Stanford University defines sexual harassment as
1 Unwelcome sexual advances,
2 requests for sexual favors, and
3 other visual, verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature
1. It is implicitly or explicitly suggested that submission to or rejection of the conduct will be a factor in academic or employment decisions or evaluations, or permission to participate in a University activity.
2. The conduct, whether subtle or blatant, has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s academic or work performance or creating an intimidating, hostile or offensive academic, work or student living environment.
Victims of harassment may become depressed. Signs of depression include moodiness and easily frustrated, restlessness, fatigue and loss of interest in community. Depression can manifest as overeating or loss of appetite, excessive sleepiness or inability to sleep. Some suffer feelings of hopelessness, guilt, pessimism and worthlessness followed by suicidal thoughts.
“According to Equal Rights Advocates, a women’s law center in the U.S., 90 to 95% of sexually harassed women suffer from some debilitating stress reaction, including sleep disorders.” In fact, episodic sleep disturbance can progress to long term chronic insomnia.
Rebecca Thurston, PhD, Director of the Women's Behavioral Health Laboratory and Professor of Psychiatry, Psychology, and Epidemiology at the University of Pittsburgh lead a team of a researchers in studying how trauma, such as sexual harassment, affects the cardiovascular system. The researchers found that trauma caused blood vessels to become less flexible. This may be in part because trauma leads to increased stress and anxiety. Excessive stress and anxiety make it difficult to sleep. Sleeping less than 6 hours per night is associated with stiff arteries. Hardening of the arteries strain the heart and adversely affects the cardiovascular system Dr. Thurston referenced the book The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma by Bessel van der Kolk M.D., which posits that after sexual harassment, victims may quietly suffer damage to multiple body systems. (Forbes Magazine)
If you or someone you know is a victim of sexual harassment, seek qualified medical help and you may need to take legal action. Medical interventions including cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), imagery, medication and counseling, help many victims find some relief and regain the ability to sleep well.