The headlines are unavoidable in these closing days of 2017. In newsflash after newsflash we learn about another male in a position of power sexually harassing an employee, colleague, minor – you name it. Shannon Lee, a writer, mother, and self-described “abuse activist” living in Washington DC says, “It’s really draining to just constantly be bombarded with it. Whether you’re opening an email newsletter, or going on Twitter or Facebook, you can’t get away from it.” Is sexual harassment a new phenomenon? Absolutely not! Is the plague of sexual harassment entering our collective consciousness? Yes. Communities are awakening to the scourge of sexual harassment because courageous victims are pointing toward abusers and asking for change. Luckily, a growing cadre of advocates walk with victims as they work toward safety and health for all impacted by the actions of abusers. While public awareness of sexual harassment is an important step in combating the evil, victims of harassment must have opportunities to voice their pain in a safe, non-judgmental environment.
Talkspace and other online therapy providers continue to provide therapeutic support and educational resources to women impacted by sexual harassment. Interventions offered by Talkspace and others couldn’t arrive soon enough, as contemporary research indicates that victims are negatively impacted by both actual harassment and the anticipation of harassment. In her study of street harassment, researcher Fiona Vera-Grey reports, “women are constantly forced to navigate the world anticipating invasive sexual or gender-based “intrusions” by men.” Pointing out that women impacted by street harassment endure a recurrence of the abusive pattern, Vera-Grey further asserts, “anticipating these intrusions and planning for them occupied a good deal of women’s thought and time in public on a daily basis, thus causing them to alter their behavior — and subjecting them to near-constant stress.” Because harassment is essentially normalized in the United States, it is especially difficult for victims to acknowledge that there’s a problem in their work setting, on their work route, etc. Vera-Grey says that “habituated external awareness,” the time and energy women spend to combat harassment and potential harassment, can lead to negative impacts like depression, body image issues, and anxiety. Good therapy is one key to a good outcome.
If the therapists at Talkspace have their way, all victims of sexual harassment will have access to interventions that bring strength and positive change to lives upended by the inappropriate touch and language of others. Reina Gatusso, contributor for Talkspace, for one, is disheartened by the number of women who must change their routines to address harassment or potential harassment. “All those moments of self-censorship, of adjusting our behavior, of choosing what we wear or where we go based, not on our real desires, but on fear for our safety, aren’t just minor annoyance,” says Gatusso, adding, “we can learn to give ourselves and each other support as we build a world where all of us can enjoy the basic right to safety and personal freedom.”
For Gatusso and others, healing begins with the victim’s acknowledgement that the damage inflicted has been cutting and deep. Noting that many victims of sexual harassment spend an inordinate amount of time securing personal space, Gatusso affirms that all the efforts to establish and preserve safety can “really drain us.” That is why conversation with trusted friends, family members and therapists is so important. “Don’t be afraid to acknowledge how you may feel — annoyed, exhausted, anxious — to yourself, to loved ones, and even to a therapist,” says Gatusso, adding, “And don’t be afraid to give yourself the care and understanding that you need.”
Tapping into the services offered by Talkspace and other providers is a great way to move forward with healing conversations and self-help techniques. Because remote providers offer therapeutic exchanges through text messaging, email, and the like, clients can tap into excellent resources from the safety and familiarity of home. In the event a client seeks immediate feedback in the aftermath of workplace harassment or an “unsettling” day in the workplace, a few strokes on a keyboard or touchscreen can provide a connection with a highly qualified provider who responds twice per day.
“We all deserve spaces where we can drop our vigilance and simply enjoy the solace of our own minds,” Gatusso notes. Talkspace and similar venues preserve the victim’s desire and need for safe space, while also offering proven approaches that help victims push beyond guilt, depression, shame, and the like.
A sea change is clearly underway in our society. After years of being dismissed as “men just being men,” sexual harassment is finally being labeled for what it really is. Abuse. Sexual harassment is abuse. With growing awareness of the problem of sexual harassment now reaching hearts and minds across the county, victims now walk with a little more dignity. Thanks to Talkspace and other well-positioned providers, dignity is supported by good therapy. Women are speaking up about their experiences of abuse, and good people are listening.