How to Get Help for Trauma after Sexual Harassment

How to Get Help for Trauma after Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment is a serious situation that is currently regulated by law. According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), it is against the law to harass a person because of that person’s sex. Harassment is further defined as including any or all of the following:

  • Unwelcome sexual advances
  • Requests for sexual favors
  • Verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature

While this definition appears to be very specific, the overall concept of sexual harassment also includes and offensive remarks about a person’s sex, such as derogatory comments to a woman about women in general.

The law also recognizes that while it does not “prohibit simple teasing, offhand comments, or isolated incidents that are not very serious, harassment is illegal when it is so frequent or severe that it creates a hostile or offensive work environment, or when it results in an adverse employment decision (such as the victim being fired or demoted).”

Trauma Associated with Sexual Harassment

For a person who has experienced sexual harassment, it is quite common for her to demonstrate symptoms of trauma including the following:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety and/or panic attacks
  • Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Sleeplessness and/or nightmares
  • Shame and guilt
  • Self-blame
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue or loss of motivation
  • Difficulties with time (forgetting appointments, trouble managing time)
  • Stomach problems or gastrointestinal disorders
  • Eating disorders (weight loss or gain)
  • Feeling betrayed and/or violated
  • Feeling angry or violent towards the perpetrator
  • Feeling powerless, helpless, or out of control
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Loss of confidence and self esteem
  • Overall loss of trust in people; problems with intimacy
  • Problems with sex (sexual dysfunction)
  • Withdrawal and isolation
  • Suicidal thoughts or attempts

Counseling for Trauma after Sexual Harassment

A person’s reaction to trauma often starts with shock and then moves into denial, followed by feelings of victimization that impact self-esteem and one’s ability to function. For a person who has experienced sexual harassment, he may have endured this harassment for quite a period of time, attempting first to handle it on his own before he acknowledged that he needed help.

It is at this time that counseling and support for the victim is critical. The counselor can help the victim understand sexual harassment, understand that he did not encourage it and should not sink into feelings of fault or guilt. The counselor can also help the person regain a sense of control over his life. The following are a variety of therapies that have been successful in treating trauma:

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
  • Exposure therapy
  • Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR)

These therapy types offer different strategies to help a person overcome the impact of trauma in her life. Dealing with trauma is not something people can do without assistance. You need to explore the underlying feelings that the trauma has created and learn healthy ways to handle these feelings. You do not want to turn to drugs or alcohol to numb yourself from these feelings. Instead, you can get help.