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#MeToo (in a hospital)

On September 13, 1995, I was sexually abused by a medical student at Shands Teaching Hospital, University of Florida. I was 62, receiving radiation treatments for breast cancer.

On the morning of September 13, I was put in a clinic room to await a doctor for a follow-up visit. I was given a hospital gown. When I had changed into the gown, a medical student entered the exam room and explained that he would do a preliminary exam. He instructed me to lie down on the exam table, then stood next to my right arm as he opened my hospital gown. When he palpated my abdomen, I could feel him leaning against my arm.

As soon as his body touched my arm, I was sure I felt a penile erection. I was confused and shocked. However, there was no other explanation. The student rubbed his erection against me while I was lying on a table with my abdomen and breasts exposed. I felt too paralyzed and confused to do anything. However, when he left the room and reentered with a staff physician (the head of Radiation Oncology), I asked her for a private interview. I explained what happened but she didn’t believe me. (Was I sure that wasn’t a banana in his pocket?!).

Here’s the letter I wrote to the Director of Radiation Oncology the day after the incident.

________

14 September 1995

Nancy P. Mendenhall, M.D.
Director, Department of Radiation Oncology
University of Florida Shands Cancer Center
Gainesville FL 32610

Dear Dr. Mendenhall:

I’ve reflected on the incident of sexual misbehavior of your medical student, Mr. K—- T——, which I reported to you yesterday. I find that I can’t just shrug off this abuse. If I am correct, it has probably happened to other women examined by Mr. T—— in the past. It will probably happen again unless the problem is addressed.

To document yesterday’s episode, I had breast surgery and radiation therapy last year and have been reporting for follow-up visits to Radiation Oncology since then. When I reported for my regular checkup. I was initially seen by a medical student, Mr. T——, who is on rotation at Shands but is attending medical school in Miami.

After a brief interview (with no one else present), Mr. T—— had me lie down on the examining table.  After opening my hospital gown, he began to palpate my lower abdomen. At the same time, he moved his pelvis against my right arm, which was extended at my side. I felt what seemed to be an obvious erection against my upper arm, although at first I sought an alternative explanation. My initial reaction was, “This can’t be. It’s too weird. He must have something in his front pocket.” I felt sort of paralyzed but then thought, “Well, after I get off the table, I’ll look and see.”

Mr. T—— didn’t have his coat buttoned and I could see, extending from his groin down alongside his right thigh, a mound that looked like a healthy erection to me. I’ve had enough experience as a heterosexual woman to know one when I see one.

At that point, I was left alone in the room to await you and the medical student together. I decided that when the two of you came in the room I’d ask to see you alone. I did, and you reacted with disbelief.

I’ve talked to a couple of women friends about this episode for purposes of reality-testing. One said, “What was a medical student doing in a room alone with you doing an exam that included palpation of the lower abdomen and breasts? All the doctors I’ve ever gone to have had a nurse in attendance.” Another said, when I told her that he was otherwise acting normal and friendly, “Of course he was! That’s part of the sexual abuse scenario … a way to confuse the female and prevent her from acting.” Sexual behavior would be especially disconcerting, she pointed out, in a physician’s office where the trust level of patients is generally high.

This is the first grievance I have ever reported to Shands or any other medical center. I hope you will follow up on it.

Sincerely yours,

Barbara G. Cox, Ed.S.

______________

As far as I know, Mr. K—- T——  (now Dr T——) may be out there still molesting women because my complaint was never investigated. I’ve no doubt that he’s done this more than once. According to information on the Internet, the young man, now a doctor, is currently on the staff of a Florida hospital in the Tampa Bay area.