Vignette #3

This is my third post about my sexual assault by a doctor.  The posts do not necessarily go in chronological order, but it’s helpful if you first read my post on healing , Vignette #1, and Vignette #2

After I sent my letter into the clinic, the HR person reached out to me and told me that she, the head doctor, and the physical therapist would like to meet with me.  She told me that the physical therapist wanted to apologize for any harm she may have caused, and was sorry that I misconstrued what she was doing.

I took a few deep breaths and told her that I would only come into the clinic if the physical therapist was not in the meeting and that I wouldn’t see her at all in the building. I didn’t want to hear an apology from her.

I went in a few days later to the meeting with an advocate, who mainly just listened, as she could stay more objective than me.

I hated the huge feeling of pressure, that what I said could potentially be used in court, that notes were being taken.  That I was supposed to be objective, but I was still living in trauma.  It was hard to sit in the room I was diagnosed in, to just be back in the building in general.

Honestly, I don’t remember much of the conversation.  That’s also very true of trauma.  Some parts I remember every detail, some parts are hazy, and some parts I remember almost nothing at all.  This meeting fits into the hazy category.

The doctor asked me if there was anything else I wanted to say outside of what I said in the letter.

“I felt violated.  I believe that I was sexually assaulted under the title of medical treatment.”

Then I heard a detailed speech about how intravaginal techniques can be used to treat the pelvic floor and that it was a legitimate medical procedure both in physical therapy and osteopathic medicine.

“Why was she alone?”

No answer.

“Why didn’t she have clear consent? Why did she spring this on me mid-session and not explain what she was going to do? Why didn’t I fully understand how this treatment fit into why I was seeing her?”

I started to cry and I didn’t have any more stamina.  I wanted to try and get through the meeting without crying, but I couldn’t stand to hear her defended again and again.

Once I caught my breath I asked:

“If you don’t believe I was actually sexually assaulted, then do you believe there was sexual harassment occurring?

“I believe that she should have said some things differently. I will make sure I talk to her about the comments she made.”

I was done.  As I kept crying, the head doctor wanted to give me a referral to a therapist.  I said, “I already have one.”

And in my head I thought, “I will never take a referral from you ever again.”

I left knowing that I must leave this clinic and never come back.

Even if that meant I got more sick and had to wait a long time to see another doctor.

 

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Vignette #2

This is my second post about my sexual assault by a doctor.  The posts do not necessarily go in chronological order, but it’s helpful if you first read my post on healing and then Vignette #1.  

The hard part about being a new patient at a chronic illness clinic is that many treatments are not well known. There is a steep learning curve to understand the treatment themselves and how they are meant to help you.

There’s also a lot of lifestyle changes involved as well. So I was changing my diet, I was making sure my deodorant, shampoo and other personal care items didn’t have any gluten or chemicals.

I made the drive up to the suburbs for an amino acid injection every 3 weeks, even though I couldn’t tell what difference it was making. I was just told it would take time and that this was stopping my autoimmune attack on my body. I had to believe them. I didn’t know where else to go for help. I mean this doctor had finally diagnosed me after 11 years of health struggles. What else was I supposed to do except “trust the process?”

You the reader can see where the vulnerability sets in. Here I am, a patient just diagnosed with Hashimoto’s. My health was so bad I had to quit my job. I was sleeping 2-3 hours per night. I felt like a shell of my former self. I was gaining weight, my hair was falling out, and my skin felt scaly. I was desperate. I would do anything to get better. I wanted my life back.

What a perfect place to work if you wanted to abuse patients?

They are chronically ill. Conventional medicine has failed them. Many times these patients have searched for years for a doctor who understood what was going on. They are dependent on your expertise.

These patients often come into the clinic very fatigued and with a low sense of self, a natural outflow of being sick for years. They are vulnerable and must trust the doctor for their wellbeing.

Culturally, doctors are held in high esteem and hold tremendous amounts of power. They are virtually unquestioned.

The head doctor of the clinic believes you are one of the best physical therapists in the state.

Your referrals are all “in house” and you have the backing of the medical board and the head doctor.

And when you work, you get to close the door.

Vignette #1

This is the first of several posts describing the events surrounding my sexual assault by a female doctor. I feel at this time writing serves as my outlet to utilize my voice, not for the sake of pity, but because living as a survivor who has been institutionally silenced becomes suffocating.

There are many ways I have healed in these past two years.  If you want a glimpse into this, read my previous post here.  

I feel privileged that you would read this.  May you be able to hold all the love and evil in the universe together, without forcing yourself to make sense of it, and then let it go.  If my post stirs something up for you personally, I hope that you are able to feel what you need to feel, sitting with these emotions, yet with extreme compassion and love towards yourself.  I stand in solidarity with you.

I remember walking out of the room, down the hallway, and to the check-out lady to pay for my appointment. I was in a daze and just wanted to get out of the office.

As I walked down the hall I distinctly remember thinking 3 things:

  • “This is not the first time she’s done that before.”
  • “Was I supposed to know that was going to happen before I walked in there today?”
  • “Why do I have to pay for this appointment?”

I paid anyway, and I got in my car and sat for 2 minutes, catching my breath. I still needed to walk into the pharmacy attached to the doctor’s office to pick up my supplements. But it was hard to make myself go in. As far as I was concerned, I didn’t want to walk into that building ever again.

I drove home in a daze, but stopping at Aldi to get groceries first. Before I got out of the car, I slammed my fists onto the steering wheel three times and just burst into tears.

Somehow I went about my day. I talked to my counselor on the phone, and I couldn’t really get the words out. I was still trying to figure out what had happened to me.

I stopped eating and I wasn’t sleeping. I called a few trusted friends and told them what happened.

I told the wife of the family I was living with at the time, in case I seemed more withdrawn, sad, or overwhelmed.

Per my counselor’s suggestion, the next morning I drafted a letter to my clinic; the head doctor and the human resources personnel. It is understated to say that it’s difficult to draft an objective letter when your brain still feels hijacked, yet you know that your potential in being believed is all wrapped up in this letter.

As I wrote the letter the questions that plagued me, and I imagine so many other women across the country, were:

“Why try so hard, when the likelihood of being believed is so slim anyway?”

“Doesn’t the medical establishment just protect their own?”

A Tribute to Female Healers

The topic of these next few posts is going to be my sexual assault at the hands of a female doctor. And yet first, I’m going to give you a glimpse of my healing. This post is a tribute to those in my life who act as female healers.

You see, when I was assaulted by a woman, it took some time to be able to go back into a healing environment and feel safe. And statistically, there are more women in healing professions. So I had some choices to make: Do I just select male doctors and counselors? Male yoga instructors and massage therapists and acupuncturists?

No doubt-some of these key people on my health care team are male. Yet, many are female.

I needed women healers to heal in certain ways emotionally and spiritually.

I needed nurturing touch by a professional that wasn’t sexual in nature.

I needed to be able to trust my voice and my body again.

I needed to be given choices and not feel weak or broken for saying “No.”

Yet it comes one step at a time. First during last Christmas break, I started going to yoga.

I found myself apprehensive with certain poses or in classes where there were not many people there. I had flashbacks for about the first month. I tensed up when an instructor would come and adjust my posture. You see, the woman who assaulted me had me do yoga in her office with classical music playing. The memory was just too vivid for awhile.

But I kept going back because I felt good. My mind was clearer and I was happier. I knew that I was healing in subtle ways one class at a time. I learned to be more grounded, to be present in the moment, and over time the memories of my assault faded. Not because I don’t remember the event, but because I can distinguish between the present and the past in real time.   Now I’ve been going to yoga for 7 months and don’t plan on stopping anytime soon.

Going to yoga helped me feel grounded enough that I could seek out a female therapist. I had read the book The Body Keeps the Score and it suggests yoga and EMDR for healing of trauma, particularly related to PTSD. I had a few sessions with her where we started EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) , before she called me telling me that she had to stop seeing me because she was going to take a leave of absence for health reasons. Yet in the first session, I knew that I could trust her. I could make eye contact and I knew that she believed me. I could speak honestly about how this was a big step for me to trust a different kind of female doctor. She agreed with me.

Once I had a little more time because I was not going to therapy every week or two, I decided to place my resources into seeing an acupuncturist and a massage therapist. I go to a pay-what-you-can acupuncture clinic in downtown Indy and the acupuncturist and I clicked immediately. We had a quick conversation about the health history form I filled out, and that I was receiving acupuncture for severe menstrual pain. She relayed that acupuncture is very effective for relieving menstrual pain, and that was the very reason she got interested in acupuncture in the first place. She always asked about what pain I experienced and gave me a few choices about where the needle should go based on how tender a particular area of the body was for me.

What she didn’t know was that I told the doctor who diagnosed me with Hashimoto’s about my menstrual pain at my first follow up appointment. He referred me to the physical therapist in his building who eventually assaulted me. With all the symptoms I have and I track regularly, menstrual pain could easily be edited out of my story. For awhile, in the early stages of acknowledging and feeling my own pain, I blamed myself for even relaying that symptom to my doctor in the first place. I told myself that if I hadn’t told him, I never would have been referred to the physical therapist. Yet as I healed and could acknowledge that it wasn’t my fault—I made the next hard step to be honest and not edit menstrual pain out of my story. In acknowledging each small piece of pain and fatigue, I let myself live with the intense longing for healing—that all in my body would be well.

Lastly, I had read research and heard testimonials about how empowering it is for a survivor to receive massage and feel “in your body” again. I was almost certain I wanted a male massage therapist. However, as I talked to one on the phone, I did not feel comfortable choosing him. Then I realized that what was more important to me than gender was that the therapist was trauma-informed. As I talked and emailed with several people, I finally found 1 woman who was a good fit. Before the massage, we sat down and talked. She asked about my goals for massage, that I had the right to stop at anytime or tell her to apply a different level of pressure. During my second visit, I was glad that she knew the affect of food sensitivity reactions on the body. I could tell that yoga and practicing centering prayer have helped me to stay present in my body—and those have helped regular massage be beneficial to me.

I’ve come a long way in 2 years, but it’s been a hard journey in many ways. There are many more to thank here than I can list. Thank you to all my friends who have listened, who have believed me. Being believed and feeling believed is one of the best gifts, although it’s subtle and isn’t given much attention. Thanks to those who track my symptoms with me, who read books and articles to understand even more. Thanks to those who have helped me move so that my living environment was more conducive to my healing. You are part of a much bigger story than loading things into a truck. Thanks to those who have made meals, talked on the phone, who read my blog.

Wisdom teachers say that gratitude is what overflows when you’ve gone deep and continue to deal with the ego, so that your true self can come forth. Thanks to all those who all those who cheer me on as I dig deeper, as I seek healing and transformation. And thanks to those who dig deep in your own life and because of this our paths have crossed.