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Today's Childbirth Class Topic: Resisting the Urge to Grab Your L&D Nurse's Breasts!

Adam Jay ManningOctober 12, 2009 -- Recent press reports describe what appears be a remarkable example of sexual abuse of a nurse. Melinda Rogers's October 9 piece in the Salt Lake Tribune reported that Utah police had arrested a 30-year-old man from the town of Bountiful after he had allegedly twice grabbed the breast of the hospital nurse who was caring for the woman about to give birth to his child. The Daily Mail 's (U.K.) item dated today added the helpful detail that the expectant mother had explained the father's behavior by telling the nurse that he was "just drunk." Both reports confirmed that the man had been charged with sexual assault, causing him to miss the birth of his son. It may be hard not to laugh at some of the details, but of course abuse like this is not funny to the victim, and the reports are a reminder of how often nurses suffer sexual and other abuse in the workplace. And the naughty nurse image that continues to infect the global mass media helps to feed such abuse. We commend the police for taking this case seriously, and these newspapers for their straightforward reports.

Rogers's article in the Salt Lake Tribune reported that police said the incident took place at McKay-Dee Hospital in Ogden. Police Lt. Loring Draper said that Adam Jay Manning (above) had brought a pregnant woman to the hospital around 3:00 a.m. Draper said that when a nurse came to help the couple, Manning had "looked the nurse 'up and down'" and made "a comment about how cute" she looked. The nurse continued to help the laboring woman, who was "in a wheelchair and waiting to be taken to the delivery room." According to Draper, Manning then told the nurse that "something looked wrong with her neck." This condition reportedly required him to try to "massage the nurse's neck," and then to "reach out and grab her breast." Draper said the nurse pushed Manning away, moved to the other side of the wheelchair, and later told police. They arrested Manning "on suspicion of felony forcible sexual abuse" and held him in the Weber County jail. Draper said he did not know if the mother was married to Manning, but noted that "obviously, he wasn't there for the birth of the child."

The Daily Mail article covered much of the same ground, though it suggested that the assault had occurred as the nurse wheeled the pregnant woman to the delivery room. The report also added a few intriguing details. It suggested that after the assault, Manning had apparently stated that he had "no idea" why he did it. The item also quoted Lt. Draper as noting that after the assault, "the nurse asked what he was doing...The wife responded that he was just drunk." Draper also reportedly said that it was "unclear whether Manning drove to the hospital intoxicated or if he was taken there by someone else."

Extensive research shows that nurses are subject to an inordinate amount of workplace abuse, including sexual abuse, from patients and colleagues alike. ED nurses are of course common targets, but this incident shows that any nurse may be subject to abuse, even those who might be less likely to encounter altered individuals. And although the comic elements in this story may be hard to resist, being sexually assaulted can have severe negative effects on nurses' wellbeing and patient care. In many cases, nurses' reports of abuse do not result in meaningful legal action, though fortunately that does not seem to be the case here.

The idea that nurses are sexually available remains a common one worldwide, and that idea is both reflected and reinforced by the continuing prevalence of naughty nurse imagery in virtually all media. Indeed, even press reports on this incident could have been infused with winks and nods about nurses and sex. But these articles resisted that. And although neither report discussed the general problem of abuse of nurses, both did provide a telling example of what many nurses face when they are just trying to care for patients, often under conditions that are already difficult.

Chapter 5 of our book Saving Lives: Why the Media's Portrayal of Nurses Puts Us All at Risk covers the naughty nurse chapter in depth. Click here to see how you can get a copy. Thank you!

August 11, 2010 -- See the followup to this story, the Associated Press reports that Adam Manning of Bountiful was sentenced to 180 days in the Weber County Jail.



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