My Words Were Heard

For a long time, I’ve been wanting to address something with the hospital I was admitted to several times in the year before I ran away.

I was admitted to the voluntary psychiatric unit three times, and each time, the hospital provided my mother with information and direct access to me. I felt extremely frustrated about it, but didn’t have the strength or the energy to fight back at that time.

I know it’s too late for me, but I’ve continually thought about how this needs to change, how victims of abuse and domestic violence need extra protection, how they need to feel safe in a place where they should be able to feel safe.

I finally sat down last night and wrote what was on my mind for awhile now. I sent it in an email to the hospital.

I didn’t expect an answer back. I was sitting on the couch an hour ago, and heard my phone ring. It was a number from my old town. My immediate reaction was one of fear; I wanted to deny the call, fearing it was someone from my family. I wasn’t even thinking about the letter I had just sent.

Hesitantly, I answered the phone. It was the director of patient services. He wanted to let me know that he received my letter and was taking it seriously. He is launching an investigation into my particular experience and forwarding the matter to the board. He will be contacting me again, and wanted me to know that I was heard.

I couldn’t believe it. I can only hope something comes from this. Even if nothing happens, I know that I was able to speak, and for a brief moment, I was heard.

To Whom It May Concern,

My name is Crystalie. I was a patient at * many times throughout my life. I am writing today to share my experience with several of my last hospitalizations there, in hopes that changes will be made to protect future patients.

In November 2014, December 2014, and February 2015, I was a patient in your voluntary psychiatric unit at *. The first stay, I was sent by my doctor after I revealed abuse that was going on that contributed to my suicidal thoughts. My doctor thought it best to send me to the hospital to keep me safe — not only from myself, but from my abuser. Despite multiple attempts by my abuser, the doctor refused to give out any of my information about where I was. Somehow, my abuser contacted * and had it confirmed not only that I was admitted to the hospital, but what unit and floor I was on. This allowed my abuser to contact me countless times via phone throughout my stay. My abuser also requested information via the MHAs and was provided updates about my care. I never gave approval for this person to receive any information about me. This person was not listed as an emergency contact. This person had no right to any of my information, yet she was given all of the information she needed to keep me under her watch.

I was discharged a few weeks later, back to the home of my abuser, who believed that I informed people of what she had done. I had indeed informed the treatment team, including my social worker, about the abuse that happened, but because I was an adult, not much could be done. I found myself in an unsafe situation at home, so I checked myself into the hospital just a couple weeks later to keep myself safe from her. I wasn’t suicidal as much as I needed somewhere to hide and be safe. As I waited in the emergency room for a bed to be open, I saw my abuser walking down the ER hall, right towards me. The front desk had confirmed I was there, and told her what room I could be found in. Once again, I had not revealed any of this information to her. She found me, most likely by chance, because * was the hospital most local to me at that time. She was not listed as my emergency contact. I did not okay anyone to visit me or to contact me. At this point, the hospital had it on record from my prior stay that this person was abusive. Yet she was allowed to have access to me once again. I was too afraid to tell the aide to ask my abuser to leave, for fear of what my abuser would then do to me. There was no safe way to go about it. I suffered once again, and received retributive punishment after I was discharged back into my abuser’s home.

There are multiple points where the system failed me. The system allowed a known abuser to contact me, to physically find me in a place that should have protected me, should have been a safe spot for me. My health information is supposed to be private; that information should include my general status as a patient, and should not be disclosed to anyone without my approval. It’s a violation of HIPAA. I realize it’s difficult to monitor who comes in to visit. But there needs to be some procedures in place to keep victims safe. I am not the only one. And while it’s too late to change what happened to me, it’s not too late for other victims of abuse and domestic violence. Victims of abuse rarely confront their abusers in public because of the fear. I know that was why I was unable to tell hospital staff once my abuser was there. What if there was a safe way to go about this?

My abuser was my mother. I think that’s what made it so easy for the hospital to share my information. Most people don’t expect family members to be abusive. But the truth is, they are. Mothers, fathers, grandparents, siblings, aunts, uncles, husbands, wives, partners — no one is immune. I know for me, it was difficult to tell people that I was in hiding from my mother; I had faced a lot of disbelief when I did. I know, in speaking to other victims of similar abuse, that there was a similar hesitance. But that fear and difficulty doesn’t mean we don’t deserve privacy and protection. I need to know that the hospital has changed how it shares information. I need to know that there’s a way victims of violence can protect themselves from their abusers while in medical settings. I couldn’t fight the wrongs that were done to me back then; I wasn’t safe enough to do so. I realize it’s late for me now, but I need to take a stand for others. What can we do to keep this from happening again?

Please contact me. I have provided my phone number and e-mail address.

Thank you for your time.

4 thoughts on “My Words Were Heard

  1. Dear Crystalie: This time I speak to you as a graduate of a top law school and a very successful, and now retired, lawyer.
    Your letter is superb.
    It is a clear, convincing and dispassionate statement of facts.
    In this way it speaks for you.
    The ending is compelling:
    “What can we do to keep this from happening again?”
    Thank you for speaking also for this group of “Me Toos.”
    With great respect and affection. TS

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Wow! It’s a fantastic letter–clear and specific with examples of how the system failed you. I’m really glad you wrote it and so pleased to hear that the hospital is taking your letter seriously. You may have profoundly affected the safety of other victims in the future. I’m so impressed!

    Liked by 1 person

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