Journal of Traumatic Stress

, Volume 15, Issue 1, pp 69-75

First online:

Sexual Harassment and PTSD: Is Sexual Harassment Diagnosable Trauma?

  • Claudia AvinaAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, University of Nevada
  • , William O'DonohueAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, University of Nevada

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Sexual harassment has become a major social, legal, and mental health problem because of its high prevalence and its negative consequences for victims. These consequences can include decreased productivity, loss of job, decreased income, and impaired psychological and physical well-being. Despite evidence from empirical studies that victims often exhibit posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms, some have argued that sexual harassment does not constitute legitimate trauma. We argue that many forms of sexual harassment meet the diagnostic Criteria A1 and A2 of PTSD. Finally, the DSM-IV trauma criterion is explicated, and its relationship with sexual harassment and its effects are discussed.

sexual harassment PTSD trauma physical integrity