violences gynécologiques femme qui pleure en boule

Gynecological violence: A spotlight on abuse

When we talk about gynecological violence (also called “obstetric violence”), the word “violence” is striking, powerful, and intense—it’s brutal.

Even though we have to call a spade a spade, this term can sometimes dissuade essential reflection both among the victims and the perpetrators of said violence.

In addition, some patients who’ve been victims of gynecological violence aren’t always able to put their finger on what they’ve experienced, because their feelings are often diminished and trivialized.

Despite the brutality of its effects, gynecological violence is often subtle and insidious, and it can take the form of guilt-inducing or infantilizing comments, uninformed choices, or rushed appointments, all of which leave their mark.

Gynecological violence is a taboo subject that’s all too often ignored. But lifting the veil on these abusive and painful practices is crucial because they greatly affect the health and well-being of those who suffer them.

This article aims to raise awareness of gynecological violence, explaining what it is, how to recognize it, and what steps you can take to deal with it.

What’s gynecological violence?

Gynecological violence refers to a series of abusive, humiliating, or non-consensual practices perpetrated by health-care professionals in the context of gynecological care.

They can take different forms, such as intrusive examinations, degrading comments, pressure to make contraceptive choices, or unnecessary medical interventions.

These forms also include the inability to access proper obstetrical or gynecological care as well as the fact that some people receive worse treatment than others, while others are even treated with contempt.

It’s important to know how to recognize the signs of gynecological violence so that you can identify and report it. Frequent indicators include failure to provide informed consent, lack of information about medical procedures, degrading comments, lack of empathy, and lack of respect for privacy.

woman in doctor's office

The physical and psychological impacts of gynecological violence

Gynecological violence has harmful consequences for physical and psychological health. It can lead to trauma, anxiety, and sleep disorders as well as lowered self-esteem and a mistrust of health-care professionals.

Physical impact of gynecological violence

Acts of gynecological violence can cause considerable physical damage. Intrusive examinations, abrupt and non-consensual gestures, and unwarranted invasive medical practices can lead to injury, intense pain, physical trauma, and health complications. These physical impacts can have lasting consequences that disrupt well-being and overall health.

Psychological impact of gynecological violence

Gynecological violence also has a profound impact on mental health and emotional well-being. Abusive acts, degrading words, and the lack of respect for privacy and dignity can lead to psychological trauma, including feelings of shame, anger, frustration, and powerlessness. Victims of such violence can develop anxiety disorders, mood disorders, sleep disorders, and reduced self-esteem and trust in health-care professionals.

woman with tears in her eyes

Loss of trust and feelings of betrayal

Gynecological violence creates a profound sense of betrayal and loss of trust in those who suffer it. It calls into question the relationship of trust between patient and health-care professional, which can lead to widespread distrust of the entire medical profession.

Loss of confidence can also impact other aspects of life, affecting interpersonal relationships and sexual health as well as access to medical care and regular gynecological check-ups.

Barriers to seeking help

Victims of gynecological violence may encounter obstacles when seeking help. Fear of not being believed, stigmatization, lack of information about available resources, and gender bias can discourage women from expressing their experiences and seeking help.

So it’s essential to set up appropriate support structures that women can access to find people who will listen, show empathy, and support their needs.

The need for reconstruction and healing

Faced with the physical and psychological impact of gynecological violence, victims must be able to undertake the essential steps of reconstruction and healing. This may involve seeking therapeutic support, discussion groups, or health services that specialize in helping women who’ve been the victims of violence.

It’s also important to promote respectful gynecological practices, based on consent, active listening, and respect for women’s autonomy. In Canada and France, the process is well underway, and gynecological care providers are encouraged to assert their rights.

woman crying with tissue in her hand

What can you do about gynaecological violence?

It’s essential to take action when you’re the victim of gynecological violence, even if that can be difficult. Here are a few steps you can take.

Talk about it

It’s important to not remain silent and to share your experience with friends and family, support groups, or specialist associations. Sharing your stories can help break the taboo and raise awareness of such violence.

Seek professional support

Consult a trusted health-care professional for advice and appropriate medical follow-up. If you don’t feel listened to or respected, don’t hesitate to change practitioners.

Report violence

Report gynecological violence to the appropriate authorities, such as medical or gynecological associations, women’s rights organizations, or health regulators.

Support women’s rights movements

Get involved in activism to promote respectful gynecological care and raise awareness of gynecological violence. Together, we can make our voices heard and demand concrete change.

The road to a future in which everyone—regardless of gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, or social status—is treated with respect and dignity in health care, especially in a field as intimate as gynecology, is long and winding.

Gynecological violence is a painful reality that affects many people. But everyone has the right to receive respectful, caring, and consensual gynecological care. By informing ourselves, sharing our stories, and demanding change, we can protect women’s rights and help put an end to gynecological violence.

Together, let’s defend our right to gynecological health care free from violence and abuse.

patient and doctor with stethoscope in hand and ears

Some resources

To share your story:

Petition to demand a policy against gynecological violence: