Health risks increase for victims of workplace sexual harassment

A substantial portion of news coverage over recent weeks has been devoted to stories of powerful men whose careers in politics and media have been derailed by credible allegations of sexual harassment, sexual assault or other sexual misconduct in the workplace. One aspect of the story has been mostly neglected, however: the potential for physical and psychological damage to the victims.

A university study has determined that workplace sexual harassment and related misconduct is directly related to long-term physical and psychological problems for victims. The problems include higher rates of depression, stress, sleep loss -- and symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), say researchers at Ball State University.

Their study titled “Workplace Harassment and Morbidity Among US Adults” is based on their analysis of 17,500 participants in the 2010 National Health Interview.

The study's lead author says that the results show that workers exposed to sexual harassment see more than their careers suffer -- their health and well-being are diminished, too. “Harassment harms victims, witnesses and organizations where such interactions occur,” said Ball State community health education professor Jagdish Khubchandani.

The study's co-author says the harassment results in humiliation and ridicule which in turn can cause victims to have difficulties with productivity and concentration, as well as struggles with low self-esteem, anger and absenteeism.

The decision to come forward and report sexual harassment and discrimination can be a difficult one. For those who are ready, a discussion with an experienced employment law attorney can help to protect your rights and career and clarify your legal options.

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