Sexual Misconduct Allegations Take Emotional Toll for Loved Ones of Those Accused

Discovering that a friend, family member, or colleague has been accused of sexual misconduct can be so jarring, it's almost akin to experiencing the death of a loved one, experts say.

In the wake of the #MeToo movement, many across the country are speaking publicly about sexual harassment, shining a light on unacceptable behavior from individuals who may in other circumstances be beloved members of their communities.

Their words not only impact the perpetrators, but also have a ripple effect on the perpetrators' social circles. Psychologists say it's normal for friends, relatives and co-workers to struggle with learning about misconduct that is incongruous with their perception of an individual otherwise admired or respected.

"Initially there's a denial of not believing this could be true, or trying to potentially make excuses, and slowly moving through it, they find out more, and try to figure out what exactly happened," said Dr. Sheela Raja, a clinical psychologist and associate professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago who wrote a book called "Overcoming Trauma and PTSD." She compared it to the stages of grief experienced after a death.

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