AbleToTrain by Willing & Able

Sexual harassment is a mental health issue

I remember attending a meeting at the company I worked for where people made jokes about sexual harassment presentations. It did not make sense to me and I certainly did not laugh. Why should they make fun of something serious, laugh and do it in front of their boss? Well, actually, he made a joke, too.

In what world is it appropriate to trivialize bullying? I wondered what would happen if I was harassed in the company. If I decide to report him, will it be taken seriously? Will they joke about me behind my back? will you fire me? Fortunately, I did not experience sexual harassment at work. But not everyone is so lucky.

Sexual harassment is more common than you think

According to the National Women’s Law Center, at least a quarter of working women have experienced sexual harassment in the workplace. Among these women, 70% to 90% did not say they were bullied. These figures say a lot and should be a wake-up call.

Some people think sexual harassment isn’t a big deal, maybe it’s just a workplace issue that HR should address, if at all. However, the problem is much deeper. In fact, we can waste time identifying and reporting sexual harassment. This means that the number of people who are sexually harassed, whether at work or elsewhere, may be significantly higher.

Trauma specialist Cynthia Stalker, LICSW, explains: “I think one of the reasons people don’t understand this is because they don’t understand how to recognize it. People don’t understand what qualifies as sexual harassment, so they tend to ignore it when it’s more of a low-level type of sexual harassment. “

The spectrum of sexual harassment is very broad. This can range from rude comments to rape. Despite the nature of harassment, no act is too small to report and no action is negotiable. Stocker said: “We women are used to it. Meet people’s needs and say “It’s okay, okay”. I’m getting over it. Stoker says that many women justify negativity by thinking, “I don’t want to be a whore. To be safe is to be a whore. I won’t do it. So I can suck it up and go through it. After all, I want a better job and he didn’t grab my ass, he just remarked – so it’s not that bad.

The effects of sexual harassment on mental health

But the fact is that it is very, very bad. The consequences of sexual harassment can seriously affect mental health. “The long-term consequences are serious,” says Stoker. Self-esteem is high. It really lowers people’s self-esteem. Teach them that their body is their currency.”

In addition to low self-esteem, sexual harassment is associated with mental illness. Research shows that most bullied women experience severe stress reactions ranging from anxiety to sleep disturbances and depression. Especially if sexual harassment occurred early in one’s career, research suggests that the symptoms of depression are long-lasting. Depending on the nature of the abuse, victims may experience PTSD symptoms and flashbacks. It goes without saying that future circumstances may be affected.

How to Deal with Sexual Harassment

If you’ve been a victim of sexual harassment at work, Stalker has some helpful advice. “If you have a human resources department, you should probably look for it first.” Stocker also mentioned the importance of documentation. “You must understand that you are not guilty. You just aren’t! It is very important. It is important to create an action plan with your human resources department and try to follow it. We also want to confirm your concerns in writing as well as orally. Stalker also encourages you to keep a diary so that you have written records of any harassment.

What about the action plan for people in general? We must, as Stocker says, “change the mood” around the problem. We need to stop being silent on the issue, whether you are a victim, a spectator or just someone who wants to help. We need to create a broader discussion on this topic. The scope must be reset. and the perpetrator must know that he has crossed a line that should not be crossed again.

Stocker suggests conversations in safe rooms as a way to restore voice boundaries and emotions. He said: “For me, a safe space is one where you can have open dialogue and communication without feeling like you will be ostracized for expressing your opinion, and where conversations are conducted in a respectful manner. If this is accomplished, you can actually have a meaningful conversation no matter what you believe. ”

So we all make efforts to make our voice heard and also listen to the voices of others. Whatever gender you are, think before you speak. The impact of your words is stronger than you think. As you now know, the effects can last a lifetime. It’s time to change the climate. It’s time to let her go and move on.