HEALTH BEAT: Hidden health effects of sexual harassment

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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) -- 2017 was a year of sexual abuse and harassment allegations. The cover of Time Magazine just recently revealed the Person of the Year for 2017 as "The Silence Breakers. The purpose was to shed light on the people behind the #Metoo social campaign.

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According to NBC News, accusers have come forward against high profile men such as movie mogul Harvey Weinstein, Chef Mario Batali, former Today Show Anchor Matt Lauer, former TV Host Charlie Rose among dozens of others. With this tidal wave of awareness across the globe more and more brave victims are still coming forward.

But many can agree sexual harassment in the workplace is nothing new. It's not only happening in Hollywood. The truth is that it can happen at any time and any place causing havoc on its victims.
What some may not realize is that it can affect a victim's mental and physical state.

WEAU Health Correspondent Dr. Alicia Arnold joined Hello Wisconsin to discuss the hidden health effects victim’s face.

In the case of Matt Lauer's victim she was 24 and says “Even though my situation with Matt was consensual, I ultimately felt like a victim because of the power dynamic.”

Alicia says, “A victim may be fearful, embarrassed or angry. You have significant loss of self-esteem or feel hopeless or helpless. One can have trouble concentrating, which can make it difficult to do your job. Anxiety about the problem can have effects on both your mind and body. Stress-related physical problems are common. Individuals can have difficulty sleeping or eating or suffer from headaches. They may have an increase in their blood pressure. Sometimes victims will take sick days from work because the harassment is making them feel physically ill. “

For many victim’s, the harassment took place decades ago. But the damage it leaves behind may never fully go away.

Alicia says, “Research has shown that depression can last for years after being harassed. Post-traumatic stress disorder can result, where a victim may feel like she or he is always on guard and may suffer from flashbacks or other symptoms. A victim may even quit their job to avoid the situation, which can negatively affect the victim's career long-term.

Women in Hollywood part of #METOO have come forward. Arnold then discussed the benefit of coming forward to a colleague or peaking to HR. She says, “Being exposed to chronic stress has documented mental and physical consequences, so reporting it will hopefully help change the situation. If the situation is not reported, some women describe feeling ashamed or angry that they didn't say something, but it is an individual's decision what to do on a case-by-case basis. Some victims find it too difficult to report. Talking to a counselor or therapist can help to lower the emotional and physical effects of the stress, whether or not the harassment is formally reported. “

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