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 2 of 15

209

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.

208

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.

207

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.

206

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.

205

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.

204

I had worked hard to promote myself and learn new skills within the hospital labs and was keen to take on a more senior role.

However when an opportunity came up for a promotion within a department that I interviewed for I was told that despite scoring identically with the other male candidate that I was considered to be a risk because ‘I may go off and have a baby’ and therefore was not offered the job. I didn’t report this at the time as I felt it was pointless and that I would not be listened too.

Following on from the rejection I was regularly used as a senior member of staff in all areas to supervise more inexperienced skill mix. I became disillusioned with the service and have since left. The department is very insular with little progression.

One of the male senior staff was known amongst the female staff for staring at your chest whilst talking to you and making inappropriate comments.

Misogyny and inappropriate sexual behaviour/ language is rife in the NHS. Opportunities for women to progress are limited especially for part-time roles

203

In my first year of medical school a student I knew held me down after a night out and attempted to rape me but was interrupted by another flat mate who pulled him off me. The attitude of both of them was we’d all been drinking and I shouldn’t have gone back to their flat so it was best not to say anything more.

The next year I was living in a mixed house share. One evening I was asleep in bed and woke to hear 2 house mates come home with another 2 medical students. They were talking loudly and I heard one of them say “go up and see”. One of them came up the stairs, walked into my bedroom and took his clothes off before climbing into bed with me. I froze and pretended to be sleep but despite this he pressed his penis into my bottom and started rubbing himself against me whilst touching my breasts. He eventually got up and went back downstairs where they all started laughing.

When I was 20 I went to a gynae clinic with dysmenorrhoea and saw a male gynae Spr. Following a speculum examination he raped me with his hand bunched in a fist. There was a nurse observing and she just turned away. When he’d finished he held his hand up to me to show me that I was bleeding and told me “look what you made me do”. The nurse went and got a sanitary pad for me to wear to go home. It was painful sitting for the rest of the day. I told a friend who told me it wasn’t ’real rape’ and told me to forget about it. I reported it to the trust a year later who promised to investigate but their response was that he had used a poor examination technique and had now moved to another trust so could not be contacted. The nurse apparently said she was not aware of anything having been wrong whilst she was chaperone.

During my clinical skills training I was in a break out group of 6 students practising female pelvic examinations on mannequins. There were 4 men in the group and throughout the session they proceeded to talk about what sexual acts they would do if it was a real person. At the point where one student fisted the model I walked out of the room. I reported the incident to our clinical tutor (and disclosed my experience in the gynae clinic to her) but this didn’t lead to any discussion with us as a group of medical students about what was appropriate behaviour.

These all happened over 20 years ago and I can picture them like they were yesterday.

202

As an FY1 I had an undiagnosed medical condition which prevented me from starting work. The Consultant looking after my care was excellent medically and seemed to take a really kind interest in me. He helped me get through occupational health and into work and he also helped with a transfer application on health grounds. He also offered placements with him for learning purposes which I thought was really kind. He started to email more and change the conversation to personal things. I was initially so grateful that he had helped me that I tried to ignore the discomfort of this. I felt I had encouraged this somehow by being friendly and appreciative. It ended up that after an appointment after declining drinks out, he trapped me in his office and it felt like I was there for hours while other patients waited. He wanted my number, which I couldn’t escape from giving and he texted me repeatedly afterwards. I managed to leave after a Nurse came in to say his patients for the afternoon were leaving because he had kept them waiting so long. I was so grateful that she came in as I was terrified and couldn’t get to the door. I didn’t go back for more medical treatment after that and asked my GP to look after my care instead. Her response to me was that this was common for him and he had left his wife for his previous House Officer so I was just the latest. This did get escalated by the Education team and I had to speak with the Dean who interrogated me on whether I had slept with him and just regretted it and whether I had worn my engagement ring to appointments. It was horrible being a witness, I was threatened by the Foundation team, singled out by the hospital Medical Director to explain why I was doing this and I had my own reputation investigated clumsily by HR. It was an awful process as an FY1 to go through with no support and victim blaming at every level, which I now see clearly, but at the time I was so vulnerable and felt huge guilt and shame.

201

The words “she needs a sh*g” said about me in front of everyone after a professional disagreement with a more senior male nurse, even worse it was said in front of other senior nursing staff who all put their heads down. Biggest regret of my life not reporting it, I was newly qualified at the time. I still think about it filled with anger.

I no longer work in this place.

200

I was working in a department which had a reputation for consultants bullying juniors. Almost all of the consultants were men. They made various comments during the time I worked there including asking how much we (a group of junior female colleagues) weighed, and then guessing our weights, commenting on the Lycra a colleague who cycled to work wore, including saying they’d seen her in the park in her Lycra, and asking us individually when we were going to have children and how we thought we could continue with this career with children. They openly criticised people for working less than full time. Overall it was a toxic, sexist environment, with men who constantly needed to nurse their egos.

199

The on call cardiology consultant has historically been called the COW in my Trust and the neighbouring one that is linked at board level. After nurses and other members of staff expressed unease about using this term when I was on call ( COW is an offensive term when applied to women rather than men) I tried to get it changed to something more suitable. At the time I was the only female cardiology consultant out of 7 in my Trust and 22 in the sister Trust. I asked my clinical lead to change this but it wasn’t changed. In 2021 I suffered direct discrimination at work and met managers where I also raised the issue of the COW acronym. The freedom to speak up guardian and chief people officer were also aware of my concern that the COW acronym was a clear form of sex discrimination. Partial change was made but the term remained in used daily since then. I have raised the issue again in 2023. This time my concerns seem to have coincided in a leadership role being taken from me. The cardiology GIRFT report uses the COW acronym in it to encourage Trusts to have a weekly rather than daily on call rota and this fact has been used as a reason not to change the COW acronym. The COW acronym remains in place in the sister Trust. EASS and ACAS have confirmed that it causes indirect sex discrimination and its presence in a report does not prevent it from needing to be removed. I’ve not had any apology from the Trust for the discrimination I have been suffering esp since 2021. No comment has been made about the underlying misogyny and sexist attitudes that need to be present within the department in order for the above events to have occurred. This is a clear provable and easily fixed case of sex discrimination that even 2 years after officially raising it with managers isn’t sorted and is ongoing evidence of widespread ingrained male arrogance and misogyny in conjunction with a managerial workforce who seem unable to stand up to them.

198

As a locum SHO, I have had several male registrars that found it appropriate to touch my buttock with their hand as they were passing behind me in narrow spaces, such as in a patient’s cubicle or when I’m documenting something in the computer while standing up. I submitted a formal complaint against one of them, but having no evidence or witnesses, the trust said they couldn’t do anything about it. I can only imagine what these doctors do to vulnerable female patients in the privacy of their consulting rooms.

197

A doctor senior to me asked me for sex despite being aware I was in a long term relationship. He then put pressure on me to keep this a secret, denied any wrongdoing and became increasingly angry until I changed my phone number so that he couldn’t contact me any more.

196

I was an F1. There was a consultant in the department who everyone knew was a creep but people excused it by saying it was just a cultural difference because he was not from the UK. One time I took a history from a patient who spoke no English as I knew a little bit of their native language. The consultant said thank you and hugged me in front of everyone and the hug made me feel really uncomfortable. Another time he suddenly stroked my face for no reason and that also made me feel on edge. He had a reputation for finding any excuse to touch female colleagues but nothing was said because he was so senior. I would always do my best to avoid him. As far as I know he’s still working there.

195

I was an F1 in A&E. I once referred a patient to ortho and I got chatting with the SHO because I wanted to specialise in orthopaedics. He said if I gave him my number he would be in touch to try and arrange a taster day for me or something like that. So I gave him my number and he started to send me inappropriate messages saying things like “the night shift would be more fun if you were here because I bet you have more skills than just putting in cannulas”. I told him I was in a relationship. I should have shut him down more assertively but I didn’t want to seem rude and also I wanted the orthopaedic taster day he had promised. He then sent me a picture of him in just his boxers. I didn’t report him because I thought I’d led him on a bit.