APA Says Sexual Harassment Causes Enduring Psychological Harm
Sexual harassment in the workplace can no longer be ignored because it is a prevalent problem. It causes enduring psychological harm, according to the president of the American Psychological Association.
APA President Antonio E. Puente, PhD., said, “Sexual harassment in the workplace is a significant occupational health psychology problem.”
Puente added, “Psychological research has offered understanding into the causes of workplace harassment, as well as some strategies for preventing or reducing it. However, there is limited research regarding the characteristics of harassers, which makes it difficult to predict who will do it and where and when it might happen. What we do know is that harassers tend to lack a social conscience and engage in manipulative, immature, irresponsible and exploitative behaviors.”
Sexual harassment exempts no one in the workplace. Regardless of gender or position, perpetrators could range from supervisors/superiors to coworkers, subordinates, customers and even clients. It is a common notion that it is primarily aimed at women, but this is not necessarily the case in recent years. Men are also victims of sexual harassment.
The Psychological Effects
According to the 2017 article “Sexual Harassment: Have We Made Any Progress?” published in APA’s Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, sexual harassment has more serious effects on compared men after experiencing workplace sexual harassment. These may include anxiety, depression, eating disorders, drug and alcohol abuse, post-traumatic stress and a lower level of overall happiness.
In addition, women are more likely to report sexual harassment than men, but “studies indicate that men may be at a higher risk of mental health issues and depression.” To cite an example on this assertion, men in the military are 10 times more likely to experience sexual harassment than civilian men, but an estimated 81 percent of military men who are harassed do not report it, the articles added.
Sexual harassment is prevalent in situations where men outnumber women, where supervisors are predominantly male, and where there is a sense among employees that complaints will not be taken seriously. Research has shown that hierarchical power dynamics are at the root of sexual harassment.
“Psychology can help, in the form of sexual harassment training, but it only works if it is part of a comprehensive, committed effort to combat the problem,” Puente said. “Most research points to sanctions as the primary way that organizations can be less tolerant of harassment.”