There is no easy answer to how a victim of sexual harassment can best cope with the stressful effects of being harassed in the workplace. Some victims struggle with asking themselves why they have been harassed and wonder if they did something to give the harasser the wrong impression. This may cause the victim to feel guilt, shame, or embarrassment. The victim may feel like the harassment is his or her fault, and this guilt and shame can make it even more difficult for a victim to seek help or to report the harassment.
Victims of sexual harassment may be affected by harassment in a number of debilitating ways. Different victims will react differently to sexual harassment. Some common effects of sexual harassment on victims include feelings of confusion, embarrassment, denial, fear, and numbness. The victim may suffer from depression, anxiety, traumatic stress, sleeplessness or nightmares, decreased ability to concentrate, headaches, fatigue, stomach problems, anger, withdrawal and isolation, or problems with intimacy.
At work, the victim may experience decreased work performance, increased absenteeism, defamation of character and reputation, and loss of recommendations as a result of harassment.
These complex and troubling effects on victims of harassment can be extremely difficult to deal with. Acknowledging emotional hardships can be an effective first step for victims to gradually heal. Victims will need time and support to recover from their emotional injuries.
It can also help the victim to confide in a trusted friend or family member. Confiding in friends and/or family members can serve both to help emotionally by lifting a victim’s spirits and also help prove damages in litigation for the harassment. Sometimes friends and family members act as witnesses at trial to testify about the harm the harassment caused the victim.
Generally, the best way for a victim of harassment to cope with the emotional impact of the harassment is to get counseling from a psychologist or psychiatrist who has experience with the trauma involved with employment discrimination.