Posted On: September 26, 2011 by Peter M. LaSorsa

Psychology Behind Sexual Harassment

Sexual Harassment has become a major social concern over the last decade. Sexual harassment is never justified and creates a stressful, uncooperative hostile work environment that is not conductive to a profitable, successful business. Why does sexual harassment take place? Where does sexual harassment occur the most? What are the mental side-effects of sexual harassment, how can victims cope and finally, what can be done to stop sexual harassment in its tracks?

Forensic psychology states that sexual harassment occurs in settings where the harasser requires a renewed sense of power and obtains that power through sexual intimidation, persecution, unwanted advances and unsolicited physical contact. Sexual harassment is the behavior of an abuser and sexual predator. Those who are harassed deserve protection and compensation for their emotional stress, loss of work hours, and mental anguish. Sadly, our work environments are the most likely setting for sexual harassment. This form of harassment takes all shapes and does not discriminate on the basis of sex. While it most likely occurs to the female population, men have and can be victims of sexual harassment.

The harasser can take many forms as well: it could be a supervisor, a fellow employe, or even someone outside of the work environment that has temporary contact with the business. Sexual harassment is any kind of unwanted sexual contact. The exchanges do not have to be physical in nature, but can include jokes, sexual conversations, propositions, emails, letters, and/or gestures. Sexual harassment is a severe form of both sexual and psychological bullying. Sadly, educating individuals about sexual harassment, their rights and what exactly constitutes as sexual harassment within the workplace has been laid aside and forgotten. It is the legal duty for employers and companies to inform their employees of their rights within the workplace and the ability to work in an environment liberated of sexual harassment.

The effects of sexual harassment are profound and affect everyone: the abuser, the victim and the business as a whole. The overall affects vary depending on the people involved, and the extent and duration of the abuse. In all occurrences of sexual harassment, however, the changes are life altering. Sexual harassment can carry the same social and personal side effects as rape and/or sexual assault. Another effect that can often be more taxing than the abuse itself is the aftermath of the harassment. Once attention has been drawn to the harassment, work segregation, backlash, bullying, teasing and even termination of employment can occur. The most common effects of sexual harassment include:

• Loss of job
• Loss of income
• Reduction in job performance
• An increase in missing work
• A serious loss of trust
• Stress in relationships outside of the environment where the harassment is occuring
• Being publicly sexualized
• Losing workplace recommendations
• Depression
• Anxiety
• Weight gain or loss
• Nightmares
• Feelings of shame and guilt
• Fatigue
• Loss of self-esteem
• Increased stress leading to higher blood pressure and other medical ailments
• Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

This article was written by Allison Gamble who has been a curious student of psychology since high school. She brings her understanding of the mind to work in the weird world of Internet marketing

Coping with Sexual Harassment
There are many organizations, counseling agencies, friends, and family who can help victims cope with their ordeal. Support groups can help form bonds with other who have gone through similar suffering and can establish a healthy way to express any residual anger, pain, frustration and confusion. Beginning to rebuild a damaged career is another healthy coping method. There are times where, even after there has been a resolution, victims do not want to remain at their current place of employment. Finding a new place of employment, obtaining some additional training and rebuilding one’s self-esteem is one beneficial coping technique. Many victims take shelter in the safety of a therapist or counselor’s care. Getting solid advice, information and help in dealing with difficult emotions is vital to beginning the healing process.

The first step in preventing sexual harassment in the workplace is for employers to have clear and documented policies and procedures for dealing with sexual harassment. A no tolerance policy should be documented within the employee handbook. Any instances of sexual harassment should be dealt with instantaneously. If sexual harassment does indeed occur, the victim should consult with an attorney to ensure they are fully compensated for the abuse. Many times, victims and their needs are overlooked by employers seeking to save themselves from liability. It is always a good idea to seek outside legal assistance when you are unsure of what your individual rights are.

Sexual harassment can be devastating. It is vital for anyone who has become a victim of sexual harassment to put a stop to the abuse. Report the harassment, document the situations, get some legal advice from an attorney and if needed, never be afraid to seek counseling from a licensed psychologist or therapist.

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