(Published anonymously on behalf of a Canadian follower of Women’s Rights News)
On a Sunday evening, I went to a minor emergency clinic almost a year ago because my IUD had been dislodged by my menstrual cup, and I needed to have it urgently taken out as it could’ve caused me further harm.
Having an IUD removed is a routine procedure, and it is very quick. I felt I should share my experience with others because I knew what happened to me was not right. I’ve previously had a pap smear and an IUD insertion and check-up, and at the time, I volunteered at a sexual health clinic and sexual assault center, so I was well aware of consent and proper bedside manner.
That day, I found myself on the examination bed, and the doctor had told me to spread my legs. Before I knew it, his hands were inside of me. The nurse in the room who was there to ensure everything was up to code repeatedly asked him if he wanted to use tools such as a speculum he said, “no, I’m good” several times. I couldn’t speak. My body froze. All I could say was ow, and I cried during it. When it was over, no one asked me if I was okay. The nurse told me, “I’m glad he didn’t have to use the tools this time.” I sure wasn’t. I never had an experience like this before. I couldn’t say anything at the time, but I knew this wasn’t right. I never had a chance to consent to the doctor going into my body with his hands. The doctor was in there long enough for the nurse to ask on numerous occasions whether or not he needed the tools. I knew I was raped, but I couldn’t fathom what happened. I had tried to convince myself that this could have been a mistake, I tried to normalize the behavior and say I was overreacting, but my body wouldn’t let me. You know when you’re raped, even if it isn’t textbook, it still happened, and your body knows.
A couple of hours after coming to terms with my reality, I went to the police. I filed a police report, and I said I was just sexually assaulted when they asked me where it happened, they were in disbelief because it was at a doctor’s office. For some, this might not seem like an obvious case of sexual assault, but you cannot enter a female’s body without using a speculum or proper communication in Canada. I had to convince the police officers and tell them that it was sexual assault. I told them my background and explained that I go into schools and teach children about sexual assault. I know what sexual assault is. I explained that I had received extensive training on it, and I volunteer at a sexual health clinic myself. However, I still had to convince a police officer and explain to him that I needed to report what happened to me because I couldn’t bare it happening to anyone else. Having made that report allowed me to access free counseling, access to legal services, and victim services. Thankfully I was in a place that offered a lot for victims of sexual assault. I knew all the steps that I needed to take, but I didn’t know how trying it would be. The day after I sent a complaint to the college of physicians, I explained to them that I was raped by one of their colleagues. I also sought out professional opinions from nurses and shared my story with them because throughout my journey, I often wondered, was I raped? Again, yes, I was. Overtime, I grew to learn that my body provided me with enough validation.
My next year consisted of me grappling with continuing to put myself through university, working full-time, volunteering, attending school full time and extensive counseling. I provided my statement to the police to find out that my case wasn’t going through criminally. They didn’t have enough expertise or knowledge of medical procedures, and they decided it would be best to go through the malpractice route. I still had two avenues the college of physicians and a civil claim. To this day, I’m not ready to put myself through more bullshit and expose my trauma through civil lawsuit. However, I wrote the college of physician’s multiple lengthy papers explicitly stating my rape and how it affected me. I provided them with the police reports, and I let them know I needed to see a counselor every time they responded to me. Eventually, the college decided they needed a disciplinary hearing, and they wanted me to testify so we could come to a resolution. I told them that was bullshit, and I was deeply offended. You couldn’t read my papers and me recounting what fingers were utilized to rape me and tell me I wasn’t raped. I told them I would never see him, and I refused to ever communicate with him directly. In the end, they concluded that it was a communication issue, the doctor would be provided training, would meet with a director before being able to continue their practice, and I would receive an apology. I can’t say I’m satisfied with the outcome because it met none of my proposals, but I can say I’m happy they took it seriously and took action.
I choose to share this in lengthy detail because I know what it’s like to be raped by a doctor. The police officers, the nurses, the counselors, and the people I’ve shared my story with all know that I was raped. However, I also believe that the college does; I’ve been told that they can’t say that legally because it’s incriminating. While it wasn’t legally proven that I was sexually assaulted, I know I was assaulted, and no one can tell me otherwise because trauma doesn’t work that way. I continue to live through my trauma every day, and no verdict can change that. I wanted to share my story to let others know that it is hard going against a doctor when it comes to sexual assault, but if you know that something that happened to you didn’t feel right, do not belittle yourself and say it was just lousy bedside manner. If you’re still thinking about a doctor’s appointment a year after it happened, and you know that it makes you feel sick every time you think about it, then I want you to know those feelings are a sign of trauma.
I’m sharing my story because if I had listened to the police officer who took my report that day and told me that sometimes he goes to the doctors and doesn’t feel right after too, and that happens to everyone. I would have chosen never to complete my police report, I wouldn’t have received the help I needed. We should never minimize sexual abuse or assault because we don’t understand the legal parameters. Listen to yourself and your gut feelings. We shall hold people of power accountable because this abuse of power and authority is common and should not continue to go unrecognized.