Sexual harassment is something that is front and center in the media.
It is something that has gone on in the darkest corners of our society and sometimes, right in front of us.
Sexual harassment is generally defined as unwanted sexual advances or obscene remarks made in the workplace or in social situations. These occurrences can take place both publicly and privately, but both scenarios have the potential to be equally traumatic.
How can something so intrusive and violating be taken so lightly?
Unfortunately, there are too many variables at play to give one distinct answer.
However, we can speculate that public situations, work influences and social expectations come into play.
For example, the bystander effect is an identified social reaction that occurs when a group of people witness an injustice and react according to those around them.
If everyone waits for the other to respond, then nothing is done to prevent the injustice or help the victim.
This effect was identified in the 1960’s when a woman by the name of Kitty Genovese was murdered in front of a group of bystanders who did nothing to intervene.
This effect, along with the fine lines associated with humor, can often camouflage the severity of the incident.
Furthermore, if the harassment occurs in a private, social or professional situation, the pressure to remain quiet for fear of social or professional backlash can often be paralyzing. Privately living with the incident can lead to the progression of other maladaptive emotional responses and behaviors.
Sexual assault and harassment can impact the victim’s ability to form meaningful relationships in their life.
While the healing process does take time, many victims recover and can form and maintain relationships with their spouses. The healing process is a painful one and often involves recalling the traumatic event(s) and processing the emotions associated with it.
Almost like grieving, the victim experiences feelings of loss, a change in their identity, and embarrassment.
In the short term it may feel better to not talk about it but over the course of weeks, months, and even years the impact of sexual harassment/assault grows and permeates into many areas of the victim’s life.
Educating oneself about sexual harassment and its many layers can help prevent future incidents from taking place. Please take the time to do so, so that you can help fight the inclinations of these predators.
If you or someone you know is a victim of sexual harassment or sexual assault, you are not alone.
Your story must be told so that you can begin your healing process.
Your story must also be told to protect potential victims from this horrible experience.
Have questions or concerns about sexual harassment? Need advice?
Please contact our counseling team for assistance or support related to sexual assault or harassment.
Photo credit: Mihai Surdu via Unsplash