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THE MENTAL HEALTH TIP: SSSHH…

IT’S SEXUAL HARASSMENT  

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Sexual harassment is defined as a behavior characterized by the making of unwelcome and inappropriate sexual remarks or physical advances in a workplace or other profession or social situations. According to an article by NPR on February 21, 2018 there was an online survey called, Stop Street Harassment, in which it surveyed both men and women. The findings were 81 percent of women and 43 percent of men had experienced some form of sexual harassment during their lifetime. Sexual harassment can take multiple forms. Those forms include verbal which can be, being catcalled or whistled at or getting unwanted comments of a sexual nature. Other forms include physical and cyber harassment and sexual assaults. That can include unwelcomed sexual touching, being physically followed and unwanted genital touching. I found these statistics to be alarming, but I also related to these findings. Unfortunately, I too have been a victim of sexual harassment on multiple occasions.

My first experience of sexual harassment began in 5th grade from a person who would continually stare at me in class and whenever that person was near me they would say some type of remark about my appearance. I was actually quite repelled by this person’s comments of me and I felt very uncomfortable in this person’s presence. I did not know at the time this was called sexual harassment but later in life I would understand. Often times to the person that is causing the harassment they might think that what they are doing or saying is harmless, or they are just kidding or joking around but to the victim--the one that is being harassed--they do not find these things as a laughing matter or just harmless fun.  The "Stop Street Harassment Survey" found that harassment can occur from the time of infancy all the way up to 40 years of age and older.  It showed the peak age of sexual harassment occurs between the ages of 14-17 for both men and women.

 

In my own experience I have been harassed physically, sexually, and verbally and also cyber harassed from the ages of 10-29. This harassment was something I dealt with privately for a very long time.  Most of the time I was terrified to say anything to anybody about me being harassed because I quite often thought I did something to bring on the harassment or I thought if I told on the person they would retaliate against me. Those were two lies I had to dispel. The "Stop Street Harassment Survey" also found that just 10 percent of women and 5 percent of men report the harassment to the authorities and only 1 percent of both men and women ever confront the person. Unexpectedly I was recently sexually harassed at one of my jobs and for the first time in my life I finally said enough is enough.  I decided I needed to report the incidents to the human resource department.  At this point in my life, I came to the realization that I deserve to be treated with respect and dignity and can no longer tolerate anyone giving me anything less. I am a human being and I deserve to feel safe in any environment, including at work.

 

The "Stop Street Harassment Survey" highlights that one of the main affects of sexual harassment is leaving the victim feeling anxious or depressed. Once again this was something I could relate to.  I just completed 6 months of therapy and during those 6 months I had to go back into my childhood and bring up these instances of being a victim of harassment and follow through up to my adulthood. I am already a high-strung person and very jumpy, so being harassed multiple times throughout my life has doubled my anxiety; especially around people that remind me of people that have harassed me.  Being a practicing clinician and just a woman period, I know this is something I will have to continually work on to overcome in my own life journey. One important technique that I’ve read about to help with anxiety is "the grounding technique".  My counselor went into further detail about this technique. She suggested that I find some type of small object that I could touch or squeeze when I feel my anxiety rising. Or perhaps using pleasant scents to help my mind drift to a better place. The purpose of this technique is to literally ground you from whatever anxiety or stress you might be currently experiencing.

 

One of the ending points of this article I want to share with you is if you are currently being sexually harassed or have ever been sexually harassed then I want you to know that you are not alone. Harassment happens to both men and women. It does not discriminate against race, class, or sexual orientation. If you need to talk with someone about sexual harassment please call the National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline at 800-656-HOPE, they will route you to your local RAINN affiliate organization and provide you with a trained staff member to speak with. You also can search the website, onlinemswprograms.com. You will find the topic of sexual harassment under the social issues tab located under the resources tab. There you will find statistics and multiple resources about sexual harassment.  

 

Note * Chatterjee, Rhitu. “A New Survey Finds 81 Percent Of Women Have Experienced Sexual Harassment.” NPR, NPR, 22 Feb. 2018, www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2018/02/21/587671849/a-new-survey-finds-eighty-percent-of-women-have-experienced-sexual-harassment.  

Kendra Talley

Master Level Mental Health Counselor

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