The side effects of workplace sexual harassment

On Behalf of | Jun 15, 2020 | Employment Law

Minnesota women could find themselves the subject of unwanted, unhealthy attention: According to MarketWatch, an overwhelming majority of the U.S. adult female population has experienced some type of sexual assault or harassment. 

In one particular study, approximately 1 in 5 women experienced sexual harassment at their job. In addition to the fear of retaliation by their harassers or exile from their co-workers, the medical community reveals that women may also suffer detrimental side effects to their physical and mental well-being. 

Physical health side effects 

The medical community already believes that victims of sexual harassment report worsened and more frequent physical health issues. Now, there is new evidence that definitively links the abuse with physical illness. 

Women that have experienced sexual harassment suffer from a lowered quality of sleep at night, which could negatively affect the body’s ability to maintain optimal wellness. They also have consistently presented a significantly higher blood pressure reading, which increases their risk of cardiovascular diseases such as heart attack, heart failure or peripheral artery disease. 

Mental health side effects 

According to CNN Money, women that experience sexual harassment could suffer from anxiety, depression and, in severe cases, post-traumatic stress disorder. Yet, workplace harassment victims may be prone to an additional subset of emotional injury: institutional betrayal, betrayal blindness and betrayal trauma. 

Institutional betrayal is the result of a toxic workplace that disregards, ignores or even fosters a culture of inappropriate interactions. Betrayal blindness occurs as a defense mechanism. Women who do not want to address the fact that they are suffering from sexual harassment, perhaps for fear of retaliation, may try to convince themselves that it is not actually happening. Betrayal trauma is what victims experience when someone close to them in a position of power uses that positive connection to leverage their insidious behavior. 

Unfortunately, many female victims of workplace sexual harassment associate their negative feelings with the act itself, and may not realize that there are underlying emotional side effects that could benefit from treatment.