Breakfast host on The Hits, columnist for nzherald.co.nz Life & Style.

Polly Gillespie: I was too embarrassed to report my therapist

I was completely betrayed by someone I believed I could trust with my problems. Photo / Supplied
I was completely betrayed by someone I believed I could trust with my problems. Photo / Supplied

• Warning: Some of this content may be confronting and upsetting

Being in the kitchen cooking something for people I love is just about my favourite thing on earth. Just about. Having made a rather remarkably good stuffed omelette for my partner, I was reflecting on the new non-stick pan being more "sticky" than it should be, when from the couch I hear:

"This is bloody shocking, babe. Have you read in the Herald about all the health professionals who've been copped for sexual misconduct and had their names suppressed permanently? Plus they are now back practising?"

"Well everyone deserves a second chance," I mumbled, inspecting the decaying non-stick surface of my fry pan.

"Excuse me?" he responded incredulously. "Let me read you this story about an osteopath, and then one about a child porn trafficker!"

I stood in stunned silence, mouth wide open, as he read from the online link.

According to this story, there are dozens of health care professionals who have behaved extraordinarily badly; touching people, fondling people, sexually violating patients. It's almost impossible to believe. The horror of it is only compounded by the fact that many of these doctors and health care professionals are now back seeing patients.

How on earth has this been allowed to happen? What's wrong with the law? Legal experts have informed me in the past that people get name suppression to protect victims.

Hold up. If you are a doctor or osteopath, with 300 plus clients, then how does your name being suppressed protect any of them, or me, in the future? I want to know if a doctor has previously touched an unsuspecting woman on a table, who was there only for her sciatica. This is lunacy.

Do we have a culture of professionals protecting professionals?

If a builder's labourer was caught sexually interfering with a client, would he get the same name suppression? I really don't think so. Is it part of an ongoing "Old Boys Club"? Are chaps who went to private schools or university protecting their cronies? It's B.S. That's what it is.

Sometimes memories are tucked away in dark drawers and cubby holes in our souls, and we forget they're there. Not unlike knickknacks you bought for Christmas stockings that you suddenly discover years later in a hall cupboard while you're looking for something else.

When I'd finished reading Olivia Carville's piece about sexual predators in the health care system I was jolted. A drawer came flying open inside me.

A few years ago I was having trouble with my self-esteem. And I was wondering if I was perhaps too sexually and emotionally hungry. So I went to see a therapist.

I'd seen this therapist before for marriage problems, and he'd helped a lot back then. I talked to him frankly about my concerns. Finally, near the end of the session, he leant back in his chair and in his deep relaxing voice said:

"I would be grateful to have a woman as sexually open as you. If you're looking for a sexual relationship on the side, I can fulfil your needs. I know what to do with a sexy woman like you. My wife is not into it, but have a think about it and let me know."

I was shattered. I was completely betrayed by someone I believed I could trust with my problems. The one person I could be completely honest with in my private "private" life had been so horribly inappropriate.

I was left more lost and withdrawn than I had been when I stepped through his health professional doorway and sat down in his health professional chair.

I told only one person, my best friend Jo. Jo is the only person who knows all my secrets and shames. Jo was upset for me, and suggested I report him, but I was too embarrassed.

Would anyone believe me? I was hardly a Giselle Bundchen.
Would he lie and say it didn't happen?
Did I want my then husband to know I was seeing a therapist?
Who would I tell?
Who would find out?
Would I look like I'd asked for it?

None of those questions should have been a factor. I should have told someone. Even now, I'm not sure who: The police? A therapists' association? A lawyer?

It was a terrible time in my life. I was already feeling isolated and strange, and then things got a damn sight stranger. So when I read the story about all the people who had been molested or treated inappropriately by professionals they trusted as doctors and health providers, I felt sick. And this time, I felt more empowered by time and experience. And I felt angry too.

I'm angry that any one of us could visit a specialist, doctor, osteopath, or therapist, and not know that they had sent thousands of pictures of child porn over the internet, or licked a woman's breasts and massaged her internally and called it osteopathy.

I'm aghast that we still have laws that protect professional felons.

Is it just that our laws are archaic, or do we have another example of one system for "us" and one for the elite?

- NZME.

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Breakfast host on The Hits, columnist for nzherald.co.nz Life & Style.

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