Why I Gave Up

Karin Kerfoot
5 min readFeb 6, 2020


We are sitting in a dark corner of a nearly empty bar. From across the small table between us, my abuser is telling a story about the guns he and his crew have been running and the drugs that they are selling for him. He brags about how close he has become with “Hammer”, the local leader of the Hell’s Angels, and describes in graphic detail the violent techniques that Hammer has taught him in order to get revenge on anyone who betrays them. I look down, horrified by what he says he’s done to other people. He addresses me sharply, demanding that I look him in the eye. As I meet his cold, steady gaze, I feel frozen, so small, and afraid. Slowly emphasizing each word, he says that he knows he can trust me to keep all our secrets. I know what will happen if I don’t.

Yes, I know. He will destroy me.

It’s now been 4 years since that night, and those threats have stayed in my mind for a very long time. What’s worse is that they haven’t stayed as threats; they have become reality. I am a physician. Last week, the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario revoked my medical license because they accused me of sexually abusing a patient. That patient is the man who vowed revenge if I ever disobeyed him.

I lived under this man’s direct control for an entire year, all under the threat that he and his Hell’s Angels associates would destroy me and my family if I didn’t do exactly what he said. He backed up his threats with real violence. I was repeatedly hit and raped until, after far too long, I finally found the strength to escape. Then, as I always knew he would, he followed through with his threat. I’ll write more about all of that in other posts, but now I want to focus on something else. Here, I want to explain the heart-wrenching reasons behind my decision to stop fighting and let him win.

In addition to direct violence, his main threat was to destroy me by exposing me. After I escaped, he found my professional regulator, the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario, and told them that we had a consensual affair. This is a terrible sin in their eyes, as is nearly any sign of weakness or anything that might betray that doctors are only human and little different from the people we treat as patients. This initiated a series of events that have consumed the past 3 and half years of my life.

Like many victims of trauma, I initially denied what had happened. (I’ve written about this elsewhere and will say more another time about what is known about typical trauma responses.) But after that initial denial and through nearly all their investigation of me, I made repeated attempts to explain to the College what actually occurred; about how I was trapped and controlled by this man. But it was like they actively didn’t want to know. They barely even acknowledged what I told them.

After years of written communication between their lawyer and mine in which I tried in vain to convince them that the context of my “relationship” with this patient — namely that it wasn’t consensual at all and that I had been lured, extorted, and raped — was something that deserved some consideration, they finally scheduled an in-person hearing in front of a panel of other College physicians and a community representative. I hoped that this hearing could finally be my opportunity to tell my story to people who couldn’t pretend that it didn’t happen.

In retrospect, though, I should have known better. My abuser always wins.

The cards were stacked against me from the start. The College has always worked from the presumption of my guilt from the first day that my abuser told them his twisted tale. They accused me of sexually abusing a patient before giving me any chance to respond. Despite the fact that all the evidence gathered in their investigation supports the story I told them much better than his, they never gave any indication that the truth matters. As the hearing got closer, it became clear that, by pleading my case, I could lose much more than I had already lost.

To start with, there was the financial cost. If I lost — which was highly likely, given that the College acts as both prosecutor and jury — I would be fined more than $10,000 per day for the two weeks that the hearing was scheduled to last. I haven’t been working for more than two years, so I don’t have $100,000 to spend to defend myself only to lose anyway.

Second was the cost to my mental health. I had been preparing to publicly recount the most sexually shameful and terrifying moments of my life. My nightmares were becoming more frequent and disturbing, as were the feelings of panic that I have spent over two years in therapy trying to control. Worse, I would likely have to do all this in front of my abuser. He would sit there and watch as the College lawyer did her best to discredit me and tear my experience apart. Then, at the end of each day of the hearing, we’d exit through the very same doors. The man who once raped me at knifepoint could follow me down the street. I am still very afraid of him.

Finally, my story is very important to me. I have worked incredibly hard to overcome the shame, fear, and isolation that I experienced, and telling my story is a way for me to finally stand up for myself and take control of what was done to me. But if, after forcing myself to be extremely vulnerable in front of an antagonistic audience, the College still decided to find me guilty of abusing a patient, my story would be officially branded a lie. I had already experienced how powerful and destructive this could be after I went to the police about what happened to me. The sexual assault and extortion charges against my abuser were ultimately withdrawn largely because of an earlier College letter that made me out to be a liar. If the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario found me guilty after a two-week hearing at which I pled my case, this could potentially turn the tables so perversely that I could be charged criminally with sexually assaulting the man who raped me.

Not long before the hearing was scheduled to start, my lawyer sat me down. She said that I was taking too many risks by trying to defend myself. Her best, final advice was to plead “no contest”, meaning that the College would move forward with their allegations without my opposition. She said that it didn’t matter to them what was true and that I should walk away with what little I had left. So, even though it made me absolutely sick to do it, I had no real choice but to give up.

He wins again.



Karin Kerfoot

Psychiatrist turned yogini, writer & educator. Survivor of sexual violence & systemic injustice. I write about gender-based violence & medical regulation.