I’ve recently discovered that the best way to attract an audience to my blog is to write about controversial topics, specifically race & sex. This is really no surprise of course because, as the saying goes, controversy creates cash. Not that this blog creates any cash for me- it definitely does not. But naturally as a writer, even a very amateur one, I do like knowing my posts are reaching a broader audience.
Well, today’s post concerns both sex AND race. Whether it will garner hundreds of views like my other recent (ish) posts on similar controversial topics remains to be seen. And frankly this post is not intended to reach a large audience. I’ve always tried to be very up front about the fact that everything I write here is primarily for my own benefit. Writing is one of my main therapeutic outlets- it’s how I try to make sense of my own head & the world around me. I have no pretentions of trying to save the world or change lives with my posts. Sure, I’d love if it my words spoke to someone & made a positive difference in their lives, but that isn’t my primary goal when I write. I for one have found that the art that speaks to me the most, that has most changed MY life- whether it be music, poetry, or books- is almost always written by someone with a similar mindset. When we set out to clear our own heads I think that is quite often when we DO reach the most people because we’re being our most authentic natural selves.
Anyway, that was a long tangent that really has nothing to do with today’s subject. This post was actually inspired by one of my Facebook memories that popped up this morning. As the memory reminded me, eleven years ago today I accepted a summer job as a student nurse/unofficial medical assistant for a doctor in a small town near where I went to college. I was so excited for that job & despite how things ended I don’t regret taking it. I learned so much about nursing from that job, everything from medication reconciliation to managing lab results to taking manual blood pressures. But I learned some other, darker life lessons too.
I’m not going to go into the specifics of what happened- the truth is NOTHING actually HAPPENED- but the end story is that after I left the job to return to school this doctor ended up asking me for sex more than once. He even invited me to dinner & because I had worked with both his wife & his mother at the office I assumed one or both of them would be coming too. Nope, turned out he was just trying to get me drunk & take me to a hotel- & even back then I wasn’t so naïve as to not know what THAT meant. I was way too smart to go along with such nonsense of course. But looking back I’m just amazed at his confidence- or should I say his gall? He seemed genuinely surprised when I turned him down! Keep in mind I was 22 at the time & he was easily twice my age, plus I was engaged & he was married!
One thing this doctor taught me was how good of actors some people can be. After all, the whole time I worked for him I never once foresaw anything like this happening. He had never ONCE made me feel uncomfortable in any way. I had NEVER gotten any kind of sexual vibe from him at all. The previous summer I’d had an assistant manager at a restaurant who did make some sexual remarks about me & even called me a bitch once to my face, at which point I very explicitly told him that I didn’t tolerate such behavior & that I expected to be treated with respect at work. And I never once had a problem with that guy again- we actually got along after that. The point is, I’d experienced sexual harassment at work before & it didn’t surprise me when it happened that time because I’d already gotten those vibes from the harasser. But THIS man- no, I had NEVER felt that way with him. I had admired him so much because I saw him as this great family man who was a pillar of his community. And in many ways he was. His wife & mother both worked at his office. He was on the school board for the county. He helped train medical students AND he helped coach his son’s football team (or whatever sport he played- I couldn’t swear it was football). He was also the first black doctor I ever knew. And because of that I respected him even more because I knew that he had probably faced obstacles that his white counterparts had not.
I’ve looked back so many times & wondered if I missed some kind of major red flag. I’ve always prided myself on reading people well- & the truth is the vast majority of the time I’m right. But I couldn’t have read him more wrong. I’ll admit there are two things that maybe I should have given more thought at the time. First, his previous medical assistant left VERY unexpectedly which is why he was looking for a nursing student to fill the role for a few months until he found someone more permanent. Now maybe that should have been a red flag. But I met this woman once when she came to pick up her last paycheck & frankly she was not young or particularly attractive. So the idea that she might have left because of sexual harassment never even crossed my mind. I probably should have asked more questions but it’s not like they would have told me the truth anyway. And it’s entirely possible that ISN’T the reason she left. I’ll never know. Secondly, I do vaguely recall being alone at the office with this doctor one time on a Friday because everyone else had left a little early. And I do remember having a very fleeting thought of “I probably shouldn’t be here alone with him too long.” So I very quickly wrapped up whatever I was doing & left. I could never put a finger on WHY I had that thought that day, & I still can’t. In fact, I felt very silly & even guilty afterward. Of course, later I realized maybe that was some kind of primitive biological instinct protecting me.
After all this happened I ran into one of this doctor’s patients during one of my nursing clinical rotations. She wasn’t a patient of mine- she was a staff member at the facility. She asked me if I was planning to work for this doctor after graduation & I guess the look on my face said it all because before I could say no, she responded with “Oh, I guess he got to you too.” She then proceeded to tell me how he had come on to her as a patient & had threatened her husband (who was also his patient). I was horrified because I had always really enjoyed this woman & her family when I knew them through his practice. But I was also relieved in a way because it let me know that I wasn’t the only person he’d approached inappropriately. It assuaged some of the guilt that I felt over potentially inadvertently tempting this man. It made me realize that the problem really was HIM, not me. In fact what he did to this woman was far worse than what we did to me & actually illegal. Well, maybe not illegal but certainly a breach of his medical license. Naturally this woman & her family found a new doctor. I wish I’d asked her if she’d reported him to the medical board but I think I was too flustered to think logically in that moment.
Months, maybe years, later I found out that this doctor was actually involved in a sexual harassment lawsuit during his time with the county school board. In fact that harassment started before I even worked for him, though I don’t think it was public knowledge at the time. I’m not sure what the end result of the lawsuit was, though if I dug really deep online I could probably find out, but the gist of the story is that a local woman applied for a leadership position in the school system & this doctor continually told the woman that the only way she would get the position was to have sex with him. She refused- & of course she didn’t get the job.
In the years since all this happened, I’ve often wondered if I should have reported this man. But to whom would I have reported him? Soliciting me for sex was clearly unethical but I wasn’t his employee anymore (nor his patient) so it wasn’t actually ILLEGAL. Sure, I could have tried to report him to the medical board for soliciting sex from a patient but that would just be hearsay. It wouldn’t hold any water in court. Furthermore I was so young, just trying to start my own career (& marriage), so the last thing I wanted was to call attention to myself. Even so, sometimes I wish I’d said something because my silence probably bought him another victim. My silence probably enabled him to find someone else to harass. After all, as history has shown us, these kinds of people rarely do this just once or twice. It’s almost always a serial thing, a pattern of behavior that happens again & again.
I have no idea where this doctor is today. A Google search leads me to believe he is no longer in the area where this happened, maybe not even in the state. But I really don’t know. I’m not naming him because I see no good that could be accomplished if I did. And I don’t want him coming after me for revenge if he somehow found this post (which I realize is highly unlikely). The truth is I don’t know what I’m trying to accomplish here other than to clear my own mind of painful memories, even though I realize I’m powerless to change them.
Now this doctor probably hasn’t thought about me in a decade because it’s been that long since I’ve had contact with him, & I have no illusions that there was anything special about me in his eyes. I was just another person he sought to control. There are times when I don’t think about him for months & months either. But when I do, I wish I could ask him a few things, namely:
Why? Why did you do this- to me & to others? Who else did you hurt along the way? What were you doing with those young, often beautiful, medical students who you mentored at your office? Were you taking advantage of them- or trying to anyway- knowing they’d be terrified to say no? What in the world made you think I’d be willing to have sex with you, especially since you knew that I was engaged (in fact you’d even met my fiancé once)? Did you really think I was so desperate for your approval that I’d do that? You wrecked havoc with my anxiety that year because for months I was terrified that you’d somehow find a way to tarnish my name in the community & make sure I never got a nursing job. Looking back on it now, I realize that a fair amount of the community probably knew what you were like so it’s probably best that I DIDN’T have a reference letter from you or that alone might have tarnished my name. Of course that brings up another question. If a lot of people in the community did know about your predatory behavior, why didn’t they speak up? Oh, the answer is obvious of course. No one wanted to make waves. No one wanted to be the “bad guy” to take you down. Everyone just wanted to move on with their lives. Which is exactly what I did. But I hope by now, wherever you are, the truth has gotten out & people have seen you for what you are.
I’d also like you to know that I haven’t allowed your deceit to overly influence my life. I could have used your treachery as an excuse to be prejudiced against black men, but I haven’t- because I know that would be as unfair to them as your own actions were to me. In fact there is a doctor in my clinic now who looks uncannily like you, but I don’t allow that to influence my feelings or actions towards him. Yes, you were a wolf in sheep’s clothing, & yes, you definitely taught me that people can be really wonderful in many aspects of their lives & really horrible in other aspects, but I refuse to give you so much power over my life as to allow your predatory behavior to unduly influence how I view other men. You obviously get off on the power you have & on abusing it, but I refuse to allow your unethical behavior to color how I view everyone. I might have been your victim once- mentally at least- but I’m not now. I’m not yours to control anymore- actually I never was.
Finally, I don’t allow you to take up enough space in my head to hate you, but nonetheless- with all due respect, **** you!