Female and male surgeons have reported being sexually harassed and assaulted by colleagues, including being fondled inside their scrubs, according to the findings of a new study in the UK. Here’s the shocking results of the study.
Anonymous Study of Over 1400 Surgeons
The analysis was done by the Working Party on Sexual Misconduct in Surgery, the University of Surrey and the University of Exeter and published in the British Journal of Surgery. Of the 1,434 registered surgeons who responded anonymously to researchers, half of which were women.
Two Thirds Reported Sexual Harassment
The researchers found 63% of women had been the target of sexual harassment, 30% of the women had been sexually assaulted by a colleague, and at least 11 incidents of rape were reported.
The report stated that men were also subject to similar kinds of harassment, as 24 per cent claimed to have been sexually harassed.
Culture of Silence
In addition, 90% of women and 81% of men said they had witnessed some form of sexual misconduct and spoke of a “culture of silence”, where people feared if the incidents were reported, it would damage their careers, and they did not have confidence that the NHS would take action.
Fondled Inside Their Scrubs
The report revealed untold stories of female surgeons being fondled inside their scrubs, men rubbing erections against the women staff and male surgeons wiping their brows on the breasts of female colleagues.
In the study, some staff claimed they were even offered career opportunities in exchange for sex.
Wiped His Brow in Her Cleavage
One surgeon said a more senior male staff member sexually assaulted her while colleagues looked on. Judith told the BBC that she froze when the senior male surgeon buried his head in her breasts as he wiped his brow on her. She recalled thinking, “Why is his face in my cleavage?”
She said she then offered him a towel after he repeated the action and he smirked, telling her “This is much more fun.” “It was the smirk, I felt dirty, I felt humiliated,” she remembers.
Judith added: “He wasn’t even the most senior person in the operating theater, but he knew that behavior was ok and that’s just rotten.”
Philippa Jackson, a consultant plastic surgeon, spoke of an incident where she discussed a patient with a male colleague when he tried to hug her.
She said: “He made some noises and rubbed himself against me. And then, as he backed away, he said ‘You probably felt my erection then,’ and he also told me he could see down my top. Ms Jackson said she did not want to make a fuss because we were about to go into the operating theater and I don’t think I had properly registered what had happened.”
Even Outside the Workplace
Another woman, who wished to remain anonymous, said that after a social event tied to a medical conference, a consultant walked her back to her residence.
Her Body Froze
She described her trauma “So, 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.”
She said at that moment her body froze and “I couldn’t stop him, It’s not what I wanted, it had never been what I wanted, it was totally unexpected.”
Even years later the incident had left her feeling emotionally numb.
People Were Shocked on Social Media
There were hundreds of responses to the story on Reddit and X.
A Reddit user said “It’s horrific how widespread this is. And how low some people can be.”
What’s Happening to Unconscious Patients
An X (formerly Twitter) user posted “If that’s happening to conscious employees then what about all the unconscious people being operated on – it’s so frightening. Anyway, the way we look at rape and sexual assault needs to change.”
Feeling Very Icky
Another agreed, stating “Suddenly feeling very icky about the numerous times I’ve been put under in a room full of male theater staff wearing nothing but a loose gown.”
“Head wiping on the chest should have been an instant dismissal.” declared a reader.
Lives in Their Hands
“Scary to think you put your very lives in these peoples’ hands.” A Reddit contributor commented.
MeToo Moment for Surgery
Tamzin Cuming, a consultant surgeon and chair of the Women in Surgery forum at the Royal College of Surgeons of England, called for a “seismic change in the culture of healthcare”.
She added that this is a “MeToo moment” for surgery.
Living Different Realities
Meanwhile, the report concluded that men and women surgeons are “living different realities”
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Featured Image Credit: Shutterstock / Jacob Lund. The people shown in the images are for illustrative purposes only, not the actual people featured in the story.