There has been a recent trend on social media with the hashtag #Metoo spreading like wildfire. The campaign represented victims of sexual violence and encouraged victims to post the #Metoo hashtag on their Facebook status. Sexual harassment in the workplace is becoming more and more apparent in the news and many employees working for employers and highly influential companies have come out to tell their story. Although it seems that sexual harassment has become more evident in recent times than in decades, the only difference is that most of the victims were afraid to speak out. We live in a highly sexualized culture. And as such, there’s a fine line between being “friendly” and being sexually harassed. Recent studies have shown that men and women who are victims of sexual harassment are more likely to develop mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety in later life, as well as eating disorders. Victims of sexual harassment may initially use defense and coping skills to hide their feelings, but their mental health may eventually suffer if they do not seek adequate help to cope with their feelings.
Studies show that one in three women admit to being sexually harassed at work, and that 65 percent of all women have experienced street harassment. Studies have also found that seven percent of men experience sexual harassment at work, and men in the military are ten times more likely to be sexually assaulted than their civilian peers, but 80 percent of these victims do not report. Sexual harassment in the workplace is based on the dynamics of power classification, and most sexual harassment complaints involve a subordinate as well as a senior. Regardless of power level or gender, sexual harassment whether at work, in public, or at home results in higher rates of depression, anxiety, and eating disorders in the long term. This is because sexual harassment is a form of mental and (physical) trauma.
When a traumatic or disturbing event occurs, it can overwhelm normal coping mechanisms and consequently memory and associated stimuli are not adequately processed and stored in an isolated memory network. It’s almost as if the brain shifts to focus only on the traumatic event, and the emotions are connected, as if the event is constantly repeating itself in the brain. When this happens, these memories will have lasting effects and will be repeated over and over again, as if the individual is reliving the trauma for the first time because sounds, smells, visions and emotions were not properly treated and stored.
A person can feel out of control or powerless after a traumatic event, as a result of which they use behaviors that control their feelings of shame to control this aspect of their life. To hide causes binge eating, frustration. and fear. Another self-harm behavior used for self-treatment after a traumatic event is non-suicidal self-harm, which involves tearing to pieces and other forms of self-harm to relieve feelings of guilt and anger. Eating disorders, like other self-destructive behaviors, are a way to stay in control by avoiding pain. Others may not even realize that their loved one has been severely affected by the traumatic event because they may bury their emotions through their eating habits to such an extent that the person may completely forget why their eating disorder began.
The emotional and psychological trauma caused by sexual harassment can not only wreak havoc on a person’s daily life, but if left untreated, can lead to mental health disorders such as major depressive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder brief psychosis and generalized anxiety disorder. The pain and frustration of the traumatic event can lead to suicide attempts. Seeking help before these comorbidities and complications occur is the key to a successful and positive life.