As a rape victim a gynaecologist exam was one of my biggest fears/nightmares. I couldn’t find enough information about how to prepare myself, how to make sure nothing would go wrong. Of course you can find the basic information on how it works, but that just wasn’t enough for me. I’ve a few tips gathered from my own experiences. I’ve also given the tips to gynaecologists and I’d like to share them with you in the hope that everything will go well. I’ve had very bad experiences (exam against my will) and not so bad experiences (exam went well, but it will never feel ‘good’ for me).
I’m talking about a “normal” gynaecologist exam, so not one straight after the rape to collect evidence. Of course these were the things that helped me, if you prefer to do it in a different way then that’s totally fine. I also haven’t been able to include everything I’ve ever found helpful, but I’m thinking about writing more blogposts about my experiences with doctors and tips I’ve come across.
First of all, make sure that you think your current gynaecologist is up for it. It was shocking for me to discover how little experience and knowlegde most gynaecologists have about treating/examining rape victims. They just don’t know how this might affect you and how to take it into account. How do you know if this gynaecologist if right for you? It’s important to know that you can always refuse the exam and can ask for a different gynaecologist (for example: I only want females).
1. He/she is calm, understanding and friendly.
2. He/she doesn’t pressure you to do the exam. And doesn’t get angry if you’re coming for the tenth time to try it and you can’t do it yet.
3. He/she doesn’t rush it and plans extra time for you.
4. He/she wants to prepare together before the exam.
5. He/she stops when you want, even if it isn’t finished yet.
With preparation I mean that he/she is willing to answer all your questions before the exam, tells you everything that is going to happen (unless you don’t want to know), makes agreements with you and you can tell him/her about the things he/she should or shouldn’t do. For example you can ask if he/she can stop every minute and ask how it’s going. Or you want the door to be locked (sometimes other people walk in) or you want it unlocked (because that gives you an escape route). Maybe he/she should not say certain words because the rapist said that to you, or maybe you don’t want him/her to touch your knees (the gynaecologist might think doing that will comfort you) etc. Very important to make this all clear, before you might do the exam.
I always want to get to know the gyneacologist first, so I don’t do it the first (few) time(s) when I meet her. I always take my partner with me, he holds my hand and can ask the gynaecologist to stop when he notices I’m frozen. Think about if you want someone else there too and where he/she should stand and what he/she should do. Do you want to be distracted or do you want to focus on what’s happening in the present? It both might help against flashbacks. Also make sure that the gynaecologist listens to that other person as well (some doctors only want to listen to the patient and tell me I’m “grown up enough” to tell them myself that they need to stop). Oh and very important: they aren’t allowed to force extra people on you: assistants, students etc. It’s very difficult for me to say no and I’ve also had bad experiences with some doctors who wouldn’t even ask. I personally think the doctor should not even ask a rape victim, but say no beforehand to the student.
It’s possible that you insert the speculum yourself or that you do the exam without lying in the chair/with your legs in the stirrups. If they want to make an echo, they might see enough with an external one (your bladder needs to be full for that). They can always try doing that first.
A gynaecologist exam isn’t a normal situation. If you don’t feel safe, don’t do it. There are other ways to examine if there’s something wrong (for example an MRI or some kind of self-test; I’ve done those two as well). And maybe it isn’t really that necessary to do the gynaecological exam. I’ve had doctors who wanted to do it, just because they always do it. No medical reason.
Last but not least, try to ignore all those people who will say/yell/scream to you that “you shouldn’t be afraid because the doctor’s used to it”. It’s about you, not the doctor. I wish you a lot of luck, strength and wisdom and hope everything will go well, if you ever decide to take an exam or have to talk with a gynaecologist.