. Stay away from this place – it's bad."
In a statement to Buzzfeed, the hostel's manager claimed they were simply trying to "protect" Mariah form other harassers.
"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'," Paul Benichou 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!
"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."
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