In 2014 I was an invited speaker at the International Pelvic Pain Society (IPPS). My first day there I attended the session on research. I was excited to hear what Dr. Khalid Khan, the editor of The British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology,had to say about writing a good paper. An editor’s take on what gets published, what doesn’t, and why would be invaluable for a future paper! It was clear lots of other people had the same thought and so I didn’t have the opportunity to speak with him after he spoke.

Screen Shot 2017-12-14 at 7.33.00 AM

One night after dinner I was in the bar of the conference hotel networking with other doctors and physical therapists. I saw a friend, we’ll call him Dr. Smith so he isn’t bombarded at work with phone calls (although he is willing to go on the record should that be required), trailing behind Dr. Khan. We started chatting and I was really pleased to have time with Dr. Khan. Given the close confines of the bar Dr. Khan and I were separated from Dr. Smith by the push of the crowd.

We started chatting, ordered a drink, and then Dr. Khan’s arm went over my shoulder in that all too familiar manner and before I could process what was happening his hand was on my breast. I had one of those what-the-fuck-just-happened moments and instead of punching him in the face I did what most women do, I gave him the benefit of the doubt. Surely the editor of the British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology did not just grope my breast. Surely I imagined it.

I moved his hand.

We chatted a little and I pretended he hadn’t groped me and then he started that octopus body crawl that so many women know only too well. He was nuzzling my neck and his disgusting hot breath was in my ear. He was groping my breasts, running his hands up and down my back, and putting his arm around my waist pulling me against his body. Each time I moved one hand or arm another seemed to take his place. 

I told him to stop.

I removed his hands more forcefully each time. You know how it is, doing that half laugh that is part nerves and part hoping it might give the person helping themselves to your body the opportunity to back off gracefully (as if they deserve that) by pretending their groping you was just some kind of joke. 

We women are trained from birth to make these exceptions for men.

I asked a man who I had seen at the conference for help and he just looked away.

I had to resort to yelling and physically pushing Dr. Khan away more than once before he got the idea that my body was not his to fondle.

And then something happened that still shames me. After receiving enough rebukes from me Dr. Khan stumbled over to a group of women who were also at the conference and instead of warning them I went to look for Dr. Smith. I was just so glad to get rid of Dr. Khan and I didn’t want to risk being next to him again.

I told Dr. Smith what happened. He has since told me that he remembers hearing me yell and seeing me upset. And then Dr. Smith told me that he had been called to a restaurant by a colleague to remove Dr. Khan because of Dr. Khan’s behavior towards a female doctor at the dinner. Dr. Smith had brought Dr. Khan back to the hotel hoping he would be embarrassed and head up to his room, but as they walked into the hotel Dr. Khan headed to the bar and so Dr. Smith followed. Dr. Smith assumed that Dr. Khan would be so mortified that he wouldn’t do it again. 

I e-mailed Dr. Smith before I wrote this and he sent me his recollection. The “him” is Dr. Khan:

Screen Shot 2017-12-14 at 6.36.53 PM

I was not being “hit on.” I’ve been hit on many times and I know the difference. Being hit on usually involves a glance that lingers, a touch that is reciprocated, or as Dr. Khan himself wrote in his article on how to convert online content into a first date, “A genuine smile, one that crinkles up your eyes.” 

I found the acknowledgements of that paper very interesting:

Screen Shot 2017-12-14 at 7.07.56 PM

I have never been groped like that at a medical conference, although I have heard that other women have suffered that way. I have also heard worse. Until 2014 my “no” was always accepted, although now I wonder if my career was affected by turning down these men who always held more power than I did?

How many women turned away from academics and conferences because the groping was just too much to bear? How many cures and therapies are we missing because women decided that “publish or perish” had a hidden price tag that was just too steep? And what of the women who paid that price? 

Why come forward now?

If a man is going to grope my body without my permission he gets no say in how I speak about it. I choose now, so now it is. 

I’ve been encouraged to come forward by watching the brave women in Hollywood tell their stories of unwanted sexual advances and assaults as well as the courageous women who have recounted what happened to them at the hands of politicians. I know these stories circulated for years and after hearing of recent issues at the AAGL meeting I realize there is also a whisper network for women in medicine.

The glass ceiling not only keeps women from advancing it also keeps the men at the top from hearing our stories and acting appropriately to stop abuse when it happens. I know it takes someone to start a public conversation so here I am saying what happened to me. 

Everything is designed to protect men. Period. Quietly discussing this doesn’t alert other women and, quite frankly, having any conversation with the men’s club on the sunny side of the glass ceiling usually results in a woman being told she was over reacting and gets her labelled as a bitch or as a trouble maker. 

Men have been taking sexual advantage of women since the beginning of time. If politely telling them in private that they should stop worked we wouldn’t be here. Anyway, we can’t tell them in private because we are afraid to be with them in private. We’re sometimes afraid to be with them in public too. 

I have nothing to gain from disclosing this except peace of mind. It was uncomfortable to think about what happened, I am still ashamed for not warning the other women at the bar, and I was embarrassed e-mailing Dr. Smith. This disclosure will likely cause a lot of aggravation for me, however, the number of women who have been whispering their stories to me has aggrieved me.

I’m angry at the men who do this and I’m angry with society for conspiring to make women like me feel this is somehow our fault. I’m angry that society tells me I should worry more about what happens to the man who groped me than how his behavior has affected me. 

I have written many posts that have attracted a lot of very difficult attention. I brought Ben Carson’s hypocrisy about abortion research to light and was attacked online by his supporters. I was the first to point out that Donald Trump’s medical letter was a sorry excuse that told us nothing and was similarly attacked by his supporters. For writing about abortion I’ve been smeared by right wing news sites and had to contact the FBI over threats. I’ve been smeared by the Toronto Star for calling them out on their tabloid worthy “article” on the HPV vaccine. However, I never once wavered or worried before I hit the “publish” button on any article I’ve ever written until now and yet all I am doing is telling the truth about how a man groped me. I think that speaks volumes on how women have been enculturated to accept the blame for the way men prey on us and how the partriarchy keeps us afraid of the consequences of speaking out.

(By the way, if you ask why I didn’t go to the police you can put yourself firmly in the “how poorly society treats women who speak out” camp).

This is not “my truth” this is the truth.

I am done with the network of whispers and I am so done with giving these men the benefit of the doubt. 

91 replies on “I was groped by the editor of an OB/GYN medical journal. I’m not the only one.”

  1. Dr Gunter
    I now understand why you got a prickly when I asked what the result of the investigation into the allegations you made against professor Khan. I’ve discovered he has been back working for some considerable time with them having cleared him of sexual assault against you. The witness that you put forward was unable to make a statement that matched your description of events despite the offer he made to you to meet and “corroborate” even though it’s quite obvious he has no idea where it was meant to have taken place. Apparently, your description and his were so different that it could only mean either or both of you were dishonest. When I look at not only the timing of that particular blog and previous blogs where you have blatantly used the high profiles of others, namely Trump and Paltrow to piggy back your way to increasing your following. It seems to me this allegation was just a wy to be “on trend” with the #metoo movement. I think you’re shameless and this is a disservice to women that actually suffer from these issues.
    I wish I was wrong but it don’t look that way to me.

    1. Hey Del, you can you troll elsewhere. You are disgusting. I have shared all the info from the women who reached out to me to tell me they were warned not to meet with Khan in public. I’ve also shared info from people who confirmed my story — in writing with all the people investigating. Do you think I fabricated screenshots? I shared info from other women who reached out about similar allegations. And info from a woman who has seen Khan grope trainees at functions. If the misogynists at QMUL choose to view him as a bumbler and not a predator then they are part of the problem. I guess I could also share the e-mails and messages from all the co workers who heard the rumors. If you are a doctor, you are part of the problem. And go fuck yourself. If not, go fuck yourself. Want to know what someone who worked at QMUL said? I wonder if they will go after the others. You make me sick. Get the fuck off my blog.

  2. Dear Jen, thank you for speaking out. I have had exactly the same experience from the same man. I slapped him round the face, but don’t think I’m brave enough to speak up. Reading this makes me feel sick. I think without this experience I may have been doing research in his unit, but it definitely put me off.

    1. Dear Anon who has had the same experience and slapped him around the face. You don’t need to be brave – just honest. Why don’t you start simply by writing down your account purely factually? When you’ve done that, then consider contacting the HR department at Barts (employer) and/or the GMC. They will have to investigate. Take a friend. You will be supported. And you won’t be alone.

  3. Dear Dr. Gunter,

    Thank you for your brave honesty. I entered an MBA program in the late ’70s after graduating summa cum laude in three years. I was young, naive, idealistic, and sexually inexperienced. I didn’t realize that I wasn’t a student anymore, but rather, prey. My statistics professor raped me, and the powerlessness, self-blame, and self-hatred were so painful, I turned to alcohol to keep going. Even as I worked to launch my career, I was caught in a self-destructive spiral, barreling into an abyss. I learned that most men have no compunction about having sex with a woman who’s in a blackout, or even unconscious. In the four years between the rape in graduate school and the time I wound up in a residential treatment center, just one man refused to have sex with me because I was drunk. He was also the only one who said I had a problem with alcohol and needed help. With the #MeToo revelations, I think that I finally see reality: that the fabric of male society is fraught with callous sexual predators. Like any pack animal, they’ll attack the young, weak, or wounded. Those in high positions will also go after the best and brightest, those who represent what they must see as some kind of threat to their stranglehold on power and privilege.

  4. What I fail to understand is how a man can do that. I am a man with a very high sex drive who had lots of relationships from short to long, seducer type, and I have NEVER groped a woman or even thought about it, including when I was the manager of a big company with lots of women under my command. Neither did I when I was a student or even when I was drunk. Never. I was groped by a gay man once. And I was raped by a malefamily member as a pre-teen. I mean, what happens in the brain of those guys so that they feel they can touch the other person without their consent? Let alone use them for sex? What is the rational explanation for this? Are they all sick? Idiots? Delusional? Do they miss some hormones that can regulate impulses? I am really wondering. This is not how real men act, even when they are so starved of sex that their brain becomes like jelly. Real men don’t grope.

  5. Thank you for being so courageous and throwing a spotlight on this horrible incident. If you haven’t already do so, please could I urge you to report this incident to the GMC so that Prof Khan’s unacceptable behaviour doesn’t go unpunished.

    1. Readers may be interested to know that Professor Khan has already been removed from his editorial position at the British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology pending an investigation into this incident.

      I have to say I am saddened by this incident. It appears that a woman was assaulted. It seems that a man who devoted life work to caring for women has wrecked his own career and reputation. Some of the responses appear to trivialise the incident, criticise Dr Gunter for speaking out, or caricature all men as the same. I don’t concur with any of these responses. I suspect such stories and worse are unfortunately common.

      Is the problem fixable? It may be that encouraging intervention by others (particularly men) who witness inappropriate behaviour may be an effective way to reduce it.

      Public Health England 2016. A review of evidence for bystander intervention to prevent sexual and domestic violence in universities

  6. You are courageous. Thank you. because it happens more than men and women are willing to admit to. As a new physician I was taken down a hallway by the Department head in a major hospital, when he started asking me for a kiss. I was so stunned, I hit him with my overnight bag and told him he was crazy as I ran away. To this day, I still wonder what happened. When I reached out for help, I was told, “Yeah, he is a crazy guy. Stay away from him.” He has since died, so no one else is at risk, but it still frustrates me that when I asked for a listening ear, it was minimized. Thank you again for your courage. You give us all voice.

  7. Thank you for speaking up. I am so glad that you are brave enough to speak your truth about sexual harassment and abuse in the field of medicine. I wish had spoken up when I was a medical student in the 80’s – fellow and junior attending in the 90’s. Being told I was less than male peers wore me down even in the field of women’s health! I don’t want to see that happen to the amazing young women doctors who are coming up into their time to take on leadership in the care of women. This is the time to bring out the truth- thanks for leading the way.

    1. I did speak out. My career was destroyed. I left because it became so severe that I was scheduled to work in three different hospitals at the same time then accused of not showing up at two of them. The technology of cloning myself is not available.

  8. Female doctors everywhere standing up beside you. Just want to add my name to the ‘support’ group in case the negatives are out in force.

  9. There is no excuse for men behaving badly. It’s a disgrace. Bravo for calling the kettle black.

  10. I am of an age where sexually abusive behaviour form men, young and old, fell under “boys will be boys”, and if I didn’t like it it, I should not be asking for it. Basically, it was the price a female paid to be around men. All of these women coming out and telling their stories has made me remember and relive a lot of different events and emotions, and it has been tough. Going back and revisiting these occurrences with new eyes has been quite something. It makes me wonder who I would have been if I had grown up in a different world, where my body was just my own and having to say no wasn’t even a consideration. It was a given. I want to thank all the women who have come forward so that hopefully, my nieces will live a life feeling safe, and where my sons will not be the only guys not just being “guys”. It gives me hope. Thank you.

  11. Thank you for speaking out. I hope they all fall. I was sexually harassed by a resident and an attending (in front of others openly, with abandon) when I was a medical student. I am not a woman you fuck with. The resident got reported to his program director and I was asked to testify against him. The attending I told “are you fucking kidding me” while retracting during a surgery. All the residents and attending on the case looked down, unable to speak due to shock of what was said to me (or maybe my response)?” He was later reprimanded for sexual inpropriety toward another attending. This shit happens to all of us, we need to speak out in real time, or whenever we’re moved to…even years later. Thank you

  12. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

    Michael Rieder
    Paediatric Pharmacologist
    University of Western Ontario medical school

    1. Thankyou. Thankyou.Thank you.

      Another creep is:
      Michael Rieder
      Paeditric Pharmacologist
      Universty of Western Ontario Medical school hunts female young docs, teenaged patients

  13. We men have not evolved much and probably will never. Some of us are too scared of the law /public opinion/ loss of job to grope a woman; some are not; rest pretend to be holier than you. We will never change.

  14. Dear Dr Gunter,

    The accused looks after patients and sexual assault is a serious accusation.
    It comes to mind that there are immediate child and adult safeguarding issues.
    The GMC should be informed.

    Kind Regards,
    Empathic friend.

  15. Dr Gunter, I am a past president of the AAGL and have attended every meeting for the last 25 yrs or so. I would appreciate hearing about the incidences you mentioned at the AAGL meeting(s). I will make certain this gets taken to the AAGL board (if it has not already done so) for appropriate action. I really enjoy your writing. Alan Johns, MD

  16. Dear Dr. Gunter,
    First let me say that I am horrified that this happened to you and I am truly saddened that it happened to you at the IPPS. We are already discussing the steps that we need to take as a society to ensure that this never happens again to any of our members or speakers. I glad (and proud) that you spoke up and I hope you agree to join us as we begin a serious discussion about the processes we need to implement at the IPPS ASAP to protect members. As for Dr. Khan, he is not an IPPS member so I am not sure we can do anything to remedy what has happened. Needless to say he won’t be invited back to speak at the IP PS. In addition, in our new policies we will make sure that speakers and members know, that the IP PS will not tolerate, under any circumstance is, this type of behavior. Once again, I am truly sorry this happened to you and I look forward to working with you to make sure this never happens again.
    Georgine Lamvu
    IPPS Board Chair

  17. I was thirteen and went to the dentist for the first time on my own. He allowed his hands to linger on my breasts while he smiled into my face. I was frozen in shock, never told my parents. The first of oddball inappropriate behavior by men that I experienced. Your story reminds me of being a young nurse and being intimidated to get into an elevator with the OB docs alone. I’m grateful for your story, we are not alone…

    1. Yes. I get it.
      What impresses me the most is that Dr. Jen had the chops to make her “NO!!!” loud and clear. That’s what my generation of feminists is like. I have no such patience for women who lead men on, behave seductively, have ’emotional affairs,’ and turn around and falsely accuse men of sexual harassment. I’m in no way defending men who engage in actual sexual harassment, assualt, or rape. What happened to Jen was assault, legally speaking.
      My husband, who is 100% feminist in word, thought, and deed, was a victim of libel, a set-up, and some really disgusting Internet bullying. And if you think the #metoo movement didn’t ruin a few innocent men, you are simply not able or willing to critically evaluate every claim.

  18. Yes…so common as to be a background to a typical woman’/girl’s life. 1984 IU Med School: The general surgeon giving the lecture on breast anatomy and breast cancer starts lecture with Playboy photos. This from the head of the dept. who did a lot of mastectomies. Rotation through Cardiovascular surgery my Jr, year: resident tells me upon opening the chest that the head surgeon will feel me up my backside while I’m scrubbed in and he’s not. Nurses, anesthesia people all warning me at the same time. I say nothing because I’m on the rotation for 4 wks.

  19. As a med student who is super interested in OBGYN, you are so inspiring to me.
    As a woman in general, you are so inspiring to me.
    Thank you for sharing and for using your voice in all of your posts!!

    Happy Holidays

  20. Thank you! I fear that most of us have been groped or worse. Speaking out has a better chance of extinguishing this behavior than silence ever has.


    Sharon A. Nichols DO, FACC

    1. Seems statistically significant that the tidal wave of accusations are being generated by privileged women against similarly privileged me. And absurd, statistically that there are no reported cases of inappropriate sexual advances towards men. Many times, unbidden, I have been touched by a female. What are the chances I would have been laughed at, even if there was a possibility I might have somehow benefited from making the accusation?? Perhaps the female population might also want to turn their guns inward. Read a magazine, watch TV, visit a bar. A singulat focus and preoccupation with the male contribution to the problem is absurd.

      1. Allow me to clarify matters for you. I, female, once had a great day at work. I exuberantly touched a male colleague and friend. He turned around and said hey that’s sexual harassment. I immediately apologised. He looked at me and said: I was joking and he meant it. We remained friends for years and I never touched him again. That is the difference.

      2. Your claim is incorrect. Just as one example, look up Andrea Ramsey, former congressional candidate in Kansas. This behavior is an assertion of power. Given that, it makes perfect sense that men would be perpetrators much more often than women. Your absurd statistics only make sense if harassment is a (clumsy) expression of romantic interest. It isn’t romance; it’s aggression… and that’s the whole point.

      3. Read more widely.

        Jagsi, R, Griffith, KA, Jones, R, Perumalswami, CR, Ubel, P, Stewart, A. Sexual harassment and discrimination experiences of academic medical faculty. JAMA 2016;315:2120-2121

    1. PS to this: “approval” of your account isn’t mine to give. I mean only to be one more person who takes you seriously, and to show others that they can be taken seriously too.

  21. Somehow, I naively thought that a woman doctor would be safe from the crap that other women are afflicted with all the time. It seems that nothing protects us. Not age, ability, or I now know, professional status. I found, in my younger days, that a punch in the solar plexus or a smack on the ear is usually effective in a public place. Never thought a doctor would have to resort to that. Depressing, but thank you for telling the story.

    1. A smack in the ear!!! Totally unexpected, and I’m guessing probably very effective. Good idea!

  22. Thank you, Dr. Gunter. I cried reading your post, thinking about all the talent, energy and sheer brilliance that’s been lost to humankind because women were discouraged or hounded from their chosen professions, or decided it wasn’t worth it to put up with the abuse. I remember sharing these stories with other women in encounter groups in the 70s, but we never had much hope of being heard outside those circles, or of our experiences resulting in consequences for the perpetrators. I’m not sure how we got to this moment, finally, but it feels so powerful, and I’m grateful to you for sharing your story, along with so many other brave women.

  23. Thank you. In my age group it was as if it was the accepted punishment for thinking we could enter their world. Any complaint was met with, “if you can’t toughen up you probably shouldn’t be a doctor.” On one rotation in Med school avoidance was rewarded with “she was very difficult to find on call.” Worst though was when I interviewed at UVA. The Dean walked into the room. I stood up, smiled, held out my hand to shake his. He held up his hands and said, “look, they told me I had to take 17 women. I’ve got my17, I’m not going to waste my time with you.” No groping, just dismissed . How many excellent docs did we lose over the years because these sorts of behaviors were accepted and expected? Not that anything can be done about it now – maybe UVA can refund my application fee, with interest? – just to offer my support and belief. Persist.

  24. Well he did not know that you was so popular otherwise he did not touch you. Thank you to be outspoken we need more of that.

  25. Wow. This is just horrible.
    Jen, I’m a Dr basically just starting out and you have been an inspiration and role model to me in how you speak out. Thank you once again for giving a voice to people who may feel as though they have everything to lose by coming forward.

  26. Intolerable behaviour, he should be fired from the journal AND disbarred as a Dr.
    No-one with that attitude should be let near patients in a position of trust.

    1. Trial in social media, by anecdote. Quite professional. As was the IUD article. (10% IUD and 80% comment on a person and situation that is almost universally understood). Funny how the narcissism in Gwyneth Paltrow didn’t really show through until she gathered a following, and began to be impressed by it.

      1. Yikes. You seem to have a have a problem with strong, intelligent, articulate women – in this case, one who speaks for at least 50% of the population and likely for 95% of all thoughtful individuals.

      2. Anyone know the results of the subsequent investigation? I find it strange that there has been no update on such a serious accusation given this has been made so public

      3. After several woman approached me to tell me of similar experiences I filed a complaint with the GMC, QMUL and the Royal College. I am not their keepers so you can check with them on the status of their investigations.


      4. I was just asking. I didn’t suggest you were anyone’s keeper. Having said that, you would know because as the complainant they would keep you updated surely?
        Thank you in any case I shall follow your advice and look it up. If I find anything I shall post on this thread as I’m sure you’d want people to know the results? Unless you have a reason to block me from doing so?
        Fond regards

  27. All of this sounds so very familiar — “We women are trained from birth…” “…instead of punching him in the face I did what most women do, I gave him the benefit of the doubt.” “…and then he started that octopus body crawl that so many women know only too well.” Yes, very familiar. THANK YOU for this column. May all of your colleagues do the right thing and support you for publishing this.

  28. Your experiences of trying to convince yourself that you imagined it, then pretending it was all a joke or that you didn’t notice while giving him multiple opportunities to “back off gracefully”, will ring true for so many women. Thank you for your bravery.

  29. I went to school with and worked with guys like that. I had a few opportunities to intervene, and I did. My preference would have been a couple of “dirty tricks” I had learned in my Aikido dojo, things that would have been very painful but only leave bruises. I never did, because I felt it more important to help the girl/woman get out of the situation. I only wish no one ever had to be subjected to such disgusting assault.
    Take care. All the best, and may you never encounter such behaviour again.

  30. Oh, Jen! I’m so very sorry. You’re such a powerful public voice that I can barely understand how a colleague would grope you. Unless he was completely unaware of your following and thought that you were just another female who could be subjugated without his fearing repercussions. In which case, he was two times an idiot.

    I’s appalled and furious. I’m also dreadfully ashamed that I never shared with anyone the fact that my (married) boss’s boss once came on to me physically very strongly. After I slipped out of that situation as gracefully as possible (I’m grateful we were in public), he began a campaign to have me fired, which was successful. I didn’t bring it up with my employment attorney during severance-package negotiations because I didn’t want to get the reputation associated with suing for wrongful dismissal. In England, where I’m based, that can be a career-killer.

    In my case, the score was asshole 1, female employee nil.

    I admire you for speaking up. That small phrase doesn’t come close to expressing my appreciation.

  31. Thank you for always speaking truth and taking the risks inherent in doing so. May your heart heal and may you find peace. You continue to inspire all of us fellow women doctors. Brava, Dr. Gunter!

  32. As a man and a physician, I am glad you are speaking out, on your own terms. This kind of behaviour was never ok, though it was somehow bewilderingly tolerated until now. I am confident that stories like yours which are bringing this issue firmly into the light will do more to prevent this type of assault in the future than any sexual harassment seminar ever could.

    I know this is difficult for you to talk about and even more difficult to publicise. But I’m glad you did, and I am not the only one.

    1. spoken like a true male. why do you have to belittle her by saying she can’t get enough of herself? what does that even mean? this is her platform, this is her story and this post still falls into the category of “HELPING WOMEN.”

    2. You must have some special knowledge about the situation or the people concerned to make that statement. Can you please share?

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: