Study examines link between sexual harassment & eating disorders

Posted in Sexual Harassment on May 23, 2013

For all that is now known and understood about sexual harassment, there is still a lot of ignorance and misinformation as well. Perhaps one of the most widespread and persistent misconceptions is that only women can become victims of sexual harassment.

It is true the majority of victims are female, but the effects of male sexual harassment can be just as devastating. In fact, a recently published study shows that among victims who experience high levels of sexual harassment, men are more likely than women to engage in “compensatory” behaviors that attempt to control their weight; including self-induced vomiting and taking laxatives.

Sexual harassment often leads to both feelings of powerlessness and body image issues. As a result, it is not unusual for victims to develop eating disorders. The results of this University of Michigan study show that sexual harassment and its negative consequences affect both genders.

Commenting on the results, the study’s lead author noted that “Traditionally, there has been a misperception that men are not sexually harassed. And while women do experience much higher rates of sexual harassment, when men experience these kinds of behaviors and find them distressing, then you see the same types of responses you see in women – and in the case of compensatory behaviors, even more so.”

The study involved surveys and interviews of more than 2,400 college-aged participants. They were asked questions related to body image, eating behaviors and their experiences with sexual harassment. The study results will soon be published in an issue of the research journal Body Image.

It is heartbreaking to realize that many victims of sexual harassment begin harm themselves physically and psychologically by developing eating disorders and body image issues. For this and many other reasons, sexual harassment should never be tolerated in the workplace or anywhere else. We all have a responsibility to speak up against this injustice and hold the perpetrators accountable.

Source: News Medical, “Men are more likely to engage in purging at high levels of sexual harassment,” May 10, 2013