Casual Rape: Who prosecutes the abusers that endanger women’s health?

In a consultation with her gynecologist a woman reports informally that she needs confirmation that she is free of all sexually transmitted diseases. It wasn’t really rape she pleads with a mix of fear and shame. She should not have been there, but he said she was pretty. It all happened so quickly, in a split second. Then she screamed, and he stopped. He is an administrative supervisor of 30 years; she is an employee of only 6 months. Elusive statistics on casual rape show 90% remain unreported. The data implies the existence of many fellow victims at her work place. This information, along with her negative test result, did little to assuage the permanent violation of body and mind that she carries each day back to the work place. Fear of exposure, retaliation, loss of job and personal safety becomes her new mode of existence. The physician bound by the limits of health privacy and absence of appropriate resources to help becomes an impotent appendage of the system, unable to address the social pariah, a system that traps the victim and the health care professional in a prison of secret public health epidemics of rape.

Here the prison isn’t a figure of speech. The two work in prison, and she is an inmate.

As mandated by the Prison Rape Elimination Act of 2003, the Bureau of Justice Statistics publishes regular statistical reviews and analyses of incidents and effects of prison “sexual victimization.” In its 2011-2012 report, sexual abuse rates remained fairly constant, with 4% in prisons, down from 4.5% in 2007; and 3.2% in jails, which is the same as 2007. Since incidents of sexual abuse are notoriously under reported and because the high volume of admissions in local jails making these detainees invisible to BJS surveyors, the statistics represent only a small percentage of prisoners’ abuses.

There is a need for a different kind of dialogue that would expose the marginalization of people that allows, and promotes, sexual abuses to go on behind closed doors. The important confidentiality of the physician’s office contrasts with the dearth of instances for sexual abuses to be rendered public without fear and shame. As we recall, pregnant women may be prosecuted and sent to jail for supposedly endangering their fetus, but who prosecutes the abusers that endanger women’s health?

We need to start a change in the paradigm of power that makes so many suffer.

(Photo Credit: ThinkProgress / Just Detention)

A gynecologist faces the epidemic of guidelines for teenage girls

In the United States, a recent set of guidelines for teenage girls’ reproductive health has been released, declaiming various ages for marketing “healthy reproductive practices”.

There is a burgeoning recently of updated guidelines that fix teenage sexual health and life. These include: Chlamydia testing advised for the sexually active adolescent starting as young as 10; LARC (long acting reversible contraception) recommended as first line contraception for girls as young as 14; Plan B available over the counter for 15-18 year olds; HPV vaccination beginning at 12 years of age; and delaying pap smears until the age of 21.

We should wonder: why teenage girls, and why now?  The answer is simple. Teenage girls are engaged, and embedded, in a range of ages and activities that make them targets for the for-profit medical industry.

Why does the Plan B over the counter availability start at the age of 15, while the newly designed, streamlined IUD chose 14 years for its recommendation?  Why is the newly patented DNA testing for Chlamydia, that is not perceived as sensitive as the old culture, being promoted as an inescapable test for girls on birth control for acne?  Meanwhile, pap smears that have proven to be the most effective method to diagnose HPV infection leading to cervical cancer are being withheld until 21 regardless of the woman’s sexual history.

Tests are being indiscriminately assigned by guidelines on a time frame with no connection to the needs of the girl.  Doctors are told to follow these guidelines that are based on studies with a positive cost/benefit ratio to the system. The underlying system is not driven by the art of medicine, which demands patients and doctors to talk to each other on an intimate level. Products, devices, and profit margins are the driving force. This epidemic of guidelines keeps teenagers disconnected, fragmented and voiceless.

Once again, in the great scheme of population control, privatization of services and a dearth of social protection, these guidelines have the greatest negative effect on the most vulnerable: teenage girls. In this scheme, girls’ sexuality is not linked to being or becoming a woman (and how is that defined?), but rather something comparable to a package.

The teenage girl is treated as a health package with no prospect of becoming a woman, and yet somehow is treated “like an adult” inasmuch as girls suffer restrictive reproductive health care and reproductive health rights. What does the future hold for teenage girls in this regime, that they are meant to become increasingly and more intensely marginalized women?

(Photo Credit: NARAL Pro-Choice Oregon / Facebook)