PSYCHOPHYSIOLOGICAL AND PSYCHOLOGICAL REACTIONS TO SEXUAL HARASSMENT
Hawkes, A., Haines, J. and Williams, C., University of Tasmania, Australia
The aim of the investigation was to examine and measure the immediate psychophysiological and psychological reactions to sexual harassment in the workplace by using a personalised guided imagery methodology to recreate these responses to actual experiences. Although previous research has examined pre-harassment and post-harassment factors, little research exists on peri-harassment responses. It was necessary to determine these responses in order to develop a diagnostic/ assessment tool that will enable clinicians to appropriately target treatment. The study measured the responses to two groups, those who had experienced workplace sexual harassment and those who had experienced a similar event but who did not perceive the event to be harassing. The participants were administered three personalised imagery scripts and physiological arousal and psychological response to the scripts were measured for each script. Those who experienced sexual harassment showed a marked fear response that was characterised by increased psychophysiological arousal along with feelings of helplessness, anxiety and loss of control. The implications of the results for the understanding and management of the negative psychological consequences of sexual harassment will be discussed.