Caring for Yourself After Experiencing Workplace Sexual Harassment or Assault

Whether workplace sexual harassment or assault happened recently or long ago, it is common for survivors to have numerous responses to such trauma. There are many ways your brain and body responds to trauma including:

Psychological and Emotional

  • Heightened anxiety or fear
  • Hypervigilance (an enhanced state of sensitivity to surroundings)
  • Irritability, restlessness, or over-excitability
  • Feelings of sadness, helplessness, or hopelessness
  • Feelings of numbness or detachment
  • Feelings of estrangement or isolation from others
  • Intrusive thoughts or images
  • Nightmares
  • Flashbacks
  • Distress when exposed to reminders

Physical

  • Headaches
  • Gastrointestinal distress
  • Changes in weight not due to dieting or illness
  • Fatigue or feeling “slowed down”

Behavioral

  • Hyperactivity, or less activity
  • Withdrawal, social isolation
  • Avoidance of activities or places that remind you of the incident(s)
  • Insomnia

Cognitive

  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Feeling confused or distracted
  • Feeling slower to respond than normal

These reactions are normal responses to a traumatic event and are not a sign of weakness. You are not alone. There is help available.

  • What you have experienced is not your fault. There are trained professionals who can help. Consider contacting the Rape Abuse and Incest National Network at 800-656-4673 or online at http://online.rainn.org, speaking to a therapist, or seeking other resources for assistance.
  • Acknowledge your feelings. Allow yourself to cry or feel angry. Resist harmful coping mechanisms such as alcohol or drugs to avoid or numb any pain and distress.
  • Give yourself permission to address your needs. If something reminds you of the incident(s) and you are experiencing a response, it is okay to remove yourself from that situation.
  • Recognize your triggers and develop strategies to help you feel safe and grounded in the present. Using meditation or relaxation techniques such as deep breathing help manage traumatic responses for some.
  • Do things that make you feel good and strong—get plenty of rest, journal or write,  read, exercise, watch television, spend time with friends and family—whatever makes you feel restored.
  • Recognize and affirm your own strengths to minimize any negative or destructive thoughts.
  • Try and spend time with others to reduce feelings of isolation even if you don’t engage in conversation.
  • Are you creative? Artistic expression can help process traumatic experiences in a therapeutic way.
  • Allow yourself as much time as you need to heal. Everyone’s recovery is different. Healing is a practice. It is not a matter of “getting over” what happened, but rather moving forward.  It takes time. Be patient with yourself.

If your responses to trauma are persistent and severe, you may be experiencing Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Help is available. Contact the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) helpline at 1-800-950-NAMI or https://www.nami.org/Find-Support.  

If at any time you have thoughts of harming yourself or others, please call 911 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org.