The Heart Association and the National Health funded a study that found 39 percent of women suffering a public attack receive help from strangers, and for men it is 45 percent. Researchers believe the hesitation comes from bystanders’ discomfort with having to touch a woman’s chest.
Men worried about touching women
The concern is that breasts will get in the way during a first-aid procedure resulting in the removal of a woman’s clothing. Bystanders worry about how the removal of clothing, even if it is for CPR purposes, may be perceived to other witnesses.
Kristie Balatsoukas, Training Services Manager at London Training Centre, explains that CPR is not performed directly on the breasts. “When you place your hands to do CPR for a woman, the hands would actually be placed in the middle of the chest on the sternum.” If a bystanders is using a defibrillator, it requires the removal of the female’s bra and clothes to place the pads of the device on the proper parts of the body.
Sexual assault becomes a serious issue in relation to giving first-aid assistance to strangers; for example, in 2014 there was a man in Japan who witnessed a woman pass out onto the sidewalk. The woman was not breathing, so the man began CPR. There was a defibrillator nearby so he began removing the necessary clothing because he knew the fabric would be in the way since he had CPR certification. A bystander drove by and saw what was happening, they called the police and reported the man for sexual assault, he had to explain to the police he was saving the woman’s life.
“As a man in this situation, you may be concerned that someone is going to see you giving CPR and then all of a sudden someone is trying to get involved because they assume you’re doing something questionable to that suffering person,” shares Balatsoukas.
In Ontario, the Good Samaritan Act protects anyone accused of a crime after performing CPR on a person suffering cardiac arrest, even if the person does not regain consciousness.
“There’s this myth out there that if you don’t give someone CPR, or if you can’t get a person to start breathing again, or you don’t do it right then you’ll get in trouble or sued. I think these ideas have stopped a lot of people from helping others in these situations,” notes Balatsoukas.
Whether you have first-aid training or not we are all protected. There has never been a successful lawsuit in Ontario against someone who has provided assistance pertaining to first-aid.
So, what can be done to encourage people to feel more comfortable and willing to provide CPR to anyone regardless of who they are?
Mannequins with breasts
CPR training needs mannequins with breasts, the current market only provides male mannequin torsos. Since first-aid training is skill-based having one type of mannequin limits the understanding of different experiences people could realistically run into.
“There’s even child mannequins out there, why couldn’t a mannequin be created that has breasts? The hands-on experience to show someone where to put your hands on the chest is crucially important, especially if it’s a woman with larger breasts. The ability to show audiences rather than telling them how the procedure would work for a woman would absolutely improve training,” says Balatsoukas.
Balatsoukas has been training first-aid and CPR sessions for ten years, in classes there are incidents where people have said for cultural reasons they do not feel comfortable practicing on a woman Balatsoukas reminds everyone that they will likely find themselves in situations where it could be a women, or anyone for that matter that will require putting biases aside.
Only 10 percent of the population has first-aid and CPR training. If you are interested in taking a first-aid class, check out the upcoming first-aid and CPR sessions happening at the London Training Centre.