Dear Annie: I have a problem that I don't think is unique to me. I am a senior in high school and an extremely modest girl. I have nightmares about being seen or treated by male doctors and nurses. My mother is insisting that I go to see her gynecologist, a young man. What she does not know is that a former boyfriend of hers sexually abused me several years ago. He died in a car wreck shortly after the abuse started, and his death devastated her so much that I decided it would do no good to upset her even more, so I never told her about what happened.
Now all I seem to be reading in the news are stories of how a lot of high-profile male doctors and nurses are being charged with all kinds of sexual offenses, making my concerns that much worse. To add to the situation, the mom of one of my best girlfriends is dating a male nurse who works at the local hospital, and he has been telling my best friend's mom all kinds of horror stories about how several of the male nurses he works with are so sexually perverted that it disturbs him. And he explains that they know how to hide it so no one knows anything is wrong while they get their kicks from examining and giving bed baths to their female patients. Some of the patients even delight in telling others about "how nice and thoughtful" the male nurses are.
All of this leads me to ask: Unless they tell us or are caught, how do we know what a man is thinking in such medical settings? And how can I keep my mom from forcing me to do something I think would cause a lifetime of mental pain and torment for me? I don't think I'm the only female with these feelings. Please try to answer this, as my mom reads your column. — Tormented and Distressed
Dear Tormented and Distressed: I am so proud of you for having the courage to write about what happened. Your heart was very much in the right place when you refrained from upsetting your mother with what her boyfriend did to you. But now you have to clear the air — either by telling a therapist or by telling your mom everything that happened.
You suffered a trauma with your mom's boyfriend, so it makes sense that you would be concerned about other patients or even yourself having to endure the same type of ordeal. As for the mom of your friend, whose boyfriend is talking about the completely inappropriate behavior of his co-workers, tell your mom about this so that she can report it.
I am so sorry that you had to go through the experience you had with your mom's boyfriend, but if you can take that hurt and use it as fuel to save future patients from being victims of abuse, you should feel pretty good about yourself. I know you can do it. After hearing your story, I'm almost positive your mother will understand your not wanting a male nurse or doctor to touch you. Many women and girls only feel comfortable with female doctors. That is their choice, and it should be yours.
"Ask Me Anything: A Year of Advice From Dear Annie" is out now! Annie Lane's debut book — featuring favorite columns on love, friendship, family and etiquette — is available as a paperback and e-book. Visit http://www.creatorspublishing.com for more information. Send your questions for Annie Lane to [email protected]