The Emotional Impact of Physician Sexual Assault

Patient Expert

Editor's Note: This story is part of the series A Plastic Surgeon Sexualized My ExamI underwent post-bariatric body contouring with one of the finest plastic surgeons in the nation. Let me be clear that he is not the plastic surgeon who sexualized my exams. Here is my story.

How It Made Me Feel

The impact of the violation of trust that accompanies physician sexual assault has been shown to dramatically increase the level of trauma the victim suffers. Whereas I recently had been manipulated and violated by such an individual, it came to pass that I endured significant emotional trauma.

Within weeks of getting my new beautiful body, I was assaulted. I don't think that would have happened if I still was obese. My joy and delight were stolen from me and replaced with pain and confusion. Psychologically, the local plastic surgeon really did me in. Here are the range of emotions I cycled through.


In the days that followed my assault, I assessed the incident again and again. I began with an analysis, but my brain could not quickly nor clearly comprehend what had happened. To confidants I would stress how nice the surgeon had been. It would not take root that a notable plastic surgeon had sexually misused me.


In the weeks that followed I became fixated and re-experienced the assault over and over by way of flashbacks and thoughts. Sometimes the bad memories happened during sex with my husband and it would force me to tears. It always was there, every minute of the day. I even once dreamed that the surgeon took my abuse to a deeper level of sexual assault. Mostly, I had sleepless nights. I did for a long time.

All of this came to inflict dramatic distress. I was prone to dizziness and many times came close to fainting - the manifestation of panic attacks. I became withdrawn, unable to go about my daily life, even small decisions became difficult. Then when a physician colleague of mine more or less confirmed my suspicions of what had happened, I burst into tears and hyperventilated.


I questioned myself: Why did I let this happen twice? What does it say about me? Why did he choose me? I felt like a willing participant. I was shamed and embarrassed. I could not discuss the physical details of the assault. I had to write them down to be read. Weeks had passed before I told my husband, and that only came to be when he awoke to my crying in the middle of the night and asked what was wrong.


Worse, how can I explain that the feelings of pleasure only magnified my trauma? I felt dirty. This was the most confusing part: I did not understand how something I detested could cause a pleasurable feeling. It took a very long time before I was able to disclose this to my confidants. Every one of them told me it was natural for one's body to involuntarily send a pleasure signal to the brain in response to sexual touch, even when that touch is one of attack. It says nothing about one's morality or attitude toward the assault. Both pleasure and pain signals are morally neutral nerve impulses. Morality is about choice, not about uncontrolled bodily sensations.


At first I examined those feelings in my heart, and my heart became heavy - although a heart turned to lead is more an indicator than a truth. Finally, I sought out the "gut feeling" of the whole sordid thing and the maelstrom that whirled in my gut pushed me closer to the fact: A plastic surgeon had manipulated me for his own sexual pleasure. In the end I consulted with a number of medical professionals, friends, and crisis volunteers, and have collected enough evidence to erase all confusion about the ugly events that transpired.

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