Identifying Abusive Behavior in Your OB-GYN

Identifying Abusive Behavior in Your OB-GYN

Having an OB-GYN you can rely on is vital to your health, whether you’re a cis-gendered woman or were assigned female at birth (AFAB). Unfortunately, not all interactions are positive, and it can be challenging to identify when behavior crosses the line into abuse when you’re in such a vulnerable position.

Understanding what constitutes abusive behavior is critical to protecting your peace, upholding your power, and maintaining your rights. Learn to identify abusive behavior in your OB-GYN to help you recognize when practitioners go too far.

Examples of Verbal Abuse

Verbal abuse in the OB-GYN setting can manifest in numerous ways and usually revolves around the use of language to undermine, intimidate, or belittle a patient. The use of derogatory or insulting language is one form of verbal abuse. This language includes making inappropriate comments about a patient’s body, gender, or sexual orientation, which can leave lasting emotional scars and erode the trust between the patient and their doctor.

Condescending or patronizing language consists of speech the practitioner uses to imply that the patient is inferior or incapable of understanding their health concerns. Additionally, dismissive language that invalidates a patient’s symptoms or feelings can also be damaging, as it may discourage them from seeking future care or openly discussing important health issues.

What Physical Abuse Might Look Like

Physical abuse in the OB-GYN setting can also take various forms, each contributing to a harmful and unsafe environment for the patient. The use of unnecessary force during examinations or procedures is one of the most obvious signs of physical abuse. Unnecessary force could involve rough handling, such as pressing too hard during a pelvic exam or forcefully moving a patient’s body without their consent.

It’s also important to ensure practitioners don’t conduct procedures without the patient’s explicit consent, such as conducting an internal examination without informing the patient of what will happen or not obtaining permission beforehand. It’s a practitioner’s job to respect their patients’ boundaries and autonomy throughout all medical interactions to ensure patients feel safe enough to voice their discomfort.

A gynecologist wearing purple gloves and a white lab coat. The doctor is performing a pelvic exam on a patient.

How To Identify Sexual Abuse

Abuse in the OB-GYN setting is a serious violation of trust and medical ethics that violates a practitioner’s oath to do no harm. Inappropriate or unnecessary touching of a patient’s genitalia, breasts, or other intimate areas without medical justification or explicit consent is sexual abuse. Sexual abuse might also occur under the guise of a routine examination. However, such an examination crosses professional boundaries.

Additionally, any form of sexual comments, jokes, or suggestive remarks are unequivocal signs of abuse and create an environment of discomfort and fear. Sexual abuse can manifest as prolonged or overly intimate physical contact that goes beyond what is medically necessary in more “subtle” cases. These touches can appear as unnecessarily holding a patient’s hand or maintaining inappropriate eye contact during a procedure. Remember, it’s your right to stop an examination at any point if you feel uncomfortable.

Signs of Psychological Manipulation

Psychological manipulation in the OB-GYN setting can be insidious and often difficult to detect. An unfortunately common form of psychological manipulation is gaslighting, where the practitioner attempts to make the patient doubt their feelings, perceptions, or memories. Such manipulation could involve the doctor dismissing a patient’s pain or symptoms as “all in their head” or suggesting that they’re overreacting. These dismissals can make patients inclined to listen to the voice of authority rather than their body.

Coercion is another tactic where the practitioner pressures the patient into consenting to procedures or treatments they’re uncomfortable with, either by downplaying the risks or using fear-based tactics to influence their decision. Manipulative practitioners might also exploit their position of authority to make the patient feel dependent on them and hesitant to question their judgment or seek a second opinion. Patients should feel empowered to trust their instincts and seek supportive and honest communication from their healthcare providers.

A doctor wearing wireframed glasses, a white lab coat, and a stethoscope looking disapprovingly at a female patient.

Red Flags During Consultations

During consultations with an OB-GYN, you should be aware of several red flags that can save you from dealing with an abusive practitioner. A lack of transparency or unwillingness from the practitioner to provide clear and thorough explanations regarding diagnoses, treatments, or procedures is one of the prominent warning signs. A professional and compassionate OB-GYN should be willing to answer all questions comprehensively to ensure you understand your health situation.

You may also experience a disregard for your privacy, such as failing to adequately cover you during examinations or allowing unnecessary staff presence in the room without consent. Additionally, practitioners who consistently rush, dismiss, or appear annoyed by the patient’s concerns aren’t fostering a supportive environment. You should feel validated and respected during consultations, with your worries taken seriously and addressed with patience and empathy.

What To Look for During Physical Exams

Your physical exam is a direct reflection of the quality and integrity of the care a practitioner is capable of. First and foremost, practitioners should always explain the examination’s steps beforehand to ensure you know what to expect. They should describe the purpose and method of any procedure or touch involved. A respectful OB-GYN will consistently inform you of their next movements to guide you along the procedure.

Furthermore, the practitioner should use gentle and considerate techniques, promptly adjusting if you express discomfort or pain. The use of appropriate draping to protect your privacy is non-negotiable, and the practitioner should avoid unnecessarily exposing any part of your body. Your practitioner should not hesitate to halt the examination if you feel they are crossing your boundaries or compromising your comfort.

Patterns To Watch for Overtime

Identifying abusive behavior in your OB-GYN and recognizing inappropriate patterns can become easier to do over time. Therefore, it’s necessary for you to remain as observant as possible throughout your interactions.

A consistent lack of respect for the patient’s autonomy and decision-making capacity is one such pattern to watch for. A lack of respect may manifest as repeated instances where the practitioner disregards the patient’s preferences or attempts to coerce them into accepting specific treatments.

A recurring sense of fear or anxiety before or after appointments could indicate ongoing psychological manipulation or emotional abuse. Additionally, a continuous disregard for professional boundaries—such as asking overly personal questions or making intrusive comments unrelated to medical care—can signify deeper issues with the practitioner’s respect for their patients. It’s also important to note any ongoing failure to provide clear communication or answer your questions satisfactorily, eroding trust and leaving patients feeling unsupported.

Taking immediate and decisive action to protect your rights is crucial if you experience abuse in an OB-GYN setting. However, this isn’t a task you need to undertake alone.

Our patient sexual abuse lawyers at the Law Firm of Tamara N. Holder dedicate themselves to helping you receive justice while treating your case with the discrepancy and respect it deserves. No one deserves mistreatment, especially in a medical setting where trust and safety should be paramount. Please don’t hesitate to reach out for support and guidance if you suspect or have experienced any form of abuse by your OB-GYN.

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