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How workplace sexual harassment takes a toll on mental health

On Behalf of | Jan 22, 2024 | Employment Law

Despite all the gains that have been made with equality in the workforce, workplace sexual harassment is still a big problem. 

Approximately 38% of women and 14% of men report that they’ve personally experienced sexual harassment at work – and women in some industries experience it at a rate above 90%. Aside from the career damage that sexual harassment can do, it’s also something that can have lasting consequences for the mental health of victims.

The unseen scars of workplace sexual harassment

Sexual harassment is heavily connected with negative health consequences, such as:

  • Anxiety and hyper-vigilance: People who have experienced sexual harassment at work often grapple with heightened anxiety and a persistent state of hyper-vigilance. The fear of encountering the harasser or similar situations can lead to a constant state of alertness and unease.
  • Depression and isolation: Sexual harassment can shatter someone’s sense of safety and trust in their workplace. This breach of trust can contribute to feelings of isolation, despair and depression as the victim may withdraw from colleagues and social interactions.
  • Guilt and shame: Victims of sexual harassment may wrongly internalize the blame for the perpetrator’s actions, experiencing profound feelings of guilt and shame. This self-blame can intensify their emotional distress.
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD): The trauma induced by sexual harassment can lead to symptoms associated with PTSD. Individuals may grapple with flashbacks, nightmares and emotional distress triggered by the abuse.
  • Impaired self-esteem and self-worth: Sexual harassment often targets an individual’s sense of identity. The constant belittlement and objectification can erode self-esteem, leaving lasting emotional scars.

If you’ve been the victim of workplace sexual harassment, learning more about your legal options may help.