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Sexual harassment in the workplace victim symptoms

Companies are supposed to protect you from sexual harassment in the workplace and are supposed to educate their staff about it . We are here to make sure you get the support and information that may be missing in your workplace.

The repercussions of sexual harassment effect your ability to function properly in your workplace and can also greatly affect your life outside your workplace. Sexual harassment affects your ability to connect with co – workers , it affects your self -esteem and you can start to second – guess your own judgement and rational thinking. It can lead to depression and is a very dangerous situation to be in if you are the victim.

This is part of the perpetrator’s power over you. A perpetrator is a person who carries out a harmful, illegal, or immoral act, and they know they are doing it. A perpetrator of sexual harassment in the workplace knows they are treating you in this way , but they choose to continue. Sexual harassment is a power play and it can totally dis-empower the victim.

Why Do People Sexually Harass Others? (*Excerpts taken from “Verywell Mind” –

Too often, when someone is sexually harassed at work, people start to question the role the victim played in the abuse. But psychologists caution against this victim-blaming viewpoint. Most would argue that regardless of the perpetrator's gender and sexual orientation, sexual harassment is driven by anger and insecurity as much as it is by attraction. 

In fact, most people who sexually harass others, regardless of whether they are men or women, are looking to control and dominate others. The harasser feels more in control when he/ she has power over someone else. What's more, some harassers are looking to embarrass and humiliate their targets rather than sexually stimulate or flirt with them.

Sexual harassment is more about using a position of power to control and hurt someone else. Meanwhile, others say that in the workplace sexual harassment is a form of manipulation. It's a way to inadvertently devalue someone's work by calling attention to their sexuality instead.

When you become a victim of sexual harassment in the workplace you can second guess the behaviour , because you can’t believe that someone would choose this abusive behaviour. The perpetrator can be very skilled at hiding the abuse from other team members , directing it solely to you so other team members would not question the perpetrator’s behaviour. Perpetrators can be good at hiding the abuse, publicly presenting as kind, honest, charming and likeable but behave in cruel, abusive, undermining and manipulative ways when alone with their victim and not around others.

The repercussions of sexual harassment can affect your personal and home life , as your self -esteem erodes and victimisation depression increases. There can be a feeling of complete helplessness putting stress on extended family members of the victim and statistics show that many relationships can be effected adversely by the abuse, with the partners of the victim unable to understand or know how to help.

Many victims choose to leave their jobs to escape it, as it can seem “too big” and “too difficult” and “too stressful” to disclose . Many fear that by disclosing it, it may affect their ability to get a good reference from their existing employer allowing them to move to another job within a different company. Many are also too afraid of the reprisals from other team members if they disclose the sexual harassment, for fear that they will not be believed and so further victimised. Frequently other team members will not speak up, even if they have witnessed the behaviour, for fear of losing their own jobs. Even worse ,other team members may use the sexual harassment to bully you for job gain.

We do not want any of the above to happen to you. See below links for further information about the emotional and physical symptoms experienced by sexual harassment in the workplace victims;

The Hidden Health Effects Of Sexual Harassment (Excerpts taken from NBC News Better health, by Nicole Spector)
Victims of sexual harassment often experience emotional and physical symptoms for years to come.

Sexual Harassment In The Workplace: 'A Slithering Snake'

While sexual harassment under any circumstances can wreak havoc on a victim's health, workplace harassment is a special kind of ugly. Nannina Angioni, a labour and law employment attorney who has worked on hundreds of sexual harassment cases describes it as "slithering snake that ripples it's way through a work environment causing disastrous results."

"Employees talk of having a pit in their stomach commuting to work, having anxiety, panic attacks, inexplicable fits of crying and physical manifestations of stress: hair falling out, hives, weight gain or loss, sleeplessness and lethargy," says Angioni.

Dr. Cullen adds that the feelings of shame or guilt that a person may feel when sexually harassed at work can devastate their self-esteem and sense of self-worth as a professional.

“They may feel that they did something to make this happen or egg it on in some way,” says Cullen. “Embarrassment can be experienced, a fear over other people finding out. Also, particularly early in their career, a person may doubt their ability, and wonder if they weren’t only hired because of their sexual value. They may question their achievements, and if they’re young or new to a field, they may ask, ‘Is this just what it’s like in this field?’ If they have nothing to compare it to, they may not have an idea of what is normal or what the appropriate recourse is.”

Here’s where the research Cullen mentioned earlier, which shows that sexual harassment early in one’s career can have long-term mental health effects comes into play. Wendy L Patrick a prosecutor and educator, has personally seen depression “last up to a decade” for women who experienced sexual abuse in the workplace, and notes that it can affect their performance in subsequent jobs.

Surely the (often silent) suffering of the victim mustn’t be underestimated, but it’s important to note that when one employee is being abused, their colleagues may also be afflicted. After all, it’s stressful to keep a secret, especially one that is so clearly damaging.

“When employees are questioned about the effect of harassment [on a colleague], you always hear about some physical manifestation of stress. They can’t sleep. They have to keep getting up to go to the bathroom,” says Angioni. “It’s really hard: You’re watching someone on your team suffer, or even wither away as they just try to get through the days.”

When To Help A Hurting Colleague — And How To Get Treatment

A victim of sexual harassment may ultimately want to speak out against their abuser, but it’s important for others to speak up, too, even ahead of the victim. If you know something, say something; but don’t gossip —that only escalates the problem and further endangers the victim.

“When people suspect something is going on and don’t speak out, the harassment evolves,” says Angioni. “I counsel companies and employees to go about it tactfully. If you think something is happening, don't talk about it at the water cooler, or in front of the victim. Don’t send snarky emails or texts. Talk to someone in management. Help without creating a further problem. If there is not an HR person, find a trusted supervisor.

If you know something, say something; but don’t gossip — that only escalates the problem and further endangers the victim.

For the victim, speaking out may be challenging, and in some cases they may just really not be willing or able to do so. It’s important that both victims and their supporters understand that while silence isn’t ideal, it may be what works for the coping or healing process at the moment. But only if you’re talking to a mental health professional about what is going on. This cannot be emphasized enough: If you are being sexually harassed you mustn’t keep this a secret; it is literally toxic to your health.

“Some victims will never report abuse and they have that right,” says Dr. Hammond. “It’s a case by case thing and sometimes there’s a reason for staying silent — if you feel your safety is threatened, or if you’re literally on the verge of having an emotional breakdown and will be unable to function. But you need to reach out to someone.”

6 Ways Sexual Harassment Damages Women's Health
Victims of sexual harassment can experience strained relationships in the workplace, but are also at risk for numerous health problems. Here are six health effects of sexual harassment:
( Exceprts taken from MyHealthNewsDaily, a sister site to LiveScience. staff writer Rachael Rettner)

Post-traumatic stress disorder
Many studies have found a link between experiences of sexual harassment and symptoms of post - traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which includes re-experiencing the trauma, and avoiding people or things that may remind the victim of the harassment.

In fact, women in the military who are sexually harassed are up to four times as likely to develop PTSD as women exposed to a traumatic event in combat, according to a 2009 study in the journal Law and Human Behaviour. Those researchers found that experiences of sexual harassment were significantly correlated with PSTD symptoms in 450 women who were interviewed. The link held even after the researchers took into account previous psychological distress and trauma.

Blood pressure
Sexual harassment boosts blood pressure, according to a 2008 study. The study included about 1,200 union workers from Boston who were surveyed about workplace abuse in the past year and given a health exam. About 23 percent of the workers reported at least one incident of sexual harassment.

The researchers found a significant correlation between sexual harassment and elevated blood pressure in women. Sexual harassment may trigger the same type of physiological reactions as stress, which is thought to raise the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Sleep problems
Sexual harassment has been linked to sleep disturbances said Debra Borys, a psychologist with a private practice in Westwood Village, Calif. This may be because the stress and anxiety of the event affects sleep habits. For instance, victims may lie awake at night ruminating about the event, or the event may be the source of nightmares, Borys said.

A 1997 study of more than 1,000 Canadian high school students suggested sexual harassment may lead to suicidal behaviours. The study found that 23 percent of students had experienced at least one incident of unwanted sexual touching, sexual threats or remarks, or indecent exposure in the past six months.

Of women who had experienced frequent, unwanted sexual touching, 15 percent said they had made suicidal attempts "often" in the past six months, compared with 2 percent of students that had not experienced sexual harassment.

Neck Pain
Sexual harassment leads to physical aches and pains, according to a Canadian study published this year that involved nearly 4,000 women. In the study, women with neck pain were 1.6 times more likely to report having experienced unwanted sexual attention.

If confirmed by future research, the findings suggest that interventions to prevent harassment in the workplace may decrease bone- and muscle-related problems for employees, the researchers said.

Employees talk of having a pit in their stomach commuting to work, having anxiety, panic attacks, inexplicable fits of crying and physical manifestations of stress: hair falling out, hives, weight gain or loss, sleeplessness and lethargy," says Angioni.

Other long term symptoms

Mis- trust
The ongoing major issue with sexual harassment in the workplace is mis- trust with people.
This includes work colleagues, fellow members of the community and can also include family members and friends.

The victim may have experienced in - validation and estrangement from strangers, work colleagues, fellow members of the community and also unfortunately family members and friends. This is due to the fact that they do not understand what the victim has experienced, mis – judgement and thinking that the victim brought it on themselves, and a lack of understanding of how the victim may be feeling.

The victim may feel estranged from other people if they have not received understanding support.

Romantic / Partner Relationships
Many couples do not survive sexual harassment in the workplace , due to the partner not understanding what the victim has been through. The partner may underestimate the damage caused to the victim of sexual harassment in the workplace and may not want the victim to stop working. The partner may not understand or “down- play” sexual harassment in the work place saying things like “it happens” or not provide enough support or understanding for the victim. This invalidation can lead to serious mis -trust in the relationship and breakdown of the marriage or partnership. Sexual harassment in the workplace can greatly effect families.

The victim’s sexuality can be affected on- going, due to mis- trust and abuse issues and they can find it difficult to trust romantically and sexually again , and to let their barriers down to let new partners into their life.

It is very important to have strong personal support around you if you choose to disclose sexual harassment in the workplace.

If you are experiencing any of the ailments above , do not underestimate the damage it is causing you.These are real symptoms perpetrated on you by another individual. You need to seek help to disclose the situation are experiencing.