90 to 95% of sexually harassed women suffer from some debilitating stress reaction, including anxiety, depression, headaches, sleep disorders, weight loss or gain, nausea, lowered self-esteem and sexual dysfunction. In addition, in the higher education setting, student victims of sexual harassment may feel pressured to drop a class, change their major or minor, and experience physical and psychological distress. Overall, sexual harassment causes a tense and unproductive working and learning environment. The victims usually suffer the highest personal costs, although the perpetrators and even observers can also be harmed if harassment is allowed to go uncontrolled.
Few people who have not experienced it personally understand the distress and even terror sexual harassment can cause. Most women experience it as an insult, that undermines their self-confidence and thus also their personal effectiveness. It may also undermine their trust in men and in people in authority. In the case of women who were sexually abused as children or as adults, another negative experience can cause serious psychological damage. Women who resign because of sexual harassment problems, often have difficulty getting good references from their previous employers, or giving reasons for having left their previous job; and may thus have difficulty in finding another position. Obviously, this could disrupt such a woman’s entire life.
Women who resist harassment or complain, may be victimized, for example, overlooked for promotion. Thus this can hold back their career development and personal growth. The harassers themselves could fall into bad habits if their behavior is allowed to continue. This can negatively influence their effectiveness at work, their interpersonal relationships, their marriage, and their personal development. Particularly in the case of the last two of the types of harassers mentioned above, the serial and the situational harassers, ignoring their behavior could cause a deep-seated problem to go untreated. Men or women who observe harassment going unchecked may lose trust in their superiors, may feel threatened by the situation if they believe that others are favored because they play along, or may be tempted to indulge in the same type of behavior if that appears to be “the rules of the game” in their company.