Physical and psychological impact of sexual harassment

By Sarah Sofiyyah 

Every aspect of living must face the consequence of it, and it is a matter of getting the great and the worst result. It’s the same with victims of sexual harassment. 

Sexual harassment can be seen trivial for some individuals as there are thoughts that it’s just a verbal comment towards another party, yet the impact of victims getting from the harasser itself is more than what other people could imagine. 

As someone noted, “You cannot feel the other’s burden unless you put yourself into other’s shoes.” 

What the above quote is trying to explain is that people from the outside are just simply and bluntly acting like they are the ones who are facing the problem. People show what they wanted to show to the other, especially the bright side, not knowing how exactly the victims felt.

“Otherwise, if you show the other side of the coin, most people will find you odd and outcast you as you are not suited to the expectation and standard set by society.” This seems to be the view of the victim.

The feeling of constant fear and dismay in the darkest room makes the victims think of no other choices but to swallow a bitter pill, and remaining silent seems the best solution for the casualty. 

Correspondingly, it can contribute to ample strikes towards innocent victims. Are physical and psychological impacts not a big deal? You might need to re-think if you are a true human being. 

I bet everyone would not ever want to experience it, but the victims have to face it every single day. So, let’s discover in-depth how significant the impact of sexual harassment can be on the victims of sexual harassment.

Physical impacts of Sexual Harassment

On physical impact following sexual harassment, the research found a common experience they faced are illness, weight loss, sleeplessness, shortness of breath and poor self-care.

According to a study, those who experienced sexual harassment at the office would put them at risk of dangerous sicknesses like stroke, heart attack, aneurysms and kidney disease and would lead to death. 

Although receiving high blood pressure is not directly caused by sexual harassment, yet it can affect those victims who have it before and will affect them more. 

Furthermore, the sleepless night due to insomnia that the victim has to face when thinking about the immoral occurrence. It threatens the victim’s brain system to always stay on “high alert” which makes it difficult for the victim to remain calm. 

Notably, the victim might not be sleeping during the night to take “precaution” as the incident of sexual harassment might be happening again when they are sleeping which led the victim to stay awake. 

Self-care is a form of practice or responsibility for the individual to live a healthy lifestyle. However, self-care has been neglected by the victim of sexual harassment. 

It is because self-care includes the ability of oneself and the routine of actions that need to be maintained to achieve good health. Yet, the victim has no ability and courage to have proper care for themselves.  

The psychological impact of sexual harassment

People, in general, would not see the psychological impact directly towards the victim as only the sufferers handle their emotion every day.

The effect of sexual harassment is not only happening during the incident. It can also affect in the long run, according to Dr. Firdaus, a psychiatrist, who spoke at a forum “No means No! Stop Sexual Harassment!”

Therefore, from the psychological impact, the sufferers may have experienced one or more of these, which are: 

  • Negative mood or thought
  • Self-Blame
  • Anger issues 
  • Lowered satisfaction in life. 

A study by Suhaila and Rampal on psychological impact found that 80.3 percent of the victims felt constantly afraid after getting harassed in their workplace. This is due to the feeling of powerlessness of the victim towards the experience that they had faced. 

Some of the victims may not want to talk about their nightmare experiences as they are afraid to be labeled and seen as “cheap” by society. 

The victim seems to feel small. Thus, they stay in silence, and it can cause them stress. However, the overwhelming of feeling scared may take weeks, months or even years to cure or heal fully. 

Furthermore, another psychological consequence is that the victim also felt wanting to leave and resign from their workplace. 

This is the place that they received the dreadful incident that could make them feel uncomfortable when they are working and it can also affect their work performance. 

Dr. Firdaus said that a person who received sexual harassment from the person they know, such as family members, friends or even colleagues, may significantly affect their mental health as they feel helpless. This is due to the consequence of the place they knew as safe no longer protect them from any danger and threat. 

In addition, the victim has not had a positive thought in their mind, but filled with dark view. Hence, these actions have caused them to suffer distress and anguish. 

Most common thought would be self-blaming as the incident happened was their fault, over generalising all men are dangerous and in hindsight biased. 

“I did not know that was actually sexual harassment, I only knew a year after the incident happened, but the effect that happened to me kept on making me think until today.” Such is a painful story from a strong victim.

Sexual harassment can traumatise victims psychologically and lead them to a long-term physical effect. Imagine living a tragic life for the rest of your life and being restless all the time. Sadly, their voice is not loud enough to be heard by the public. 

Shallow-brained and ignorance of the humans must be averted and be replaced with wisdom and foresight. Still, some people are blaming the victim, not the perpetrator.***

(This is the second part of 3-segment special report series on sexual harassment written for Feature Writing class)

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