Share your experience of sexual violence in healthcare
There were 2 news articles in the media recently that were about sexual abuse that was related to healthcare. The victims of someone who pretended to be a GGD doctor and of a doctor called Ruud Vermeulen told their stories.
These types of stories are not singular events. Care providers are in a position of power in society and automatically are labeled trustworthy. This is because you have to trust your body and your life into their hands. Doctors, nurses, care providers in care homes for the elderly and disabled, and in home care, have more access to people’s lives than most people do. There is a relationship of dependency there. There is also the privacy of the doctor’s office and the unclarity that can arise about something being a treatment or care task or not. This creates situations in which abuse can happen faster.
The position of power of care providers and the image of them as automatically trustworthy people also creates a situation in which a lot of victims do not feel safe to come forward with the abuse and if they do find society does not believe them. Nowhere is it as prevalent as in disability care. The numbers don’t lie. Over 60% of intellectually disabled women says they had been victims of (sexual) violence (of which 23% was rape) within care settings. In 2021 the Inspection of Health- and Youthcare received 180 reports of sexual misconduct, 63% procent which was relatie to psychological care.
Perpetrators often can work longer in their care providing roles because of all this, but they can often still work in care because the sanctions system does not protect victims. About a quarter of cases brought to the disciplinary board in the last 4 years led to permanent suspension. The other cases only led to a temporary one or a reprimand. Many of the permanently suspended doctors ended up working again anyway and there are many stories of repeat offenders. Independently employed caregivers could open their office again and doctors made a restart under unprotected labels like therapist.
The victims themselves often are in a vulnerable position, making the chance of being detected or reprisals low. This is especially the case with people who were abused in the past or disabled/chronically ill patients. They go to the police less and often and the entire system that is supposed to help them is often inaccessible to them every step of the way. There is a huge lack of organizations that could help them in this process. The medical care system itself suffers from significant issues with discrimination and a plethore of other problems that make it hard for a lot of patients to access proper care, and makes it so they have to rely on doctors that work outside of regulations.
The position of power and trustworthiness also creates a situation in which non doctors use the label of doctor to misuse this power for sexual assault. To protect their own image, any care institution involved do little to actually help the victims.
Victims have little room to talk or do anything about their abuse and are often not taken seriously. That is why we want to hear your stories and turn them into actions to tackle this issue. Your voice matters to us. Did you experience any sexual transgressive behaviour from a care provider or someone who claimed to be one? Have you had experiences that made you feel unsafe? Leave your story with us and fill in the form.