The day I returned to the States was a memorable one. Not for the relief of being home, or seeing my family, but for the utter nonsense – and I mean nonsense – I experienced at the walk-in clinic I went to in Scotch Plains, New Jersey. I went there because I wanted to have an American doctor check me out. My experience at the Italian hospital left much to be desired and new pains and aches materialized in the now 48 hours after the attack.
My sister joined me in the examination room, and when the doctor appeared, I explained to him that I had been assaulted and was in a lot of pain all over my body. Most of it was deep bone bruises, but I was still concerned about my nose and rib, plus my right foot and left ankle were sort of swollen. I had terrible bronchitis and asthma too. The doctor had a surprising lack of concern. He gave us a quizzical look and asked us “What’s this really about?” Huh?
He went on to explain that if I was looking for some easy prescription for painkillers, he was not about to write me one. It seemed he thought I was lying and was a junkie of some sort looking for Vicodin. My sister was appalled. I was embarrassed, and I again explained what had happened to me, and offered to bring the police and hospital reports in from the car. He finally understood but by that time, the experience was ruined for me. I felt bad about how this man viewed me and so totally beaten up in a new way.
He wrote a prescription for me for a new inhaler and sent me on my way. As I was paying my bill, his assistant asked me what happened to me. She wanted details as if I was relaying juicy gossip. I told her and she actually said with a laugh, “Well, you know how those Italian men are….they can be aggressive.” I kid you not. These were real people speaking to me this way. Here they have a sexual assault victim in their presence, and they say the most insensitive, damaging things. I just kept telling myself they were ignorant, unfortunate people and their deficiencies were not my problem.
Clearly, I will never go back there. But you can bet on them getting a copy of my article in Marie Claire with a personal letter (with some choice words) from yours truly. And so will whoever runs the facility. There is no excuse for making a victim be victimized again while she is actually taking healthy steps to help herself recover. The phrase used to describe this sort of thing is “Secondary Wounding” and I found a great article about it at Pandora’s Project (a great resource): http://pandys.org/articles/secondarywounding.html.
Asking someone “What were you wearing?” ‘Why did you go to his apartment?” and “Why did you let a strange man kiss you?” are all examples of secondary wounding that I experienced by people I know who actually thought they were comforting me. Thankfully, I looked at it more as an example of them showing their ignorance than anything I did. If someone is telling you her story, please do not be that person.
QUOTE: “It’s not being able to rid the world of all its injustice; it is being able to rise above them!” – poet Vickie M. Worsham