Effects of Sexual Harassment
The effects of sexual harassment vary from person to person and are dependent on the duration and severity of the harassing behavior. Thus, individuals can suffer through a number of psychological effects ranging from irritation and frustration to anxiety, stress, and terror. Individuals may fear retaliation and victim blaming. As we are a small community, there can be concern for coming forward and making a complaint for implications to one’s career and academic pursuits. There can be a tremendous fear of retaliation and backlash, not only institutionally, but also to the community of one’s specific discipline or career path.
Some of the potential effects a victim may experience:
- Anxiety, frustration, depression, sleeplessness and/or nightmares, difficulty concentrating, headaches, fatigue, shame and or guilt, feeling powerless, helpless or out of control, feeling angry towards the harasser, loss of confidence and self-esteem, withdrawal and isolation, suicidal thoughts or attempts
- Retaliation from the harasser, or colleagues/friends of the harasser, should the victim complain or file a grievance (retaliation can involve revenge along with more sexual harassment, and can involve stalking the complainant)
- Having to drop courses, or change academic plans; it may impact grade performance
- Increased absenteeism to avoid harassment, or because of illness from the stress
- Having one’s personal life held up for public scrutiny – the victim becomes the “accused,” and their dress, lifestyle, and private life will often come under attack. (Note: this rarely occurs for the perpetrator.)
- Being objectified and humiliated by scrutiny and gossip
- Becoming publicly sexualized
- Defamation of character and reputation
- Stress impacting relationships with significant others, sometimes resulting in the demise of the relationship; equally, stress on peer relationships and relationships with colleagues
- Impact on references/recommendations
- Loss of career
Information obtained from the Sexual Harassment Support website.