“Every day there are reports of sexual abuse, sexual assault and rape hitting the headlines.
And in the last couple of days we have seen shocking results from a recent survey, revealing a toxic, abhorrent culture of abuse of power and influence in the NHS, with almost 1 in 3 female surgeons saying they have experienced sexual abuse or harassment at work.
Mostly women, and some men, have shared accounts of being harassed and abused openly, by senior clinical colleagues, receiving uninvited comments about their body disguised as sexual ‘banter’.
The findings from the anonymous NHS staff survey suggests there is a culture of silence around such behaviour, with female surgeons afraid to speak out for fear of damaging their careers.
At Sue Lambert Trust (SLT), we believe that anyone who has suffered sexual abuse, harassment or assault should feel confident to report it, knowing they will be believed and supported.
SLT carried out a survey earlier this year. Out of 357 anonymous responses collected, 300 were from people living in Norfolk.
When we asked people if they believed they had experienced a non-consensual sexual act which could have been considered sexual assault in their past, 73% said yes.
Of those people, they were then asked if, at the time of the incident, they believed they had been the victim of a sexual assault. Only 25% said yes.
Almost a quarter (24%) believed what happened to them was partly their fault. 23% said that at the time they believed they had not been assaulted. 20% said they were confused.
Almost three quarters (74%) of those people who told us they had been the victim of a sexual assault in their past did not tell anyone about it at the time. One woman said: ‘it was the ‘70s – it happened a lot – that was the culture we grew up in’, whilst many others said that they didn’t feel they would be believed.
Yet here we are in 2023 with sexual assault happening, right now, in what should be a safe space – operating theatres in our NHS.
If you or someone you know has suffered sexual assault or abuse, recently or years ago, we want you to know there are organisations and many charities who will believe you and will support you.
We hope the medical professionals who have suffered assault in their workplaces are now getting the professional, therapeutic support they need to heal and that those responsible for this abhorrent behavior are struck off.
Cultural change must happen. We have to call it out and stamp it out, because sexual assault and abuse like this is devastating for victims, leaving people with scars for life.”
We provide free professional therapeutic support and counselling to people who have experienced sexual abuse and violence. If you are affected by this story, or know someone who is, please contact us to find out what support is available.