Keep quiet. Tough it out. Just ignore it. The victims of sexual assault and sexual harassment are often subjected to advice that is unhelpful, at best. The idea that anyone can choose to be unaffected by such trauma is ridiculous. Even if a victim manages to act like nothing is wrong, the damage is still there. A recent study on the impact of sexual assault and harassment on women’s health demonstrates the severity of these incidents.
The study in question looked at the experiences of around 300 women. The women were chosen to participate in a study on cardiovascular disease and menopause. In connection with that research, the women were asked a number of questions, including whether or not they had ever been the victim of sexual harassment or experienced unwanted sexual contact.
The problems go on and on
The participants in the study ranged from 40 to 60 years of age. Because the study was tied to cardiovascular health, the women had regular study visits during which their blood pressure was monitored. The women were asked a range of questions about their physical health. The results for the women who had been victimized by sexual harassment or assault were noteworthy.
Despite the passage of time since the trauma occurred, the victims of these experiences suffered elevated rates of high blood pressure, anxiety, difficulty sleeping and the clinical criteria for depression. High blood pressure, for example, was twice as likely among victims of assault and harassment as it was among women who did not identify as victims. These physical problems can remain years, even decades after the incident or incidents in question. The stress placed on a woman’s health by sexual harassment or unwanted sexual contact is extreme and long-lived.