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LONG TERM EFFECTS OF SEXUAL MISCONDUCT IN THE EARLY STAGES OF A WOMAN'S PROFESSIONAL JOURNEY


Our society has always laid down different rules for men and women. There are different guidelines and behavioral expectations for both genders. Women have been traditionally been seen as those who need to be looked after by men - but what if protectors turn predators?


Parents always advice that their daughters should not stay out late, because it is not safe. They always try to provide their daughters with a protected space. But what if the most assumed protective space turned out to be dangerous for her?

Let’s talk about it. Sexual misconduct or Sexual harassment is prevalent in every field where women are working. Be it politics, journalism, entertainment industry, educational or medical institutes, or the corporate sector.


Sexual misconduct is a violation of women’s right, dignity, life, and liberty.

It creates a type of work environment which is discouraging for the women, reducing her capacity to participate fully in work, and limiting her potential and growth in her career. This in turn effects their social and economic empowerment and their goals in life. If we look at the bigger picture, sexual misconduct can prove to be a great loss of talent to any organization or industry.


A woman, who experiences sexual misconduct, has so many things at stake. At the top is her career, because the act has taken place in her workplace, where her whole career may become blurry to her. Let us understand what are the other impacts of sexual misconduct for women in early stages of their career:


PSYCHOLOGICAL AND PROFESSIONAL WELL-BEING: Research has suggested that women who go through any form of sexual mis-happenings experience decline in psychological and professional well- being. Because the act being is severe for her, her mental health gets effected badly resulting in anxiety and long-term stress, which may also give rise to depression. Other psychological reactions observed in victims are anger, fear, frustration, shock, denial, confusion, shame, guilt, isolation, low self-esteem, insecurity and feelings of being powerless. The professional well-being also gets disrupted because the association with the organization looks questionable.


HELPLESSNESS: For some women, working is not an option. They need to provide for their family and they may not have multiple opportunities of switching jobs available to them. This makes them feel helpless and ‘stuck’ in that situation that they have to repeatedly put up with. Needless to say, this can cause considerable damage in all aspects of their life.


SOCIAL STIGMA: It is never easy for a woman to speak up about being harassed. Even if she gathers the courage to open up, our society still places doubt on her character before punishing the act. ‘What was she wearing’, ‘was she too friendly’, ‘is she trying to get back at him for something’, ‘why was she working late’, ‘why is she talking about it after so long’ - the list is endless. The sad part is that even women pass judgements on other women. This leads to extreme self-doubt and character assassination that the individual has to live with for the rest of her life.


JOB SATISFACTION: A considerable amount of research has proved that sexual misconduct results in low job satisfaction. Women, who are victims of sexual harassment, experience more job dissatisfaction in terms of interpersonal relations with their boss, supervisor or co-workers. Lower job satisfaction brings up questions of association with the organization/industry.


JOB STRESS: It comes as no surprise that sexual misconduct adds to long term stress in a woman’s life. It has been proved that sexual harassment has stronger relation with women’s well being than any other stressors. This chronic stressful situation proves to be corrosive to work and the well-being of women.


PRODUCTIVITY AND PERFORMANCE: Lower productivity and decline in performance are reported in majority of cases where women are victims of sexual harassment. This happens because the workplace situation becomes too stressful to cope. Many women reported losing their ambition and sense of vision after the incident. Their work suffers and as a result, they end up losing their job or quitting it.


ORGANIZATIONAL COMMITMENT: The enthusiasm and ambition with which a woman has joined an organization/industry seems blurry after one incident of sexual misconduct. A huge decline in organizational commitment occurs when a woman feels that there is nobody to take action against her harasser. It happens in many cases where no legal action is taken against the perpetrator because he holds a significant position in a company. In such cases the victim feels lost and cheated, resulting in detachment from the organization/industry.


ORGANIZATIONAL WITHDRAWAL: When an incident of sexual misconduct happens in an organization and no legal action has been taken against the harasser, the preferred next step for a woman is to resign. Organizational withdrawal increases after such incidents, because what option is she left with, right? If not organizational withdrawal, work withdrawal increases. Work withdrawal is distancing oneself from the work without actually quitting the job. It is evident from actions such as absenteeism, tardiness and overuse of sick leaves.


PHYSIOLOGICAL REACTIONS: Sexual misconduct not only has psychological effects, but it also affects your physical health. Numerous researches have suggested that women who go through sexual harassment experience alterations in their body and health. This may include headaches, sexual problems, lethargy, sleep disturbance, nightmares, panic attacks, gastrointestinal distress, dermatological reactions and weight fluctuations.


Sexual misconduct can happen in a spur of the moment, but the consequences it has can have long-lasting effects on a woman who aspires to stand in equality with her male counterparts. We must realize the impact a woman bears throughout her life. She also has dreams and goals for which she is working so hard and when she reaches that space, she may be subjected to something unthinkable. Not every woman has the courage to talk against her harasser. Some who do, may face repercussions.


Not very long back, the #metoo movement created a chain of hundreds and thousands of women coming forward and sharing their experiences of sexual harassment. Some got justice, some did not. The point to consider here is that it took a virtual platform to give them the courage to talk about the most exploitative experience of their lives. Don’t let the damage be permanent. Let’s talk about it.

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