#MeToo- Sexual Harassment Seriously Impacts Mental Health

Sexual Harassment & Woman Health
Image used for representation only

The #Metoo movement that started in October 2017 gave women a platform to speak up on what they have experienced in terms of sexual harassment…

The movement gained huge momentum over the past few weeks with the Dutta- Patekar case coming to light. The past few days has seen a proliferation of cases being reported by several women journalists and professionals leading to public apologies, resignations and marching orders for several men across the country. 

While closure is what any victim would seek in such unfortunate incidents, the larger issue remains the psychological impact sexual harassment has on the victims.

Contrary to what people may think, this is not just about the trauma of an incident, but also the side effects that take a toll on the overall physical and mental health of the individual. 

Corroborating this, is a new study published in The Journal of the North American Menopause Society that states the prevalence of sexual harassment and assault and the negative implications for women’s mental and physical health.

In this study that involved more than 300 women, the researchers decided to identify the prevalence of sexual harassment and assault and their long-term impact on women’s health.

In this study, 22 per cent reported a history of sexual assault, 19 per cent reported sexual harassment at their workplace, and 10 per cent experienced both.

The study found that sexual harassment was associated with higher blood pressure and a greater likelihood of hypertension, higher triglycerides, and clinically-poorer sleep quality.

Sexual assault was associated with levels of depressive symptoms, anxiety, and sleep quality in the ranges consistent with clinical disorders.

Rebecca Thurston, a professor at the University of Pittsburgh US, says, “It is widely understood that sexual harassment and assault can impact women’s lives and how they function, but this study also evaluates the implications of these experiences for women’s health,”

The results of this study should remind health care providers of the need to ask questions and fully understand their patients’ histories when diagnosing and prescribing treatment for such problems as depression and sleep disorders,” says Dr JoAnn Pinkerton.

Pune365 spoke to mental health experts in Pune to understand the psychological impact of sexual harassment and the clinical aspects.

Dr Sayantani Mukherjee, Consultant Psychiatrist at Columbia Asia Hospital opines, “#Metoo the worldwide campaign is certainly helping many to come out and talk about their experience of Sexual harassment and assault.

The fear of being shamed by family and society and losing one’s family/ job/ social standing makes women choose to suffer in silence. “

#Metoo provides that much-needed outlet to ventilate, realise solidarity and support, and make it an acceptable topic in public forums and perhaps achieve closure and hold the perpetrators accountable.

Mukherjee further added, There are both short-term and long-term effects.

Short-term effects include self-blame, self-harm tendencies, isolation, anger, disappointment.

Since the #Metoo movement has come to the forefront, many women have experienced trauma. In 80% of the scenarios, they recollect the incident that leads to panic attacks and anxiety strokes which is a part of the post-traumatic disorder.

“In long-term effects, there is sexual trauma, sexual dysfunction where often people get uncomfortable.

There is also anxiety, depression, trust issues and poor quality of interpersonal interactions.”

#Metoo also sends a strong social message by naming and shaming perpetrators and legally prosecuting them so hopefully in the future, people will think twice before they commit an atrocity, because they can’t get away with it any longer, Mukherjee added.

Zainab Shaikh, Dietician says,”Despite the #metoo campaign gaining the whole world’s attention, there are several women like me who are still afraid to come out in the open on these incidentrs”

It has not helped me in anyway and when it is someone from your family, one accusation posted is not going to settle this. Shaikh further adds, “I belong to a traditional family and I don’t have courage to come forward and blame my cousin brother, I fear society, I fear my parents reaction, I fear humiliation.”

The whole campaign has certainly made me think about my past and each post is horrid reminder of what was the worst night of my life.

The impact is so bad that today, I fear getting close to any man and have never spoken to even my own cousins. It is heartening to see so many courageous women come out and speak about these assaults, Zainab added.

Every other woman in the city has faced sexual harassment or assault in their life, says Divya Mankar, software professional.

Recalling an incident, Divya said “I was being harassed by one of my senior colleagues and despite repeated complaints, there was no action taken by the company.

Being a newcomer I did not want my career to get affected by such things. Hence, I continued to work, keeping a safe distance from that colleague.

Yet, I will never be able share all this on social media. I don’t want to go through the tough questions, the sympathy and getting judged by everyone around me.

But, I am glad that campaigns like #metoo are gaining ground in the country. Maybe not in my case, but am sure, several other women are finally sleeping peacefully after their worst experiences finally got closure, Mankar added.


#All individual respondent names changed on request. Views reflected in this article are those of the respondents and Pune365 does not necessarily subscribe to them. 



Ankita Malekar

Ankita Malekar

A talkative tiny speck in the world of Media, with an itch for travel and paws.
Ankita Malekar