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Sexual harassment and medicine

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“If all the women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote ‘Me too’ as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem.”
- Anonymous, via Alyssa Milano (2017)

Sexual harassment hit a peak of cultural awareness over the past year. Will medicine be the next field to experience a reckoning?

In 2017, Time magazine’s Person of the Year Award went to the Silence Breakers who spoke out against sexual assault and harassment.1 The exposure of predatory behavior exhibited by once-celebrated movie producers, newscasters, and actors has given rise to a powerful change. The #MeToo movement has risen to support survivors and end sexual violence.

Just like show business, other industries have rich histories of discrimination and power. Think Wall Street, Silicon Valley, hospitality services, and the list goes on and on.2 But what about medicine? To answer this question, this article aims to:

  • review the dilemma
  • explore our duty to our patients and each other
  • discuss solutions to address the problem.

Sexual harassment: A brief history

Decades ago, Anita Hill accused U.S. Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas, her boss at the U.S. Department of Education and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), of sexual harassment.3

The year was 1991, and President George H. W. Bush had nominated Thomas, a federal Circuit Judge, to succeed retiring Associate Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall. With Thomas’s good character presented as a primary qualification, he appeared to be a sure thing.

Continue to: That was until an FBI interview...

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