Your Stories

Here we share your stories of sexism, sexual harassment and sexual assault in healthcare. Every story is a powerful testimony, describing lived experiences and the impact of sexual violence.

Thank you to every person who has shared their story with us.

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These stories contain descriptions of sexism, sexual harassment, and sexual violence.

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All Stories — Page 1 of 15


I have worked in the NHS for a little over 16 years since commencing my training as an ODP at 18. The majority of my career has been worked in theatres and critical care, though over the last few years I have worked outside of this environment.

As such I have literally and figuratively ‘grown up’ experiencing and witnessing operating theatre ‘banter’ and the sexist and sexually unsafe behaviours and attitudes which are rife therein.

My experiences span several NHS hospitals, rather than being specific to one trust. These range from preferential treatment of certain female colleagues by male leaders based on appearance- including ‘scoring’ us by appearance- to lewd comments, sexually themed jokes and explicit questions.

Beyond this, to non-consensual touching such as being pressed/rubbed against passing the bed or trolley in the anaesthetic room, having hands put in my scrub pockets to ‘pass’ me something such that my breasts or bottom were touched, or being ‘invited’ to on call rooms.

What pains me most now is just how normal I believed it all to be. It was so widely acknowledged and accepted. It was this culture that meant that when a male doctor assaulted me in a much more invasive way, I simply avoided him until he rotated away. It didn’t even occur to me to report it.


Many years ago when I was a young nurse I got into the lift on a night shift at 3am transferring a sick patient. The porter I was with pushed himself up against me from behind, he had an erection and then he slapped me on my bum. I was 29 . I ran back to the ward terrified, the nurse in charge told me to forget about it and not to draw trouble on myself. I reported it the following day and had a meeting with the head of nursing, matron and my then manager. All three of them convinced me not take it any further, not to get the police involved,I was getting married the following month and did I really want all that hassle. Nothing was done about it,in fact the following shift he was back on the ward and I was expected to just get on with it and help him with my patients . A colleague of mine was furious and wrote an email to his boss, the porter was suspended on full pay for a week and wrote me a half hearted one sentence apology and that was it. Looking back now I feel so stupid that I didn’t stand up for myself or demand more


I am in a female dominated profession and in retrospect I have experienced harassment and discrimination for being a woman throughout my career. I have only felt comfortable describing it in these terms since getting older and have been able to get some perspective on my career as a whole. There were always the male colleagues you were advised against being on your own with … not an explicit warning, but the ‘eyebrow raise and sigh’ and the description of forty-year olds as being ‘a bit of a lad’. When I was a student a male nurse listed all his female colleagues in order of ‘shag-ability’ in the middle of the ward and no one said anything. As a newly qualified nurse I worked hard to stay below the radar of a charge nurse who would pass the keys to the medication trolley by grabbing your outstretched hand and placing them in your palm whilst caressing it. These behaviours and those like it, were so common as to be unremarkable. The incident I want to share is a sexual assault, and in truth it wasn’t the assault that hurt or that stayed with me. It was the overwhelming feeling of sadness and disappointment in my line manager. I love being a mental health nurse and have been one for nearly thirty years. I have held many senior positions and at the start of my career I was very focussed on developing my professional expertise. As a young female ward manager I was aware of the double standards around leadership, my male peers could ‘date’ multiple junior colleagues and they would never be held to account for reckless behaviour on nights out to ‘blow off steam’. These choices would not be tolerated in a female leader. To maintain a position of respect and responsibility I had to work to guard my reputation at all times. I was earnest and dedicated. I certainly didn’t date other staff or discuss my personal life, I didn’t drink to excess and left work nights early. In retrospect I think I felt I had earned a measure of protection because of this extra work I had done. That was why when it happened, I found it all the more shocking. It was my leaving party, I had been promoted and was moving on. I had arrived late because I had covered some work as a favour and walked in sober to find most of my work friends had started early. I was feeling pleased and proud of my success. My line manager was married, and frequently had ‘relationships’ with junior and temporary female staff. The women shook their heads over this accepted phenomenon, the men seemed to be in awe of it and no one questioned it because of his professional capability and personal charisma. I’d always had a good relationship with him, not close but he promoted me. I worked hard, kept my head down and was successful. He was at my leaving do and beckoned me over, it was noisy and I thought he wanted to congratulate me. He pushed me against the wall and put his tongue in my mouth, kissing me. I was astonished. It took me a moment to realise what had happened, I thought he must have gone mad. I pushed him back and he grinned at me and said ‘I’ve always wanted to do that’. I felt sad for myself and disappointed that my trust was so publicly betrayed. I could believe all the effort I had put into trying to prove myself worthy to be as ‘good as him, but in that instance I was so sorry for him, with all that power, respect and opportunity, wasting it on an action so shabby and pointless. I turned around left the pub and I left the area the next day to start my new job. I don’t know who saw what happened, but I never spoke to any of them again. I had worked in that hospital for nearly five years, for most of them in senior positions and felt it counted for nothing in the end. Of course, that is not the case and I am sure some of the people there would have been supportive if I had asked them for help. I couldn’t bear to do it though and see whose eyes would slide away. Who would mumble ‘he’s just messing about, ignore him’. I didn’t want to hear anyone say ‘you know what he’s like’, because I did. We all did. I am ashamed to say that I thought anyone getting mixed up with him knew what they were doing because he was hardly in disguise. It’s more complicated than that though, I’m not advocating the banning of relationships that start at work. However, they do leave the person with the least power vulnerable personally and potentially professionally compromised, I would like to see national policy ensuring fairness in this matter. I was in a position of authority, in a public space, with friends nearby and he just took what he wanted. Not because he was even particularly attracted to me, but because he could … on a whim and out of curiosity. I couldn’t do a thing about it then. But it changed me, I learned a lot from that experience. There isn’t anything you can be, do, wear, or say to stop people harassing or assaulting you … the only thing that predicts any person being victimised is being next to an unchecked predator. I have never let one slide since.


In Covid times, we used Zoom a lot in psychiatry and I would have online meetings with an Associate Specialist. He frequently commented on my appearance and how beautiful I looked on the screen, and this made me feel uncomfortable. How I looked was not relevant to the role I was doing as a doctor on a psychiatric ward with dementia patients. Even this throwaway commenting on appearance can make a female doctor feel uncomfortable and contribute to work stressors, so I thought I’d share my story. Thank you for all that you do, keep scrubbing and thriving!


As a female surgical trainee I’ve experienced sexism regularly from staff and patients. In my specialty training in one particular trust I was bullied and harassed so severely that my mental health deteriorated and I had thoughts of taking my own life. I asked to leave that trust and got myself the help I needed to get better. It started of mild, negative comments about women in surgery. Asking me inappropriate personal questions. Telling me i would leave to have a baby. Asking me if I was capable of simple tasks i could do. Over explaining simple things I already knew. Progressing to shouting at me in public rather than teaching or explaining to the point where patients and staff who would help intervene. At its worst they would come find me on my own and say things such as i must be struggling, that i was useless, that i could not be trusted and needed to go away learn elsewhere and come back. They tried to hold me back. They wouldn’t train me despite my educational supervisor getting involved. They tried to stop me from joining the oncall rota despite the fact I’d been independently oncall already elsewhere. They told me they didn’t want to operate with me out of hours despite the fact I was doing this prior to this trust well. There were no issues that I’d had for them to have this opinion of me. They did however allow my junior male colleague to do all of this without issue. Another female trainee was treated as i was. They would not trust my judgement to a point that a patient would have died or have significant morbidity if I didn’t go get a male colleague to help me convince them we needed to return the patient to theatre. Despite their best efforts to bully me out of the speciality because my face didn’t fit and the serious impact that had. I’ve gone on to train successfully and thrive elsewhere without additional time. If you’re going through a story like mine. Don’t let them win. Keep going.


As an female F1 on an orthopaedics firm I experienced a number of instances of sexual harassment. For example – at the work Christmas party whilst in a taxi with colleagues, one of the consultants made an unwanted advance, touching me on the thigh twice. The following year after having left the trust, I was added to a WhatsApp group by the same consultant, inviting me to the next Christmas party – on looking more closely, only the female F1s had been included.


I’m a student nurse but I also work on the bank as a HCA. One day on shift, I noticed a patients oxygen levels dropping. I wasn’t sure if they were receiving oxygen therapy, so I decided to clarify with the consultant. As I approached the consultant, he was speaking to an F1 and another bank HCA, who was also a med student. All three of them are males. When asking if the patient needed oxygen, they all sniggered and laughed, as well as making some comments under their breathe. I asked ‘what’s the joke?’, where none of them answered and continued to snigger. I’ve never felt so humiliated in front of three, male professionals. After reflecting on this, it felt like a sexist situation and as a consequence, I’m now wary of asking these simple questions. It turned out, this patient was quite unwell and ended up requiring oxygen therapy.


When I was a junior doctor working in general surgery I attended a twilight shift in my scrubs. I went to say hello to my colleagues on the surgical ward which was very busy. A senior colleague of mine greeted me, looked down at my breasts and said ‘ can I ask you something, where are your boobs?’ in front of around 10 colleagues. Only one colleague spoke up. The rest were quiet. The worst was the matron laughed in my face. I reported this to the head of surgery and he was given a warning. He then proceeded to come and ‘apologise’. Instead he berated me and told me that it was a joke and I should know that he has that sort of personality. He then told me that he wanted nothing to do with me in a threatening voice.


I work with a team with 3 managers. 2 middle managers and 1 senior manager. I am female ~ 60, and am one of the middle managers. The senior manager is male and late 40’s, the other middle manager is late 30’s and male. For the past year I have experienced exclusion as the norm – discussions happens between, and decisions are made by my two male colleagues together only.

When all 3 of us are meeting with the wider team, any views I express are immediately shot down by the senior manager and I feel regularly denigrated in front of the juniors. On the other hand, views expressed by my male colleague are immediately hailed as high value by the senior manager even when they are clearly totally ridiculous. At these meetings with Juniors, there is almost constant eye contact between my two male colleagues. I always leave those meetings feeling totally excluded, humiliated and feeling very down, wanting to quit. My male colleague, although much less qualified, experienced, and very much less productive than myself, is promoted highly around the Trust by the senior manager, while he seems to try to hide me, but inevitably my performance and productivity speaks loud on my behalf.

On a number of occasions I have received clear ageist comments from my male middle manager colleague. My request to have excess time worked back was refused by senior manager, although my male colleague takes time off for excess time worked, with no evidence of when the time was worked. I am a very experienced manager myself and there is no question that what I am experiencing is gender and age discrimination. I have not done anything about this up to now, because apart from these 2 male colleagues, I really like working at this Trust and I like it’s staff in general. It feels good to get this out there in this story, and undoubtedly there will come a point when my tolerance runs out and I will act.


The list is countless.

Messaged on Facebook by the “equipment library technician” things like “when can I see that beautiful smile again”. Harassed by a male nurse whilst on a psychiatry placement- constantly asking me about my boyfriend and sex life whilst I was at work. Male A&E registrar waited for me outside work after a late shift, then invited me to his room “to have cake” as it was his birthday, then tried to kiss me when we were alone – when I was a GP trainee and he knew I had a boyfriend.

The worst thing was being raped by a fellow F2 after a night out at the pub. I refused to go to F2 teaching after this as he was there, and was asked about my poor attendance. I told them I had been raped by a colleague; they excused me from the teaching and that was the end of that.

Sexism is rife in hospitals. There wasn’t a single placement I did where I wasn’t creeped out or actually assaulted by a male colleague.


Working in a very busy emergency department as one of the registrar doctors on a weekend shift. We were already holding on ambulances and only had one space left in resus. I went to review a patient on the back of an ambulance who was scoring a 7 on his News. He had an infective exacerbation of his COPD.

Immediately I felt a strange vibe from the male paramedic who had been looking after him in the ambulance. I was interrupted on several occasions while taking my history, he felt that the patient either needed resus, or should stay in the ambulance on a monitor instead of going onto the corridor when a space was made available. I explained that my plan was to do an ABG and ensure he hadn’t decompensated, but that if he hadn’t I would be happy for him to go on the corridor. This would mean we could start treatment and have him in an area we could keep an eye on him as a department.

I was getting push back already from the paramedic, so ensured my consultant agreed with my plan, which she did. I arrived back in the ambulance with the gas, which was fine. I was interrupted again by the paramedic asking to interpret the gas himself (I hadn’t released I needed to run ABGs passed my paramedic colleagues before). I explained I was happy for the patient to go on the corridor, and that I would start treatment there and refer him to the medics. Again, I was interrupted by the paramedics explaining to the wife and patient that we would have to wait for bloods and CXR to then decide if he would be admitted (I hadn’t realised that it was the paramedics who decided who was being admitted!).

I had to explain that given he was on oxygen, even if all the tests come back negative I would be keeping him in. I then went to prescribe, refer etc. in our office. By the time I came back to the corridor I found that the paramedic had taken the patient in, told the senior nurse on the corridor that this was a standby who needed to go into resus. He had dumped the patient in the last space in resus and left the department, completely undermining everything that I had said and done.

I escalated to both consultants on shift who were angry on my behalf and escalated it to the paramedic in charge. I do feel quite strongly that if I was a male doctor, instead of a blond, young, female doctor, this would not have happened.


I was working on a ward when a junior doctor asked for my phone number. Other members of staff pressured me into giving them my number. The junior doctors text me to ask me on a date and I politely declined. However, the doctor would text me multiple times every day even if I didn’t reply. I had to block the number but then he would turn up outside my department and wait until I left or would ask my colleges to tell me he was waiting for me. On one instance he was getting aggressive because I wouldn’t talk to him and I had to be escorted to my car just in case he followed me.

He would often turn up wherever I was working to talk to me even if I made it clear I didn’t want to. My male colleagues said it was my fault and I must have led him on. I didn’t know how to report it and thought it wouldn’t be taken seriously. Eventually he went to another hospital to work and it stopped. After he left I found out he had previously been accused of sexually assaulting a female medical student but nothing had been done and the female student had left the hospital instead of him because no one had helped her when she reported it.


During an exit interview with 2 senior staff and another foundation trainee the conversation turned to what we would be doing next. I said that I was keen to explore research and asked for any insight or advice. Neither of the staff had any insight and the most senior suggested that I shouldn’t worry as females tended to work pt in general practice and raise children with the other half.

Years later, and after several years of PG training, I met with a surgeon who I thought could be a potential research supervisor during my MSc. After giving me the up and down look we proceeded to have a conversation that involved the following questions: was I single, what was my living situation, what age was I, could I afford to do a PhD… being 31 at the time he suggested that even though I was currently a “free bird” I might not be a good candidate, despite having no insight into my previous qualifications.


It’s isn’t just women who are victims. I am a man and had a thriving and promising career in the London Ambulance Service for 15yrs until my manager ended my career because I refused to sleep with him. I am not gay, I am straight and married, however this manager who is now a very senior Manager in the NHS abused his position culminating in booking 1 hotel room for an NHS conference in Birmingham and laying in bed naked when I went to the room unaware there was just one double bed.


I worked at a hospital. During the induction address the person giving the address suggested that there were many places to have sex in the hospital. That was an unwanted joke. That was sexual harassment. On returning to my work station a work colleague who I had previously not even noticed flirted with me. Which was a direct result of the suggestive comments made in the induction. There was no one to tell.