Doctor blogger exploits stories of birth rape and assault, ridicules victims

// 13 May 2008

When we published Amity Reed’s feature on birth rape, we knew it would be controversial. Amity wrote about the women who go into hospital to give birth, and leave having been violated.

She said:

Women are slapped, told to shut up, stop making noise and a nuisance of themselves, that they deserve this, that they shouldn’t have opened their legs nine months ago if they didn’t want to open them now. They are threatened, intimidated and bullied into submitting to procedures they do not need and interventions they do not want. Some are physically restrained from moving, their legs held open or their stomachs pushed on.

Meanwhile, Debs posted on a similar issue at The Burning Times, and she described what happened when she withdrew consent for a vaginal medical procedure, and yet the doctor continued on regardless. She also described this as rape, and wrapped up into a general discussion of this type of under-reported, under-recognised medical assault.

Whether these experiences counts as rape in a legal sense may well be open to question. But, in using this specific word, these writers were describing the real experiences of themselves and other women who have been subjected to unnecessary medical procedures, have been penetrated against their consent. Once upon a time, it was considered impossible for a husband to rape his wife. I am not sure if the wider definition of rape which is described and used by feminists such as Amity and Debs will ever be legally recognised as rape, or even if that is really the best term to use.

But the women who experienced it called it rape, even if it is not recognised as such by the wider world. And what I do know is that when women describe an experience as rape or assault or violation, those words are worthy of respect. It is not acceptable to dissect that story in your blog, to pick apart a personal testimony of assault, to ridicule and question the mental state of the woman telling that story, let alone in order to score points about “coffee chair feminists” and proponents of home birth.

Yet this is what ‘Dr Crippen’ from NHS Blog Doctor did in this post. Yes, when you publish something on the Internet, you are opening it up to commentary from anyone and everyone. But there are acceptable and unacceptable forms of commentary, and responsible ways of talking about these issues that do not appropriate stories abuse, assault and suffering, disregarding the impact that may have on the humans behind a computer screen somewhere reading your words – not only the women you attack, but the other women who have been through trauma and rape, and see what happens when you open your mouth and tell your story.

Debs has posted her own rebuttal to ‘Dr Crippen’s’ post, which goes through blow-by-blow what was said, so I won’t replicate her work – go there for the full account.

However, I would point to this remark from ‘Dr Crippen’:

No, Debs, you have not ever been raped. If you had, you would not be talking like this.

This blogger does not know Debs personally. He has no idea what prior experiences of sexual assault and rape in the ‘traditional’ sense that Debs has had. Has he been raped? I have no idea, but even if he has, it does not give him the right to define what reactions the victims of sexual assault do and do not have.

Rape victims are ‘supposed’ to act/talk in a certain way, and clearly people have got used to measuring up victims’ behaviour against this archetype, and now think it’s acceptable to set themselves up as judges of who has and has not been raped – that is the only explanation I can come up with for this arrogant exercise in toying with other people’s descriptions of being violated for blog fodder.

Comments From You

Anshii Himemiya // Posted 14 May 2008 at 7:06 am

i have to say that i find the sentiment of this doctor incredibly disturbing. as someone who has obviously studied for years to care for the most sacred and intimate parts of a woman’s body, i don’t understand how he is so woefully lacking in empathy.

i’ve tried to share as much on the site his blog is posted on.

Sarah // Posted 14 May 2008 at 9:31 am

I used to read Dr Crippen’s blog regularly, it was often interesting and witty, however I stopped after being really put off by the misogynistic attitudes he seemed to have, especially with respect to abortion and childbirth (home birth in particular). He seemed to have an inability to grasp the idea that women are human beings with the same human rights as everyone else, including the right to refuse medical treatment if they choose. And that we are still human beings while pregnant.

Sonja // Posted 14 May 2008 at 10:00 am

What a patronising git. What a product of medical professionalisation! “I KNOW BEST!” – that’s still part of the Hippocratic oath, right? Errr, no, “Dr.Crippen”, it never was, you lickspittle. Oh – and one of his earlier posts is on “Mooncups”. Doesn’t get it, makes a joke, raises a “knowing” eyebrow to his conservative pals: well, they also advocate Ken, so maybe menstrual cups aren’t all that great, ha ha ha… “Would Boris approve of them?” WTF?! What an A*SE. Am I allowed to write that without an asterisk? Arse.

Anne Onne // Posted 14 May 2008 at 10:34 am

I especially like his ‘pseudo-feminists’ obsession. Because any feminist who disagrees with his manly doctorly lordship can’t be a real feminist! Quick, ladies and gentlemen, present your feminist credentials to the good doctor for inspection! Don’t agree with him on any issue? You’re not a feminist!

Does this cretin even consider himself a feminist anyway? If he does, he might want to listen to the women he thinks he cares about, and learn something. If not, then why the hell does he think he can define feminism if he’s totally ignorant of it?

‘Why are all feminists pseudo- feminists’ to him? It can’t be that if all these women (many of whom have experienced rape of all sorts, including the stranger-out-of the bushes rape he believes is the only form of ‘real’ rape) who are feminists have an issue with penetration of a woman’s vagina against her will, with an object (technically rape in legal terms, even), might actually have a point! No, much easier to pretend that all the women are being hysterical

Dr, when YOU live your life with the very real danger of being raped, when you can get pregnant, and have your vagina penetrated when you withdraw consent, when you can be belittled by staff who should have your consent foremost in their minds, no matter how ‘well meaning’ their intervention is, and when you experience what these women have experienced, then you can tell us whether you think it’s rape. Until then, you’re nowhere near qualified to talk about what powerlessness over your body and reproductive system means to someone else.

And you know what? This is one area where all your hard won letters after your name aren’t worth a damn. Because even you, in a position of authority you no doubt enjoy immensely (seeing how you like to use it as an excuse to tell everyone what they did and didn’t experience), are not qualified to talk about this. You have no idea what it’s like for rape victims of any sort, so stop speaking for them. Using rape victims of one sort to insist others weren’t really raped is a vile act only marginally above rape apologists in terms of malice.

But I bet you’ll chalk it up to yet more ‘pseudo-feminists’, even if every single feminist disagreed with you. Because in the end, you seem to think you get to decide what feminism is.

Stop for a second. Read, I mean really read what these women are saying. Remember for a second, that you as a man are statistically more likely to rape than be raped. Listen to those who are more experienced and more qualified in this issue than you, and leave your privilege at the door, and you might learn something. If you can’t do that, then at least have the decency to stick to your own narrow experience, and leave women out of it, because apart from the rudimentary biology, you clearly know nothing about them.

OOh, I have a joke:

What do you call a feminist that believes penetration without consent is rape? A pseudo-feminist!

What do you call a feminist who disagrees with the doctor? A hysterical pseudo-feminist with an obsession who can’t possibly be raped and should just shut up whilst the men talk.

You know what, doctor? We’re not laughing.

Debs // Posted 14 May 2008 at 12:25 pm

Nicely said, Anne! You’ve said pretty much what I wanted to say.

Dr Crippen is terrified because I think he actually knows that I and Amity are telling the truth. He knows that, and knowing that means he has a difficult choice to make: does he admit that sometimes “medical men” get it wrong and go too far and actually violate their patients, or does he play the all-seeing, all-knowing godly man and declare that it is not rape and the women saying it is are mad? He goes for the latter, naturally, as it is far easier, but his discomfort is evident in his post. He protests too much and relies on “science” and diagrams and name-calling to make his point. He knows he hasn’t got a leg to stand on.

He has no idea of women’s experiences because he is incapable of listening to them without his filter of male medical school privilege getting in the way. So, as often happens when someone doesn’t understand something, instead of trying to understand it he mocks it and insults the women saying it.

“coffee shop feminist”, “pseudo feminist” etc are such meaningless insults, I didn’t even bother to address them in my rebuttal, but what I did address is this; Dr Crippen’s obvious fear and hatred of women, which make him nothing more than your classic misogynist.

I really hope he never has the chance to go anywhere near a woman’s body, as the damage he could do with his attitudes towards and belittlements of women’s experience could be immeasurable.

Cara // Posted 14 May 2008 at 1:08 pm

Firstly, the experiences these women had were utterly horrible and violating. No medical procedure should ever be continued if the patient asks for it to stop. If it will hurt, they must be warned adequately. If it should not normally hurt, as stated by Debs, the clinician should say “tell me if it hurts and I will stop” AND THEN ACTUALLY DO SO. An inexperienced, nervous doctor should be willing to stop if it’s not working – if both parties are getting stressed, things will just get worse – know when to give up!

The utter disregard for their patient’s humanity is stunning. Many doctors are arrogant and callous.

And “Dr Crippen” – what a moron with a hugely overinflated ego!

I would hesitate to call these experiences rape, however. By definition, rape is about sexual acts. That’s why it is so horrible a crime – it makes something that should happen because both parties have feelings of affection and desire, into an act of violence.

Medical procedures are never going to be enjoyable. At best, they are something tedious you get over with.

Just to reiterate, what happened was awful and unforgivable, though – no proceedure should ever be done without consent. It is certainly time the medical profession started treating patients as, gasp, equal partners in their own care.

Soirore // Posted 14 May 2008 at 1:16 pm

I’m just wondering; do the NHS know that he is saying such things in their name? It seems to me that their PR department wouldn’t be too happy with a high-profile doctor who dismisses women’s reports of abuse as hysterical or mistaken. It is especially worrying as he claims that he works with rape victims and shouldn’t be doing so when he belittles women’s experience like this.

JENNIFER DREW // Posted 14 May 2008 at 1:18 pm

Very well put Anne. Methinks the Doctor doth protest too much!! Could it be as Debs says he knows he is in the wrong so resorts to misogynstic name-calling and of course he mustn’t challenge other doctors who do violate their code of practice. To do so would be to violate the ‘old boys network.’

rooroo // Posted 14 May 2008 at 2:34 pm

I’m with you Cara.

I feel like I’m stuck between a rock and a hard place regarding this, as I have been sexually assulted, and I would never want to tell another woman what she felt or experienced is or isn’t x/y/z. What I felt almost 9 years ago is still picture perfect in my memory.

I’m also a medical student, and on the flip side of the coin, I appreciate that some women will need assistance in giving birth and it can be a heavily traumatic process.

By definition, a friend of mine was subjected to assault and battery because she was given an episiotomy without her consent. However at the time, her baby’s head had been crowning, then all of a sudden, the heart rate crashed, and she needed to be out *now*, owing to the risks of hypoxia etc, there was no time for discussion, consent etc. Time = brain cells. In speaking to my friend about it, she was a little shocked at the time, but was glad the staff acted in the way they did, and they gave her a full debriefing afterwards of what happened and why, and left it open for her to speak to her midwife again should any issues arise.

I’m not sure how helpful it is however, to call bad medical care/unprofessional staff/assault etc rape. I believe a woman has every right to describe something as she sees fit, but in the long term, I’m not sure how that will help her to come to terms with whatever happened, and move on. I believe communication is the key in any medical setting, and if there is an emergency situation where dialogue cannot take place, then full provisions for discussion afterwards should occur.

As much as there are bad apples out there, I have met some utterly fantastic obstetricians and midwives, who only want the safe delivey of a woman and her baby. I don’t think insinuating that they are potential rapists etc, is entirely helpful in working towards minimising birth trauma.

Amity // Posted 14 May 2008 at 3:15 pm

rooroo, I understand where you’re coming from and appreciate your compassion for these women. However, I never branded ALL doctors and midwives as rapists. I know there are many more ‘good apples’ than there are bad.

However, the existence of one group does not negate the existence of another. There are, indeed, medical professionals who wield their power without due care and consent from those they are treating and that is simply not acceptable. Looking only at the intended outcome and not at the rights or concerns of the patient is not okay, no matter how well-intentioned. Would an emergency team amputate someone’s arm without their or a family member’s consent, even if they felt that the small delay caused by asking could potentially endanger their ability to successfully save the patient? In most cases, no, they would not. Even if they just quickly say “We need to amputate NOW or you risk dying, do you give your consent?” they should at least give their patients the option of saying No or asking more questions. Especially when in cases like the one you described with your friend, the risk was not to her life but her baby’s, for which she should have retained complete decision-making for since it was still within her body.

So many things are done to women “for the sake of the baby” or “their own good” and the line between a woman’s bodily autonomy and the ‘rights’ of the foetus are easily blurred, as we know from the abortion debate. The fact that some feminists find it easy to say “Yes, it is always her choice” when it comes to conception and pregnancy but want to put limits on her authority during birth just says to me that we are still unsure of what our rights are as women and bearers of life. We either have control or we don’t. And that includes up to and at the moment of birth.

Shea // Posted 14 May 2008 at 4:19 pm

Damn good post Anne. Can you become a guest blogger? Thats exactly what I wanted to say.

Debs- good on you in coming forward with your experiences. I found “Dr Crippens'” Blog to be a spiteful exercise in ignorance and you are completely right– his attitude betrays a marked lack of understanding and empathy which is deeply worrying.

Rooroo – I don’t think anyone is insinuating that all obs & gynaes are “potential rapists” thats absurd. But there are mavericks in the ranks and they need to be dealt with. The “Dr Crippen” attitude of lets ridicule these women and their experiences, rather than face up to our responsibility to weed out the bad seeds -is at fault here.

It’s our responsibility as doctors to be aware of our own levels of competence and fitness to practice and the same goes for our colleagues. Above all protecting the patient and ensuring their health and safety is paramount. Also listening to the patient– its a lifelong and vital skill. Emergency situations are the exception, but in a routine procedure if a woman doesn’t consent to continue then you don’t. This idea that “doctors know best” should have been put to bed long, long ago.

FWIW- my opinion is that being a doctor is a privilege. We get access to patients at their most vulnerable and witness their most intimate scenes. If you can’t appreciate that and muster sufficient empathy and humility then you simply don’t belong in the profession. Something that I wish the “Dr Crippens” of this world would realise.

Alex T // Posted 14 May 2008 at 4:25 pm

Apologies if this has been said elsewhere – and I could be wrong – but didn’t the real Dr Crippen murder his wife? (Or several wives? Or other women?) And doesn’t this choice of pseudonym tell us all we need to know about this man?

Sarah // Posted 14 May 2008 at 4:29 pm

I realise that there are sometimes emergency situations where there isn’t much time for explaining the procedure and obtaining consent – however these situations don’t just happen in pregnancy and childbirth. The same ethical standard should be applied regardless of whether the patient is a pregnant/birthing woman or not – and rooroo would probably know better than me what that standard is, and what is considered good practice in these cases. The important thing is that a lower standard is not applied for women/pregnancy/childbirth.

I agree that the debriefing afterwards was a good idea, also it is a good idea to have a birth plan and some discussion before the birth about possible problems that might arise, and what interventions would be offered. Of course birth is unpredictable, and you can’t plan for everything, but I think there would be a lot of value in doing this.

And I second what Amity said – that a woman always has the right to refuse medical treatment, even if it would save her life, even if it would save ‘the baby’ – I think there is a real tendency to lose sight of this fact (women are human beings, including while pregnant) in the rush to save lives/babies at all costs. There are people who would deny us the right to abortion and even contraception to ‘save babies’ – how far are you prepared to go in that direction?

I appreciate that it must be terribly frustrating for medical professionals when someone refuses treatment that they need, but I think it’s very important that we have that right.

Anne Onne // Posted 14 May 2008 at 4:46 pm

Cara, rape isn’t really about sex, though, it’s about power. And it comes in different forms, from complete lack of consent, to not caring when someone asks you to withdraw.

Doctors have one main task they must achieve: good care for their patients. Whilst I understand that the procedures to be carried out are not fun, and can ba painful, there must be adequate warning and explaination, so that the patient knows what they are getting themselves in for. If the patient is insistent that the procedure stops, wherever possible, the clinician should make all attempts to stop, and talk to the patient. Funny how he spends more time talking about coffee-shop feminists than addressing the problems with procedures and experiences of many patients. It shows where his real priorities are. Even the rape victims he talks about are just a cheap prop for him to wheel out to get other women to shut up about their own experiences. Funny he even believes in rape. We are so glad he’s that generous.

Thanks, Debs. I know the insults aren’t as important as the main focus, but it really makes me wonder who he thinks he is, deciding who is a feminist and who isn’t.

I also really hated how he kept belittling Debs needlessly and repeatedly. ”Debs does not understand it”, ”information that Debs can only convey in a paragraph” or ”Debs does not understand female anatomy.” and ”Debs poor understanding of the test, and her exaggerated presentation of the facts…”, instead of sticking to the facts. Now, if you’re a decent person, and not lazy or cheap at rhetoric, you don’t need to, and won’t stoop to focusing on how stupid someone is because you disagree with them, but would focus on the facts at hand. Disagreeing with the definition of their experiences of rape is one thing, but belittling people who are referring to their own personal, difficult experiences is cheap. Especially when it really has nothing to do with you.

And the silly diagrams? A pro-lifer could have come up with better ‘science’. Women may have all sorts of shapes of uteri, but that has nothing to do with whether a medical attentand should pause and remove the device if the patient is insistent. So hiding behind childish insults and diagrams doesn’t really give you much of a high ground.

And he says that independent midwives practise in a ”touchy-feely but fraudulent framework of medical practice ”! As opposed to what, good doctor? A callous environment where the best interests of the patient, and their consent is ignored, where doctors cover for each other’s malpractice, and think they can get away with anything? It always surprises me when people in a supposedly caring profession talk about compassion as a bad thing. Shows them for the arrogant, cruel jackasses they are. Yes, doc, ”the generalisation about NHS doctors and midwives being callous, arrogant, inconsiderate and lacking in empathy is an unsubstantiated slur.” It is a slur, (though they never claimed all or most medical staff fit this pattern) on the staff that are actually decent human beings. For people like this doctor, I couldn’t have said it better myself.

It’s a shame, I was planning on reading his blog, but since he really doesn’t like feminists, or women, he’s not worth the time.

Debs // Posted 14 May 2008 at 6:19 pm

I don’t really know why I’m wasting my time, but I have asked for an apology twice now on his comment thread for the “Debs, you have never been raped” line, because, actually I have been raped 4 times (not counting this ‘medical rape’), and I don’t want him to get away with making arrogant assumptions about me or any other woman.

Still waiting…

Jess McCabe // Posted 14 May 2008 at 9:49 pm

Debs – well, it does at least help show him up to his other readers, you would hope…

Anne Onne – Can you email me if you see this?

Dr John Crippen // Posted 14 May 2008 at 9:58 pm

My anger about and criticism of Debs and Amity relates to their exploitation of the word “rape” and their inappropriate use of it. I only came to their posts because a female blogger quoted my own post about the dangers of home deliveries supervised by people working outside the NHS.

It is a shame that so many of you seem incapable of having a rational discussion about the issues. If you wish to engage on that basis, I am happy to continue.

I am not trying to “exploit” the bad experiences that any woman has had during obstetric care. But I will stand up and argue when people like Debs and Amity attempt to portray the medical and midwifery profession as being populated by sadistic, sexually exploitative perverts.

A bad obstetric experience can have devastating effects on a woman….. but it is not rape.


Dr John Crippen

Seph // Posted 15 May 2008 at 12:07 am

Did I miss the meeting that gives random doctors the right to decide what rape is and is not?

Wether it’s a penis or a friggen chew toy, if someone’s sticking things in a woman’s vagina that she doesn’t want in it, it’s rape.

L // Posted 15 May 2008 at 12:49 am

Dr. Crippen, for you to denigrate the experiences of women who have been traumatized by people in your profession shows an EXTREME lack of sensitivity and I am so thankful that a person like you is NOT caring for me in my pregnancy. Nowhere did she say that all medical professionals are like this (reading her comments above would show this) but rather what has been done by some docs and midwives. Anyone doing something to me, medically, sexually, whatever, without my explicit consent is to me assault and battery…rape easily fits in there.

Amity // Posted 15 May 2008 at 7:35 am

John, I have replied to your repeated assertion that I brand ALL birth attendants as rapists and have explained repeatedly that I do not. Please see my comment on the ‘Amity responds to birth rape’ post for more.

Debs // Posted 15 May 2008 at 8:15 am

Dr Crippen said, “I will stand up and argue when people like Debs and Amity attempt to portray the medical and midwifery profession as being populated by sadistic, sexually exploitative perverts.”

Actually, neither I nor Amity ever said that – but you just did, which I find very telling.

Anne Onne // Posted 15 May 2008 at 10:16 am

It’s quite telling that instead of having the ‘rational discussion’, you brand anybody who disagrees with you as incapable of having one. No, I don’t think many people would like to continue a discussion if you insist they are incapable of rational thought.

Really, how did you manage to refrain from using the word ‘hysteria’? Come on, it must have been really tempting, seeing as how you pretty much accused us of it anyway.

You have a right to disagree on what constitutes rape, and nobody’s arguing you don’t. Problem is, as someone who neither has the fear of rape hanging over your head, nor is a rape victim, nor a woman, why should your opinion on what ‘rape’ is, or how to classify it matter more than that of women who do live with that reality, and have been raped and assaulted?

And why on Earth do you think you have the right to be angry if some women class what happened to them as rape? You weren’t there, you don’t know what happened, and worrying more about the victims’ wording than about the event itself puts the emphasis on the wrong thing, even if you do disagree with that definition of rape. but it’s much more convenient to argue about semantics than admit the reality, which is that whilst many medical professionals give quality care and are supportive of their patients, some are not, and this is harmful and needs to be dealt with.

The way you addressed yourself in that post did not come accross as supportive to the women who were recounting the experiences. You talk about how devastating these experiences can be, but when women talk about them, you ignore what they say, misreading it to mean they think all doctors are perverts, and your reply on why it is not rape was more personal attack than substance.

I disagree with your opinion on whether it was rape, but that’s irrelevant, because you have a right to put forward your view, and it was not the view per se that we reacted to. It was the way in which that view was put forward, and the way in which you ignored and belittled women whilst talking about something that affects them and not you, and branded anyone who disagrees with you as irrational that we object to.

Laura // Posted 15 May 2008 at 11:03 am

Calling women irrational, denying their experiences, telling them what does and does not constitute a feeling of violation, publically accusing them of lying: this is sadly the kind of attitude many of us have come to expect from figures of authority when we speak up about abuse, and you are a perfect example of that attitude, John. Your arrogance and lack of empathy is astounding.

I suppose by “rational” conversation you mean one which is devoid of any pesky feminine emotion. But this whole debate is centred on emotion, on feeling, on subjective experience, and until you can understand that you will continue to get us coffee shop feminists right royally pissed off.

Juliet // Posted 15 May 2008 at 1:21 pm

I have read quite a few doctors blogs and found them frightening because they all express such contempt for patients, particularly female patients. Obstetrics and gynaecology are generally regarded as the lowest branch of the medical profession.

My personal experience has been with gynaecologists and dermatologists. Despite patients being supposed to have more rights now and be listened to more, I have found that doctors still absolutely HATE it if you know anything at all about your condition and can argue with them or ask pertinent questions.

I’m very glad I knew something about the conditions I suffered from, as it enabled me to disregard some very bad, downright wrong, advice. People should inform themselves as much as they can and never settle for just one opinion. That’s essential. You can be lucky and get someone good the first time, but often you won’t.

You are right, Alex T, the original Dr Crippen did murder his wife. He tried to escape abroad with his ‘mistress’, who was dressed as a boy, and he was eventually caught and hanged. I agree with you, the fact that this blogger calls himself Dr Crippen says all we need to know about him. But maybe Crippen is his real name! I knew a doctor called Butcher.

Cara // Posted 15 May 2008 at 3:50 pm

Anne Onne:

Yes, I know rape is not about sex but power.

However, I don’t believe rape has *nothing at all* to do with sex – rapists get sexual gratification (as well as whatever else they get from it) from this abuse of power.

As you say, they may go from those who think “oh well, no doesn’t mean no, she wanted it really” to those who know full well they are committing rape.

Whereas I think those clinicians who continue with a medical procedure without consent generally mean well – not, I repeat not, that it makes doing so OK. I hardly think they get sexual gratification from it! The action may be rooted in misogynist beliefs e.g. that women are more sensitive to pain and complain of it more than men, so no need to listen to them – but I just can’t equate the act with rape. It doesn’t have the same level of malice. Total arrogance and disregard for others, yes, lazy contempt for the humanity of patients, yes – but the motivation would be things like getting the procedure over with quickly/ avoiding having to rebook etc. Sure, rapists may justify their actions to themselves and never call it rape, but they know it was wrong and it is rooted in hatred of women.

That said – I defend the right of anyone to call their experience whatever they like. The term rape certainly gets across the feelings of violation. Maybe this is how it is meant – as “the experience was *like* rape”.

Perhaps it’s a coping mechanism – if you have to deal with say, 50 people a day with whatever medical problems you have to be detached. Taken to extremes, this results in abuses such as Debs and Amity describe. Not to mention – I have heard of people being refused anaesthetic to stitch their wounds after they self-harmed, and equally, procedures being performed on autistic people and people with learning disabilities without anaesthetic. It is most definitely a problem.

I had one consultant – when I had an injury – come into the office of the doc who was seeing me and advise them, without even looking at me or acknowledging me in any way. How hard would it be to say Hello and look at me ffs?!

As an antidote to the medical person bashing, and example of good practice – a travel nurse who had the unenviable job of giving me vaccinations for a holiday was great. I hate needles and have a tendency to react badly to vaccinations, and was at the time working on my MSc dissertation with much stress and no sleep, had booked holiday just after finishing, clever idea. So I was very stressed and in meltdown, saying I can’t be ill right now and I can’t deal with this but have no other time I can get the jabs. The nurse talked through my concerns, and said if I didn’t want to get the jabs I didn’t have to. She could so easily have projected an attitude of “don’t be so silly and waste my time”. But she didn’t. Consequently I felt calmer and found the jabs less painful, and was less concerned about feeling ill. (As it happened I was OK.) I don’t think I would *truly* have consented to the injections if I had been pressured into getting them, and I would have felt treated like a non-person.

Extra time taken for the nurse – about 2 minutes. It is not that hard for medical staff to be considerate and treat you like a real person.

“Dr John Crippen” – you are most definitely a patronising idiot. And do stop imagining Debs and Amity said things that they didn’t.

Jess McCabe // Posted 15 May 2008 at 4:00 pm

However, I don’t believe rape has *nothing at all* to do with sex – rapists get sexual gratification (as well as whatever else they get from it) from this abuse of power.

While I see what you’re getting at, I think this is a bit of a dangerous test of what is and what is not rape. Given that penetration does not have to be with a penis to make it rape *legally*, what about cases where a woman is raped with an object (outside of this medical context we are talking about)? How do you tell what cases do and do not involve sexual intent/gratification?

JENNIFER DREW // Posted 15 May 2008 at 6:32 pm

Quite right Jess the legal definition of rape now is either penetration of a person’s body via a penis or penetration of a person’s body wherein an object is used. Therefore, if a patient does not consent to being penetrated by a medical instrument or even a medical person’s hands this is rape. Of course not all women experience what is commonly called birth rape when they give birth but we must not dismiss the numbers of women who have suffered ‘birth rape’ because increasingly childbirth is being treated like a conveyer belt wherein the focus is not on the mother’s welfare but instead ‘how quickly can we get this woman to give birth’ irrespective of whether or not certain procedures are the right ones for her. Because of medical doctors’ privileged position of power over patients this means some doctors do abuse their position of power. Not all doctors (Dr. Crippen please note). This is why cases such as birth rape need to be raised otherwise it will remain hidden and far too many women will suffer in silence. Dismissing women’s experiences as ‘hysteria’ was common among 19th century medical doctors which arose just when medical doctors were increasingly being seen as the ones dispensing knowledge. But at the same time male medical doctors were dismissing women’s medical problems as ‘hysteria’. Surely it could not be because so many of these male doctors held misogynstic views.

Why else do you think doctors are supposed to obtain written consent from a patient whenever an operation takes place. There is no presumption ‘doctor knows best’ instead the patient is supposed to be able to give free and informed consent. Yet when a woman is in the process of giving birth all too often she is treated as just a machine not as an individual human being with certain rights.

Sally // Posted 16 May 2008 at 12:19 am

I think that what’s happened in these cases is often as bad as rape, possibly even worse because of the initial level trust in the medical profession that most people have and because it is happening at such an important and intimate time in their lives. But legally, it isn’t rape, and I think the use of this word is distracting people from the main issues.

Sexual Offences Act 2003

If you look at the legislation it says this about rape:


A person (A) commits an offence if—

(a) he intentionally penetrates the vagina, anus or mouth of another person (B) with his penis…”

The closest sexual offence would be ‘assault by penetration’, but this requires that the penetration is sexual.

“Assault by penetration

(1) A person (A) commits an offence if—

(a) he intentionally penetrates the vagina or anus of another person (B) with a part of his body or anything else,

(b) the penetration is sexual,

(c) B does not consent to the penetration, and

(d) A does not reasonably believe that B consents.

(2) Whether a belief is reasonable is to be determined having regard to all the circumstances, including any steps A has taken to ascertain whether B consents…”

Sexual is further defined in the Act as:


For the purposes of this Part (except section 71), penetration, touching or any other activity is sexual if a reasonable person would consider that—

(a) whatever its circumstances or any person’s purpose in relation to it, it is because of its nature sexual, or

(b) because of its nature it may be sexual and because of its circumstances or the purpose of any person in relation to it (or both) it is sexual.”

The explanatory notes on the Act ( specifically mention that medical procedures are excluded – “where the penetration is sexual (as defined in section 78), so that it excludes, for example, intimate searches and medical procedures…”, though obviously if a supposed procedure is carried out for sexual reasons they will not be exempt, as in this case,

Doctor guilty of sex assault on teenager

Debs says:

“Almost, to me on a personal level, whether it is called ‘rape’ or not is irrelevant. What is unavoidable here is the cavalier attitude of (usually male, although I have experienced this from female doctors, too) doctors to women’s bodies, and their denial of women’s experience. ”

Which I can understand and agree with to a point. But using the word ‘rape’ may make it easier for doctors and others to deny these terrible experiences.

shatterboxx // Posted 16 May 2008 at 11:49 am

Given the conviction rate, I’m not sure I trust the law for it’s understanding of rape, to be honest.

Anne Onne // Posted 16 May 2008 at 8:01 pm

Cara, I get what you’re saying, and it does run through my mind a lot. When I originally read the birth rape post I felt conflicted and confused by the language, and I certainly haven’t got it all sorted as to exactly how to describe it.

Maybe it’s because I see it as similar to when a man continues a sexual act when the woman has taken away consent, because that isn’t necessarily an inherently malice-laden action, at least, not in the minds of a society which sees consent as something that can’t be removed once given. Whilst there are many men for whom rape is actively enjoying the fact that you have forced someone else at your mercy, I think it’s too simple to say that all rape involves malice. *

The thought process of many men who don’t stop when she asks (and are hence rapists) probably has similarities to those of medical examiners who continue after a patient withdraws consent- it’ll only take a short time, it’ll be over soon, it’s not that bad really etc. I don’t think it’s the case that either actually are deliberately harming the victims in most of these cases in sadistic way, but that it’s behaviour indicative of very little empathy or basic consideration of another person, and believing that what matters to you should override what matters to the other person.

Sex and medical procedures are similar in that there is an element of trust implicated in both, that the person is someone we don’t believe wants to harm us, and has our best interests at heart. It’s this betrayal of trust, when the victim feels violated and betrayed by someone who should have listened, and who minimises what happened, or browbeats the victim saying it’s not wrong, that is similar between both.

In a general sense, rape by stranger-in-bushes, partner rape and rape by medical instrument are all very different, and I respect the right to have this discussion over the language, so long as it’s done with respect for the victims.

*This is in no way implying that I think forms of rape are more or less ‘wrong’ than others based on whether they actively intended harm, or to remobe blame from men who rape their partners. I just think that rape is an incredibly complicated issue, which, no matter what we disagree on, I think we could all agree on!

Evie Noel // Posted 20 May 2008 at 3:06 am

I have been raped. When the student OB broke my water after lying to me and saying that my babies were post-dates, (at only 39 weeks) and were going to die from a “failing placenta”(and neglecting to add that the boys were likely to be premature, and that I had a 50% chance of a surgical birth) it was like she was holding a knife to my throat. That is rape.

When a M/W forcefully lays you on your back after only 4 pushes, grabs the PCA and paralyzes you against your will (with no medical reason – I have the chart), and forces you to stay supine for an hour and a quarter, so the Dr. is able to add extra time to the length of the labor so he can perform an “emergency” c/s for “Dystocia” it is rape.

When your GP has trouble giving you a pap because you are experiencing flashbacks – it was rape.

Birth is just as sexual as conception, but during birth we and our babies are exponentially more vulnerable. Over the past 10 years surgical birth rates have skyrocketed, so have birth traumas, low birth weights, preventable injuries, and deaths. When women enter the hospital there are foreseeable risks about specific “interventions” that are not being divulged to birthing families. When these procedures are performed under duress, and without consent, it is rape.

In Australia, where I live as an immigrant, the surgical birth rate is 2/3. That’s 66.6%. If you subtract 15% for necessary c/s, and 1% for true dystocia, your still left with 50%. A true coin toss. This also means that IT IS NOT THE FAULT OF WOMEN AND THEIR BODIES, OR THEIR BABIES, IT IS SOLELY BECAUSE OF THE ACTIONS OF THE ATTENDANTS.

For anybody, anywhere, who has a problem with the term “birthrape”, please feel free to substitute it with “trafficking in women and children” or “fraud”. Because the “professionals” involved are hiding the risks, these instances have evolved out of malice, and at the very least are assaults.

And for those in the medical profession, when women are scheduling c/s to avoid unwanted “attention” from hospital staff members, this further highlights the ever growing ethical catastrophy that is modern maternity care – either jump ship or go down with the boat. It’s time for responsible Dr.’s and M/W”s to FULFILL YOUR ETHICAL OBLIGATIONS AND REPORT PATIENT ABUSE, INJURY, AND MALPRACTICE. And for the politicians: Fix it or find yourselves another profession.

Debs // Posted 10 June 2008 at 9:58 pm

Just to say the good Dr has mentioned both me and Amity again in a blog post that seems to be implying that female rape victims are liars (or something) – as a result I have password protected my ‘Medical Rape’ post so that people coming from his blog won’t be able to see it.

I am still recovering from my previous rapes and it really doesn’t help when some pompous, egotistical “doctor” starts calling you a liar and sending lots of trolls to your blog.

I haven’t got the link to his post, but it’s his latest one I think, with the title “Rape Victims”.

Anna // Posted 10 June 2008 at 11:14 pm

“But Kathy, whatever happened in the hospital XRay department, awful though it may have been, was nothing like rape. Was nothing like being pounced on in the park and being pulled into the bushes.”

Oh, so THAT’S rape. I am speechless as to their ignorance and arrogance, disgusted and I feel like I’m about to throw up.

This is a subject quite close to my heart at present having just been subjected to an extremely unpleasant swab test by an incredibly nasty doctor who treated me like a piece of meat ‘we’re going to have to clean this one out’, then flicking my blood all over me – I was having a miscarriage at the time – and continues to exert control over my body, telling me it’s not in my best interest for my implant to be removed. Bastard.

A.Gray // Posted 22 June 2008 at 6:29 pm

I was ‘raped’ by my midwife. There is no more accurate word in the English language to describe what happened to me. I was lying on my bed when she *without my consent or knowledge* decided to attempt to stretch my cervix open when I was close to complete dilation. I screamed. I said NO. I said STOP. I BEGGED. She did not stop and she had no right. Her actions resulted in a cervix too battered and abused to birth. I was so swollen and close to tearing. My beautiful home birth was ruined and I had to endure a cesarean delivery. I was educated and I explicitly stated I did not want any interventions. She did this against my will and the surgeon will tell you that her actions caused the problem. My point is, if I as a woman do not have the right to tell someone to get out of my vagina, what right do I have? And if I as a woman tell you to get out of my vagina and you do not, it is rape. Period.

MC Kean // Posted 24 June 2008 at 5:08 pm

I suffered medical rape as well. After writing, “no males” on the consent form, after rejecting a male student they tried to get me to consent to after being drugged, they sent the boy to my husband to introduce himself and rush away before he could say anything. This is not legal consent, but he and other males where in the room, involved in prep, exams, and the mastectomy and OBGYN surgery, they did the same thing again w/ a colonoscopy. Now I have an STD, w/my husband of 20 + years does not have, and I had tested neg for months before the surgeries. Medical rape reinforces a culture of rape, a culture of disrespect for women’s autonomy. It sets up a secret cover and hide situation that will help them cover any abuse. The practice exams can cause physical trauma similar to rape, so who is to know if they rape or not? Been under anesthesia recently? Get full STD screen and make sure to get a Herpes 2 test by blood. Going under soon, insist that a family member be present the entire time you are under the influence of their drugs. Take it from someone who found out the hard way, they will not listen and medical rape serves to stimulate and cover a sexual rape.

MCKean // Posted 31 December 2008 at 9:14 pm

I have heard many stories of pelvic exams that amount to rape. The women are right, the lack of consent is what “rape” turns on, not perps intent. There is not reason why we should have to read his mind. If she does not consent, is forced, manipulated, lied to, or drugged to gain compliance, then it is rape. Just because it is done by a nurse or doctor does negate this fact.

Furthermore, establishing a culture where women’s rights are not respected invited a short slide from medical rape to sexual assault. After being subjected to medical rape several times, someone did take a little slide and now I have Herpes 2, an infection my husband of over 20 yrs does not have. This has caused both physical and mental harm. Your arrogance is only exceeded by your ignorance and hate.

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