My doctor abused my trust in him

Clare Garner talks to a woman who claims her life has been destroyed by sexual involvement with her GP
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Indy Lifestyle Online
"It was shortly after the doctor raised the subject of my celibacy that he first had sexual intercourse with me. On one home visit he told me to go upstairs. He sort of tilted his head in the air and said: 'Go on then'. I went up and started to get undressed and he followed me up. He had full intercourse with me. Afterwards he said: 'You don't seem to have enjoyed that very much.' Well, too right, I didn't."

The event described by Jenny, (not her real name), occurred, she claims, on a home visit from her GP 10 years ago. She had visited him after a "very vicious divorce". To her surprise, the doctor offered his services as a counsellor - in her own home.

Yesterday, doctors at the British Medical Association's annual conference in Brighton debated whether or not they should be allowed to become sexually involved with their patients.

Dr Michael Crowe, of Leicester, had proposed that the General Medical Council should be more "lenient" because of the suggestion that the balance of power between doctor and patient is unequal is a myth. The doctors decided, however, not to change the strict rule of the GMC, which bans any such activity, however consensual and adult the relationships may seem to be.

Jenny, a mother of two who is now in her thirties, is just one of many women who claim that the trust between practitioner and patient has been abused.

"It is never, ever, ever an equal relationship," she says. "The greater power lies with the practitioner always, and it's up to the practitioner to maintain that boundary.

"It all started when I went to see my GP after my divorce. I was already in a totally traumatised and depressed state. He offered me counselling. He's not trained for it but he's known to 'do psychological therapy', and it started from there. He also treated me for depression and prescribed anti-depressants.

"I saw him once a week, either at the surgery or at home. He was very supportive in the early stages. He was kind and he showed me some affection. He's a married man, 20 years my senior. I thought at that time that he was just caring but really, looking back, it was the grooming part. At that time, before the abuse started, I just thought it was wonderful to have someone at last who cared about me."

Over the first few months the doctor won Jenny's trust, and before very long he knew everything about her life. "He knew how vulnerable I was," she says, "that I'd been emotionally abused by my mother when I was growing up, that I had two small children and that I lived in poverty."

Six months went by. The home visits continued and Jenny began to feel more secure. Then one day it all changed.

"He said to me he could offer me a relationship. First he said, 'What do you look for in a man?' I replied, "Someone who's caring and intelligent." He said, 'I'm those things.' And that's how it started. I was totally shocked and bewildered because I thought, 'He's not allowed to do this, and he's married.' I didn't find him attractive. I saw him as a father figure."

Despite her misgivings, Jenny didn't want to "rock the boat".

"I didn't want to reject him in case he stopped supporting me, so I took the middle road. I said I needed time to think about it. He then replied, and this is the second manipulative thing he said, he really was quite understanding: 'Don't take too long. Life's passing you by.' It was to make me hurry up."

Shortly afterwards, the doctor raised the subject of Jenny's celibacy. "He told me I had sexual needs." But it was not long now before the talking would become history.

"About once a month he would have intercourse and go. It was rape. He didn't make love. He didn't kiss me or anything. He literally climbed on top of me, pounded and climbed off again. He didn't do anything else. I used to have a bath afterwards and cry and worry what was wrong with me. It was awful. Terrible.

"After we had sex, he would go straight to the bathroom, wash, come back, get dressed and leave. I had two years of that abuse."

But no matter how awful and terrible the relationship was, Jenny felt unable to break it off. "I was terrified. There's an inherent power imbalance there if you're totally depressed and divorced and somebody helps you. If you don't let them have their way, there's potential blackmail. The fact that he might just go and leave me was unthinkable."

The situation was exacerbated by the fact that the GP in question was embroiled in a custody battle over Jenny's children, and she believed that her relationship with them was at stake.

She explains: "The deal with my ex-husband was that if I didn't fight for custody in court, the children would come home every fortnight for the weekend.

"The doctor said to me: 'Leave the mechanics of access to me.' He meant he would see to it. Well, he didn't. My children have been away for nine years next month. They have been badly hurt by all this and have both expressed suicidal feelings."

Eventually, Jenny turned to one of the doctor's female colleagues. Four days later a letter dropped on her doorstep saying he wanted her off his list.

Jenny says her life is in ruins. "I live like a recluse. I'd say I have a couple of hours' company a week. I don't trust anybody. I actually moved to get away from him but then I also lost my house. You can see, I've lost everything."