Female surgeons sexually assaulted while operating
A study commissioned by the Working Party on Sexual Misconduct in Surgery reports that in the past five years, nearly one in three female NHS surgeons has been sexually assaulted by a fellow colleague.
Additional findings suggest an even higher proportion of sexual harassment, as well as 11 instances of rape among the women who participated in the study. A pattern of female trainees falling victim to abuse from senior male colleagues was also identified, showcasing a serious power imbalance in the surgical field, with several women reporting forced physical contact directly related to career progression opportunities.
The study concluded that male and female surgeons live in ‘different realities’ stemming from what Dame Jane Dacre, the former President of the Royal College of Physicians, refers to as an ‘old-fashioned culture’. This toxic mindset has led to a culture of silence, where victims are hesitant to speak up for fear of career repercussions and reputations.
Dr Binta Sultan, the Chair of the NHS England’s National Clinical Network of Sexual Assault and Abuse Services, stated that the NHS is ‘already taking significant steps’ towards making hospitals a safer environment. These steps include commitments towards providing clearer reporting mechanisms for victims of sexual harassment and abuse. It is reassuring to hear that such commitments are being spoken about, as this will provide more support for victims, and in turn, encourage more to speak up. However, the NHS will also have to step forward and take action to implement stronger investigative and disciplinary policies in order to ensure that abuse will be eradicated from the workplace.
These reports of abuse come just days after the NHS released its Sexual Safety in Healthcare Charter, in which it commits to a ‘zero-tolerance approach to any unwanted, inappropriate/and or harmful sexual behaviour’ towards members of staff. Further commitments include the identification of particularly vulnerable groups who experience abuse at disproportionate rates, such as women.
With women representing such a large proportion of the NHS workforce, it is vital that the NHS stays committed to upholding a safe and respectful work environment free of any form of sexual misconduct.
Abuse, in any form, should not be tolerated. If you have been the victim of harassment, bullying, or assault at work, we encourage you to reach out to Bold Burdon Kemp for a free and confidential conversation with one of our experts.