comScore Sarah Silverman's Mammogram Story Is Infuriatingly Familiar | The Mary Sue

Sarah Silverman’s Mammogram Story Is Infuriating and All Too Familiar

Sexual harassment between doctors and patients is an underreported phenomenon.

from ÒI Love You, America with Sarah SilvermanÓ appears on stage at The Paley Center for Media's 2018 PaleyFest Fall TV Previews - Hulu at The Paley Center for Media on September 7, 2018 in Beverly Hills, California.

Sarah Silverman shared what she referred to as “a shitty time” during a routine mammogram in a post on Instagram.

Silverman wrote, “He [the doctor] opened my gown and put gel on my breasts and smeared it around with his bare hands. Then he started talking to me about my chest X-ray (I also got a chest X-Ray) and was pontificating with my boobs just out and covered in gel and cold and finally I said “Hey-can we either talk about this when I’m dressed or WHILE your doing the ultrasound? I’m not comfortable with my breasts out just shooting the shit with you.”

She continued, saying “Look, I truly don’t think he was getting off on it, BUT it is his job to be aware that this is vulnerable for a woman. Wear fucking GLOVES – this isn’t a date. For him to be so arrogant that he didn’t even internalize the problem when I said something to him about it last year is obnoxious and probably a subconscious power thing if we’re getting deep.” She ended the post by writing, “All this to say speak up. Trust that thing in your gut that tells you this shit ain’t right.”

 

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I had a shitty time at my mammogram appt today. I have to get an ultrasound after my mammograms because I have dense breasts (insert joke here) and this radiologist — the same man I had last year — I do not like him and here is why: He opened my gown and put gel on my breasts and smeared it around with his bare hands. Then he started talking to me about my chest X-ray (I also got a chest X-Ray) and was pontificating with my boobs just out and covered in gel and cold and finally I said “Hey-can we either talk about this when I’m dressed or WHILE your doing the ultrasound? I’m not comfortable with my breasts out just shooting the shit with you” Okay so — he smears the gel on with his hands and NO GLOVES on and when he glides the ultrasound wand thing over my breasts he drags his fingers on them and it fucking bothers me. Again, AS I TOLD HIM LAST YEAR, I said “Hey! Do you need to be touching me with your fingers?” He said “No”. And he pulled them off of me. Then he added “I do that for balance.” I said “Well I believe in you and I think you can do with without your fingers on me” Look, I truly don’t think he was getting off on it, BUT it is his job to be aware that this is vulnerable for a woman. Wear fucking GLOVES – this isn’t a date. For him to be so arrogant that he didn’t even internalize the problem when I said something to him about it last year is obnoxious and probably a subconscious power thing if we’re getting deep. That was my last mammogram with this dude. Or any dude. Look. I’m a grown woman and I’m fine. But this guy does this with everyone and I know that personally it took many years into adulthood before I spoke up for myself. It’s uncomfortable and too easy to think it’s all in your head. And arrogant fucks like this doctor take advantage of women’s socialized instinct to not speak up. All this to say speak up. Trust that thing in your gut that tells you this shit ain’t right. ♥️

A post shared by Sarah Silverman (@sarahkatesilverman) on

Whether they choose to acknowledge it or not, physicians and medical professionals are often in a position of power over their patients, a similar power dynamic shared by students and teachers, clergy and parishioners, etc. Medical treatment frequently finds patients at their most vulnerable, often stressed and scared. It also requires nudity and close physical contact, where the lines between what is uncomfortable and what is abuse can easily be blurred. And because doctors and medical professionals are held in such high esteem in society, public opinion usually favors their version of events.

The Atlanta-Journal-Constitution published a massive investigative report in 2016, titled the Doctors & Sexual Abuse Project. The AJC surveyed records from all 50 states and found that, from 1999-2015, more than 3,100 doctors faced public accusations of sexual misconduct.

Even more concerning, the AJC told ABC News that state medical boards allowed more than half of the sanctioned doctors to retain their license and continue practicing medicine.

Carrie Teegardin, part of AJC’s reporting team said, “We found a culture of secrecy … It’s treated with a sort of secrecy that we don’t see in other arenas when we’re talking about allegations this serious. It’s still swept under the rug in so many cases.”

Doctor J. Kent Garman, the former president of the Stanford University Hospital Medical Staff, issued a series of measures known as The Garman Guidelines, to protect doctors and patients alike. The guidelines include allowing patients privacy to undress and offer gowns or sheets to cover themselves. It also includes offering the patient the option of having a same-sex nurse or office assistant in the room during breast and pelvic exams, as well as thoroughly explaining each procedure and refraining from flirtatious talk.

Remember that as a patient, you have rights, most importantly the right to feel safe and comfortable during a medical exam. Kudos to Silverman for being brave enough to share her story.

(via Huffington Post, image: David Livingston/Getty Images)

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Chelsea was born and raised in New Orleans, which explains her affinity for cheesy grits and Britney Spears. She currently lives in sunny Los Angeles, with her husband and two poorly behaved rescue dogs. She is a former roller derby girl and a black belt in Judo, so she is not to be trifled with. She loves the word “Jewess” and wishes more people used it to describe her.