Tips for a gynaecological exam

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.


23 thoughts on “Tips for a gynaecological exam

    1. Wow, I’m honoured. Of course you can! Actually, I should’ve put that tip in the blogpost: If it’s difficult for you to talk about it or to make clear what you need, it’s a good idea to let the doctor read it instead.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Fantastic post, and on something I’m sure is difficult and rarely talked about. This is important not only for rape survivors, but also to any woman who is nervous, scared or uneasy about a person (even if they are a doctor) to touch you in a very private area. Gynaecologists are used to doing it, they see it and do it every day, but that doesn’t mean the patient is used to it being done to them. Thank you for writing this!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your kind comment! I agree, it’s useful for every woman. Too often it’s forgotten by the medical world that things are not ‘normal’ for patients/non-medical staff. One of the reasons why I hate the “but the doctor is used to it so what are you nagging about” comments when you try to talk about it.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m not a rape victim, but I’m a 25 year old virgin who is really bothered by being one and do not want anybody who is not a future sexual partner seeing or touching my privates. I hate being a virgin and I’m sexually frustrated so badly that I can’t even read books and magazines, or watch TV and movies with sexual content cause it fires up my hormones but then terribly upsets me to the point I burst into tears and before long, a full blown panic attack. Because of this, I mostly just watch 90s Nickelodeon, animated films, or black and white era sitcoms. That being said, having somebody jabbing at my virginal vagina would feel like putting salt on an open wound. I keep getting nagged but I do not want to see a gynecologist until I lose my virginity! They give me that “it keeps you healthy” bs. Well… HOW ABOUT MY MENTAL HEALTH?! Its deteriorating just by the thought of it. Until I read the end of your post, I was ready to throw my phone across the room. But the end changed that; It shouldn’t be necessary to force all women to have their vagina violated like this.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree with you. It was never my intention to give the idea that women have to do an exam. I’m actually trying to spread the opposite message. Talking about other methods (such as mri) or if you do want to do it that you have the right doctor. I hope eventually there will be sufficient other ways to examine women without having to take off your underwear. But I can see that you might get the other idea, it’s because I don’t plan my posts and don’t read them afterwards. It’s all in a whim, otherwise I overthink it so much that I never post anything because I’m too critical. So now I see the structure isn’t good. I hope you’ll find your life partner and can surround yourself – if necessary – with doctors who understand and respect you, which means no internal exams or showing private areas, at least for now. And yes, you can’t say something is good for your health if it makes your mental health worse and vice versa (physical health). Thank you for your comment and I hope I didn’t make you angry.


  3. Thank you! I found your “The Mighty” post while searching for ANY information regarding fear of doctors after anal rape. I am now experiencing anal fissures, 11 years after my rape. Letting a doctor see that particular area of your body would be embarrassing or even nerve-wrecking for ordinary people, let alone a survivor of anal rape. Understanding my thoughts and fears and continuing to tell myself that I am safe and have consented to everything we are doing has helped diminish some of my anxiety. Thank you for your post. It is still be read and still helping women on this topic ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your kind comment. I can understand how you must be feeling in those moments and before. I’m very sorry that you have been raped and years later get a physical problem in that same area. Since I’ve had new health issues regarding urine retention, I’m even more aware of the cruelty of becoming ‘ill’ in such an area after rape. I’ve been anally raped in the past as well and I can imagine that the fissures are a result of this (I sometimes have it, but probably not nearly as bad as you and I don’t really do anything about it. I think it has to do with the obstipation which probably has to do with the rape due to stress etc.) I hope the fissueres can be treated properly in a way that is the least traumatizing for you. I hope your doctor helps you with this process as well. I think you’re very brave for seeking treatment. If you want you can keep me updated on how the treatments/tests ar going. I wish this problem will be over for you soon!


  4. Thank you so much for this!!
    Beautiful blog by the way.
    Thank you for sharing yourself with the world.
    I am a (20-something) childhood sexual abuse survivor and I really appreciate your suggestions.
    I haven’t gotten up the courage to go to the gyno and I avoid sexually intimate relationships. One day at a time, I suppose.
    Its good to remember that there is a difference between thoughts & feelings and ultimate reality. We don’t have to believe everything we think and feel, although we do need to acknowledge and work with our human selves. Compassion is key.

    Liked by 1 person

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