“It’s like she’s floating inside of herself, in the dark, and whatever hasn’t already emptied inside her is emptying now…”
― Daniel Abbott, The Concrete
However, it becomes clear that sexual harassment is a crime that decays the souls of its victims; the psychological abuse caused by harassment is wide and fluctuates according to the severity of the incident and the emotion condition of the victim who bears it. It corrupts the state of mind of the harassed and alters her life pattern.
Sexual harassment is an act of bullying and the obligation of one’s desires upon another without approval or permission. The weight put over the harassed is massive, complicated and can vary from one person to another.
The signs of psychological harm are both passive and aggressive. With social tolerance for sexual harassment and degrading the harassed girl, there is no actual talk about the consequences of this unwanted molestation upon the female’s overall health in Egypt. Sexual harassment is a chronic complication and with the nonstop violence and abuse, it exceeds the limit of trauma or a misfortunate incident. According to the UN research, 43% respondents feared going out after their incidents, and others thought of using harmful tools for protection, while the rest experienced suicidal thoughts and hate to their bodies. The manifestation can be violent to the extent of revenge and passive responses including self -doubt and self-blame.
Sexual harassment deprives the girl from her right to decide or approve; she is forced to be part of something done to her body, breaching her own entity and opening the door to many health problems on the psychological and the physiological levels. Live Science’s health view on the effect of sexual harassment on women (Rettner, 2011) points out six major health complications caused by sexual harassment to the harassed girl.
In addition to psychological manifestations and physiological complications, women become victims before the hateful incident. Six major health problems are associated to the strained relationships the harassed women undergo with other male co-workers, and this can also extend to the entire social environment.
The first impact of harassment which is highly emphasized is depression. “In a recent study of 1,000 youths, Blackstone found that people sexually harassed in their teens and early 20s can experience depressive symptoms into their 30s.”
The long-term effect of sexual harassment affects mental health. Depression is dangerous and can damage the life of the female and others without noticing the cause. The constant exposure to forced molestation precipitates the mind of the young girl, and grows within her to influence her daily life and her relations with others. Depression is not solely a feeling of sadness but an emotional loop of self-doubt, self blame, and self-destruction.
Not only does depression affect the mind and perception of the person but it can also manifest in physical complications. Chronic pain and muscle aches are correlated to depression which causes a decrease in the overall physical activity of the depressed person. Depression is more of a slow death.
Post-traumatic stress disorder PTSD is the second complication highlighted (Live Science health). Re-experiencing the incident and fright when dealing with people in a similar context, and forced silence towards the harassers by family or spouse or officials, increases the psychological impacts of sexual harassment. Proper treatment can save victims from mental health problems for years to come and aid in establishing a healthier environment.
In addition to long-term psychological impacts, there are also some serious physiological health problems resulting from sexual harassment such as cardiovascular disease. A study (2008) links sexually harassment in the workplace to elevated blood pressure for women, with stress which can contribute to further cardiovascular problems.
Aches and muscle pains are also manifested after harassment. Stress affects the physiological process more than mental health. Physical pain can be a symptom to psychological pain, and sexually harassed victims must seek consultation from a psychiatrist to ease long-term complications in order to prevent added mental health problems that can lead to consequences such as suicide. It has been proven that many victims develop suicidal thoughts subsequent to sexual harassment. Harassed persons are therefore in need of undivided attention and immediate help.
Victimized girls are not the only ones to suffer the aftermath of sexual harassment, society is also impacted. Females, no matter how a patriarchal culture may try to prove otherwise, are great influencers of their environments. The study (Cost of Violence) shows the influence women have in society.
“Violence may result in aggressive women whose aggression adds to the social losses they already endure or passive and submissive women who transfer this attitude and plant it in their children who become forlorn as well.”
Violence generates violence and abuse will come afterall since the dynamics in life permit so. The cost of sexual harassment is beyond calculation, and the consequences are severe.
This article is extracted from the Research paper titled ‘Psycological Effect of Mass Sexual Harassment in Egypt’ in Chapter 2 of the Safety Report by SAFIGI Outreach Foundation ‘Safety First for Girls’.
The Safety Report by SAFIGI is a two-fold Open research on ‘Core Issues Affecting Safety of Girls in the Developing World.’ The first part of the Safety Report is a Research Paper. The second part is a detailed Data Analysis.
The Safety Report Research paper is titled: ‘Core Issues Affecting Safety of Girls in the Developing World.’ The paper starts with an abstract before focusing on subjects in the key regions of Africa, Asia, and the Americas. A total of 7 Research papers make up the safety Report (sans the introduction and conclusion), including:
- The psychological effect of mass sexual harassment on girls in Egypt (P.24) by Heba Elasiouty.
- Safety concerns in relation to social media: Growing up female in an increasingly digital world (P.45) by Karin Temperley.
- Psychosocial challenges faced by parents raising children with physical disabilities in Oshana region (P.68) by Misumbi Shikaputo.
- Gender-based violence and subsequent safety challenges experienced by Rohingya women (P.119) by Shucheesmita Simonti.
- LGBT policies and overall safety in Brazil (P.141) by Alinne Lopes Gomes.
- Silent voices‘: Violence against the female body as consequence of machismo culture (P.177) by Steffica Warwick.
- America‘s Public Policy on Sexuality: The Repression of Girls in Vulnerable Populations (P.208) by Dr. Christina Sisti.
The Safety Report Data Analysis is titled: ‘Core Issues Affecting Safety of Girls. Results and Outcomes based on Zambia, Egypt, USA, Tanzania, South Sudan, and Namibia.‘
SAFIGI Outreach Foundation Ltd, a volunteer-based and youth led NGO registered in Zambia, implemented the Safety Report in order to understand the multifaceted concept of safety and how it applies to the female gender in diverse settings. And therefore, further prove safety is intrinsic, and that vices in society stem from an intimate level of the human being before its manifestation. This way, when we create safety solutions, whether it be in a developing nation, conflict zone, refugee camp, or patriarchal society, the problem is resolved from a deeply rooted cause. Such that, we treat the disease itself and not mere symptoms.
This study is as a result of collaborative effort pursued in the spirit of volunteerism via UN Online Volunteers.
Reproduced from the website of SAFIGI, our collaboration partner.
SAFIGI Outreach Foundation Ltd is a not for profit organization based in Zambia with a vision to raise a generation where girls are empowered, equipped and fulfilled in every aspect of their life, for the development of the entire world. To know more about SAFIGI’s goals and activities, visit http://www.safetyfirstforgirls.org