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‘Where it hurts': A Brazilian online campaign raises awareness about abuse by health professionals

Campaign's official illustration.

Warning: This story contains graphic descriptions of instances of sexual assault.

Brazilian actor and activist Nina Marqueti was 16 when she was a victim of sexual abuse by her pediatrician. On a consultation about stomach problems, she says he pulled down her pants and touched her genitals.

At age 28, she decided to address her assault on her theatre play A Flor da Matriarca (“The matriarch’s flower”). After that, she started a campaign inviting others to tell similar stories.

Through the hashtag #ondedoi (“where it hurts”), Brazilian women are sharing experiences of abuse by doctors and other health professionals. Abuses include sexual orientation discrimination, body shaming, and sexual assault while being examined.

The campaign was organized with the help of seven Brazilian feminist collectives. According to the official website, the campaign will try to transform the stories into data and map cases of abuse in Brazil, as well as establish a support network for survivors.

The hashtag went viral on Twitter on December 9. The following day, the campaign created an official account to retweet people's stories. Here are some of them:

The first time I had a transvaginal ultrasound the doctor did the exam without adequate lubrication, I was crying in pain, all because he was in a hurry as his shift was supposed to end at 5 p.m. My exam was scheduled at 5 p.m. and I cried in the bathroom while changing my clothes.

The first time I went to a gynaecologist after loosing my virginity, he introduced his finger into my vagina and I contracted it involuntarily. He said I was going to give “a lot of pleasure to my partners” because I was “very tight.”

The first time I went by myself to a gynaecologist, the doctor told me he would have to use his hand to be sure everything was okay, he then introduced his fingers in me and started to caress my body, he said he was just showing me where I would feel pleasure, I had no reaction and never told this to anyone.

After suffering a miscarriage and bleeding for a month, I was crying during a medical consultation, and the doctor laughed and asked: “but don’t you know what a condom is?”. He is one of the directors of a maternity hospital.

[first tweet]:I went to a gynaecologist who was recommended to me by an acquaintance with the intention of getting an IUD. All the time he stood too close when talking to me, leaning against my body. I felt my heart stop for a moment when he went to examine me and afterwards, as soon as I sat up (naked)…

[second tweet]: He stood up and started rubbing his erect privates on my knee. I felt scared and ashamed with the situation. Paralised.

I went to a doctor because my stomach was hurting a lot, he told me to lift up my shirt, touched my belly, moved his hand down my butt and said that next time I could come wearing less clothing.

The hashtag also gathered many stories of lesbian women who said they've experienced mockery and contempt by doctors because of their sexual orientation:

My first time at a gynaecologist, he asked me if I was in a relationship, I said yes, with a girl. He stopped the consult, reached for a bible on his shelf and started to read it to me

I used to consult with a gynecologist, she knew I was a lesbian, still she would refuse to examine me and said that I had to lose my virginity.

The first time I went to a gynaecologist it was a male doctor, I was 16 and he kept joking about my sexual orientation, asking who was the man and the woman in the relationship, that I was too pretty to be a lesbian, after that he did a touch exam, I felt like trash and didn’t go again to a doctor for years.

This user shared her experience of having a physician mock her self-harm scars:

The first time I went to a gynaecologist she looked at my scars (self-harm) and said it was all drama, that she had already treated patients with real diseases (cancer) and that none of them would do that etc, then she added that, whenever I really felt like killing myself, I should just tell her and she would name the right drugs.

Other users shared their stories about being body-shamed during their appointments:

The PSYCHIATRIST started to talk about my weight and health issues (but said I didn’t have any problems). However, he commented that I should lose weight so I would be more elegant to my father and to my boyfriend. PSYCHIATRIST, I left the clinic crying, when I was supposed to leave calmer.

My first time at the gynaecologist she said I had polycystic ovary syndrome and told me to go to the gym and to have laser hair removal because I wouldn't want to be fat and hairy.

The official site for the campaign also gathers news stories about similar cases. They include that of Roger Abdelmassih, a leading in-vitro fertilization doctor in Brazil who, in 2009, was sentenced to 278 years in prison for rape of 52 patients and attempted rape of 39 others.

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