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Nina Rodd, PhD

Sexual Harassment At Work And Posttraumatic Stress

By: Nina Rodd, PhD
Tel: (310) 378-7172
Email Dr. Rodd
Website: www.psych-expert.com

Sexual Harassment is usually an unreasonable and inappropriate expectation or conduct unrelated to work by a supervisor in work setting. It involves the use of power differential to directly or indirectly threaten or coerce the recipient of harassment to gratify the harasser's wish or need.

Sexual harassment also may involve statements, words, or behaviors in sexual nature that is unwelcome and upsetting to any reasonable woman. Often the main factor in creating long-term emotional scars and symptoms is the continued psychological agony that the victim endures, which consequently effects victim's family and personal relationships as well as future career and financial damages.

The link between the sexual harassment and Posttraumatic Disorder was found be certain studies such as the following:

Department of Psychiatry, Rhode Island Hospital (McDermut JF, Hagga DA, Kirk L., 2000 Jul;13(3):397-411) evaluated stress symptoms associated with academic sexual harassment and the result indicated the diagnosis of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder.

University of Toronto (Abraham KM, Robinson GE. 2002 Jun;47(5):468-472), with regard to a study of occupational effects of stalking, indicated that the stalking resulted the victim to suffer from depression, anxiety, guilt, shame, helplessness, humiliation, and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

The cumulative effects of sexual harassment may result in Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (Arch Psychiatic Nurs. 1994 Jun;8(3):177-83. Therefore, the length of the traumatic experience can have a large psychological impact equal to a sudden life threatening trauma in life. If the symptoms are not addressed with appropriate treatment plan, the symptoms may become chronic and much more difficult to treat.

The psychological evaluation, and treatment should begin as soon as feasible. Not only it is important to capture the psychological effects of harassment as early as possible, providing the treatment would help to treat the symptoms, cope with the stress, and prevent long-term chronic fixation of symptoms.

The psychological stress often engage the victim in an trap in the following ways:

  1. Anxiety and fear about the abuser range of reaction possibilities if she does not provide what he wants from her.
  2. Keeping balance in the middle of fear and anxiety, trying to keep performing within the acceptable range, suppress feelings of anger, fear and go to work and play the expected role.
  3. After a day of emotional struggle at work, go home and try to function in their personal and social life, being a wife mother, and so on.

When it comes to establish the psychological injury due to sexual harassment, a Forensic Psychologist would perform a valid and reliable evaluation, by selecting appropriate and court admissible assessment tools and scientific data. The psychological assessment should indicate how the victim was affected psychologically, while assessing the effect of pre-existing conditions as well. Then determination of the link between the damage and the sexual harassment events and establishing the causation is the central issue.

In assessment of sexual harassment by forensic psychiatrists unique biases arise by these psychiatrists of gender, diagnostic types and sociopolitical types. Department of Psychiatry, Georgetown University School of Medicine, Washington, Journal of Acad. Psychiatry Law, 1998) concluded that such biases arise from lack of knowledge regarding sexual harassment or lack of formal psychiatric training. No doubt that such biases would violate their ethical obligation to accurately assess the psychological effects of the sexual harassment.

Such biases also might stem from an inadequate psychological testing and evaluation on the part of the psychiatrist or other mental health professionals.

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Dr. Nina Rodd, is a Clinical and Forensic psychologist, a Qualified Medical Examiner and Diplomat from American College of Forensic Examiners. She has taught in various Universities, and has had various professional appointments. Her private practice in Rolling Hills Estates, California includes both clinical and forensic cases, providing consultation, evaluation and expert witness services.

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