A new study shows that victims of sexual assault and harassment deal with mental and physical effects long after the trauma occurred. Researchers found that middle-aged women with a history of harassment and assault in their younger years suffer from hypertension, anxiety, depression, and poor sleep.
The study, “Association of Sexual Harassment and Sexual Assault With Midlife Women’s Mental and Physical Health,” was published October 3 in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine. Researchers had 304 women, aged 40 to 60 years old, answer questionnaires about their health. The women were all non-smokers. In short, they found that women with a history of sexual harassment and sexual assault were more likely to report anxiety and hypertension, as well as issues with insomnia, over women without a history of sexual trauma.
Long-term effects of sexual assault
Among the 304 women surveyed during the study, researchers found that 19 percent had experienced sexual harassment in the workplace, and 22 percent had a history of sexual assault. Women who experienced harassment at work had increased odds of developing Stage 1 or Stage 2 hypertension, as well as what’s called “clinically poor sleep.” And, victims of sexual assault had a higher risk of anxiety, depression, and clinically poor sleep.
Women reporting high blood pressure and hypertension had levels significant enough to put them at risk for stroke, kidney disease, heart attack, aneurysms, and other forms of heart disease.
It’s important to note that the study doesn’t prove a definitive link between the participants’ experience of assault and harassment to physical and mental health, but the authors of the study believe it’s a connection worth looking into further.
“It is widely understood that sexual harassment and assault can impact women’s lives and how they function, but this study also evaluates the implications of these experiences for women’s health,” stated Rebecca Thurston, a professor at the University of Pittsburgh and lead author of the study, in a press release.
A timely problem
This past year has shown how prevalent the issue of sexual harassment and assault really is. The results of this study were released almost a year after the kickstarting of the #MeToo movement, encouraging victims of assault and harassment in Hollywood and scores of other fields to expose their attackers and harassers.
Thurston has advice to offer to both medical professionals and survivors of harassment and assault. “If you are a health care provider, recognize that these experiences can have implications for your patient’s health. If you are a victim of assault or harassment, don’t suffer through it. Get help. If you can, change the situation or remove yourself from it.”
If you are a victim of sexual assault or harassment, the Los Angeles attorneys at Taylor Ring can help. Our firm is dedicated to representing clients just like you. We stand by your side and work to secure compensation for your trauma and losses, so you can begin to heal. Talk to our lawyers today at 310.776.6390 or complete our contact form to schedule a consultation.