A female client just walked out of my office. She was harassed at her job; you would not call her experience sexual harassment, but it was harassment that she was a minority woman and the “good ol’ boys” at her past job evoked feelings of worthlessness and inadequacy in her.
She is the opposite of that- worthy and adequate and very competent.
However, when you are harassed sexually or otherwise, it can bring you down and make you doubt yourself, blame yourself for their treatment of you, and bring up feelings of anxiety and depression. This client of mine eventually had to leave that job. She just got a new job and the job looks very promising. Yet, she was having a panic attack in my office thinking about this new job.
This is an example of PTSD, post traumatic stress disorder, where a past traumatic event can be re-experienced when in a present event or even thinking about a future event that has similarities. Even though this will be a new job with new and apparently nicer people, her trust in herself and others has been shattered at least for now.
With this client, I am using an approach called EMDR, which stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing.
It is a very well researched method of helping people resolve trauma so that they can go on with their lives and live in the present without being polluted by traumatic memories of the past. EMDR is a relatively quick treatment approach that shortens the amount of time it takes to process traumas and be free of their effects. I know that with this client, we will start with the memories of the job where she was harassed and process them so that she will be ready to start fresh in her new job free of fear of history repeating itself.
In future sessions, we will probably be processing other earlier memories where she was mistreated as she has had earlier traumas that she needs to process and be done with as well.
Those of you (or people you know) who have been victims of harassment, including sexual harassment can now be more hopeful that they can return to lives where they are significantly less affected by those painful memories of harassment. EMDR is intelligent, well researched and gentle.
One of my greatest professional joys is when a victim/survivor takes her or his life back and becomes a “thriver.”
The continuing media exposure about sexual harassment and sexual abuse is demonstrating how rampant the problem is. My hope is that society’s denial of this problem is being broken through and that more victims speak out. Hopefully, sexual harassment will start to decrease in frequency, hopefully significantly.
I you or anyone you know experiences sexual harassment, there is help available including the EMDR approach I have discussed here.