The long-term effects of sexual harassment in the workplace

“The whole experience has brought me to the brink,” says Beaney now.

She is grateful to her lawyer and family, who have supported her throughout her ordeal. But Beaney says she has struggled to regain the trust of the individuals and institutions that let her down. If the harassment hadn’t derailed her job at Highways England, she believes she would still be here, building a career. Instead, she currently works part-time, minimum wage, as a delivery driver. She has also been trained and searched for positions in environmental health and safety, although this search has not yet come to fruition.

Beaney’s case is unusual, as it was made public and had a positive legal outcome; most cases of sexual harassment go unreported. But what’s all too common in her story is the impact the harassment has had on her life; these ripple effects have spread – and will continue to spread – well beyond the period of harassment itself.

Short-term impacts: unemployment, lost wages, poor health

Since most incidents of this type of inappropriate conduct go unreported, it can be difficult to define and then quantify the extent of sexual harassment. Harassment can also be perceived very differently depending on the origin, culture and context.

What we do know is that, regardless of its definition, sexual harassment is widely reported in a variety of industries, including civil service, Restaurants, Agriculture and climate diplomacy. Factors such as race, class and migration status all feed into those affected by harassment. Yet each story will be unique.

Overall, the immediate occupational risks for people who report experiencing sexual harassment include ostracism and dismissal. According to a Australian Analysis 2019 sexual harassment, among the cases that have been the subject of formal denunciations, 17% of victims quit and 8% were fired (versus 11% and 5%, respectively, of the authors). In other words, people who were harassed were much more likely to leave than those who harassed them. A target of harassment maybe have to stop to avoid the harasser or to leave an organization that does not protect their well-being.

Even when the person who has been harassed is not the one to go out, it can be uncomfortable to stay in an environment where trust has been eroded. Sherry Marts, 65, knows this all too well. In 1983, when she was a student at Duke University in the United States, a technician began harassing her in the lab and then followed her home.

Marts told his supervisor, “I can’t work in this lab anymore, because every time this guy walks in my hands, I shake… And his reaction was,” Oh, well, you just have to get used to it because it’s going to happen. ”“ The reaction of a senior executive was no better: he literally put his hands over his ears, to indicate he didn’t want to hear it.

Marts reported this to the university’s Equal Employment Opportunities office, which allowed the harasser to resign. “But they also made all the professors go through sexual harassment training again, which then made me persona non grata in the department… The older graduate students decided I was poison, so they didn’t want to talk to me. “

Katy F. Molnar