former medical interns recount the attacks suffered at the hospital and the silence of the institution

The media coverage of #MeToo in hospitals is gaining momentum: while speech is becoming more open in the hospital environment, franceinfo has collected the testimony of young female doctors who were victims of sexist or sexual assault during their studies.



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Last year, 8 out of 10 female doctors said they had been victims of sexist behavior.  (REMY PERRIN / MAXPPP)

After the accusations of sexual harassment against emergency physician Patrick Pelloux, by infectious disease specialist Karine Lacombe, speech is being released in the medical world around sexist and sexual violence in hospitals. A meeting is planned at the Ministry of Health by the end of the month on this issue. Franceinfo met young female doctors. Even if mentalities change within the hospital, old habits persist. They told us about the sexual violence they were victims of.

It was a few years ago, Marie did her internship in a psychiatric hospital in Île-de-France which she prefers not to mention. At the time, she was just starting her first semester when she was sexually assaulted by a psychiatrist: “From the first weeks of my internship, a doctor started making rather uncomfortable remarks to me like: ‘Your little riding boots are very sexy.’ One day, he asked the secretary to call me into his office. I entered the office, he immediately locked the door, pushed me against the wall and touched my breasts. I was stunned. I ran out of the office and took refuge in the secretaries’ office.”

“They saw that I was in shock. I explained to them what happened and they said to me: ‘Oh but don’t worry, he’s like that, it’s the joke.'”

Very quickly, Marie spoke about it to her department head who hushed up the matter: “I had a hard time finishing my internship. Because I had a lot of anger and I didn’t understand why I wasn’t being heard. What’s terrible is that everyone knows and we can’t help but report behavior, we are rarely protected by the institution, and sometimes we are even sanctioned, put in the closet.” Marie did not wish to file a complaint so as not to harm her future career as a doctor.

Behaviors reported and ignored

Sexist remarks and inappropriate behavior are even more prevalent and they too are reported and ignored. In Seine-et-Marne, Laure, a young student at the Paris VI faculty, must do her internship at a general practitioner’s office. From the start, the doctor made sexist remarks to her, he made inappropriate gestures, and showed excess anger to, she said, humiliate her in front of the patients. The atmosphere is toxic.

Even though she alerted the university and sent emails that we were able to read, once again the matter was swept under the rug: “I had called the intern from the previous semester who told me that she had suffered a lot during the internship and that she had suffered from depression. I quickly spoke about it to the faculty who accepted that I would not no longer go to this internship supervisor, while telling me that he must have had a crush on me. I was disgusted, I had posted a comment on the university website which was deleted by the faculty. There are not enough supervisors in general medicine and so of course, he remained in his post.” The Paris VI Faculty of Medicine did not wish to answer our questions.

Eight out of ten female doctors report sexist behavior

The figures on sexual and gender-based violence within the hospital are chilling. Last year, eight out of ten female doctors said they had been victims of sexist behavior. 30% of these women declared having suffered inappropriate gestures or touching, 17% sexual assault, according to figures from the association Give them to health. Its president, Marie-France Olieric, is head of the gynecology department in Metz: “It’s serious but what’s even more frightening is that ultimately they don’t talk about it. When we ask them, there are only less than 30% who say they have talked about it within the hospital When we ask why they didn’t talk about it, either they weren’t aware that it was abnormal, or they had the impression that nothing would happen.”

“The #MeeToo hospital, maybe it’s the thing we needed to make things happen.”

Marie-France Olieric

at franceinfo

Mentalities are changing with the new generations, assures Camille Shadilly, treasurer of the inter-union of interns: “The generation of 20-year-olds, 30-year-olds, who are now arriving at the hospital, their mentality is changing. For about four or five years, tongues have been loosening. Certain acts which were considered by some as normal, banal, now , we denounce them.”

Faced with this #MeToo at the hospital, the Ministry of Health has promised a global and firm response. No deviation should be tolerated, warned Frédéric Valletoux. A meeting will take place before the end of the month with associations, employers and health professionals.

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