I just discovered this book, although I think I heard about it when I was doing research on cults at some point. I downloaded a sample. It is a hard book to read and you can tell it was painful for the author, Philip Zimbardo, to write. He was the psychologist, or one of them, who masterminded the Stanford Prison Experiment, and admits, with much regret, that he wishes he stopped it sooner. He testified in defense of an abusive prison guard, stating that this man had to work 40 days in a row without a day off.
It makes you think about hospital workers. They aren’t paid much, and they are regularly threatened because they work under a hierarchy. If you hang around the wards long you realize they’re actually under pressure to treat us badly. They have to be sneaky to do us “favors” or be nice or kind or actually listen.
I can recall so many times I argued with them, and the “nice” one, some low-paid worker, would FINALLY sit with me and hear out my side of it. Then, that worker might say something like, “I’m not supposed to do this but I’ll go talk to the supervisor.” Like they’ve been told we’re wrong by default.
That’s what happened to me while I was being abused in Mount Auburn Hospital in 2013. The worker started at 3pm and stayed till 11 or 11:30. Right away, at 3 when she came on, she said, “Excuse me, I have to use your phone.”
At the time, I thought she was arranging for her ride home. i didn’t realize this was the beginning of her shift. In fact, I didn’t even realize she was coming in to work. I thought she was from some other floor and had stopped in and suddenly needed to use my hospital phone, which I let her do.
She kept talking. A half hour had now passed. I was expecting a call and this woman wouldn’t let me have the phone. Finally, she put it down. It rang again and she picked it up and started talking some more. Now, a few hours had passed and she had been using the phone nonstop. I was really worried I was going to miss my call. Also, I was paying for the phone, and she was using it. Why wasn’t she using her own cell phone? Probably because she didn’t want to use up the minutes.
I walked out into the hall. I tried to get the attention of one of the nurses. “Hey, this woman has used my phone nonstop! Hey, look!” But when the nurse looked in, the woman hid the phone behind my bed.
“Oh no, Julie, you’re just paranoid. She’s working. Go back into your room.”
I couldn’t believe it. She was calling me psychotic and this was really happening.
Six hours had now passed. No amount of pleading to the hall nurses did any good. They only shooed me back into my room and insisted that the worker was “only doing her job.”
Finally, when the shift changed, the worker gave up my phone and left. I felt on the verge of tears. The next worker was one of the few “nice ones.” I’d had her before.
I told her what happened. Another worker, an ally, came into the room and they spoke with each other. I knew in my heart they believed me.
The “nice one” said to me, “I’m going to tell the supervisor.” I couldn’t believe it. Someone was taking my side.
It was past midnight when the supervisor showed up in my room and I told her the whole story. I tried to explain that the worker lied to me when I picked up the phone myself and told me, “Oh, it was just a wrong number. Some Chinese guy.” It wasn’t a Chinese guy! It was a call for her, which she didn’t want to admit. I told the supervisor that the worker used my phone the entire time, and the damn staff claimed I was delusional and that it hadn’t happened.
Do you know what it is like to be called delusional when you are not? Especially when you are both medically compromised and in captivity. The traumatic effect ran deep, and to this day, I have a lot of trouble getting along with other people.
I wish that whole thing never happened. But it did, and I can’t erase the hurt and fear I went through. I can’t take it back. They aren’t going to apologize for the eye-rolling, for the physical abuse, for the jeering, for the infantalizing, and for keeping me in captivity the way they did. Most people who have been abused the way I did never get any resolution, certainly not from the source of abuse.
It is indeed a bit of consolation knowing that these lower-paid workers were under immense stress. They were told I was a subhuman monster and to treat me totally disrespectfully. Which they did. One heard me out and she tried to plead with the doctor to let me go, but I think he must have bullied her, too. He took her off my case totally and from the looks of it, she was forbidden to speak with me after that.
I couldn’t stay friends with anyone who claimed this abuse was justified. I unfriended many people. It was NOT justified. Boy was that a cruel thing to say. Yes they were covering their asses. The only danger that I presented to them was my pen. Which the administration knew damn well.