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In France, the beginnings of a #MeToo in hospitals

Photo: Thomas Coex AFP According to a 2021 survey, 38.4% of female medical students said they had experienced sexual harassment during their hospital internships, 49.7% from “sexist remarks”, and 5.2% from “inappropriate gestures” of a sexual nature.

Elia Vaissière – Agence France-Presse and Isabelle Tourné – Agence France-Presse in Paris

6:56 p.m.

  • Europe

After the accusations of an infectious disease specialist on the actions of a sexual “predatory” emergency doctor, the word is freed in France in the hospital world where, according to professionals, a climate favorable to sexist and sexual as well as a tradition of secrecy.

In an investigation by Paris Matchpublished on Wednesday, Karine Lacombe, head of the hospital infectious diseases department at Saint-Antoine hospital in Paris, accused emergency media physician Patrick Pelloux of “sexual and moral harassment”. In October, she had already described in a book – without naming him at the time – the “lustful gaze, wandering hands” and the “dominant behavior” of this seasoned doctor, whose reputation was already “well established” .

Famous in France since the heatwave of 2003 for having alerted the media to the soaring mortality rate, then as a columnist for Charlie Hebdo and in other media, Patrick Pelloux assured him in Paris Match that he had “never attacked anyone” but admitted having been “rude” in the past.

The union of Paris hospital interns launched a call for testimonies on Friday.

They are already multiplying on social networks under the hashtag #Metoohopital, a liberation of the words of victims of sexual violence which has been initiated in France in the worlds of cinema, politics and sport, in particular.

And in recent weeks, testimonies of abuses committed within the armed forces have poured in under the hashtag #MeToo of the Armed Forces, pushing the government to announce on Friday the creation of an inspection mission on sexual violence within the armed forces. military forces.

Kahina Sadat, vice-president of the National Association of Medical Students (ANEMF), confirms that “for 48 hours testimonies have been pouring in” under #Metoohopital. “It’s no surprise,” she said.

An ANEMF survey carried out in 2021 already showed the omnipresence of this violence: 38.4% of female medical students said they had suffered sexual harassment during their hospital internships, 49.7% of “ sexist remarks”, and 5.2% of “inappropriate gestures”, hands on the buttocks, touching and other “sexual gestures”.

Among the testimonies received: salacious remarks, “for example: 'You changed for the operating room, I would have preferred you to come naked'”.

“We have been denouncing it for years,” underlines Pauline Bourdin, representative of the FNESI, the main union of nursing students, who also conducted an investigation in 2022.

One in six aspiring nurses claimed to have been the victim of sexual assault during their training, mainly in hospitals. Victims described unwanted “hands on their thighs,” “massages” or “kisses” from colleagues and supervisors.

“Rifle Culture”

Most remain silent, because “in the hospital, there is a strong sense of secrecy”, close-knit teams who sometimes “exert strong pressure so that nothing comes out” and “management which sometimes covers up these actions”, adds Ms. Bourdin . Students and professionals come to fear for their careers.

Medicine also suffers from “a rifle culture” which “trivializes sex during studies” and “exposes itself to sexist humor”, comments Florie Sullerot, president of the National Intersyndicale of interns of general medicine (ISNAR-IMG). In some boarding schools, students eat in front of obscene frescoes, which can depict “even scenes of rape,” she describes. Added to this is a “strong hierarchy”, which generally places power in the hands of men.

The whole thing creates “a favorable climate” for violence, even if the feminization of the profession gradually “liberates” speech.

This omerta, Cécile Andrzejewski, journalist, author of Silence sous la blouse, explains this in part because of the dedication which drives some of the staff. “Let's imagine a woman who works in a pediatric oncology department, who sees sick children”, she will say to herself: “Yes, my boss is giving me a hard time, but compared to what my patients are going through, that's not the case. is not so serious. There has been a kind of self-sacrifice at the hospital for years,” she reports.

“There is this persistent idea that as we deal with death, with serious things, we should be released, without taboo on the body, but suddenly it is no limit“, also analyzes Delphine Giraud, co-president of the national association of orthogenic midwives (ANSFO).

“Sexism and sexual violence have no place in hospitals,” commented Friday on X the Minister of Health, Frédéric Valletoux, promising to quickly bring together “associations, employers and professionals” to “work on a response global and firm.”

But “the hospital is a reflection of society” and violence “occurs there as elsewhere”, underlines Dr Rachel Bocher, psychiatrist and president of the inter-union of hospital practitioners INPH. She assures that to date she has not received “a wave or increase in complaints”.

Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116