The effects of sexual harassment are often similar to those experienced by victims of other types of sexual assault. Sexual harassment is any type of unwanted sexual advance or sexual behavior by one person toward another. Victims of sexual harassment can suffer psychological, financial, and physical effects.
The intensity of the abuse and the length of time over which it occurred are often factors in what affects how the victim feels. The support the victim receives by superiors and co-workers as well as family and friends may play a role in how dire the effects of the abuse are. A victim who finds that those around her support her may not experience the devastating effects felt by a victim who suffers retaliation.
Many victims of sexual harassment find their work performance suffers. Moreover, the effects of sexual harassment may damage the victim’s career if the harassment took place in the workplace. Victims may miss more work to avoid the abuse or because of illness brought on by the stress of the abuse. There may be retaliation by the abuser or others in the workplace. The victim may also find herself the victim of office gossip.
In some instances, the victim will lose her job as a result of sexual harassment, bringing with it financial loss. The victim may also find that she has lost connections within her field. Those with whom she worked and those in her field may distance themselves from her.
The victim may suffer from psychological effects of sexual harassment. Anxiety attacks, insomnia, and loss of self-esteem are common. Even more seriously, some victims of sexual harassment may have post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, or thoughts of suicide.
Physically, the effects of sexual harassment can be high blood pressure, headaches, and gastrointestinal disorders. The victim may develop sexual dysfunctions and have overall problems with intimacy. Eating disorders, including weight loss or weight gain, can also be effects of sexual harassment.
Studies indicate that nearly a third of women say they have been the victims of sexual harassment in the workplace. Of those women, more than half say they took no action to report the abuse. In most instances, the women reported that the harasser was either their supervisor or a higher-ranking employee.
Victims who are recovering from the effects of sexual harassment may find help with a support group, counselor, or therapist. Many victims of sexual harassment seek to isolate themselves from other people. Family members and friends can help the victim recover by helping her to avoid this tendency.