7 Ways To Overcome Shame
After Sexual Harassment

Ashley Judd is speaking out. Good, because sexual harassment is damaging. You feel powerless. End up with a lot of unwarranted shame. You even blame yourself. But, when someone has power over you, of one kind or another, it’s hard to say, “No” – to report it, or to stand up for yourself. You might feel too scared. Maybe you change the reality around in your mind as if it’s not really happening. Or tell yourself it’s not as bad as you think. Perhaps you even feel you have way too much to lose.

That’s the problem with sexual harassment at work, whether in Hollywood (where sexual harassment and sexism is rampant) or wherever women are employed. Ashley Judd, who was sexually harassed by a big studio mogul in the late ’90s says: “Part of the strategy that keeps girls and women constrained in their professional experiences is retaliation and ridicule … I was really hard on myself because I didn’t get out of it by saying, “OK motherf—er, I’m calling the police.”

Sometimes you just can’t. You’re frozen. If so, you didn’t do anything wrong. It’s not your fault. Like Ashely Judd, don’t let the shame stop you now. Are you wondering, how do I overcome that shame? Maybe even long after the incident. Especially if you’ve never told anyone? Here are some things you can do.

7 Ways To Overcome Shame After Sexual Harassment

1. Talk. If you can’t confront the harasser, speak out in any way you c

2. Get the support of friends and family.

3. Be angry, vent with people who’ll listen. You have every right.

4. Talk a lot. Talk to friends – to other women. To anyone you trust.

5. Move on. Fast – from anyone that doubts your experience or blames you.

6. Don’t hide it. Shame can make you sink into yourself and away from help.

7. Talk to a therapist who works with trauma, if you can’t get past the shame.

Being sexually harassed is shocking, disturbing, and more often than not immobilizing.  It’s always unsettling to experience. But, in my experience as a therapist, sexual harassment can be even more traumatic if you’ve had other trauma in your history. Or reasons why your self-esteem is already low. In these instances, professional help is most important. Whatever you do – don’t let the shame shut you down. Do whatever it takes to get your power back.

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Dr. Sandra E. Cohen

I’m Dr. Sandra Cohen, a psychologist and psychoanalyst in private practice in Beverly Hills, CA. I work with creatives in therapy, story/character development, and entertainment consulting. If you are a writer, actor, or director and want help with a character – or a chance to do some of your own personal work - call at 310.273.4827 or email me at to schedule a confidential discussion to explore working together.