The British Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons (BAOMS) has released a statement following the Royal College of Surgeons of England (RCSEng) and the Women in Surgery Forum’s response to sexual assault in surgery testimonials.
In a joint statement, Professor Neil Mortensen, president of the RCSEng, and Miss Tamzin Cuming, chair of the Women in Surgery Forum at the Royal College of Surgeons of England, said, “We are outraged and appalled by the testimonials of sexual assault in the surgical workplace that are being shared on Twitter in response to the article Sexual assault in surgery: a painful truth by S Fleming and RA Fisher, published in the September Bulletin, and the letter to the authors submitted in response by Philippa Jackson. We have been aware that there needs to be a cultural change in surgery for some time, but these revelations have shone a light on the very serious issues of sexual harassment and assault in surgery.
“Sexual assault damages careers and lives, and it shames our profession. To Philippa Jackson and the others who have come forward and shared their stories of assault in the surgical workplace – thank you for your bravery and honesty. It is wholly unacceptable that these events have taken place, that so little was done to support and protect you, and that threats were made to your career progression (and in some cases, carried through).
“It is only though your courage and honesty that this kind of abuse can be effectively addressed, however painful the testimony is. We need to hear it, and we must believe people when they come forward. As a profession, and as a College, we must strive for a culture that takes a zero tolerance approach to workplace sexual harassment and assault of any kind.”
In response, the BAOMS Council said, “Sexual assault in surgery: a painful truth by Simon Fleming and Rebecca Fisher, published in the RCS England Bulletin and the response by P Jackson a few days ago has started a difficult conversation for us to look at the type of behaviours that we know should have no place in the surgical profession.
“We stand alongside the RCSEng in acknowledging the bravery of those testifying incidents of sexual harassment or assault in surgery.
“As one of the ten recognised UK surgical specialties, we hold that such behaviour that brings our professions into disrepute, is not, and will never be acceptable. We share the disappointment that
colleagues directly affected in such a way have been failed by systems currently in place.
“BAOMS has come a long way in embracing and implementing all aspects of equality, diversity and inclusivity. Acting in a positive way to address this particular form of unacceptable behaviour is completely in line with our previously voiced policy on bullying, harassment and undermining, stated in our ‘Face Up’ initiative of 2018.
“BAOMS Council stresses its wholehearted commitment to advise and support any oral and maxillofacial surgeon colleagues affected by inappropriate or discriminatory behaviour. We will strive consistently to ensure the surgical arena is a safe place to work for all, irrespective of all protected characteristics including gender, race, religion, disability and sexual orientation.”
If you experience sexual harassment or assault in the workplace please report it to your Trust and to the police. There is information available from Citizens Advice about the process and your rights. If you need advice on the legal process, or need emotional support from a trained counsellor, RCS England provides a 24/7 Confidential Support and Advice Service – the helpline can be reached on 020 7869 6221.