To determine the responses of female physicians who have been sexually harassed by patients, as a means of answering the question, "What is to be done?"
As part of a larger study on the topic, randomly selected participants were mailed a questionnaire requesting information about the nature and extent of sexual harassment by patients and about resulting feelings, actions, and suggestions for prevention.
Family practices in Ontario.
A random sample of the 1064 female certificants of the College of Family Physicians of Canada in active practice in Ontario during 1992 was selected. A total of 599 were surveyed; 422 (70%) replied.
Responses to survey questions.
Of the 422 respondents, 76% reported sexual harassment by patients and their reactions to it. Though most respondents had many suggestions about how to minimize harassment, written comments suggested confusion as to its cause. Many participants wondered whether their behaviour, manner, or dress provoked unwanted responses. The ability to root the cause of the harassment externally as a social rather than a personal problem seemed to decrease immobilization.
There is no single effective response to sexual harassment, but understanding its source as an abuse of the power of gender* (perhaps to overcome the powerlessness felt as a patient) could enable female physicians to act in protective and effective ways.
Cites: N Engl J Med. 1993 Dec 23;329(26):1936-98247058