Virgin feels violated by gynecological exams

Originally Published: December 24, 2010 - Last Updated / Reviewed On: April 3, 2014
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Dear Alice,

I am 24 years old and still a virgin. I have health issues such as uterine fibroids. Therefore, I have to undergo certain tests like transvaginal ultra sounds and Pap smears. This bothers me as I feel very violated and feel like something has been taken from me that I can never get back. Doctors and medical technicians seem to lack concern during these situations. Mentally, I know these exams do not have an effect on my virginity, but how can I get over this feeling of being violated?

Dear Reader,

When addressing reproductive health concerns, care and treatment often require attention to parts of your body that are normally left unseen by all but your most intimate partners. Having never had sex before, it is understandable that pelvic exams and some procedures might seem invasive and make you feel uncomfortable. The fact that you are choosing to look for ways to address your discomfort rather than foregoing care is great!

Feelings of violation often come about when there is uncertainty or a lack of control over a situation. In a clinical setting where much of the jargon, instruments, and procedures are foreign and intimidating, it is no wonder feelings like this may arise. However, it is the responsibility of your health care providers to guide you through the process of getting care. As a health care consumer, you have the right to know what is going on with your body, how to address those issues, your options for treatment, and the details of the treatment you choose.

Most health care providers receive some training in addressing the emotional concerns of their patients. Try to let your providers know that you are uncomfortable. If they're aware of your feelings, they may be able to explain procedures in advance and walk you through them while they are occurring. Talking through your concerns and learning the how's and why's of the procedures may help you feel more in control of the situation and therefore, more at ease.

If you find it difficult to get this conversation started, here are some ideas to keep in mind:

  • Your health care providers are human, too, and they have probably heard and dealt with concerns like yours before.
  • The role of a health care provider is to examine, educate, and treat you, not to judge or criticize.
  • If it makes you feel more comfortable, have a family member, friend, or another member of the clinical staff sit in on your appointment for moral support.
  • Write down your concerns and questions and bring the list with you to your appointment. This way, you don't forget to ask everything you need to ask and discuss everything you need to discuss. If you are nervous, simply hand the list over to your health care provider.

There is no need for you to feel traumatized by this experience. If you still feel uncomfortable and your health care providers are not responding to your requests, try going to another provider. If you're a student at Columbia, you can make an appointment with Medical Services (Morningside) or the Student Health Service (CUMC). If this sense of violation goes deeper, Columbia students may find it helpful to talk through their feelings with a professional by contacting Counseling and Psychological Services (Morningside) or the Mental Health Service (CUMC).

You are on your way to being a proactive health care consumer. Just remember: your body means your rules. Although your condition requires medical attention, there is no reason you have to remain in a situation that makes you uncomfortable. Emotional concerns don't show up on x-rays or blood tests — it's in your best interest to let your health care provider know how best he or she can help you feel at ease with the procedures you're facing. Good luck and good health!

Alice