Let’s hear it for the “press”?

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Where do you get your news? your health tips? your answers to questions you don’t want to ask a friend or haven’t asked of a doctor?  It might be time to start reading the magazines that used to only tell us about sex positions, fashion tips, and drink recipes.  I’ve been impressed with the things that have lately been made headline-worthy by popular magazines- not necessarily outlets that would typically be called “news sources,” but nevertheless have made a point. 

Magazines like Cosmopolitan, with its monthly expose called “I’m too young for… (insert name of rare-ish health phenomenon for women 20-35)” done on early-in-life cases of conditions like Parkinson’s, stroke, and brain tumors.  The point of these stories to make young women aware of the risks they take with certain behaviors and of some questions they should be asking their doctors.  The same magazine did an 11-page spread on the reliability*, side effects, and medical appropriateness of different birth control methods in September of this year.  The article did a wonderful job calling out the crap some girls have heard about how to keep from getting pregnant, such as douching with diet Coke (YUCK!), and giving realistic pros and cons for the methods most of us know about (the birth-control pill) and some we may not (birth-control implant/Depo-Provera shot/emergency contraception).  Speaking as a public health enthusiast, it looks like they really did their homework- and I bet it affected at least a few women who wouldn’t have otherwise known a thing or two about the method they use. 

Just for the record, I don’t endorse keeping these types of questions from a medical professional.  Please!- if you have any burning questions about your birth control (or lack there of) method, it is best answered by a physician.  You need a prescription for the vast majority of these things anyway, so best to be honest with the one with the power to give it to you.  Doctors are paid to help, not to judge, so if you feel weird talking to the one you have now because he/she gives you the stink eye when you talk about birth control or sex, SWITCH NOW!

Trying to find a way to switch gears between the two articles I really wanted to highlight in this post is difficult, but I think I’ll just transition by saying they are basically both about protection of womens’ sexual health.  The other article I was impressed and astounded by was Big Shame on Campus, in the October edition of Marie Claire magazine, by Kayla Webley.  This one was a doozy- I mean shocking, saddening, and somehow, hopeful too.  Webley’s article detailed the tragic tales of several women who have had extreme difficulty prosecuting their rapists through university honor systems across the country.  The victims of rapes on college campuses, who often have the option of going to the police or privately handling the crime through university investigations, have faced intimidation, ignorance, and emotional abuse at the hands of many of the people who were supposed to protect their interests and safety. 

Title IX doesn’t just allow girls to play on the football team if they want.  Under this law, students are entitled to education free from sexual discrimination, which includes sexual harassment and assault of any kind.  This basically means you are entitled to safety as a student at your school- sounds like common sense, right?  Not so much, apparently, because some universities have been putting the breaks on prosecuting the accused, letting them go with a slap on the wrist, or trying to fudge the numbers of assaults committed on their campuses.  The article quoted a few Title IX and supporters of better policies for sexual assault at colleges, such as Dr. David Lisak, who stated that, “in a purely statistical sense, a college campus is a pretty safe place to commit a sexual assault from the perspective of a rapist. Your odds of having anything serious happen to you are really, really small.”  This reflects the simple fact of how few women go through with prosecuting their rapists, especially when the attack is committed by a fellow student or at a college campus at all (reports establish that as little as 5% of these women report their attacks at all, according to The Atlantic (read about these numbers and more: Gathering Voices).

Just my recommendation, but until ALL colleges are publicly in favor of harsher punishments and a fair shake for all victims in the system, if sexual violence happens to you- GO TO THE COPS.  A victim’s odds are better in the government’s legal system than they are within the honor code at a school.  This may not go for all universities, but as it stands many of them are more interested in sweeping assaults under the rug than serving justice as they should- when this article hit the stands there were 18 Title IX complaints and 14 Clery Act complaints in the works at the Education Department against universities for mishandling sexual assault cases.  Decide for yourself but never be fooled- the stats have spoken and colleges are hanging in the red with victims’ rights.

To read more on this, here’s Big Shame on Campus

My point in the latter half of this post was not to be exclusively negative- some schools are really turning it around.  Between mandatory courses on sexual misconduct and policies that mandate expulsion as the favored punishment when there is a fair amount of evidence against the accused, there are universities who are stepping up to the plate and responding to their lack of initiative in the past.  For more on victims’ rights and resources, visit a few pages like this one- from End Rape on Campus, an organization that is fighting to get a voice for victims unheard.  If you want to place a complaint about problems prosecuting your sexual assault or find resources to get you back on your feet, look here: Resources/Where to Get Help Until next time..

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