Boulder, CO- While fewer men are the targets of “frightening and threatening” military sexual harassment than women, a new study by the American Psychology Association suggests that men are more adversely affected when confronted with this behavior.
Fifty-two percent of military women reported said they were sexually harassed compared to 19 percent of men. Women reported being frightened by the harassment at a higher rate than their male counterparts. But men found sexual harassment more distressing and debilitating, according to the study which appears in APA’s Journal of Occupational Health Psychology.
Researchers for the study analyzed Department of Defense data from 2002 in which 17,874 military personnel were surveyed. A total of 6,304 male and female service members admitted to being sexually harassed, according to Medical Express.
Participants were asked to recall a sexual harassment which occurred over the past twelve months that caused them the most distress and asked them to rate the experience from being “not at all frightening and threatening” to “extremely frightening and threatening.”
“Individuals were free to define how harassment made them feel. As such, frightening or threatening harassment could include experiences that were menacing, threatened their sense of job security, or were those they believed could escalate to an assault,” said lead author of the study Isis H. Settles, PhD, of Michigan State University.
Soldiers of both sexes were more distressed by sexual harassment if the harasser was a high-ranking officer, but women were more frightened when their harasser was a high-ranking officer.
Settles said she was surprised to find that men were more distressed and offered an explanation as to why.
“Men may be less likely to think they’ll be sexually harassed, so it’s a particularly strong violation of their expectations and that could result in stronger negative reactions,” Settles said, according to Medical Express. “Another possibility is that men feel less able to cope with their sexual harassment than women, who know it’s a possibility and therefore are perhaps more emotionally prepared.”
Even though women were less distressed by sexual harassment that doesn’t suggest the behavior is less troublesome for women. It simply suggests that the effect of harassment on men is more pronounced.
Settles said the results of the study show how negatively sexual harassment
For both men and women, sexual harassment can have long-term psychological implications. Victims can suffer from anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress syndrome. Targets of sexual harassment often report feeling embarrassed, humiliated and worthless. Psychological problems that arise out of sexual harassment can lead to health issues as well.
This study does not however reflect how men in the civilian workplace feel about sexual harassment. Settles said more research should be conducted to determine this.
Dealing with sexual harassment in the military world is vastly different than the civilian world. When harassment occurs in the civilian world, the victims can retain and sexual harassment attorney and seek compensation if their employer failed to address the behavior or punish the offender.