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Be strong, be thick: Resilience is key to tackling sexual advances

According to a study, young women experience increased psychological distress when they are being sexually objectified and therapists should explore how their female clients experience and cope with sexually oppressive behaviour.

sex and relationships Updated: Aug 08, 2014 17:35 IST
sexual harassment

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How do you react when faced with unwanted calls, demeaning looks or sexual advances from men? Do you feel vulnerable or resilient?

According to a study, young women experience increased psychological distress when they are being sexually objectified and therapists should explore how their female clients experience and cope with sexually oppressive behaviour.

Some women develop mental health problems such as eating disorders, depressive symptoms and substance abuse problems.

Women with low resilience are especially vulnerable and tend to internalise such behaviour.

Also read: Sexual harassment at workplace is a subjective but unacceptable experience

"Some women feel confused and shameful, and reason that their own inferiority is the cause of such bad experiences. They, therefore, blame themselves, rather than the perpetrators, and this causes psychological distress," said professors Dawn Szymanski and Chandra Feltman from University of Tennessee.

To study how women cope with such sexually oppressive experiences, Szymanski and Feltman studied the responses to an online questionnaire of 270 young undergraduate women from a university in the southeastern region of the US.

They found that resilient women are more successful at managing adverse experiences because they are able to cope and adapt.

Also read: Sexual harassment at work still taboo in Delhi, says study

"They can manage stress and rise above disadvantage. Resilience is both a style of personal functioning and a way in which people ably adapt to stressful situations," the researchers emphasised.

Resilient women may see gender-related oppressive experiences as challenges - rather than barriers - that can be overcome, Szymanski noted.

The study appeared in Springer's journal Sex Roles.