Workplace Sexual Harassment

What Happens When You Are Sexually Harassed?

Rape victims know exactly what is happening to them and how they are being abused. But victims of sexual harassment are often very confused and uncertain about their initial encounters with sexual harassment.

This is because sexual harassment can take place very quickly or it can occur as a series of events over a long period of time.  The wide range of behaviors exhibited by harassers can also confuse the victim – was I or was I not sexually harassed?

By the time the victims are certain that they have been sexually harassed, they usually experience some or all of the following:

  1. Depressive symptoms – they withdraw from their normal activities, tear easily, avoid social events and feel fatigued.
  2. Behavioural symptoms – they experience high stress, anxiety, or panic attacks.  Other signs include sleep disturbances, nightmares, loss of appetite, and being jumpy, scared or suspicious of a person or work environment.
  3. Perceptive symptoms – victims begin to view their   work environment with negativity and hostility.  They develop trust and safety issues in otherwise healthy personal relationships as they struggle with shame, denial, guilt and feelings of helplessness.

Anyone can fall prey to sexual harassment.  However, new staff, young graduates or school leavers or anyone with an introverted personality is more susceptible as they are perceived to be least likely to report them.