health

"The reason I will only ever see a female gynaecologist."

Trigger warning: This post contains details of a sexual assault that may cause distress.

I dial the number anxiously and I dial ahead of the prompts because I’ve called enough times already to know to dial 6 for appointments.

I’ve already called the cancer clinic at my local hospital twice this week, this time I was calling to ensure that the receptionist at the clinic had followed through with my requests from my Monday conversation with a different receptionist.

My appointment was today, yet I was filled with dread at the idea of going because I had this sneaking suspicion that although I had requested a female gynaecologist already this week, they wouldn’t be following it through.

A woman answers, “Gynaecologist Cancer Clinic, how may I help you today?”

“Hi, so I have an appointment today and have actually already called up about this but I just wanted to check who my doctor is today and confirm my request?”

“Oh of course” she replies cheerfully and asks me my details to confirm my appointment.

female gynaecologist
"I was silent, my throat becoming thick and the tears are headed straight for my eyes." Image via iStock.

I wait silently and listen to her fingers rapidly type my details in.

 I’m requesting a female gynaecologist because over the last two weeks I have been suffering from panic attacks, anxiety, suicidal ideologies, disassociation and depression, I have been numb to my life for 2 weeks because of sexual abuse perpetrated by what we now believe was carried out by not one but possibly two separate males.

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In my memory I am young (maybe 7-8 or 9) there is a man, and he is violently shoving his penis into my mouth, I am trying to shake my head back and forth to deter him while I am lying down with tears streaming down my face, I can feel the once warm tears pooling in my ears and I clamp my teeth closed while he tries to force it in, my saliva and whatever else is gathering in stringy globs at the sides of my partially closed mouth.

I am weak, I am small, and he is too strong for me to fight and it is too dark to see who it is.

This memory is not like the others, my original abuser was never violent with me as far as I knew, and I always knew it was him, this one is different.

I don’t know who he is, but what I do know is that whoever it is, is much rougher than I was used to.

When I took this to my therapist he said “if it were him you’d know”. And now when I think back… I could have been anyone.

Now I don’t know about you but I believe a memory where I am struggling in the dark as a child while crying with someones penis being forced into my mouth is a good enough reason not to want a man looking inside my vagina today. Okay? Thanks.

“Okay Antanika, your appointment is at 1:50 and your doctor today is Dr Tom Gyno”

“Oh” I answer her, feeling the fury bubbling inside my chest.

“I called earlier this week and asked for a female doctor and the man I spoke to said it shouldn’t be a problem and that he would see what he could do..." 

She’s quiet for a moment and then says robotically “Well, we always have a female registrar on with the male doctors at all times…”

I was silent, my throat becoming thick and the tears are headed straight for my eyes.

I wasn’t about to take this.

Would you let a man look after your kids? on Mamamia Out Loud. 

“I only ask you see because I am a survivor of sexual abuse and I have had a really full on week of it all and I can’t have a male doctor, not today. Not this week,” I say, as sternly as I can without being a demanding bitch.

“Oh, well we always have a female registrar on staff and in with the appointments, so you have no need to worry..."

“So I can’t have a female doctor today?”

“Well no you’re in with Dr Tom Gyno but he will absolutely have a female registrar in with him at all times…”

Well that's great, because there was a woman down the hallway where I was sexually abused for all those years, so that means nothing to me and my heart drops because I know she’s not listening to me at a time where she should be.

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I feel like she isn’t seeing how important this is to me. And while I am sure it is out of her hands, it is important that she ensures that I am booked in with a female, for obvious reasons. I even requested it at my last appointment 6 months earlier for my next appointment, which is now.

If I can’t have a female gynaecologist at my request then just bloody tell me so I can find a new one myself.

“When you get here I encourage you to come to the counter and one of the registrars will come talk to you about this, it will be kept quiet so as not to embarrass anyone…”

Embarrass? This isn’t embarrassing for me…this is infuriating for me, I want to yell down the phone at her.

“Okay? So there is no chance of me having a female doctor today?” I ask again

“No , but the registrar will stay with you throughout the time…” she repeats.

I get off the phone and walk outside to my husband.

“Nope” a sigh as I flop onto a chair.

He’s mad, he’s searching the net to try and find rules surrounding this but comes up short. I’m anxious, tearful and frustrated, they’re still expecting me at my appointment and I just can’t do it, not today.

It shouldn’t be this big a deal, it shouldn’t even be something I have to worry about. I shouldn’t have to act like a brat to get what I want, I shouldn’t even have to write about this because this shouldn’t be a thing.

If they just gave me an appointment with a female from the beginning as I requested, all of this hurt and frustration could be avoided.

I wouldn’t have to fear my appointment to make sure my pre-cancerous cells haven’t come back, pap smears are awkward enough as it is without throwing a dose of sexual abuse triggers into the mix.

I’ve been to this clinic about five-ish times now and I’ve requested a female every time and not once has anyone followed through with this.

This is important to me and to my healing, yet, I am not being heard.

This is important to me and to my healing, yet, I am not being heard. Image via iStock.
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My voice isn’t being heard.

Do they expect women like me to just deal with this?

My husband isn’t even allowed down there for pleasure at the moment, so why the hell would I allow a man I don’t know down there? Just because a woman is watching doesn’t change the fact its a man shoving a thing inside me and uncomfortably opening up my vagina. And it’s that I’ll worry he will do something to me, it's the fact that it’s a man.

Don’t get me wrong I have no issues with men being gynaecologists, even most other women don’t even mind being seen by a male gyno. (See a study on preferences in gynos here.)

I even had a male midwife and I had a male obstetrician for one of my pregnancies and at the time I had not been dealing with the trauma of my childhood and wasn’t as sensitive as I am now. I also had met these men on various occasions throughout my pregnancy before they delivered my child.

But that doesn’t change the fact that now, for me, it's not okay.

Throwing any kind of sexual trauma survivor who’s struggling with that sexual trauma into a room with a man they haven’t met to stick an object inside her, after requesting a woman is asking for issues. Issues that can not be solved by placing another woman in the room.

I am done putting my boundaries aside because it's easier for someone else. I am done feeling like my issue with this is not important enough to have my requests followed through with.

Sexual abuse or not, what are your experiences with this?

This post originally appeared on Adjust Remembered and was republished here with full permission. 

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