Workplace sexual harassment in policing: Perceived psychological injuries by source and severity

Jane Goodman-Delahunty, Regina Schuller, Natalie Martschuk

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


Relatively little is known about employee perceptions of workplace psychological injuries following sexual and nonsexual harassment. In quasi-military occupational organizations, such as policing, the rate of sexual harassment to workplace injuries from other sources is comparatively high. In an exploratory 5 × 2 between-subjects factorial experimental projection study, 220 New South Wales Police Force officers responded to one of ten experimental vignettes in which sources of psychological injury and the gender of the injured worker were systematically varied. Results revealed an unexpected effect of experience. Employees aged 30 years and older were significantly more likely to anticipate psychological consequences and clinically diagnosable symptoms than their younger counterparts. As hypothesized, a main effect of injury source, but not gender of the target, emerged for the severity of psychological consequences: a physical injury was perceived to produce significantly more severe psychological injuries than sexual harassment in the form of coercion and unwanted sexual attention. Contrary to the hypothesis, participants rated gender-based hostility higher than other types of sexual harassment as a source of severe psychological harm. Participants believed that gender-based hostility requires more professional intervention and predicted more negative workplace consequences than other psychological injuries caused by other workplace events. As hypothesized, women employees were generally viewed as significantly more vulnerable to negative workplace outcomes than men. The police officers who participated in this study considered women as more likely to experience workplace problems following sexual coercion than other types of workplace injury. Physical injuries, gender-based hostility, and sexual coercion were distinguished from nonsexual harassment and unwanted sexual attention as significantly more likely to produce clinically diagnosable injuries, irrespective of target gender. Implications of these findings for research, practice, and legal policy are discussed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)241-252
Number of pages12
JournalPsychological Injury And Law
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2016


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