According to a recent article in USA Today, "Depression, feelings of powerlessness, sleeplessness and risky behavior are other long-term effects of sexual assault, previous research shows." I am one of the six percent, and I can confirm that I long experienced the feelings of powerlessness. I also struggled with depression at times. I share this here because it's part of why sexual harassment is such a hot topic.

No, I'm not suggesting that these first encounters are occurring at work, although I suspect that occurs occasionally. It is important to understand in the context of sexual harassment because you don't know what your employees, co-workers, or supervisors have been through or what they are struggling with currently. What you might think is harmless or funny could be triggering for someone actively recovering from sexual assault, domestic abuse, or other traumas.

I know that people have strong reactions to the word "triggering" these days, but let's not let semantics cloud our humanity.

Maybe you've never been sexually assaulted. I hope you never have that experience. Yet I also hope that you will be patient with those who have. We didn't ask for it, and we weren't prepared for the recovery that was required. I was 12 years old the first time it happened to me.

Perhaps it will be clearer to think about something that has likely happened to you, such as losing someone you love. Remember the first time that happened, how you felt confused and lost? How you needed space to grieve and were easily angered or moved to tears? That's somewhat how it is for someone who has lost their dignity and sense of self after sexual assault. But before the #MeToo Movement, there wasn't a lot of opportunity for us to speak about the experience openly. There is no sexual assault leave. We don't get to take a couple of days off from work to mourn. There's no celebration of the life that once was.

In some ways, New York State has tried to acknowledge the related trauma of sexual assault and sexual harassment by restricting employers from discriminating against their employees who are domestic violence victims. These employees can take Paid Family Leave to remove themselves from dangerous situations, recover, and set themselves up for healthier futures. Paid Sick Leave is also available for some employees who need to take time off to recover after a sexual assault or sexual harassment. We are starting to recognize the need for more victim and survivor support. Eventually, we will also put efforts toward preventing rapists, domestic abusers, sexual assailants, and sexual harassers from engaging in these harmful behaviors. We are making progress, but we can always improve.