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The Late Night Texts

Holly MacKenna, MD shares a story of how an unwelcomed text reminds a female of physician of past traumas and leads to an unexpected opportunity for post traumatic growth.

“What’s that Mommy?”

My heart sank as I saw the vulgarity cross my phone screen as my young daughter sat beside me.

Hey Holly….

I quickly swiped the screen before she could see.

Sometimes I get so horny for you

My mind raced. Was this really from Dave?! The retired guy from my last job who I considered a work colleague? Someone I had only interacted with when asking for business advice via email?  The same man to whom I’d passed my number when I learned of his retirement, with plans to maybe grab a coffee “to catch up” the next time he was on campus?

Should I make an appointment at darawellnessnola to discuss with you?

Surely his phone must have been hacked. Or maybe mine had been. The mention of my work made me wonder if someone had gotten our information from a shared social media site.

You too?

As I continued to swipe the messages off, I shooed my daughter away, and the texts got more and more explicit and disturbing. They described things he wanted to do to me, in details I am unable to share without myself being blocked or canceled. Worse yet were the suggestions that I’d like it and wanted it all along.

 

The texts got more and more explicit and disturbing. They described things he wanted to do to me, in details I am unable to share without myself being blocked or canceled. Worse yet were the suggestions that I’d like it and wanted it all… Click To Tweet

 

I quickly deleted the texts and blocked the number. Later that night, as my family slept soundly on what had been a relaxing vacation, I found myself getting up to check the door and window locks in our bed and breakfast. My mind raced, then settled on a memory I’d forgotten.

I was in my early thirties, a psychiatry resident in my outpatient clinical year, and I spent a few days a week within a private hospital network seeing patients at a lower-cost residency clinic. My dark office was at the end of a quiet hallway, downstairs from the busy attending clinic. Only a few other residents were around when I would lead my patients there to engage in 30-minute medication management visits.

 

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I sat across from a 50-something white man who sneered as he glanced down my young body, and up again. “I looked up how much this time costs, and I could have you for a night for that.” I held my breath as I recalled the younger version of me who was stunned into silence. At that point in her career, she had been shamed and punished any time she fell out of line from how her male attendings felt a female doctor should behave. I watched through time as she did her best to move past the comment and continue the visit as she believed she had to do. I ached for her broken spirit and her lost voice.

 

I held my breath as I recalled the younger version of me who was stunned into silence. At that point in her career, she had been shamed and punished any time she fell out of line from how her male attendings felt a female doctor should… Click To Tweet

 

The next morning, I opened my work iPad, which I had forgotten was synced with my phone. There they were – the deleted texts, only this time I saw what he had added after I turned off the phone.

Read and delete Holly

Let’s f**k soon

I noticed in the original text that he mentioned being out of town, and a quick social media search confirmed that this was true. There had been no hack. This was not a nightmare I could erase once I opened my eyes. He had written the texts.

 

There had been no hack. This was not a nightmare I could erase once I opened my eyes. He had written the texts. Click To Tweet

 

I thought again of that young resident in the dark hallway who had been silenced by fear.

I studied the texts and noted he had mentioned my practice. My fear and embarrassment quickly changed to anger. NOT AGAIN.

Text and delete girl

I refused to surrender my power and to shrink away. I would not text and delete. I would not stay silent. Instead, I reached out to my tribe of girlfriends who surrounded me with their support and strength. With their guidance, I formulated a message to send Dave using a shared social media messaging platform.

I advised him that, rather than following his order to “text and delete” I had sent his messages to my attorney, and I had shared his image with my business office personnel. I advised him to seek help and expressed my hope that this would be a lesson to him – one that would prevent another woman from being subjected to vulgarity and subsequent feelings of violation.

After sending the message, I closed my iPad. I felt my lungs fill with air as I emerged from a sea of shame that had been drowning me since I received the initial text.  Just then, my daughter joined me, took my hand, and led me outside toward a land of freedom and play.

*Names have been changed to protect the guilty with the hope lessons have been learned and behaviors have begun to change.

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