We all know that sexual harassment at work is a serious matter. While we may instinctively know that it’s unacceptable, not all of us immediately understand just how much damage it can do to womens’ lives. Sexual harassment can cause a multitude of grave health effects, and these are just a few of the ways in which it impacts both physical and psychological well-being.
Debilitating Stress Reactions
According to information from Equal Rights Advocates, some 95 percent of women who are sexually harassed experience a debilitating stress reaction. This includes anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and feelings of lowered self worth and lowered self-esteem.
These are some of the most common effects of harassment, and they can be devastating. Imagine the crushing weight of intense doubt, fear, guilt and stress following a traumatic experience. Oftentimes, victims of sexual harassment blame themselves, and assign responsibility to themselves for their trauma. Now imagine that feeling being a constant, and impeding on your ability to accomplish anything else.
This is a reality for some victims of sexual harassment, who then have difficulty managing the other troubles in their lives. From giant life hurdles like going through a divorce to routine actions like getting out of bed — the psychological strain following sexual harassment makes everything more difficult.
Complicated Physical Responses
In addition to those sometimes crippling signs of mental trauma, sexual harassment can trigger a number of physical responses, like sleep disorders. The inability to sleep is exacerbated by stress and anxiety, so it’s quite common for sexual assault victims to lie awake for long hours, pondering their distress. The lack of sleep then snowballs into other health issues as a result.
It’s not just lying awake at night that gives women who have experienced sexual assault a hard time. They are also prone to increased blood pressure on account of the increased stress and anxiety. This, in turn, can increase instances of cardiovascular disease, and other problems with the circulatory system.
The strain and anxiety produced by sexual harassment may be the cause of a number of bodily aches and pains, most specifically neck pain (a sign of extreme stress). Women who have received unwanted sexual attention may also develop sexual dysfunctions, and may even lose interest in sexual activity.
Lastly, in the most extreme cases, the stress from being sexually harassed can drive women to suicidal behaviors. It’s clear that the effects of harassment extend far beyond the pain of the initiating event, which is all the more reason to make efforts to curtail its prevalence.