Many victims of child sexual abuse find internal examinations particularly distressing and can freeze, have panic attacks or disassociate.
But to me, whether performed by a man or woman, they are as stressful as popping into a local shop to buy sweets. Once I even fell asleep whilst lying half naked waiting for one, such is my nonchalance towards them.
Until recently that is.
This time, my instincts were pleading with me to cancel the examination. But forego a test I needed for what? Because something didn’t feel right? Because during the prior consultation, the neatly uniformed nurse had been a bit too familiar?
For the first time ever, I accepted the offer of a chaperone and even called the hospital beforehand to double check that one would be present. I convinced myself that I was probably a bit traumatised after recently revisiting my abuse during a court case. Regardless, I slept fitfully the night before.
On the day itself, the chaperone was present and nothing could go wrong, could it?
But the chaperone was sitting at a distance to one side. Did she witness the nurse running her hands simultaneously down the inside of my thighs causing my legs to spasm? She wouldn’t have been able to see when the nurse touched my clitoris.
The clinical room no longer felt clean. I thanked the nurse and said goodbye on autopilot as if everything was fine.
But in reality, I was in shock. So much so, that I forgot to put my underwear back on and walked home with them scrunched in a protruding lump in my leggings.
Usually, the familiar emotions of my childhood, direct my thoughts and decisions insidiously and negatively from the backseat of my mind. But now they sprang into the front seat, eagerly grabbing the wheel to dominate my life again with feelings of shame, dirtiness, isolation, worthlessness and confusion.
But as an adult, I wasn’t so powerless. I could speak out, couldn’t I?
I could cope with the shame, or my complaint being ridiculed or minimised. And I was fully prepared to argue that it’s possible to be assaulted with a chaperone present; Larry Nassar’s victims had proved that. I could even contend with my concern being pathologized and blamed on my history of being sexually assaulted. Neither was lack of courage an issue.
But I questioned myself, had I really been sexually assaulted?
It’s true that I had been unnerved, when on an earlier visit, the nurse had told me to move my chair nearer to hers. Then told me to sit next to her on the bed. And then to move closer to her.
Had I been subconsciously transported back to when my grandfather used to tell me to sit next to him? I had always complied, despite knowing that I would be sexually assaulted. But there were adults present and their silence strengthened my belief that disobeying was not an option.
Furthermore, as a child, I implicitly trusted adults to protect me. Hence, it was so hard to perceive that I was being harmed, despite hating what was being done to me.
Likewise, I had trusted the nurse in her position to act appropriately. So I followed her orders despite my discomfort.
Maybe she had simply triggered my trauma.
Or maybe she was grooming me, blurring my boundaries so in my confusion, I didn’t know what they were anymore.
I don’t know.
Sometimes I can’t believe what happened during the examination and have to check myself to confirm what I know to be true. My instincts firmly believe that I was sexually assaulted and that I should raise my concerns to protect others.
But I also carry a strong and conflicting self-doubt. My rationale wonders if I overreacted to friendliness.
I decide not to say anything. But neither will I return to continue my treatment.