Sexual Abuse By Health Professionals

Sexual Abuse By Health Professionals: A Personal Search for Meaning and Healing

P. SUSAN PENFOLD
Copyright Date: 1998
Pages: 224
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.3138/j.ctt2ttxf1
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  • Book Info
    Sexual Abuse By Health Professionals
    Book Description:

    A powerful blend of the personal and the professional that penetrates the ?conspiracy of silence? that still holds sway and prevents victims of abuse by health professionals from getting the compassion, understanding, support, and aid that they deserve.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-7983-2
    Subjects: Health Sciences

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-2)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 3-25)

    On 20 September 1994 I found an unexpected message on my voice mail. It was from Pat, a lawyer with a state attorney general’s department, who told me that Dr A’s lawyers wanted to take a deposition from me. My heart began to pound. I felt nauseated and dizzy, replaying the message several times before I was able to grasp the content. I tried to return Pat’s call, but could not reach her. For the rest of the afternoon, trying to focus on my work, I felt shaky and scared.

    Over time I had come to recognize that my confrontation...

  5. 1. Vulnerability and Risk Factors ‘How Could It Happen to an Intelligent Woman Like You?’
    (pp. 26-44)

    When I was seeing Naida, my second therapist, we talked about my three layers of problems. The first involved my separations from my parents as an infant and young child; second was my sexual abuse by my godfather, in which my godmother colluded and occasionally participated; third was my abuse by Dr A. In therapy with Naida, and during my involvement with Dr A, I recalled fragments of memories from my early childhood, perhaps back to somewhere between two and three years of age. My mother was able to confirm these memories, with the exception, of course, of the memories...

  6. 2. Initiation ‘Why Didn’t You Just Walk Out?’
    (pp. 45-63)

    Initially Dr A was my teacher and supervisor, as I was a trainee and he was a professor in a psychiatry training program in the United States. During my second and last year in this program, I had weekly meetings with him. During these hours I would tell Dr A about some of the patients and families that I was working with, and he would advise me about various treatment decisions and approaches. On several occasions he commented, seemingly envious, about my warmth, spontaneity, and ability to express my feelings. One of DrA’s responsibilities was to provide me with periodic...

  7. 3. Entrapment ‘Why Did You Keep Going So Long?’
    (pp. 64-87)

    This is the most difficult part to write about. As I sit staring at the piles of notes and letters, I find myself feeling at first numb, and then tearful, sad, ashamed, humiliated, guilty, angry, powerless, betrayed, duped, used, outraged, and disbelieving. ‘How could I? ... how could I have been so stupid? ... how could I have betrayed my husband and family? ... why did I believe him? ... why didn’t I listen to the inner voice that kept telling me it was wrong and just another seduction and betrayal, another incest? ... why was I so compliant? ......

  8. 4. Escape ‘How Did You Get Out of It?’
    (pp. 88-105)

    Escape, relief from my bondage to Dr A, was a gradual process that started during the last two or three years of my involvement with him, and gathered momentum some months after my final session with him. My disclosure to my women’s group and my confrontation with him in his office began to liberate the anger and dissolve the enormous shame and self-blame that accompanied the recognition of how badly I had been exploited. But, as I will describe in Chapters 5 and 6, the ripple effects of my abuse continued to cause distress and damage, and memories came back...

  9. 5. After-effects ‘How Did You Cope with All That Stuff?’
    (pp. 106-131)

    After my confrontation with Dr A I felt relieved, but somehow dissatisfied. Again, as with our final therapy session, I had a sense of failure. Certainly Dr A had not denied the relationship, but it seemed too easy for him to attribute responsibility to someone else – to me for being powerful and compelling, or to his mother, who never let him grow up.

    Over the next few years my husband’s father died, and my husband grew even more depressed and disillusioned about his work. Our learning-disabled teenager was a source of much stress, and our ‘open’ marriage gave rise to...

  10. 6. Healing ‘Is It Possible to Have a Happy Life?’
    (pp. 132-152)

    Healing, for me, seems to have spread over many years and is intertwined with the subject of the following chapter, ‘Breaking the Silence.’ The journey commenced, I think, when I began to give voice to the ‘angry part’ and then started to read books that called into question my compliance, my reliance on male authority, my respect of male power, and my focus on meeting others’ needs while neglecting my own. It gained momentum when I disclosed to, and was given support by, my husband and the women’s groups I had joined. It was given impetus by my experience with...

  11. 7. Breaking the Silence ‘Can You Disclose without Losing Everything?’
    (pp. 153-179)

    Breaking the silence is very scary, particularly at first. The memory of telling my ex-husband, the first person I confided in, is still vivid. We were lying in bed. He commented that he was glad I was no longer going to see Dr A, but said to me, ‘I know you feel it really helped you a lot.’ I felt close to exploding, knew that I couldn't continue to act as if Dr A had helped me, and started to sob, ‘No, no, he didn’t.’ Flooded with pain, remorse, guilt, shame, and embarrassment, I struggled with myself, wanting to tell...

  12. 8. Towards Less Abuse and More Healing ‘Why Don’t the Professionals Themselves Do More and Care More about It?’
    (pp. 180-198)

    In this final chapter my two voices seem very close, begin to merge. In writing my account, and reflecting on its meaning, I feel that I have moved even further from that deep, dark pit of shame and self-blame. There seem to be so many complicated memories, imprints, and patterns that coalesced to influence my enslavement by Dr A and my capitulation to his labelling of me as angry, difficult, needy, and ‘borderline,’ and his deeming my anger pathological. From the vantage point of having reread all my notes, letters, and journals, and reflected on how they might fit together,...

  13. Epilogue September 1997
    (pp. 199-200)

    Recently I learned that, as a result of several more complaints, Dr A has finally lost his licence to practise. Because of the barriers of secrecy and confidentiality imposed by the inquiry process, I have no idea who the other ex-patients are. Sometimes I imagine what it might be like to meet them. From my involvement with the Therapist Abuse Action Group I know that some survivors have gained validation and support by meeting and talking with other victims of the same abusive health professional.

    By I am left to wonder about Dr A’s other victims. Were they all referred...

  14. Notes
    (pp. 201-218)
  15. References
    (pp. 219-228)
  16. Index
    (pp. 229-233)