25% of Medical women students experience sexual harassment

  • Most of the incidents referred to flirtations or sexual remarks.
  • The majority experienced 1 incident of sexual harassment, 6.7% reported 3 or more incidents.
  • The offenders were all male except in one case, 66% were patients the others were medical doctors or residents.
  • Three of 10 students reported that the incident had a negative influence on their functioning afterwards.
  • The majority (77.8%) discussed the incident with their peers, usually other medical students
  • Three quarters of the students were satisfied with the way the incident was dealt with
  • 13.3% experienced a lack of special support afterwards

Students from two medical schools in The Netherlands received a semi-structured questionnaire about their experience with sexual harassment during clerkship.
The questions were not only on the incidents but also on their reactions and the consequences for their wellbeing and professional functioning and the way the cases were handled.

The prevalence differed between the two medical schools but that was due to the fact that in one medical school the clerkship was of longer duration. They had longer clinical exposure to potential harassment.

In the international literature reports of sexual harassment fluctuate between 18-60%. The authors state that the incidence is relatively low in The Netherlands.They explain this by the observation that The Netherlands is considered one of the most feminine cultures in the world in which gender equality is more pervasive. I think the women outnumber the male students and soon the male doctors in The Netherlands. Since a lot of the female students nowadays are Muslim women (moslima’s) it would be interesting to repeat this questionnaire soon and trace probable confounding factors such as religion.
The authors explanation that Dutch Women are more assertive seems to me speculative. See also this article on: Dutch women don’t get depressed

In the commentary on this article it is written that there still seems to be an undercurrent of student harassment in medical schools in different countries and culture.

Individual schools must define their own norms of professionalbehaviour

There should be attention and education about this subject during medical education.

Rademakers, J.J., van den Muijsenbergh, M.E., Slappendel, G., Lagro-Janssen, A.L., Borleffs, J.C. (2008). Sexual harassment during clinical clerkships in Dutch medical schools. Medical Education, 42(5), 452-458. DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-2923.2007.02935.x