Female Surgeons Experienced Sexual Assault While Operating

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U.K. Report Indicates Female Surgeons Sexually Assaulted in Operating Rooms

U.K. Report Indicates Female Surgeons Sexually Assaulted in Operating Rooms

Sep 12, 2023

A troubling BBC News report states that female surgeons in Britain are being sexually harassed, assaulted, and even raped by colleagues.

According to an analysis of staff members working for the U.K.’s National Health Service (NHS), women were regularly sexually assaulted in operating rooms while surgeries took place.

“The study’s authors say there is a pattern of female trainees being abused by senior male surgeons, and this is happening now, in NHS hospitals,” the BBC reported.

The Royal College of Surgeons of England – an independent professional body and registered charity that promotes and advances standards of surgical care for patients in England and Wales – called the findings “truly shocking.”

Sexual harassment, sexual assault, and rape have been referred to as surgery’s open secret,” the BBC said.

The BBC report includes allegations of:

  • Women being fondled in their scrubs
  • Male surgeons wiping their brow on women’s breasts
  • Men rubbing erections against female staff
  • Women being offered career opportunities for sex

The analysis was conducted by the University of Exeter, the University of Surrey, and the Working Party on Sexual Misconduct in Surgery. It was shared exclusively with BBC News.

Nearly two-thirds of women surgeons who responded to the researchers said they had been the target of sexual harassment and a third had been sexually assaulted by colleagues in the past five years,” the BBC reported.

Additionally, women spoke directly with BBC News – many indicating that they feared reporting sexual assaults would damage their careers and expressing a lack of confidence that the NHS would take any action to curb the rampant doctor sexual misconduct.

Women Survivors Speak Directly with BBC News About Sexual Assault Experiences

The BBC News report featured stories from two women identified only by their first names – Judith and Anne.

Judith – now an experienced surgeon – told the BBC she was sexually assaulted early on in her career when she was “the person with the least power in the operating theatre – and a senior male surgeon was sweating.”

[He] just turned round and buried his head right into my breasts and I realized he was wiping his brow on me… You just freeze right, ‘why is his face in my cleavage?‘” she said.

When the same incident occurred a second time, Judith offered the surgeon a towel. “No, this is much more fun,” he said, according to Judith.

“… and it was the smirk – I felt dirty, I felt humiliated,” she told the BBC.

The BBC noted that the sexual assault happened to Judith in the middle of the operating room, “but the sexual harassment and sexual abuse extends beyond the hospital.”

The other woman, Anne, described an incident of rape to the BBC, telling the media outlet that nonconsensual sex occurred at a social event tied to a medical conference.

… he walked me back to the place I was staying, I thought he wanted to talk and yet he just suddenly turned on me and he had sex with me,” Anne told the BBC.

Anne indicated that she froze in the moment and “couldn’t stop him,” a common occurrence with this type of sexual assault.

Report Uncovers Systemic Sexual Assault in British Operating Rooms

The report, which will soon be published in the British Journal of Surgery, included responses from registered surgeons – both men and women – who were invited to take part completely anonymously. 1,434 responded, half of which were women. The findings were alarming:

  • 63% of women had been the target of sexual harassment from colleagues
  • 30% of women had been sexually assaulted by a colleague
  • 11% of women reported forced physical contact related to career opportunities
  • At least 11 incidents of rape were reported
  • 90% of women and 81% of men had witnessed some form of sexual misconduct

24% of men had reportedly been sexually harassed, but the BBC said the findings conclude that men and women surgeons are “living different realities.”

Our findings are likely to shake the confidence of the public in the surgical profession,” Dr. Christopher Begeny of the University of Exeter said.

The British Medical Association (BMA) called the findings “atrocious.” Dr. Latifa Patel, BMA equality lead, told the BBC:

“It is appalling that women in surgery are being subjected to sexual assault and sexual misconduct from their colleagues, at work and often whilst they are trying to care for patients. The impact this will have on their wellbeing for years to come as well as their careers is profound.”

How Often Does Doctor Sexual Misconduct Happen in the U.S.?

Doctor sexual misconduct that impacts patients is a common occurrence in the United States. In fact, California recently passed a law – AB-1636 – which now ensures that doctors convicted of sex crimes will not get their licenses reinstated.

Confirmed doctor sexual assault or misconduct statistics include:

A 2017 exploratory analysis of 101 cases of physician sexual abuse of patients concluded that the primary forms of misconduct found in such instances were:

  • Inappropriate touching (33%)
  • Sodomy (31%)
  • Rape (16%)
  • Child molestation (14%)
  • Purportedly consensual sex (7%)

Additionally, a 2016 analysis of data from the U.S. NPDB showed that from January 2003 through September 2013, 862 physicians had state licensing disciplinary actions because of sexual misconduct (totaling 974 such actions).

Furthermore, the U.S. rate of disciplinary action in cases of doctor sexual misconduct was approximately 9.5 per 10,000 physicians per 10 years.

Your doctor’s background can be checked using the Medical Board of California’s license verification search engine.

Dordulian Law Group: Fighting for Justice on Behalf of Sexual Assault Survivors

For a free and confidential consultation with a dedicated sexual assault attorney, contact Dordulian Law Group (DLG) at 866-GO-SEE-SAM.

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Today, Dordulian fights on behalf of sexual abuse survivors in civil court – working tirelessly to secure the maximum damages awards they deserve. Dordulian is a member of the National Leadership Council for RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network). He created DLG to be a unique and specialized sexual abuse firm offering survivors 24/7 access to a four-tiered support network of sex crimes professionals:

Our Sexual Assault Justice Experts are here to help survivors secure justice. Contact our top-rated attorneys online or by phone for a free consultation today.

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