How do I advocate for myself during doctors visits, if I am a sexual assault survivor?

Q:

How do I advocate for myself during doctors visits, if I am a sexual assault survivor?

A:

I wish that I could say that all of us will be held and handled the same in a doctor's office. Unfortunately, that is not the case. I have had a lot of questions and complaints within the last few months of survivors going to the doctors and coming out more traumatized and having not received the help they needed.

Sometimes the doctor does not know that you are a survivor, it is your choice what information you choose to share with the doctor. Although, sharing this information may be hard to do, it can be very important to help keep your doctors fully informed of your medical history. If you are nervous about having that conversation, that's completely understandable. Being vulnerable is scary, and it's not easy to share that information with someone you don't know very well.

I have seen some doctors seem cold and disconnected when asking questions that are quite weighted and can feel invasive. Remember, you are always allowed to use your NO. If the person, who is supposed to be supporting your mental or physical health, is not making you feel safe, you are allowed to say things like:

  • No.
  • I am not comfortable with that question.
  • I am not comfortable sharing that information right now.
  • That sounded very aggressive or that made me feel uncomfortable.

Again, I want to be supportive to you, the survivor. If you are someone that does not feel comfortable vocally advocating for yourself, there are other things and other ways that you can go about getting your voice heard and protecting yourself.

You can create a notecard/index card with your information, such as what type of assault you endured, your boundaries, things that can cause you triggers. You can have these cards at the ready and provide them to the doctor upon check-in. This way the doctor will have the information before you go into the medical examination rooms.

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Written by Jimanekia Eborn
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Jimanekia Eborn has worked in mental health for the last 10 years, which is where she saw the need for sexual education and sexual trauma support. This has led to her passion for assisting and supporting those that are sexual assault survivors and those without access to comprehensive sex education. Her compassion and passion for these populations has pushed her to continue building safe spaces for clientele, sharing education, and supporting their mental spaces.

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