Medical Tuesday Blog
Dr. Rosen: We are hearing allegations and confessions of sexual harassment from a large group of women who allege they were harassed decades ago. How valid is memory from 4 decades ago?
Dr. Edwards: It seems the majority are in the entertainment and political arena. They may have been precipitated by the current emphases in the news media. Then recall may be less than accurate.
Dr. Milton: Harassment has become very vocal this past year. Does that suggest that many of the charges were brought on for possible secondary gain?
Dr. Ruth: It is one arena where the current charges are the most damaging. And some of the charges of force certainly appear to be valid. I still find it difficult to believe that an executive would install a door locking mechanism that he could trigger from the desk in an office with full insulation. That’s pretty blatant. Read more . . .
Dr. Michelle: We must also remember that remote memory of things several decades ago is frequently less than accurate. I think it is also common that unpleasant events seem to magnify over time.
Dr. Ruth: But then what happened after the door was remotely locked? I would think we are very good at screaming. That would bring the whole incident to a head. At least it would make it public and embarrassing to the executive.
Dr. Michelle: If there was no physical contact, that would make it less threatening.
Dr. Ruth: Even if the executive locked the door and then started masturbating, why would that be threatening? Just let him finish and relieve himself. I think most men would lose their aggression, zip up their trousers and return to their desk and unlock the door remotely—the same way that he locked the door.
Dr. Michelle: That reminds me of one rape preventive program in one course I took. Suggest that he masturbate. This usually relieves his urge, gets him past the point of no return, and you should then have plenty of opportunity to get out of harm’s way.
Dr. Yancy: As a surgeon I see a lot of sexual overtures on the way to the operating table. I would say that most of this is very benign. But if a nurse simply turns to the aggressive surgeon and states “I wish you wouldn’t do that.” I don’t know of any surgeon who would even think of trying it again. Public knowledge of sexual misbehavior could end his professional career. His professional status took a long time to earn and a lot of money to achieve.
Dr. Rosen: In view of the complaints expanding over many decades vs the ones that are occurring more recently, and in view of memory changing over many decades, would it be appropriate to have a statute of limitation on this? Would 20 or 25 years work?
Dr. Milton: I think with all the current publicity, the harassed would be able to resolve the issue more quickly and no one would wait decades to come forth. Women are coming forward as a group to illuminate a situation (which has always been prevalent) which diminishes, objectifies, is disrespectful and in some cases violent. This would be permanent on a woman’s recollection. Now that this has become in the open, I think 10 years would give adequate time in the future for the complaint to be resolved.
Dr. Rosen: I think you’re right that recall on this most pervasive harassment is valid at this time. The studies on “recall” and “memory” confirm both are modified over years and after a decade, from this time forward, won’t have validity in court.
Dr. Ruth: I would agree. If a transgression cannot be confirmed legally within a decade, it cannot be confirmed later. I would make it shorter—consistent with other statutes of limitation.
Dr. Rosen: We should also remember that women have been tolerating this type of abuse for years. This has given them a chance to reverse the harassment and bring it current. This is certainly beneficial.
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