Gynecological violence: women say they are “prisoners of the examination table”

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Gynecological violence: women say they are “prisoners of the examination table”

They denounce painful gynecological examinations, actions taken without notice or inappropriate comments.

There is no precise definition to describe gynecological violence. These are often gestures, words or practices that can have significant consequences.

Gynecological and obstetric violence is difficult to quantify in Quebec. However, they exist and can have serious consequences for those who experience them. While more and more voices are being raised to denounce them, gynecologists recognize that we must focus on it.

What was supposed to be a simple routine gynecological examination has had serious consequences for Laure Warda. When she inserted the speculum, the doctor was so abrupt that the 32-year-old cried out in pain.

At the time of having the Pap test, she did not dare tell him that she was in a lot of pain. I know a Pap test is not pleasant, but this was worse. I bled, she says.

“She really hurt me. It's like I got nailed to the table.

— Laure Warda

Afterwards, Ms. Warda answered questions about her sexual health. She told the doctor that she had had about ten sexual partners in the year.

She looks at me and she says, ''Anyway, you're busy''. I felt like garbage at that time, there are no other words, confides the young woman.

At the time of the facts, Laure Warda did not know how to name what she had experienced. At the time, I was knocked out. I put it in a drawer in my head of all the traumatic experiences we go through and want to forget. I thought to myself it's okay, it happens.

She knows today that it was gynecological violence. There is no precise definition to describe this violence in very diverse forms. It is often gestures, words or practices that can have significant consequences for women.

“It's the words that speak to me. #x27; hurt the most. The judgment I experienced that made me very, very uncomfortable. »

— Laure Warda

Laure Warde recounts what she experienced during a routine gynecological examination.

Laure did not dare to undergo a gynecological examination for four years, after what she had been through. It's a place where you're supposed to feel safe as a woman. Living with this kind of comment is not normal, she laments.

People who are afraid to return to seek care, that does not surprise me. I often hear about this, says Lorraine Fontaine, executive director of Regroupement Naissances Respectées.

She has been interested in the phenomenon for more than 20 years and knows that this violence has significant consequences for women.

Lorraine Fontaine, Executive Director of the Regroupement Naissances Respectées

People who have experienced gynecological violence, it lasts a lifetime. Even if it only happens once, she says.

There is little, if any, data on the subject, but she asserts with certainty that it's more common than you think.

“What is the scale in Quebec? We don't know, we can't measure. We can only tell you that we hear hundreds of testimonials. ”

—  Lorraine Fontaine, Executive Director, Regroupement Natales Respectés

Moreover, many women have testified by email to having suffered gynecological violence that marked them.

Dr. Marie-Josée Bédard is an obstetrician-gynecologist and professor in the Faculty of Medicine at the Université de Montréal. She was made aware of the issue five years ago.

Since then, she has campaigned for better education of health professionals.

It is by doing education in our communities that will happen less. With our nurses, our midwives, our doctors, everyone, says Dr. Bédard. is not acceptable. »

— Dr. Marie-Josée Bédard, obstetrician-gynecologist

She believes that the culture is changing. This is just the beginning, I think it will continue like this, she said.

The Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists of Canada (SOGC) also recognizes the existence gynecological and obstetric violence.

Executive Director Dr. Diane Francoeur says the organization's position is very clear. We must do everything and do everything possible to stop this, she said.

Diane Francoeur, Executive Director of the Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists of Canada (SOGC)

The rapid pace and the overloaded health network contribute to the problem, according to her. It can be difficult to get an appointment and there is often no time once in front of the health professional.

There is a great need to improve communication between women and health professionals. We must encourage women to talk, to tell us their secrets. Sometimes we ask questions, but women don't say they had painful exams that traumatized them, says Dr. Francoeur.

“Women shouldn't be afraid to say it. It's too important.

— Dr. Diane Francoeur, Executive Director of the Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists of Canada (SOGC)

The problem is everywhere, says Dr. Francoeur. We see it in the United States, Great Britain and France, she says.

In France, the subject is making headlines again. This time, it is the Secretary of State and gynecologist Chrysoula Zacharopoulou who finds herself in the hot seat. She is the subject of three complaints for rape, committed during her gynecological activity, in 2016. An investigation is underway.

In Quebec, the College of Physicians neither affirms nor denies no information regarding potential complaints of this nature against health specialists, but reiterates its position. The College condemns all forms of violence and abuse towards patients and will intervene whenever necessary.

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