This Is Us

We Do Not Deserve Hospitals

My radical vision for the future does not include the violence that occurs within a hospital’s walls — or the hospital at all

Marquisele Mercedes
Human Parts
Published in
7 min readOct 15, 2020

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Medical equipment on the background of group of health workers in the ICU.
Photo: sudok1/Getty Images

On a night in my early teens, I went to the Pediatric Emergency Department at Montefiore’s Children’s Hospital for intense cramps. I was expecting my period in a few days but had never felt that way before — like a heat lamp was burning into the meat of my pelvis.

My mother and I spent the better part of nine hours in a tiny room with speckled vinyl floors and too-bright fluorescent lights. At one point, I was sent to another room nearby that was a little larger and had no extra chairs. My mother was told to stand outside the room and wait because the doctor would be asking me about matters that required privacy. A nurse told me to undress from the waist down and wait for the doctor.

My doctor came in and asked me — in a few different ways — if I’d ever been “penetrated.” I had not and said so — repeatedly. She referenced the development of my body, implied the crudeness of the boys around me. It was an unsaid question, but one that still required an answer. “No,” I said. “I’ve never put anything in there.” She said, “If you say so,” before telling me to lay down, scoot my butt toward the end of the examination table, and spread my legs so she could “take a look.”

I didn’t know what that meant, but she was the doctor, so I did what she told me to do.

Have you ever screamed “no!” and “stop!” at the top of your lungs while being penetrated by an unidentified object that scraped at your most intimate insides? Have you ever been told to “be still” and “hold on” like your pain was the most mundane thing that had ever happened? Have you ever heard a doctor say “wow, you really weren’t lying!” as your “please, stop” got swallowed by the sharp snapping of a speculum? Have you ever redressed yourself afterward with shaky hands and legs and raucously laughed about it to your mom who was just a few feet away getting a cup of water when she heard the tail end of your screams? Has a nurse ever asked, “What did you think was gonna happen?” while you bled onto a nondescript menstrual pad from the hospital’s supplies?

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