Sexual harassment is a form of harassment that involves the use of implicit and explicit sexual overtones. It is a collection of unwanted and unwelcome physical and verbal sexual attention. Although workplace harassment is the most common form of sexual harassment that most of us think about, sexual harassment happens across all parts of life.
Perpetrators of sexual harassment do not understand the long-term damage they are inflicting when they sexually harass someone. When a person chooses to sexually harass, they are committing an act of abuse, power, disregard, and disrespect against another person.
How does sexual harassment affect a person’s everyday life?
Sexual harassment happens in all types of circumstances and is an umbrella term for multiple types of unwanted sexual behaviors. Committing physical acts of sexual assault, requesting sexual favors, unwanted touching or physical contact, and verbal harassment of a sexual nature can all fall under the guide of sexual harassment.
While most legal claims involve workplace harassment (making conditions of employment or advancement based on sexual favors or describing sexual situations at work are far too common occurrences) it can occur online, in schools, and in religious organizations. A harasser can be a boss, a co-worker, a student, a teacher, a trusted counselor or doctor, or even a friend. A person can be sexually harassed while taking the train or walking around the neighborhood, or at the local watering hole.
What are some of the long-term effects of sexual harassment?
Sexual harassment is not a one-time occurrence. It is typically ongoing unwanted sexual behavior that helps to create a hostile environment and takes a devastating toll on the victim’s well-being.
Long-term effects of sexual harassment can be emotional, mental, and physical. Some of the emotions that victims of sexual harassment experience are anger, humiliation, shame, and a feeling of powerlessness. Dealing with inappropriate and uncomfortable behavior at work begins to take an emotional toll.
A person who has to endure these types of disrespectful behaviors day in and day out will begin to feel stressed, frustrated, violated, and embarrassed. Knowing that you are about to enter an environment that is unwelcoming and demeaning can make a person feel a sense of dread. This can spill over into the victim’s personal life, leading to a decrease in enjoyment in previously enjoyed activities and a negative impact on the victim’s personal relationships.
Other effects of sexual harassment can include loss of appetite, a change in sleeping habits, anxiety, increased stress, and lowered self-esteem. In severe cases of sexual harassment, victims can suffer flashbacks of the behavior and experience panic attacks and bouts of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Victims are also at risk of developing a substance abuse problem and or severe depression.
What are some physical long-term effects of sexual harassment?
The physical long-term effects of sexual harassment are just as dangerous as the emotional effects. Victims of sexual harassment are at risk of developing stomach problems, headaches, and other physical stress-related conditions.
Some individuals who are subjected to sexual harassment may take steps to reduce their “attractiveness” to others, thinking that if they are less attractive, they will garner less abuse. They may stop paying attention to personal hygiene, drastically change their clothes or hair style, or engage in uncouth social behaviors.
In the most serious cases, victims may engage in self-harming behaviors, such as cutting, excessive drug or alcohol abuse, or other reckless behaviors. Young children who are habitually harassed or bullied online may also be more likely to attempt suicide.
What if I am sexually harassed at work?
With the long-term health effects and low morale of the workplace, it seems that it would be in the best interest of sexual harassment to be eliminated. If you find yourself as the victim of sexual harassment, there are some actions that you can take to protect yourself and the people around you. The first action to take is to speak up.
Your first step in resolving the issue is to let your perpetrator know that you find their actions or words offensive. In many cases, this simple action is all it takes to resolve the issue because a coworker will typically stop the offensive conduct out of genuine concern or fear of disciplinary action.
Another action you can take is to follow your employer’s sexual harassment procedures. Most companies have detailed policies for handling sexual harassment claims. If your employer or HR department has a certain procedure, you want to make sure that you follow it down to the letter, and note of any time limits established in the policy.
If your employer does not have a set procedure for handling sexual harassment claims, you should bring your sexual harassment claim to your immediate supervisor. If your supervisor is the perpetrator who is sexually harassing you, bring the claim to your supervisor’s immediate supervisor.
If you cannot resolve your sexual harassment claim through your employer’s procedures, you have the option of filing an administrative charge against your employer. You can file with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or your state’s human rights or civil rights enforcement agency. The government agency will investigate your claim, and attempt to resolve the issue by negotiating with your employer.
At Taylor & Ring, our Los Angeles sexual harassment attorneys are trusted by the community to fight effectively and with compassion on behalf of victims of sexual harassment. If you are a victim of workplace sexual harassment, contact our experienced lawyers today for a free consultation by calling 310-776-6390 or submitting a contact form.
David Ring is a nationally renowned plaintiff’s personal injury trial attorney and has obtained multi-million dollar verdicts and settlements on behalf of seriously-injured individuals or families who have lost a loved one in a tragic accident. For more than 20 years, he has represented victims of sexual abuse, sexual harassment, assault, molestation and sexual misconduct in cases against a variety of employers and entities, including schools, churches and youth organizations.
He prides himself on providing aggressive, yet compassionate representation for children who have been sexually abused and women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted. Read more about David M. Ring.