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.
These stories contain descriptions of sexism, sexual harassment, and sexual violence.
All Stories — Page 13 of 15
I raised a complaint in regards to a supervisor who frequently behaved in a sexist manner. The investigation was carried out by two senior male members of staff. One of them told me that he didn’t understand what institutional sexism was. In their outcome letter following the investigation, they addressed me by my first name and did not use Dr but addressed him as Dr and his surname. We have the exact same qualifications and are both Dr’s. The way the investigation was handled made me give up in trying to raise issues of sexism at work again.
I am in a management role and lead a large team. I have had several experiences of men within my team who are much more junior than me being invited to represent our discipline in senior meetings or on interview panels instead of me and without any consultation with me about this, despite them not being qualified enough to take on those tasks. I have never experienced a woman in my team being invited in my place to given tasks that are above her level of seniority. This has been frustrating and when it happens, it leaves me disempowered and undermines my ability to effectively fulfill my leadership duties. It also creates challenges in managing those male staff going forward when my authority has been undermined in this way.
I had lost a significant amount of weight and dropped 2 scrub sizes. At a work function a colleague made a comment to my partner about how lucky they were. When my partner asked for clarification it turned out that a colleague had noticed my assets jiggling whilst we were running to a cardiac arrest. Unbeknown to me colleagues in theatres, ICU, maternity and ED had been checking out my assets for the last few months. I was mortified and still struggle to look them in the eyes. Most shocking bit… how you all interpreted that post. I’m a straight male and it was female colleagues giggling and checking out my package, but if i tried to place any sort of complaint it would be written off as workplace banter or bragging.
As an F1, I was made to walk towards the nursing station and back again, I wasn’t sure why. After the walk, the Consultant asked me, “out of 10 what do you think of that Physios (might have been a nurse) arse?” I hesitated, take a look at what I realised was what he wanted me to look at and uncomfortably answered “maybe a 7 or 8”. I realise, thinking back that it was really unacceptable despite finding it more peculiar than threatening, being young and impressionable. It is potentially more unacceptable because it was also acting as a test of my sexuality, considering this Consultant went on to ask indirect questions to my housemate (fellow FY1) whilst oncall together, about me, which would help confirm, I assume, his suspicions about me being gay. To which she replied why don’t you ask him yourself?! I was only out for a couple of years by this point and a little more guarded about it all. He also took my phone off me and briefly went through my messages (or pictures I cannot remember) in front of the team, which actually made my housemate more uncomfortable than myself.
I was recently made aware of a competition being ran between several of the male FY1 doctors on the stroke ward in my hospital, to see who would be the first to sleep with a whole MDT. I found out as one had been boasting about how he’d already ticked physiotherapist, nurse and dietician off his list and had recently been texting a speech and language therapist.
One year during my Educational Supervisor meeting, they asked me: “When are you going to fit your exams in? Before or after you have children?” There had never been any previous conversations about my intentions regarding having, or not having a family.
One of the consultants was handing a patient over to me. The patient had likely broken their radius and ulna, but rather than ask me to look out for the x-ray and what the likely diagnosis was, he took my arm and (there is no other word for it) caressed my distal radius and ulna whilst telling me how they might have broken “here and here” whilst looking intensely into my eyes. I was made to feel really uncomfortable, and I just do not think that would have happened if I was male
In medical school all the girls would be told to stay away from this one cardiology consultant who did a lot of teaching. Unfortunately the med school arranged for us to shadow in groups on the cardiology wards and he often got assigned groups of med students to take on ward rounds. I realised what the older students meant during one of his ward rounds when he kept staring at our breasts during the round. He would ask a question then his eyes would go straight down to your chest and stay there while you answered the question. It would happen repeatedly during every ward round and we would give a supportive smile or quick “you ok?” to each other as we moved around the ward when his back was turned.
Being assigned to doctors on wards can be great or it can be a nightmare. You have no say over who you are going to be paired with, you spend lots of time together especially if doing nights or late shifts which makes you vulnerable. I was assigned to a senior male O&G reg on labour ward for the week. We were meant to stay there overnight in case of any births in some dingy flats next to the hospital. The reg was overly flirty, pervy and suggestively told me that he also had a room in the flats wink wink. Apparently he had been dating one of the other med students but had just broken up and he offered to cook me dinner (this seemed weird as he was over 15 years older than her and her version of events were very different). Anyway, I repeatedly told him I HAD A BOYFRIEND. But he wouldn’t leave me alone, I was dreading the nights I would have to stay in the hospital with him. Thankfully the day before I was due to stay there I injured my ankle and ended up on crutches. The senior midwife told me I couldn’t work on labour ward with crutches and I delightfully had to stay at home. The relief was immense as I dread what could have happened if I had worked those night shifts with him.
At a surgical conference there was a dinner in the evening and plenty of alcohol being splashed around. It was a hive of drunk male surgeons, leering over the female attendees. At my table there were 3 male SHOs all boasting about their recent surgical endeavours. They were appalled to see two female FY2s (me and my friend) interested in surgery at my table, repeatedly asking why we wanted to be surgeons and “aren’t you all going to leave when you get knocked up”. They described one of the very successful female surgical consultants as an “effing spinster” and “a monster”. Later on at the bar one of the surgical consultants at my hospital came up to me commenting how nice I looked and asked if I wanted a drink. Whilst he did that he ran his hand along my waist and down across my buttocks. I froze panicking but fortunately someone else came over to him and I managed to duck out. I escaped back to my hotel wondering how on earth he could behave like that with a partner and two young children at home, at work he always seemed so nice wandering around showing us all photos of his kids. When I got home from the conference there were texts flying around with gossip from the night before. One of male consultants had drunkenly shown up at a female SHO’s room propositioning her. The SHO and her friend yelled at the consultant and threatened to call his wife and he quickly ran off. All I remember is feeling so shocked about everything I’d witnessed, calling my parents, and thinking is this really the career I want to go in to.
In my FY1 year one my friends came up to me and told me male surgical registrars, SHOs and foundation doctors had been discussing which female FY1 doctor has the best bottom in what they called the Rear of the Year competition. Apparently these doctors had been getting together in the doctor’s mess to debate this and they had decided I had won. I was aware they were all a bit too smiley around me, after that I felt very self conscious and worried about what I was wearing to work every day. I would deliberately try to hide my body every time I saw one of those doctors behind a desk or chair on the wards.
After being offered a GP partnership, I attended a meeting where the male partners began to dictate the terms of my partnership. When I voiced concern that I couldn’t work a particular day, which they already knew about, due to childcare commitments, I was told I had to chose between work and family. What ensued was a interrogation of my personal life by my male colleagues, telling me what to do about my childcare, and asking me to get my husband to change his job! I chose my family over work after clearly realising they weren’t going to be flexible, or listen to me at all and that wasn’t ‘partnership’ to me. They told me I wasn’t cut out to be a partner because of my children. No regrets here, but once again an illustration of misogyny at large in the NHS.
Scrubbed into theatre as a medical student with an all male surgical team… Senior (male) consultant just stands next to me (not scrubbed in), watching the operation, with his hand on my waist…
Mid consultation with a male patient he told me that I could lose weight if I ate more salad. He also told me that I looked really good and thinner when I wore a dress. I have not worn a dress to work since this conversation.
Being told by a GP I had previously respected that female consultants aren’t worth the money they cost to train because “you’ll just get pregnant and go less than full time and the men have to pick up the slack” This has made it so much harder to tell people at work I’m pregnant now, and I feel guilty every time I have to step back from work, but I also want to protect my child.