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After sleeping with an NYU law student who I was hopelessly in love with but couldn't give me the commitment I wanted, I noticed a strange bump on my vagina. At the time, I didn't have reliable health insurance — or any health insurance at all, being a freelancer. I asked my friend Nikki (the smartest and most resourceful person I knew) where I could find a decent clinic to get tested for STIs.
I went to the recommended clinic on Manhattan's Lower East Side. After I waited for 20 minutes anticipating what this bump could be, I finally saw a doctor who barely looked down there before informing me that it was the equivalent of a "vagina pimple" and there was nothing I could do for it.
I waited for my vagina zit to disappear, but I couldn't help but touch it obsessively. I was confused by its existence and wanted it to go away. My informal theory was that repeatedly touching it would somehow magically make it disappear.
Unfortunately, this did not work and, in fact, something more upsetting happened: I woke up the next day to find there were several more "vagina pimples" down there. My level of concern went from zero to "I'm fucking terrified," and I decided to borrow money from my parents to see a real OBGYN.
I made an appointment with an Upper West Side OBGYN I'd seen when I had health insurance — I'll call him Dr. X — and I trusted him since he'd given me Pap smears and annual exams. Upon examination, Dr. X gave me some bad news. These were not "vagina pimples," but HPV. For those of you who don't know, human papillomavirus is a sexually transmitted virus that is sometimes characterized by genital warts in women.
Dr. X laid the bad news on me and then gave me my treatment options. He said that the most effective way to get rid of the warts is to freeze them off and cauterize them. Despite his testimony regarding the efficacy of this procedure, the idea of someone freezing and then subsequently burning warts off my vagina made me want to hide under the exam table and never come out. I knew I couldn't do that, though. There was army of little genital warts that needed to be removed. It was go time.
"OK, let's do it."
Dr. X went ahead with the procedure, and it was extraordinarily painful. I fantasized about making a poster with NYU boy's face on it letting the entire West Village know that he was diseased, just so that other women didn't have to endure this.
After Dr. X was done, I put my pants back on and got ready to leave.
"All right, dear," Dr. X said when I was fully dressed. "I hope you're feeling better now."
Then he turned to me and went to kiss me — on the mouth.
He managed to graze the side of my cheek. I cleared my throat and pushed him away with my hand.
"Um, thank you," I said, blushing. I didn't know what to do or say. This advance was completely unwanted. My heart was racing, and I didn't know what to think. This man had been my regular gynecologist in the past. I was shocked and horrified. I didn't know what to do. "I have to go. Bye."
I quickly went to the reception desk and paid my bill. The receptionist attempted to make casual conversation, but I was not having it. I couldn't get out of there fast enough. I ran out onto the street and wiped my face with my hand. He had barely touched me, but I was traumatized and I felt like he was all over me. I began to shake and could feel myself starting to cry.
I called Nikki. She said I should press charges against him. I needed to call the attorney general. I knew I needed to call someone. And I did. I called and reported Dr. X to the New York State Board of Health.
I got a letter in the mail from them asking if I wanted to appear in court and testify against him. It was the only way to fight what he had done to me. So many emotions went through my head. I wanted him to pay for what he'd done to me. When he tried to kiss me, I was in a vulnerable state. I didn't want him to do this to other women. However, I couldn't bring myself to testify against this man in a courtroom. The thought of seeing him again made me sick to my stomach.
I still think about this incident to this day, over a decade later. I wonder if Dr. X has molested other patients. I know one thing is for sure: if I could go back in time, I would have made myself go into that courtroom and testify against him. I am stronger than I was 12 years ago, and I know now that the more we, as women, speak out against these abusers, the less they can do this to other women.