My first Pap smear after sexual assault

Well.

There’s a provocative title.

My editors and publishers should be pleased with my attention-getting skills.

Why am I writing about something TMI on my professional author blog, you might ask. The answer is both simple and complex.

 

Simple version:

I write because my body won’t let me write anything else.

I must write.

So I write what I can.

 

Complex version:

I have spent most of the last year feeling helpless, ashamed, violated, dirtied, devalued, and nothing but a victim. When I searched “how to have a Pap smear after sexual assault,” I found very little. One or two helpful articles, but not much else. I learned strategies and tips that, in an ideal world, might have helped.

In struggling with the helplessness, first of violation and then the inability to undergo a routine medical exam, I need to feel as if I have agency. I need to claim some kind of power. I need…

I need to begin to feel more like Ana again.

The Ana who writes, laughs, jokes, and teases. The Ana who campaigns for social causes, writes kinky fiction, and will fight anyone who claims that F/F fiction isn’t worth writing or reading.

In order to take back my power, I must come to terms with my powerlessness.

And if just one person can read my account and face her worst fear, perhaps I can begin escaping from this nightmare.

——-

Let’s not say who.

Or when.

Or how.

A few months ago, a man

[I couldn’t continue. I surfed the internet, looked up unrelated things, dilly-dallied, and followed a rabbit trail of distractions. This is hard. Even committing to not telling too much, I couldn’t do it. I’ll try again.]

A man placed his genitals against mine.

While claiming helplessness, innocence, and complete lack of responsibility.

The person I trusted most in the entire world told me that I was wrong, it couldn’t have happened the way I thought, and he wasn’t a bad man.

So I hid it.

For months.

When the doctor letter came for a Pap smear, I ignored it.

Then the second letter came, and I wavered. An informal poll on Facebook showed that my female friends overwhelmingly felt a Pap smear was necessary regardless of sexuality.

I went in, unsuspecting, and expected nothing more than embarrassment and pain.

Instead, I nearly screamed and jumped off the examination table.

The nurse could not have been kinder. She reassured me, soothed me, and stopped the instant I grew upset. She talked me through several options and said I didn’t have to continue. Since I was already half-naked, I said that we might as well try again.

This time, I had to bite back the tears.

Afterward, the memories came rushing back.

The last time someone got near my vagina, someone I didn’t trust.

I grew weepy, bursting into tears every time I thought of the impending re-scheduled exam. A quick consultation with the doctor seemed to promise a slow, thoughtful, and careful second attempt that would only proceed if I felt comfortable.

I was a mess for that week. Nearly made myself sick the night before (which was made even more fun by the electric company shutting off my power just before sunset).

The day of, the doctor asked me a few cursory questions before instructing me to strip from the waist down and lie on the examination table. When she told me to lie on my back, despite previously agreeing not to (the position triggered too many memories of feeling helpless), I protested. She said that it would be easier for me. I knew I couldn’t handle it, but she’d rushed me into the exam and I didn’t feel I could say no. I also had the right to ask for a third party to be present (not as a witness, in my case, but someone to help calm me down), but she didn’t offer and I didn’t feel I could ask.

(I’ve since learned that GPs here earn a bonus for administering a certain number of Pap smears. I’d thought she was kind to talk through the exam with me, but she may have been more focused on adding one more number to her list.)

The second she tried the exam, I burst into hysterical tears and sobbed that I couldn’t do it. She’d promised we could stop if I needed to, so I expected that I would be able to leave. The words, “I refuse this exam” should have left my lips, but I was caught in the whirlwind of nonconsensual touch.

I’ve blamed myself for that moment. Often. I should have said no. I should have gotten off the table and gotten dressed. I should have walked out. I should have…

Just like I should have fought against the man who pinned me down and gyrated his crotch against me, penis bulging.

I should have.

But I didn’t.

I’ve been frozen with shame and disbelief since that day, unable to function or to focus.

To make things worse, by attempt number four I said I just wanted to get it done so I wouldn’t have to wait for another appointment on another day.

I should have said I refused the exam, period. I have the right to do so, and the GP even said it at our initial meeting.

Consent is such a tricky thing.

Did I allow the man (I use the word loosely) to touch me?

Did my lack of physical reaction, lack of fighting, kicking, and screaming, render my non-consent useless?

Did my frozen fear inhibit my ability to say no?

Or did I truly not say no?

Five times, the GP inserted the speculum and made me writhe in agony. I could allow it to enter, but any movement inside made my vision go gray with pain. In hindsight, the pain was likely fear translated into bodily form.

Afterward, the GP cheerily tried to say that it went well, I’d tried my best, and I could book another appointment to try again. That we would get there.

When I asked for a referral to a specialized clinic that would help with the exam (as in a clinic that would work with issues such as mine), her face tightened as she told me that was out of the question.

(I’ve since learned that GPs have to pay for services given upon referral, while they receive the payment if they perform the exam themselves.)

I wanted a Pap smear to be something I could do, despite bad history and fear. I wanted to overcome my fears.

Instead, I’ve sat, stupefied, for the two and a half days since.

I don’t have any words of wisdom here.

No advice.

Just hope that sharing my story might help someone else.

I wish I’d taken my cue from the BDSM community. There is understanding that, in certain situations, someone is unable to give or withdraw consent. There needs to be an external observer to watch for body cues.

I needed a watcher.

I wish I’d known that before I went in.

 

 

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5 thoughts on “My first Pap smear after sexual assault

  1. abby says:

    First of all BIG gentle HUGS…..I have tears in my eyes for what you have suffered. The words ‘should have’…need to be banished. They usually bring on guilt and remorse…guilt that is not deserved….and most certainly so in your case. I know these are just words, but I hope the through these words, you can feel my support, empathy, love and sorrow at the way you have been treated. If possible find a trusted friend to be present at the next exam…find a new doctor…and talk to them ahead of time….and mostly…be kind to yourself..none, NOT 1 bit of any of this is your fault….hugs abby

    Like

  2. pao says:

    Hugs, Ana.

    It’s not your fault. They are wrong to take advantage of you. We all like to think we will be able to know when a situation like that will come up and that we will have the clarity of mind to respond in a way to protect ourselves. But people freeze. I froze. And it’s not your fault. It’s hard to accept it because it feels like you have let yourself down. But these people should not have done that to you. Should not have forced you into something you are not ready to do or do not want to do.

    I’m just so mad this man did this to you.

    Like

  3. EsMay says:

    Hi Ana, my heart broke with yours as I read. When it comes to anything sexual, anything with your body even outside of sex, you have to be a willing, and wanting participant for it to be okay. You didn’t say yes, and unless you do, it’s always no. This is not your fault. {HUGS} I am so sorry that being with your doctor has brought back so many memories, and that she has been so hard to work with at times. Is there a walk in clinic you could go to to get a referral? Are you able to be put on a list for another doctor? I’m sorry you have to deal with this on top of the memories. 😦

    EsMay

    Like

  4. rozharrison says:

    Hi Ana,

    My heart breaks for you, to be violated in the first place and then to be treated so badly by people who should know better, and who should be there to support you, and be there for you. There is no “should have”, none of this is your fault in any way. Are you able to take a trusted friend with you for support perhaps.

    (((Hugs)))
    Roz

    Like

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