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Revealing a sexual assault in essay

Discussion in 'Pre-Medical - MD' started by lll505, Aug 23, 2002.

  1. lll505

    lll505 Senior Member

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    This is my first time posting on this site. I wondered if you all could help me out, since everyone seems well informed and supportive. What do people think about revealing a sexual assault that occurred while I was a post-bac? It didn't affect my GPA but I did only take 1 class that semester, and it forced me to take three years to complete my classes. (I was also working 25 hrs a week - so if I didn't mention it, I could say it took me awhile to finish b/c of work) I do feel the experience gave me a chance to view healthcare from the patient side, and that the experience made me stronger, but I'm not sure what to do.

    Would love to hear any thoughts you might have, esp. if someone else has had a similar dilemma.

    Thanks!
     
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  3. Diogenes

    Diogenes Succat

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    Well, no similar dilemma here, but I think it could be a useful part of an essay. That being said, I think many, many things could be useful in an essay, but if used badly the same things could make for a terrible essay. I think that it matters how you address it in your essay, but I think you should put it in.
     
  4. Diogenes

    Diogenes Succat

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    Welcome to SDN by the way.
     
  5. uffda

    uffda Senior Member

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    any specific essay you would be responding to?
    because if it is to a secondary question like "describe a difficult situation you have overcome" I'd say sure, if you are comfortable with describing it.

    I might be hesitant to put that experience in detail in my personal statement only because it is so charged - you don't have to feel compelled to "explain" a bad semester in your personal statement.

    On the other hand, if you wanted to say "In 19xx I was sexually assaulted. In dealing with the medical and legal aftermath of the assault, I had to drastically reduce my post-bacc courseload. Looking back, I can see that my interactions with the medical staff that helped me during this period served to strengthen my committment to becoming a compassionate advocate for my future patients" -- or something along those lines, I don't think anyone would fault you for it.
     
  6. Cydney Foote

    Cydney Foote Senior Member

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    This would make a very compelling essay.
     
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  7. Adcadet

    Adcadet Long way from Gate 27

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    I have to agree with all - it could make a very good essay.
     
  8. Spidey

    Spidey Leorl's official stalker

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    I think what uffda said is perfect. A concise little paragraph, so they don't think you are still dwelling on/dealing with it. I think something short and to the point like that would show that you are a person of strong character, able to overcome such a thing and not let it beat you.

    If you do mention it though, keep in mind they could possibly bring it up in an interview, if they do be prepared and reply to their questions confidently and unshaken... I would think they'd have the decency not to bring it up, but it could be they want to test your reaction. If you think it would shake you badly then I would say don't even mention it.

    Welcome to the SDN!
     
  9. chandler742

    chandler742 Senior Member

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    First of all this is only my 2 cents so please take everyone's opinion together as a whole and choose accordingly.

    I have to go against the grain on this one a bit. I would like to point out that the medical establishment is one of the MOST CONSERVATIVE in nature. I agree that it is a significant development in your life, however, I don't believe it is a good idea to throw in a highly charged word like "sexual".

    I think if you used the word assault it would suffice. You can talk about your dilemma and focus on WHAT YOU HAVE LEARNED from the experience.

    The key to a successful personal statement is not passive information i.e. what happened to me, rather what did this experience do to me etc. This is a fine line, because some admission committee members might feel like they are being duped into undergoing an emotional rollercoaster to be "manipulated" into an acceptance. Stay away from emotionally charged words. You must focus on the aftermath of the situation, rather than details about the incident.

    Medical committee members are people too. We all hold bias toward certain individuals even without knowing it. When your name is brought up in conversation during the admission committee meetings, you will be talked of very compassionately to be politically correct however, members might vote against you when it counts without voicing a reason. It is not worth the gamble. The three things I steer clear of is sex, politics, and religion.

    My main point is this. DO bring up your experience but just work the ASSAULT angle(Don't mention I was SEXUALLY assaulted!!). Focus on the aftermath and what you did to regather yourself(i.e. view from a patient's perspective, this is the meat of your experience). Also, admission committee members are people too. They hold bias against people. The medical establishment is one of the MOST CONSERVATIVE in nature. Be very careful in describing your story.
     
  10. limit

    limit Molesting my inner-child

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    Well said. Keep it clear and concise -- let them know it happened and the corresponding short-term implications but allude to having overcome that burden and being all well now. If an interviewer is low enough to bring it up in undermining, demeaning, or in any way making you uncomfortable, I have a feeling you'd get your acceptance letter shortly because otherwise it can be linked back to them as a form of discrimination.

    Good luck and welcome.
     
  11. LeslieKay

    LeslieKay Member

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    I personally don't think she should have to hide the fact that it was a sexual assault. She did nothing wrong and has nothing to be ashamed of. I think the majority of people on admissions committees will understand this and not hold anything against her.

    However, be prepared to answer questions about it if you include it in an essay.
     
  12. lilycat

    Moderator Emeritus

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    First off, my utmost repsect to you in recovering from the assault.

    As for writing about it, it really depends how comfortable you are with discussing the situation with relative strangers and how relevant or integral you really feel it is to your desire to enter into medical school at this point. Obviously it was an extremely significant experience in your life, but if you feel that you can write an essay that still honestly reflects the person you are without delving into the assault, that would probably be my recommendation. First of all, EVERYTHING you write about on your application is 100% fair game for your interview. If you write about your assault, I could pretty much guarantee you will be asked about it at some time, and some interviewers may not treat it as delicately or compassionately as you would like. That's just the honest truth.

    Based on my experience as an applicant and now as a student with friends on various AdComms, while schools want to "get to know you" via the personal statement and secondary essays, I think overly personal or sensitive subject matter can work against you because it makes the readers uncomfortable. It frustrates me to see this because some schools purposely ask questions that would elicit such responses -- ie, Duke and their "Describe an ethical or moral dilemma you faced an how you handled it." However, what you have to realize is that ultimately, the school wants an honest response, but not something overly private and personal.

    If you do decide to write about it, I think something along the lines of what uffda suggested would be best.

    Good luck and I hope some of this advice helps.
     
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  13. i agree with uffda too - if mentioned in the right context, it will help your essay.
     
  14. dr kevin40

    dr kevin40 Senior Member

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    Wow. that realy sucks Illf

    hope they caught that guy!
     
  15. DarkChild

    DarkChild Senior Member

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    Personally - and this is just me - but I wouldnt disclose it.
    While Adcoms want to get to know you - I think you can be TOO personal with them. As Chandler mentioned, the medical community is very conservative and I while an important event in your life - I dont know how relevant it will be for admissions to med schools.
     
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  17. ckent

    ckent Banned
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    The best way to give you advice on this would be to read what you plan to write Ill505; perhaps if you would post what you plan to turn in, people could give you better feedback.
     
  18. dr kevin40

    dr kevin40 Senior Member

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    I think its tooooooo personal. if u write in ur essay, u'll prob be asked about it. i don't think ur itnerviewer will be comfortable asking u about sexual assault.
     
  19. lll505

    lll505 Senior Member

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    I just wanted to say thanks to everyone who replied - it really helped me to think it through and decide. It is for my personal statement (I know I'm really lagging) and I decided to include it but be really brief - along the lines of what one of you suggested. I thought about the conservative issue and decided that if a school is so conservative that they cannot be comfortable with the fact that real things happen to real people - then their values probably do not match mine and I wouldn't be happy at their school anyway.

    I wish you all the best of luck in this process :)
     
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  20. agent

    agent agent, RN

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    i agree with everyone that said it depends on the essay.

    if it works out well then yes.. otherwise i would keep it to myself..

    i have a situation in which I have crohn's disease and i had to take a year off of school due to a lot of sickness and surgery.

    i may or may not disclose that but if they ask in an interview i definitely will.
     
  21. relatively prime

    relatively prime post happy member

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    I agree...
     
  22. marleybfour

    marleybfour Senior Member

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    Don't write about it. As others have said, it is too personal. I think it will only hurt you to mention it.
     
  23. chandler742

    chandler742 Senior Member

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    Ill105, I respect your decision and I wish you the best.

    BUT, I will make one last comment on this issue before I bury the hatchet for good.

    Let me start off by saying, I truly care about your situation. That's why I have been so adamant on NOT revealing the "sexual" assault. I think it is very unfortunate that this happened to you and my heart goes out to you for enduring such a difficult situation.

    However, I must ask you one question. WHAT DO YOU GAIN BY PUTTING DOWN YOU WERE SEXUALLY ABUSED?

    Will this gamble give you sympathy? Yes
    Will this information help you get accepted to medical school? NO.

    Your personal statement is only one part of you application. This is not a TRUMP CARD you can slam down when you need to win the hand(i.e. medical school admission). ADCOM's are a very insightful, and intelligent group. They have heard every "tears" story under the sun. They will scrutinize every "tears" story to see if one is trying to use the sympathy card for acceptance.

    Strong personal statements does not require a MEDICAL TRAUMA. Think about it would be fair for the pre-meds that have had NO medical traumas in their life? Of course not, why should students with uneventful lives have a clear disadvantage in the admission process?

    The "tears" story has been done TOO many times. It is a cliche. Thus, the focus should be on the aftermath, because this is where everyone differs. This is where the MOTIVATION is shown. All remarkable personal statements have MOTIVATION to medicine. Some with medical traumas, some with volunteering experience, and some with working in a hospital.

    Let's face it. The reason you are mentioning the experience is because you feel it will help in your medical school acceptance. However, this is not true. ADCOM will not accept you for your medical history. They will focus on IF THIS EXPERIENCE gave you a MOTIVATION FOR MEDICINE. Thus, the actual experience is a MOOT POINT.

    So why would you want to reveal something that is controversial and might lead one to question your emotional strength?

    Believe it or not, even though it is not fair, members will question your emotional strength. MED school is not easy. It is their job to scrutinze everyone to see if they can handle the emotional rigors of med school.

    Sure, you can say if they don't accept you because of conservative or closed minded ideals, then you don't want to go to that school. I'll buy that. However, when you are on the borderline for med school. This is not the time to take a stand on principle. Sometimes our ideals have to be set aside for a greater good. No one wins every battle.
     
  24. lll505

    lll505 Senior Member

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    In response to your post Chandler, I was NOT going to write about what happened to me as a "sob" story as a play for sympathy. I included 1 line in my statement in order to explain why it took me so long to complete my post bac and how the experience strengthened, not victimized, me. Two admissions directors told me if I did not address why I took so long then it would raise a red flag at the initial stage and I might not even get to an interview to explain why.

    As for whether a med school wants me or not, there are more important things to me in life, believe it or not, than becoming a doctor. And those things include maintaining my values and ethics.

    But thanks anyway for such a compassionate and kind response.
     
  25. kathy80

    kathy80 Member

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    Hello!

    My advice is, it's definitely good to briefly mention the assault in talking about why you were delayed in your postbac. I would agree with others that you probably should leave the word "sexual" out. Not that you're hiding it or ashamed of anything, which you certainly shouldn't be; it's just that I feel there are certain "trigger" words/phrases in an essay which can give a reader subconsciously negative feelings about your essay, and by extension you as a candidate. They may well ask you what happened in the assault during your interview, at which point you could certainly tell them that it was sexual - and then if anything, they'll feel bad for asking and be very sympathetic to you. But even though you SHOULD be able to freely say what happened in your essay if you want to, I feel like the word "sexual" will give a lot of readers discomfort, subconsciously or otherwise. There are so many strong candidates out there that you don't want to do anything that even might compromise your application, even if it shouldn't. It more than suffices to say "assaulted," and I think that's the best (read: most successful) way to handle it. In any case, best of luck to you!:)
     
  26. MoosePilot

    MoosePilot Y Bombardier

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    No idea on whether it's a good idea or not - my gut feeling is that if you write it without seeming crippled by it and they don't think you're going for the sympathy ploy (both of which I think you are very far from) you'll be fine mentioning it. It's a part of your life and you don't need to hide who you are by hiding a huge event like that.

    Much more important to me than my ignorant opinion though is telling you way to go in dealing with it and staying sane. That's more than I've ever dealt with and I respect you.
     
  27. kathy80

    kathy80 Member

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    I was just looking at your past posts to see where you went to undergrad, and it looks like you're already in med school at UCSF? What's that about? I'm puzzled.
     
  28. Newquagmire

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    this thread is two years old. i'm not entirely sure how/why it was revived.
     
  29. MoosePilot

    MoosePilot Y Bombardier

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    I'm embarassed. Sorry, I didn't read the whole thread and see that Chandler revived it because it might be good info for someone else, I thought it was current.
     
  30. metabolite

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    I wrote a personal experience in my essay, and in one of the schools most of the questions were on that experience. I didn't realize until then that I was not comfortable enough to talk about my family for 60+ min with some strangers. That was rather an isolated situation, but do expect some questions during your interview about your essay, and if you can surely express how it made you stronger without feeling uncomfortable then I'd say go for it.

    Depends on your personality too - personally, I discuss sexual harrassment incidents only with higher authorities and lawyers :) OK, this part was a joke.
     
  31. debvz

    debvz Wandering Spleen

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    I agree with the poster above who said that you should not mention anything in your personal statement that you wouldn't be prepared to comment on in an interview. I'm soon to be an MS4, and have had a related experience. In the "aftermath" of a sexual assault which occurred my last yr in undergrad, an "anniversary reaction" wound up exacerbating an underlying eating disorder, and I wound up taking a medical leave of absence during the beginning of my 2nd yr to deal with these issues. There are committees that determine your suitability to return (not so dissimilar to the admissions committees which decide your original entrance to med school), which may feel it is their duty to test your "recovery" from such a situation. While you may focus in a personal statement about how this experience has strengthened you, you still should try to be prepared for questions you really cannot prepare yourself for. One that sticks out most in my mind is a committee member that point blank asked me "Given your experiences with men and being sexually assaulted, how will you deal with examining and interacting with male patients?" Although I was floored at that time, feeling this question was totally inappropriate, I had to pull myself together and respond accordingly, which is tough when you are in a high-pressure situation such as an entrance (or re-entrance) interview. Also remember that the people who read your personal statement will be your future professors and deans, etc. I had to go into more detail of the incident and my health with the committee, and to this day, I still feel somewhat awkward around certain faculty/admin who I know have more info about me than I'd usually divulge.

    Anyways, just thought I'd share my experiences. As I will be applying to residency programs this year, and I have my medical leave of absence,(which was more than one year), and the poor grades prior to this leave, to explain to upcoming program directors, I'll once again have to figure out how to approach this, i.e. how I will include it in my personal statement. I've discussed the issue with the Head of the dept here that I plan to pursue residency, and he feels I need to include it in my statement.

    That being said, good luck to everyone in the application process. And healing wishes to those of you also dealing with recovery from assault and/or abuse.

    Deb
     
  32. Moose1

    Moose1 Member

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    In my personal statement, I mentioned something extremely personal, but concentrated the majority of my essay on the "good" that came of it. I knew I might make some readers uncomfortable, but I went with the mentality that this experience influenced the person I am today - and I'm proud of that person. If medical schools are turned off by it, so be it. Why would I want to go to such a medical school anyway? I'm a real person, and life hasn't always been all roses. Often times its the bad situations from which you learn the most.

    I do agree with the previous posts that you have to be 100% comfortable with talking about it. It was brought up in 80% of my interviews.

    And BTW, I was admitted to every school I interviewed at, except I was waitlisted at one state school, of which I'm not a resident.

    Best of luck to future writers...go with your gut feeling.
     
  33. chandler742

    chandler742 Senior Member

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    Thank you Deb, for sharing your story.

    I hope this will help out future SDNers that might be in a similar situation, but dont't have luxury to have someone else to talk to about these situations.



     
  34. FiveForFighting

    FiveForFighting Lee Burnett's Illegit Son

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  35. shatter

    shatter Member

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    I personally think it's distasteful to using an assualt experience to get into medical school. Don't over do it.
     
  36. no-see-um

    no-see-um Bindaas

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    I think it would be more of a bombshell if they asked the OP 'why were you in school so long?' and she he/she answers "because I was sexually assaulted". Now that would make the interviewer feel quite unfomfortable. Put it in the essay if you wish to, and put it in context.
     
  37. vch

    vch

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    did you end up putting assault or sexual assault in your essay?
     
  38. pseud0

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    absolutely beautiful necrobump. One of the greatest I've ever seen.

    OP last seen 13 years ago this June.
     
  39. On_The_Way_Up

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    I think it would be great if you also did some volunteering at places for sexual assault victims that have gone through something similar. You can help others through something you can relate to and it will be great to talk about in interviewers. Getting treatment and then helping others through the same thing that gave us pain is a rewarding experience. And it makes your recovery that much better.
     
  40. pseud0

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    OP could literaly be an attending with like 6 years experience by now. Or in prison. Or anywhere but on SDN because he hasn't come to this forum in 14 years
     
  41. On_The_Way_Up

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    HAHAHAHAHA omg I didn't even notice. Would be interesting to see what happened. This thread about to get locked.
     
  42. LoveBeingHuman:)

    LoveBeingHuman:) Probationary Status

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    This issue isn't what you write about. It's how you say it.

    Suppose a person had an absolutely horrible boss.

    Person 1 writes about how they should be given some slack because their boss sucked

    Person 2 writes about how having to deal with difficult circumstances taught them resilience, dealing with criticism, and communication skills

    Who do you think will get the job/interview?

    Now coming to your situation. First off, I'm very sorry that you had to go through that. But to answer your question directly, you can talk about anything in your essay as long as you approach it carefully. Some things need to be approached with more care than others :)
     
  43. mehc012

    mehc012 Big Damn Hero

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    OK, I know this is a necrobump, but this requires rebuttal...no. Sorry, sexual assault isn't like an IA where if you reveal it, you're all but required to demonstrate what you learned from the experience and how it helped you grow as a person. If it did and they want to write about that, fine, but advising that someone should go volunteer with sexual assault victims because they themselves were one and it will strengthen their growth story is weird, especially when it may be particularly difficult for some people with such experiences in their own past to do so. (It can also be motivation to do so, but the point is that some survivors don't get there, or get there on their own time line, etc., and they've got nothing they need to prove on that front either way.)

    Sent from my phone, sorry for any typos or brevity.
     
  44. On_The_Way_Up

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    I grew up with mental illness and am now working with kids that are mentally ill. It's a rewarding experience. I would think sexual assaults victims could do the same thing. That is if they're interested in doing that. It's not about proving yourself.
     
  45. mehc012

    mehc012 Big Damn Hero

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    Like I said, it could be motivation to work with those groups, but I don't think it should be something automatically suggested, or in anyway tied to what interviewers think. Just seems oddly pressuring, and the parallels to IA redemption are discomfiting.

    Sent from my phone, sorry for any typos or brevity.
     

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