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Sexual assault by a nurse

(19 Posts)
RealisationDawn Tue 21-May-13 12:06:00

Not sure if this is the right place to post this but something happened many years ago to me and I think I was sexually assaulted by a female nurse. I was about 17 and saw a nurse at my Dr's surgery. I remember being there for a smear test but not sure if that can be correct because it seems terribly young. Anyway, I was 'examined' by a female nurse and she inserted her fingers into me and felt around, placing her other hand over my vagina. She then asked if I examine my breasts and I said I didn't, so she showed me what I should do. Her fingers were inside me the whole time. I felt extremely uncomfortable about it and went away wondering whether that was right or not. I never spoke about it. Now I am older I realise it was completely wrong. I don't know if I should report it as it was so long ago.

littlemissgiggles79 Tue 21-May-13 12:10:44

I am so sorry that happened to you.

How long ago and do you remember her name?

To start with request copies of your GP notes. you'll be able to see what the consultation was supposed to be for.

RealisationDawn Tue 21-May-13 12:13:22

Thank you. I don't feel scarred by it but it did put me off going there and I still feel awful every time I have to have a smear. So perhaps it has scarred me.

It was about 22 years ago and I don't remember her name.

Itchywoolyjumper Tue 21-May-13 13:32:26

OP, what terrible thing to happen to you.
I think you're right, the nurse's behaviour sound way beyond the bounds of a normal investigation. There are legitimate reasons to examine a woman by placing fingers inside her vagina, mostly where you are concerned about PID, but it doesn't sound like what happened to you at all.
LittleMiss' suggestion is brilliant, even if you don't remember her name it'll be in the notes or the notes will help to lead to her. You could also try some of these:
Have you googled any abuse survivors' groups in your area? They might be able to help you process this and help you report this if that's the way you want to go.
Would you feel happy discussing this with an other nurse or doctor? If so your local sexual health clinic might be a good place to start. A lot of clinics have helplines so it may be that you wouldn't even have to go in.
The NMC are the nurses regulatory body and this will be the organisation that deals with complaints like this. If you look on the website they should have contact details and I would be very surprised if they weren't interested in helping you get to the bottom of this.
Lastly I am a nurse and I am so sorry someone in my profession has done this to you, we're supposed to help you feel better not leave you with damage lasting a lifetime. If you feel able I think you should report her.

cory Tue 21-May-13 16:15:06

Just wanted to point out that in my young days (70s/80s) routine gynocological examinations did involve the doctor/nurse having a feel inside you. I had that done on numerous occasions by various medical professionals and so did all my friends at various surgeries and clinics: it was as much part of a routine examination as having your blood pressure taken at an ordinary medical appointment. As far as I can remember it was even explained in the appointment leaflet that this is what the procedure will involve.

Even smear tests were a lot more invasive (and painful) in those days: I can't believe how quick and easy they are these days.

Of course it may be that you were indeed sexually abused. But if all you remember is somebody having a feel inside you, then there may be an innocent explanation.

Guiltypleasures001 Tue 21-May-13 16:35:58

Hi Op

I too remember very much back in the early 80's being examined like this for internals etc, i though it was very much the standard thing too.

But the fact is this memory has been triggered for you now in some way, perhaps further explaination with a counsellor might be worth thinking about.

Sorry for your feeling awful over this too

RealisationDawn Tue 21-May-13 19:50:41

Thanks everyone. I have always had it at the back of my mind. I think the reason I am thinking more of it lately is because of all the high profile sexual abuse claims that are in the media. Also, I had a smear test today and it brought it all flooding back.

Perhaps I should request to see my notes.

ThePinkOcelot Tue 21-May-13 20:04:26

Hello OP, I too remember internal examinations being like this. Where the nurse or dr would have their fingers inside you and have their hand on your body just above the vagina, think it was another way of feeling for things from the outside. Smear test were done younger then too, no having to wait until you were 25.
I am not trying to belittle your feelings at all here, just trying to allay your fears and let you know that I think it might have been a normal examination. However, if you feel you need to look into this further, to help you then Little Miss suggestions were spot on.
Take care xxx

RealisationDawn Tue 21-May-13 20:40:56

Like I say, I don't feel particularly scarred or tortured from it. As it was happening, I didn't like it and felt extremely uncomfortable, and as though it was inappropriate. But I suppose because I was so young, I didn't say anything to anyone. As the years have passed, I have thought perhaps it was wrong.

Thank you Pink for your advice.

littlemissgiggles79 Wed 22-May-13 11:04:55

Get your GP notes and then have a think. if you are not sure you don't want to risk the reputation if someone who May be innocent.

cory Wed 22-May-13 13:02:58

Don't jump to conclusions if it says something vague like routine gynaecological examination: unless you can remember something suggestive or unpleasant about the nurse's manner, that is likely to be exactly what it was. They did do them like that, exactly like Pink describes: "Where the nurse or dr would have their fingers inside you and have their hand on your body just above the vagina, think it was another way of feeling for things from the outside." Most of them will not have had any inappropriate motives or ideas: they just did what they had been taught at medical school. The last time I had an examination like this was about 20 years ago.

Dahlialover Wed 22-May-13 16:25:53

Normally they would have two fingers inside you and press down on your abdomen, just above the pubic bone to be able to feel if ovaries or uterus are enlarged from the inside. Thank goodness for ultra sound! I had this done over 30years ago, but by a doctor and it was explained fully. Not had it done since.

Not sure why anyone would need to leave fingers in you for a breast exam.

Since then, I have had an internal at a FP clinic which involved sticking his fingers in my vagina for a matter of seconds - not sure what was achieved there, a breast exam by a heavy breather and twice a breast exam by a female doctor whilst sitting up, through my clothes. I think these were incompetant rather than pervy and regret not complaining at the time. It is so difficult to make sense of what has happened to you at the time and to know what/how to deal with it.

Definitely worth a look at your notes - this was not available at the time - and take it on from there. I am sending you lots of good vibes.

SolidGoldBrass Wed 22-May-13 16:31:04

Another one who thinks that it may well have been a normal examination: such things are not terribly comfortable and, if you were 17 and a bit shy you might well feel upset and embarrassed at the mere fact of having a stranger touch your vagina and breasts even when the stranger had no inappropriate intentions. She might just have been clumsy or indeed embarrassed herself if she was new to the job.

Lucylloyd13 Wed 22-May-13 16:33:00

The fact that you felt uncomfortable is valid in itself.

Was this a sexual assault? Difficult to tell, impossible to prove retrospectively.

A1980 Wed 22-May-13 17:37:54

I remember having a really uncomfortable one in the late 1990's. Fingers and speculum after at length.

Then later being fitted for a diaphragm: I think the guy had half his hand in at one point along with an instrument to measure size.

These things aren't comfortable by definition.

maypoledancer Wed 22-May-13 18:20:40

The fact that you felt uncomfortable is valid in itself.

Er, no it isn't. Lots of medical procedures, examinations and investigations make you feel uncomfortable.

Some people talk about an old fashioned type of vaginal examination. It is not old fashioned and is still taught at medical schools. It's called a bimanual exam, bimanual because both hands are used. Basically the clinician inserts two gloved and lubricated fingers inside the vagina and the other hand on the lower abdomen. By palpating the cervix and pressing on the abdomen the top of the uterus can be felt from the outside (the fundus). This gives information about its position, size and if it causes pain, health. By moving the fingers inside the vagina towards the left and right aspects of the vaginal vault (ie the top of the vagina either side of the cervix) and pressing upwards the adnexae can be examined from the outside. These are the areas internally either side of the uterus where the ovaries and fallopian tubes lie. Pressing down with the outside hand allows masses to be felt in these areas and can localise them with some accuracy.

A speculum is used to visualise the cervix and is another routine investigation. If someone has bleeding after sex for example then this might indicate some (usually completely normal) change to the skin covering the cervix and this can be seen on speculum exam.

It's not pleasant having either of these procedures done and it feels odd having a stranger's fingers inside your vagina. It's also uncomfortable learning to do these procedures at the beginning because they relate to examining sexual organs. And if they are done thoroughly it takes a few minutes to complete a full bimanual and speculum exam.

I had surgery a few years ago for something called a rectocele. This is where the rectum herniates into the vagina causing a bulge inside the vagina. It can cause constipation and discomfort. It's nearly always related to childbirth injury (it was in my case) and is based on the normal fascia in between the two cavites being weakened or damaged. It can also be associated with uterine prolapse (where the uterus is less well held up and drops down into the upper vagina).

Anyway, long story but to check for a prolapse a good gynaecologist cannot just examine for it with the patient lying down. So I had a thorough bimanual exam lying down and then had to stand up to be examined internally (simply because gravity causes things to drop down, so unless you allow gravity to work you cannot tell if there is prolapse). I undressed behind the curtain and I had to stand undressed from the waist down while a male, very smartly dressed gynaecologist stood in front of me and inserted two gloved fingers into my vagina to feel for any degree of prolapse. Thankfully there was none. I also had to squeeze his fingers so he could check the strength of the muscles of my pelvic floor.

I admit at the time it was impossible to completely dissociate it from sexual things. Why? Because I had never had a man put his fingers into my vagina when I was standing up unless I was having sexual contact with him. And it felt pleasurable in some ways, not because I saw the gynaecologist in a sexual way or because he was in any way unprofessional but because it was a pleasant sensation physically despite the context.

But it was all normal and appropriate; actually he was doing his job well because if he had not done a thorough examination - including examining me standing - he might not then have made such a successful job of my later surgery.

There is more sensitivity perhaps (reluctance?) to perform intimate examinations than there was once. This can be appropriate. If a woman comes for her six week check after having a baby she is offered a pelvic exam if she has any concerns or wants her stitches checked etc, but it is not insisted upon and if she doesn't feel the need for it then it isn't necessary.

But simple physical examinations can provide lots of information for doctors and nurses. They can reveal things like fibroids, ovarian tumours and if they cause some pain this can also be indicative of underlying pathology.

It's very important to be aware that there are, very rarely, cases where clinicians sexually assault patients and to be vigilant to this happening.

But it's also important to understand why these exams are done and to accept that they involve actions (like putting fingers into a vagina) that we all associate with a sexual context. That doesn't in itself make them inappropriate or sexual in themselves, though it does feel psychologically uncomfortable for the patient (usually not the doctor or nurse, unless they are very very inexperienced).

I hope this is helpful.

maypoledancer Wed 22-May-13 18:27:50

I'd also like to point out that routinely a patient should be offered a chaperone for an intimate examination and that someone should always be available for this. This is something that wasn't done much in the past and it is better practice to do it.

Having a chaperone is for two reasons. First, to reassure the patient. But second and more important to the doctor/nurse, who as a professional knows what is appropriate anyway, it is to protect the clinician from any future accusation of impropriety. This is why a chaperone won't be a relative of the patient. The chaperone's name and job title must be recorded in the notes.

HamsterDam Wed 22-May-13 18:34:51

have most of you missed the fact that she did the breast examination with her fingers still inside?? you don't check breasts with 1 hand whilst lying down. sounds very wrong to me, so sorry you went through that x

RealisationDawn Wed 22-May-13 18:51:32

Thanks, Hamster. Yes, unfortunately she did feel my breasts at the same time as her fingers were inside me. She also placed her hand on my vagina whilst her fingers from her other hand were inside me. So, that is on my vagina, not on my abdomen.

I appreciate all the other comments about was was correct procedure many years ago but I know that what she did to me was not innocent. I just feel like I need to speak about it anonymously.

Thank you everyone.

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