POSH Law Enforcement
With the increase in female representation in workplaces, there is also an increase in sexual harassment and assault against them. Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act (POSH Act) enacted in 2013 was a major initiative of Government of India to prevent harassment of women at workplace. The Act gave the employers the responsibility to prevent harassment against women at workplace and the power to handle such complaints.
Since the Act came into effect, Indian companies have seen a massive number of harassment complaints. Moreover, the number is increasing every year. While it is a good thing that more and more people are aware of their rights and ready to speak up, we have to look at the effect such incidents have on the survivors.
The Need for Psychological Counselling on POSH Law Enforcement
The emotional and psychological toll any kind of sexual assault takes on a person is immense. Following are some of the commonly seen psychological impacts of sexual harassment –
While assault by a stranger is traumatic, trauma associated with the assault by an acquaintance is even more serious owing to disbelief and breach of trust. These issues can negatively affect survivor’s personal relationships and work performance.
The fact that such an unfortunate incident has occurred inside the workplace or while the employee was discharging the duties for the organization makes the organization morally obligated to provide mental health assistance to the survivor. Experts say that organizations should arrange third-party assistance system for sexual harassment survivors, free of cost. This should include counselling, therapy and other related services.
It is important to remember that not everyone who has been subjected to sexual assault would react the same way. While most of them hesitate to talk about it, only a few would seek help. While some survivors show evident signs of distress, some may look completely normal from outside.
This difference is because of their personality traits, past experience and the support available for them. In short, survivors may react differently to sexual harassment, but it does not mean that only some need help. So, it is the organization’s duty to pro-actively arrange help and encourage the employees to make use of it.
Psychological Counselling for survivors of Sexual Harassment
While each individual’s problem is different, here are a few ways a counsellor can help recover from the trauma of sexual harassment:
Come to Terms: The first reaction towards sexual harassment can be feeling numb and disbelief. Many try to stay in denial about what happened. Mental health professionals who work with victims of trauma say that the most effective way to recover from trauma of sexual assault is to acknowledge it to oneself. Counselors can help the individual come to terms with reality and reinforce the belief that it was nowhere the their fault.
Developing Healthy Coping Strategies: Some may try to “look normal” as a way of coping. While this coping mechanism may work in the surface level, the individual may experience mental breakdown eventually. Other unhealthy coping mechanisms are alcohol and substance abuse. Counselling can help individuals develop healthy coping mechanisms.
Restoration: Counseling can also help in taking steps to leave the memory of harassment behind, recover and integrate oneself into normal life.
It is important to ensure that professionals do not respond to the survivor in inappropriate ways such as blaming the victims or asking them to move on, as this can impair their ability to recover. For this reason, while arranging third-party assistance, organizations should ensure that counselors have experience in trauma and crisis treatment, since the strategies used in such issues are different from other kinds of mental issues. This assistance provided will be beneficial for the organization in the long run as employees will stay grateful and committed which in turn will increase productivity.
Check our blog on Comprehensive Guide to POSH Compliance in the New Normal