Stop Violence Against Women
Sexual Harassment





4. Effects of Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment at work can have very serious consequences both for the harassed individual as well as for other working women who experience it secondhand.

The consequences to the individual employee can be many and serious.  In some situations, a harassed woman risks losing her job or the chance for a promotion if she refuses to give in to the sexual demands of someone in authority.  In other situations, the unwelcome sexual conduct of co-workers makes the working conditions hostile and unpleasant- putting indirect pressure on her to leave the job.  Sometimes, the employee is so traumatized by the harassment that she suffers serious emotional and physical consequences—and very often, becomes unable to perform her job properly.

According to data complied by Equal Rights Advocates, a women’s law center in the U.S., 90 to 95% of sexually harassed women suffer from some debilitating stress reaction, including anxiety, depression, headaches, sleep disorders, weight loss or gain, nausea, lowered self-esteem and sexual dysfunction.  In addition, victims of sexual harassment lose $4.4 million dollars in wages and 973,000 hours in unpaid leave each year in the United States.

The consequences to working women as a group are no less serious.  Sexual harassment has a cumulative, demoralizing effect that discourages women from asserting themselves within the workplace, while among men it reinforces stereotypes of women employees as sex objects.  Severe or pervasive sexual harassment in certain types of businesses creates a hostile or intimidating environment that causes women to leave their jobs and look elsewhere for work or discourages them from seeking those jobs in the first place.

The effect on the morale of all employees can also be serious.  Both men and women in a workplace can find their work disrupted by sexual harassment even if they are not directly involved.  Sexual harassment can have a demoralizing effect on everyone within range of it, and it often negatively impacts company productivity on the whole.

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