By Guest Blogger Dennette Bailey
Recently Andrew Yang’s wife, Evelyn Yang, was in the media describing a rape she endured by her OB/GYN during a doctor’s visit. When I saw her story it made me wonder how many people may have suffered sexual abuse at the hand of their doctors but have not spoken out.
It also made me wonder how many people may have had an experience like myself in which the ambiguity of the situation caused you to question whether something took place or whether you were “over thinking” the circumstances.
I visited a doctor that was very attentive during the appointment. This doctor did not rush me but asked me questions and seemed to really care about my health. I was thinking that I might have found the best doctor ever. Then, during the routine gynecological exam this doctor, it seemed inadvertently, touched my clitoris. I thought to myself that had to be by mistake and I said nothing. That was the first visit. The next year I had a visit again with this doctor and again this doctor displayed a caring attitude as did the staff. I wasn’t even thinking about the “touch” that had happened the year before. But during the routine gynecological portion of the exam, once again this doctor touched my clitoris. I actually looked at the doctor but this doctor just kept talking through the exam as if nothing happened and I just had that shock feeling that stays in your head and does not show on your face. There was a nurse in the room both times. I went home this time and I called a relative who works in the health field and asked her if she had experienced this personally and she replied no. She said that she would ask one of her physician friends about it. She later reported to me that this physician said there would be no reason to even mistakenly touch this area of my body. I told my spouse about it and he too had a silent shock look as if he did not know how to respond. Then he said “maybe it was a mistake”.
I tell you my story not to validate the story of anyone else but to bring attention to a bigger issue. And that is, as women we do not know what a gynecological exam or any exam for that matter, dealing with our bodies, should look like because we are not physicians. When questions are asked we may not know when the line is being crossed, and when our intuition tells us something is wrong, we question it and our loved ones may also question it. It is easy or at least unambiguous to recognize that we are being assaulted when a person uses inappropriate language or violent actions towards us. However, when a doctor (or anyone for that matter) treats us well, smiles, asks us what we need and supports us, that positive language does not support the negative actions that we are feeling uncomfortable with.
I have heard people talk about the fact that a nurse is in the room and I believe that offers false assurance of our safety because a blanket is over the patient when they have these exams. So a nurse cannot see what is occurring under the blanket. In addition, there is nothing about the nurse being in the room that assures a patient to reach out to the nurse if they are uncomfortable. In many instances I have observed nurses themselves being uncomfortable during these types of exams. Some even make themselves busy, maybe trying to make the patient feel that they are respecting their privacy.
If you are not a woman or if you have not suffered sexual violations, maybe you can simply identify with trying to find a good doctor. Maybe you can identify with wanting a doctor that treats you as an individual and doesn’t just push prescriptions, spend 5 minutes with you and then move you along. People should not have to decide between a physician that is not really available (this could be for a variety of reasons) or a physician who treats them well but is a predator. If you have a great doctor that is neither of the latter two just described, then that is what we are all looking for and we should not have to go through predators before we find one.
Hopefully most people will not experience violent sexual assaults at a physicians’ office but we should be concerned about the “small” assaults that may take place. The potential for the numbers being high in this area is frightening because most women, like myself, will not report such an offense. Instead, we will question ourselves first.
Opinions may vary on who is responsible for learning what a doctor’s visit should look like but I would propose that doctors use a model to explain they are going to do to the patient beforehand. Another method could be to have this description play over all the television monitors in the doctor’s offices while waiting in the waiting room. This might help to deter those doctors who have a perverted fetish or is a predator and would use their position to satisfy their perversions.
I am an adult woman who suffered sexual assault in the past and is outspoken to parents on how to protect their children against sexual predators. But even I still questioned this visit to the doctor and reported nothing because even though it happened twice, I thought I might be…… well wrong.
If you have never experienced a sexual assault, I implore you to not make judgement about why people do not report or go back to a professional that they question has crossed the line. Instead offer support. Asking the victim why they didn’t do something different is not support.
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