I've been thinking about this post for a couple of weeks now and initially wasn't sure I had something to contribute. I've never been sexually assaulted and can't begin to fathom how violating that must be. But like every woman I know, I've experienced my fair share of uncomfortable, inappropriate situations involving men. Male teachers in high school caressed my hair, played footsie with me under desks, and asked for "dance lessons" after class. I've been groped dozens of times in public places, whether at sporting events or college parties. But there was one person in particular that betrayed my trust the most and he was my doctor.
When I was 24, I finally got around to finding a physician in L.A. that wasn't the same pediatrician I'd seen my entire life. It was the first time I was going to see a male doctor, but felt okay about it after he'd come recommended from a friend at work. I booked an appointment and went in the next week for my first check-up. He never touched me in a way that made me feel uncomfortable, but his demeanor was just a little off. He was too sarcastic, too friendly, too personal. After that first visit, even though nothing happened, I decided to find another doctor. The problem was, I never got around to it.
A few months later, I came down with a bad chest cold and was far too sick to research someone new. I scheduled a same-day appointment with him and went into his office later that afternoon. I sat propped up on his table, in a flimsy paper gown, my legs dangling off the table. He walked in, only to suddenly leave again saying he had to grab something from another room. Moments later he was back, with a camera in hand. I was confused, but because I was also feverish and weak, I wasn't in a state of mind to question him. Before I knew what was happening, he was photographing me. I squirmed away saying it was weird, but was still conscious of not offending him, in case it was me who was overreacting. He claimed that he loved the light that was coming in from the window and that he was working on an album of patients' feet. I remember getting dressed after, still unsure whether or not his behavior had been inappropriate. And despite how uncomfortable he'd made me feel, it wasn't the last time I spoke to him.
I never made another appointment, but called one of his nurses later that year for a prescription request. One of my friends in the Bay Area swore that numbing cream, when applied to her bikini area, made getting waxed much less painful. I wanted to try it out for myself and called the nurse, hoping she could simply have him send it in. Moments later, my phone rang and it was him. He said he would gladly call in the prescription, under one condition: that I'd send him before and after pictures. I was so shocked that I said nothing, awkwardly mumbling some inaudible words before hanging up.
In retrospect, it's easy for me to criticize how I handled these situations. I didn't speak up or defend myself and I've felt a lot of guilt about not doing more. The majority of the time, the incidents involved men in positions of power and I was left feeling shaken and self-conscious. I've always considered myself to be strong-willed and self-assured and now realize that my silence speaks more to societal flaws than my mishandling of inappropriate scenarios. These were things that were done to me and yet oftentimes, I questioned if I was justified in feeling uncomfortable.
If I've learned one thing throughout the #MeToo movement that's swept across my social feeds, it's this: There's power in voicing things that have happened to us. It brings awareness, reinforces that it's not our fault, and that there's strength when we come together.
[Update: Thank you all so much for your incredibly supportive comments. Thanks to your encouragement, I reported him to the California Medical Board this afternoon. It means the world to have such a strong, supportive community behind me. ]