Victim: Female nurse, age 25
Time: circa 1980
Place: A hospital in a sleepy Southern town with fifty beds, six emergency department beds, one nurse, one doctor and one secretary.
It was an unusually quiet Friday night in this small emergency department.
We all knew Friday was “party day”: pay day, play day, alcohol, pills, drugs, loud music and lots of really bad decisions.
Not only did we cover the entire city, but we also covered many surrounding small towns and all of the conditions these locations imply.
When women came to the ED with “abdominal pain,” we had to break it to them that they were pregnant and ready to deliver. There were gunshot wounds, heart attacks, respiratory arrests, stab wounds, and many a church goers’ “done fall-outs.”
Overdoses, alcoholics, and drug seekers were migrated to the ED equally with snot-nosed kids with colds.
Fridays were the worst nights. But this Friday was different — it was completely quiet.
Then, the radio transmitter called in:
Rescue squad: 19-year-old male, attempted to put his mother’s house on fire. Superficial razor marks to his right inner forearm. Use of PCP — angel dust, Ketamine, horse tranquilizer, hallucinogenic.
The rescue squad came bursting through the ED doors in their normal fashion. He’s young and naked under the sheet. His razor marks … I’ve seen worse. They’re just superficial. His voice is soft and polite pepper with “yes, ma’am” and “no, ma’am.”
An MD suggests to put betadine on his razor marks and send him home. No stitches required.
As I apply the betadine, he sits up on the stretcher, stares me in the eye and loudly yells, “I’m gonna f**k you, b***h!” Before I knew it, he grabs my scrub top and tears open the snaps on the front. My bra is in full view, and he gropes my breasts with both of his hands and clutches my vagina.
I was violated.
His incessant squeezing of my breasts and vagina and his repulsive chanting about how he wanted to molest me made me feel as if I was in the darkest side of hell.
I screamed for help, “Call the police!” There isn’t an alarm or a security guard.
The MD kicks the patient’s ankle saying, “Stop that boy,” and the patient continues to “dance” with me across the ED. The secretary notifies the local police to come to our hospital stat.
I was assaulted over and over again until I was backed into a corner. My world stopped. It was me in the corner. And this naked man with his enlarged appendage was starring at me.
This was it.
I did not know any self-defense or survival skills. I knew my nursing pledge to “do no harm,” but I also knew that that “thing” was not going to go inside of me.
I had one hand free and grabbed his naked scrotum. I squeezed as hard as I possibly could and twisted them until I could twist no more.
His eyes rolled upwards, he went limp and fell to the floor. He fainted. I shut him down. I sat on his back, the MD sat on his legs, and finally, a fat-bellied policeman walks in.
“Y’all need some help?”
They carted him off to jail. I was obviously traumatized and started to cry. Dr. X said, “I’m so sorry, I’m just not used to this situation.”
It was Christmas time. It was the season to be jolly.
The hospital gave me three days off and workmen’s comp.
I felt violated and dirty — the nearest thing to being raped.
I was distrustful, angry and I even had a difficult time sleeping with my husband. I thought don’t touch me. Don’t anyone touch me.
But in the midst of all of this, I grew stronger — almost fearless — to where I could stare a man in the eyes and say, “Don’t even try. I will destroy you.” I felt like Superman.
When my attacker fell to the floor, I saw stars and stripes — victory.
But it doesn’t always turn out this way. Blame it on mental illness, alcohol, the wrong people with guns, the epidemic use of opiates or the mere frustration of waiting to be seen in the ED and waiting more than 15 minutes is 15 minutes too long.
The fuse is short in the ED.
Emergency departments across the nation are a haven for violence and abuse. The ENA (Emergency Nurses Association) reported that 80 percent of ED nurses and health care personnel were physically/verbally attacked in the ED 2014-2016. MDs reported being attacked in the ED by 75 percent.
I’m not sure what it will take for our protection.
I do know that a hospital CEO typically makes $3-14 million per year.
Priorities. Go figure.
Debbie Moore-Black is a nurse who blogs at Do Not Resuscitate.
Image credit: Shutterstock.com