Signs Of Predatory Behavior From Health Professionals

For 18 years, Larry Nassar, team doctor for the United States women’s national gymnastics team doctor, abused his position as a professional to assault over 150 women, who came forward with testimonies at his sentencing hearing. Olympians such as Simone Biles, Aly Raisman, and McKayla Maroney reported that Nassar molested them every time they saw him. Many of Nassar’s victims were minors and some were sexually abused with their parents in the room while he examined or treated them. It is important to be on the lookout for signs that a health professional may be taking advantage of their position of authority, so you can take appropriate action quickly.

Verbal Predation
Health professionals should be centered on asking pertinent questions, listening to your symptoms or wishes to have a check-up and maintaining a medical tone throughout your visit. If you have been seeing the same professional for many years and you have personal bonds in common (for instance, they know your parents or you are friends with their children), normal greetings and questions are acceptable. Sexual or suggestive comments or topics, meanwhile, are not. Go with your gut instinct and observe body language as well as verbal cues. End the consultation immediately if your professional is making you feel uncomfortable.

Physical Signs of Predation
When you visit your doctor, a health examination may be required. If for any reason your doctor needs you to remove clothing (for instance, to examine areas like your chest, back, or abdomen), they should explain the purpose of the examination and explain why they need to examine you this way. Ideally they should obtain your consent to a specific manner of examination. Inappropriate examination clues to be vigilant for include inappropriate touching, the absence of a gown to cover up areas your doctor is not examining, and touching in a way that feels sexual.

Initiating Social Relationships
Your doctor should not express a desire to establish a friendship with you. While it is true that doctors are sometimes family friends from old times, a health professional you meet at a clinic or hospital should not aim to interact with you socially. Before a doctor can commence a social relationship with a patient, the doctor-patient relationship should have ended. 

Seeking Legal and Therapeutic Help
If you have been the victim of predatory behavior from a medical professional, seeking legal and emotional help are key. Taking formal legal action will stop a predatory health professional from harming others physically and/or emotionally. Seeking help from a qualified and trustworthy mental health professional is also vital, since being the victim of predatory behavior can leave long-term scars and cause trauma. Many people who have been victims of predators, for instance, avoid seeking medical help when they need it because they have lost trust in the sanctity of the doctor-patient relationship. Others battle trauma, depression, and/or anxiety as a result of being a victim to sexual abuse.

Some sexual predators who are health professionals assault their patients for years before they are caught. Because patients normally trust their doctors, the latter is in a position of power and abuse is a possibility. It is important to be vigilant for telltale signs of predation (including lewd comments and uncomfortable looks, requests for unnecessary nudity, and a lack of explanation as to why a particular examination is necessary). Above all, patients should always go with their instinct, leaving the consultation if predation is suspected.

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