On the day I completed the typesetting for my book, Alarmist Gatekeeping: Abortion, I recieved a phone call from a representatitve of the Australian Health Practitioners Regulation Agency (AHPRA) informing me of a complaint that had been raised against me. As a Registered Nurse, I am required to be registered with AHPRA who have the power to determine whether I can maintain such registration or have restrictions placed on my practise.
The complaint was made by a person who claims no direct or even indirect knowledge of my professional practise, but is simply someone who appears to follow my social media and professional pages. It seems she simply dislikes my professional view on matters I happen to have expertise in. She also dislikes my title of 'Dr'.
While this complaint is pending (it took 8 months for me to be notified, so who knows how long it will take), others like Jereth Kok have been waiting years for a resolution, having had their careers destroyed. The complaint against Jereth has no foundation in his professional practise but was based on a concerted effort to dig up 'unpopular' views that were then deemed to put Jereth's patients at risk, in spite of the fact that in 15 years of practise there had never been a patient complaint about him.
Jereth is not the first health professional this has happened to. Many have run the gauntlet and decided to remain quiet, even decided to withdraw from the pubic discourse on issues of real importance. There is a huge danger to the general public in this consequence as the restriction of information becomes greater and people become subject to only one view. I discuss this a LOT in my book.
Jereth makes the statement that,
"It's getting increasingly costly to hold unpopular religious beliefs."
I would argue that this is an issue far removed from religious beliefs, but is about a very narrow, very radical ideology that seeks to completely remove the right to any view that wavers from its narrow core, destroying all dissidents in its path. It is such a destructive force that I wrote an entire PhD thesis about it, and now a book.
Which brings me back to the complaint pending in my case. Just to be clear, none of the below is by way of defense... it is simply the provision of context with regard to the complaint. I subscribe to the Jordan Peterson position that if you've done nothing wrong, don't apologise. The complainant appears to hold grave concerns for the safety of my clients because of my use of the title 'Dr'. She claims that,
I understand that Debbie may hold a Doctorate degree or PhD, however she does not make it clear what profession she is therefore giving the impression she is a medical practitioner and therefore more highly qualified than she actually is.
Not only do I actually have a PhD, but the title of Dr has its basis in academia, not medicine and in that regard I lay claim to its most original use.. not to mention the many years of study I engaged in for the end result of the title. The strangest part of this aspect of the complaint is the idea that she believes I profess to be more qualified than a medical doctor and that I am not clear about my profession.
My twitter profile:
Note my profession? Nurse counselor, researcher, educator.....
My private consulting business web description which also rated a mention in the complaint:
It is clear that I'm both entitled to the title.. in fact I worked hard for it, but I am also always very clear about my profession. As to whether I give the impression that I'm more highly qualified than I actually am, I am wondering what the complainant would make of it if I listed my Master's Degree, my two Bachelor Degrees and the various Diplomas and post graduate diplomas that also line my walls? There's an argument that perhaps I downplay my level of qualification.
As for whether I'm qualified to deal with this particular complaint, it is a prime example of exactly the field my Doctorate makes me THE expert in... the attempts to discredit and silence those who Dissent from the popular view. In Australia today, and perhaps even more broadly this IS my area of expertise, so I recognise it very well.
What did I say that was so offensive to this person that she felt the need to draw it to the attention of my professional body?
Debbie made several public comments on a social media page managed by Bettina Arndt who is known for her controversial views on gender issues and defending men accused of violence against women.
We know what happened to Bettina for speaking truth and evidence on these issues.
Debbie's public comments were made based on the relationship counselling sessions she conducts for couples in her practice. "when I see couples in my practice, I estimate 90% of the time it's the woman who
want to leave a relationship, and men genuinely want to know what they can do." "women can have unrealistic expectations that their partners are responsible for their emotional state. This can manifest as controlling behaviour" "we (women) are not the victims. We hold extraordinary power, and we often misuse it". I feel the care of her clients, conflicts with her own interests and beliefs.
My professional experience of course is exactly this. My relationship counsellng practice precedes my nursing degree by almost a decade and is not subject to regulation by AHPRA. My views are well known.. so much so that even this stranger was able to stumble across them. I see all kinds of people in my practice, and I've even been listed on a 'kink friendly' counsellor list at one point by a lovely young gay couple who came to see me and thought I was amazing. People can choose not to see me as a practitioner, yet my 30 years of consulting and counselling work would suggest that I must be doing something right, particularly given the major share of my clients for more than 25 years have been word of mouth referrals.
However, this wasn't enough concern for the complainant.. shock, horror... I also,
...openly voices her personal views about abortion...
Her example of my 'personal view' is that I said,
"Most of the general public continue to believe that late term abortions are only undertaken when women are seriously ill and their lives are threatened, or when their babies have no hope of survival and will die a more horrific death if allowed to come to term. Neither of these is true". "Most remain ignorant of the reality that women continue to be offered surgical solutions to their economic, social, relational, and mental health problems rather than positive solutions to address their circumstances, even when they are at a stage of pregnancy when their babies could be safely delivered alive.
These facts, and many more of them are also available in my book if more examples are needed. This isn't a personal view, it is a statement of fact borne out of government collected statistical data, more than 25 years of professional experience AND a Doctoral degree on this very topic. The complainant feels that my 'views' have...
...the potential to impact on an individual's sense of safety or could lead to a patient/client feeling judged, intimidated or embarrassed.
This is where we are at. Strangers who hold a personal view against what they determine is your personal view, even when it is a fact, can not only make complaints, but even have those complaints taken seriously enough that they destroy careers and livelihoods. Such complainants only need to express their 'belief' or 'personal view' that the clients of a professional 'might' be harmed, even in the setting of a practice where NO complaints have ever been made by such clients.
This is very dangerous ground on which we tread. I believe there are enough people in disagreement with such processes that if the consequences weren't so powerful, or we could harness the necessary courage, the strength would be in sheer numbers to stop these radicals from silencing us. We, and they, would all be better off for it. Step up.