Has the #MeToo Movement Helped Shift Culture in the Dental Practice?


Despite the strength of the viral #MeToo movement, harassment still happens in workplaces including the dental practice.

Has the #MeToo Movement Helped Shift Culture in the Dental Practice? Image courtesy of Kenstocker/stock.adobe.com.

Has the #MeToo Movement Helped Shift Culture in the Dental Practice? Image courtesy of Kenstocker/stock.adobe.com.

Are you a victim of sexual harassment? That is a frightening question, and one I am using to grab your attention. It isn’t a gimmick. We have a crisis even in the days of the post-#MeToo movement. Sexual harassment in the workplace continues even despite this movement.

I am not going to quote you statistics on this issue but instead want to share a dental hygienist’s experience. Mary told me she left her job because the dentist couldn’t keep his hands off her. He was also touching every staff member in the practice and got away with it because he paid way above the going rate for each position. Her coworkers chose to stay because “the money is so good.” That is their choice, and we are not judging those women. We just want to let Mary’s decision inspire you.

She made me realize that as much as we think things have changed…they haven’t. This degrading behavior continues in all industries, but it can change when more women like Mary speak up and take action.

She has taken the next steps on her journey.

  • She is not going to stay in contact with her former colleagues.
  • She has spoken to an attorney but didn’t feel supported so she is finding another one.
  • She has contacted the American Dental Association (ADA) to file a complaint.
  • She has written down everything she can remember of the incidents, date, time, who was present, and what happened.
  • She is planning to contact the #MeToo movement on Facebook to get support.

We talked about the lack of support she has been given by her friends at the office, who are all being harassed as well. Why can’t women support women? If someone says they are being harassed and is going to do something, why can’t we just support them for the choices they are making for themselves. Instead, people have been mean to her, which is inexcusable. Can you imagine your best friend telling you that “you look like you want a big payday.” Mary just wants the dentist to stop touching women inappropriately. Is that too hard to ask? Could it be possible he is touching a patient while the patient is sedated? It is a possibility and that is frightening.

This whole #Me Too movement has made changes in the workplace, but is it enough? We had high profile offenders dethroned, but how is it that we have politicians, who shall go nameless, and football players who get a slap on the wrist with a suspension of 6 games when there have been large settlements paying off his victims? Have we really made progress or does money cover up the ugliness that continues to exist? This is all about power. The ones who are in power seem to get away with it as they have lawyers and large checks to give out to make it go away.

With Mary, I listened. I supported her. I told her that I believe her.

I don’t really understand the world we are living in right now. In some ways it feels like our rights are being eroded. Will we get to a point where it is legally ok to abuse and assault women without any consequences like in other societies? I don’t get it. What does it take for women to be viewed with respect?

Men must stand up for women alongside women standing up. When you are the downtrodden group, the group in power needs to stand up with us and help make change. At the very least, we need to not revictimize someone who comes forward and tells their story. Mary shared that the ADA originally was negative about this situation, and she fell apart in tears. The staff person then apologized realizing that she had really harmed Mary with her words and opinion. So finally, the dentist is under investigation. But did Mary have to be torn down to get action from of all places, the ADA?

She is standing up for herself and understands that there might be consequences for her to have taken this action. But that is OK for her. She needed to do this for herself and all the other women that this dentist meets.

Yes, she is second guessing herself. She is mad and confused as to why she stayed for all these years. She understands that her colleagues are on their own path. Some cannot get out of the situation as they are chained financially to this job, but Mary is taking the first steps. She is showing all of us the inner strength to find within yourself the belief that this needs to end. Remember this the next time you see something or hear something that is sexual harassment, do something. Being silent is not the answer. Always remember to support women and do not tear them down.

I’d like to hear your thoughts on this issue. Please email diana2@discussdirectives.com

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