Dealing With Workplace Sexual Harassment: Tips for Coping and Seeking Help

woman dealing with workplace sexual harassment

Workplace sexual harassment is defined by unwelcomed comments, sexual advances or requests, or anything else that is sexual in nature and doesn’t belong in the workplace. It’s an issue that no one should have to endure, yet it remains a problem that affects individuals across all industries.

Experiencing harassment can be deeply distressing and can have an impact on not only your work life, but also your personal life, and your mental and emotional well-being. Knowing how to cope with this type of situation and understanding the steps to seek help are crucial for your safety and peace of mind.

If you’ve dealt with this sort of behavior at work, it is essential to understand your rights and acknowledge what has happened and how it can impact your mental health. We want to offer some steps you can take to cope with sexual harassment in the workplace and help you move forward with strength and resilience.

The Legal Aspects of Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment can include inappropriate touching, sexual remarks, bullying, and offensive jokes, gender-based insults and more.  It is illegal.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) states that it is illegal to harass someone based on their sex and create a hostile work environment. Sexual harassment can happen in any gender combination, though the most common form of sexual harassment is usually male-to-female harassment.

There are isolated incidents that involve teasing or offhand remarks that may not be regulated by the law. However, it becomes prohibited by law when the harassment creates a toxic work environment or when it leads to poor employment conditions, like being fired or reprimanded because of reporting/objecting to sexual harassment.

The Effects of Sexual Harassment

Everyone has a different reaction to traumatic events, but those who have dealt with sexual harassment often may feel a range of emotional and physical responses. This usually can start with shock and denial, followed by feelings of victimization paired with low self-esteem.

Sometimes, these responses can significantly impact daily life, making it hard to sleep, eat, exercise, or enjoy any usual activities. Other common symptoms are:

  • Headaches
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Forgetfulness
  • Stomach pains and other GI issues
  • Elevated blood pressure
  • Nervousness 

Additionally, victims often feel betrayed, angry, powerless, and out of control. In more severe cases, these feelings can escalate to depression, anxiety, or suicidal thoughts.

If you are struggling with thoughts of suicide, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988 for support and guidance from a trained counselor. You can find other mental health resources on the National Helpline Database.

Healing From Workplace Sexual Harassment

It can feel impossible to move on from sexual harassment in the workplace, and you might feel stuck or hopeless about the whole situation. Take care of yourself, and seek a support group or a mental health professional. Support groups or a mental health professional can help you through your experience, heal from it, and allow you to move on to a new part of your life.

The following are some things you can do to heal from sexual harassment.

Talk to Someone

Try to find someone who will be respectful of how you feel and will listen to your experience. Protect yourself and avoid sharing your thoughts and feelings with someone who may downplay your emotions.

A counselor or other medical professional may be a good choice. Remember, it’s not “weak” to seek professional help for emotional injuries any more than for physical injuries. 

Also, consider talking to a sexual harassment lawyer about what has happened and its impact on you.  An experienced sexual harassment lawyer will be familiar with how harassment impacts you and can offer options on how to deal with it.

Journaling

Writing down what happened and how you feel can be an excellent way to document events. You can even write a letter, even if you don’t send it, to the person who harassed you to say all of the things that you wanted to say to them but didn’t or couldn’t.

Journaling is also great because it allows you to be unfiltered and write whatever comes to mind without judgment. Written, contemporary descriptions of events can also be helpful if you decide to pursue legal action for the harassment.

Don’t Blame Yourself

Sexual harassment at work is not your fault.  Many people feel guilt after experiencing sexual harassment, wondering what they did to “deserve” it.  You don’t deserve to be harassed.  The only person to blame is the harasser and the company that allowed it to happen.  

They chose to harass and now you can choose to make them pay for it. That will give you a sense of power and control that they tried to take away from you.

Finding Closure

A big part of the healing process is taking control of the situation by partnering with an experienced sexual harassment lawyer and making the bad guys pay.  Making them answer for what they did and to compensate you for your emotional, financial and other injuries, can be incredibly empowering and help you positively move forward in life.

Are You Dealing with Sexual Harassment in the Workplace? Lori Peterson Will Aggressively Advocate for You

Remember that you do not need to go through this alone. While being on the receiving end of harassment can leave you feeling isolated, there are people and resources that can help you recover and get justice for what you went through.

Hiring a sexual harassment attorney can feel daunting, but it offers many significant benefits. An attorney will know the laws, represent you in court, and help you with your sexual harassment claim. 

Lori Peterson will partner with you every step of the way in your sexual harassment case. With a long track record of successfully representing those harmed by sexual harassment, racism, homophobia, and other forms of discrimination, Lori thinks outside of the box to address your situation and find creative, strategic solutions. 

Contact us today to regain your power, make your voice heard, and create positive change in your life after sexual harassment. You deserve to move on, be happy, and get the justice you deserve.