Sexual harassment has been a long-time silenced topic. Even though the MeToo movement in 2017 brought about a heightened awareness and gave courage to some women and men, it remains largely a topic which people are uncomfortable in speaking about.

White and Silver Chair Beside Clear Drinking Glass on Glass Table

What does sexual harassment at work look like?

Sexual harassment in the workplace can look like:

  • Unwanted sexual advances
  • Using sexual favors as a way to get promoted or employed at a workplace
  • Virtual texts or pictures sexual in nature
  • Unwanted touch
  • Discussing sex at work
  • Self-pleasuring in the workplace
  • Sexual jokes
  • Exposing ones body at work
  • Asking for sexual acts

How does sexual harassment affect mental health?

Sexual harassment can be extremely traumatic for the victim. Studies show that experiencing sexual harassment is strongly associated with depressive symptoms and victims may develop clinical depression. Sexual harassment early in one’s career has shown long-term effects into adulthood.

Sexual harassment often leads to feelings of anger, low self-worth, self-doubt, and self-blame. Victims may struggle with their own identity after being sexually harassed. Victims have also shown to be at risk of depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Grayscale Photography of Woman Touching Her Eyes

Why is it not talked about?

Sexual harassment is more than just about pleasure and sexual attraction. It is about power, privilege, and oppression in the workplace. There are certainly some who have a strong advantage in the silence around topics of sexual harassment. It gives them the power to create a preferred work climate.

Sexual harassment, in the most basic terms, “look bad” for a company. Therefore, avoiding the conversation other than a quick warning is preferred by many in power.

Another reason why the topic of sexual harassment is often excluded from global conversation is because victims are often feel ashamed in revealing the truth.

Why don’t victims come forward?

Some may wonder why it’s taken so long for there to be any conversation at all about sexual harassment. If victims reported the crimes, then change would have happened a long time ago.

Sometimes sexual harassment can be difficult to label in the workplace. Unfortunately, for some environments, it may be normalized as part of the work culture and it can be hard to call it out.

Victims experience trauma after the sexual encounter. They are in shock over what happened or what was being proposed. They wonder if others have experienced this and are sometimes told that “everyone does it.”

Victims of sexual harassment may feel that if they come forward, they will not be heard or even be blamed for what happened. There is often a stigma that someone that comes forth in the workplace is attention-seeking or “asked for it” by the way they conducted themselves.

Some victims fear their reputation will be tarnished and therefore think that “the next person will do it.” Victims may fear they will lose their job or if known, they will be unemployable at other companies as well.

Remember that sexual harassment is more than just about pleasure. It is about power and oppression in the workplace. Usually victims are relatively powerless and fear grave repercussions if they reveal the truth.

If you or someone you know has experienced sexual harassment at work, it is imperative to seek help from a mental health professional. Though it may be difficult to come forward, a trained counselor can help you heal from your experiences and improve your well-being.

Silver Laptop In White Wooden Table

Unable to sleep well at night? Read about managing those sleepless nights here