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Can Sexual Harassment Cause Psychological Harm?

Unfortunately, sexual harassment represents an ever-increasing trend, not only in Iowa but also across the nation and even around the world. You may well have been a victim of it yourself, particularly if you are a female. Many studies have been done over the years documenting the harm that physical sexual harassment causes its victims. A relatively new study, however, documents that even non-physical sexual harassment, including such things as hearing derogatory comments, receiving unwanted sexual attention, or receiving unsolicited explicit images, can cause psychological harm resulting in depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, and negative body image.

Time reported the results of this study published in the International Journal of Public Health in November of 2017. Upwards of 3,000 young sexual harassment victims, both male and female participated in the study. Based on their responses to study questions, researchers concluded that any kind of sexual harassment, even non-physical, caused these victims psychological harm, especially with mental health indicators such as the onset of anxiety and depression.

Statistical results

Overall, approximately 62 percent of the study subjects said they had been sexually harassed during the preceding year. While researchers found that both males and females suffered from increased depression after being sexually harassed, physically or nonphysically, women suffered more acute symptoms than men, leading to the conclusion that sexual harassment represents a greater stressor for women.

Interestingly, the researchers also concluded that socioeconomic factors play a part in the mental well-being of sexual harassment victims. For instance, victims with unemployed parents suffered a higher degree of psychological damage from sexual harassment. So did those who belonged to sexual minorities.

This is general educational information and not intended as legal advice.