May 9, 2008

Double Dose: A Reporter Writes About Her Own Rape; Are Doctors Shilling for Drug Companies on Public Radio?; NPR on Women Waiting to Have Children and the “Clash” Between Cuture and Biology; Books Challenged for Sexuality Content; and More

Beyond Rape – A Survivor’s Journey: Cleveland Plain Dealer reporter Joanna Connors has written a five-part story about being raped 24 years ago when she was on assignment for the paper.

The story is notable not only for Connors’ reach in describing how her life (and by extension her husband and children) was affected by the rape, but she also sets out to learn more about her rapist — and in doing so peels back the layers on a family trapped in a cycle of violence and abuse toward women. While exploring the related race and class issues, Connors raises many questions as she sets about trying to answer them.

All the sections to the series are available here, along with an introduction by the paper’s editor and resources for victims of rape.

Plus: Editor & Publisher looks at responses to Joanna Connors’ story.

Are Doctors Shilling for Drug Companies on Public Radio?: Check this out — as Shannon Brownlee and Jeanne Lenzer write at Slate:

A few weeks ago, devoted listeners of public radio* were treated to an episode of the award-winning radio series The Infinite Mind called “Prozac Nation: Revisited.” The segment featured four prestigious medical experts discussing the controversial link between antidepressants and suicide. In their considered opinions, all four said that worries about the drugs have been overblown.

The radio show, which was broadcast nationwide and paid for in part by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, had the air of quiet, authoritative credibility. Host Dr. Fred Goodwin, a former director of the National Institute of Mental Health, interviewed three prominent guests, and any radio producer would be hard-pressed to find a more seemingly credible quartet. Credible, that is, except for a crucial detail that was never revealed to listeners: All four of the experts on the show, including Goodwin, have financial ties to the makers of antidepressants. Also unmentioned were the “unrestricted grants” that The Infinite Mind has received from drug makers, including Eli Lilly, the manufacturer of the antidepressant Prozac.

Continue reading ….

For Prospective Moms, Biology and Culture Clash: Just before Mother’s Day, NPR’s “Morning Edition” looks at the rising age of first-time mothers and the “clash” between culture and biology.

The average age of first-time mothers in the United States has been rising steadily over the past four decades — up from 21.4 in 1970 to a little over 25 in 2005, the National Center for Health Statistics reports. [...]

“Women are no longer marrying the boy they met in high school,” [Rutgers anthropologist Helen] Fisher says. “They’re concerned with getting a career before they marry. This takes time.”

But this is time on the biological clock that cannot be recaptured. …

I appreciate that the story includes a couple sharing household duties while both work, and Fisher notes that businesses are recognizing women want to keep their careers, but there’s still a tone of women should know better — and should get on with making babies.

A story on, say, the glacial speed of government and business to provide adequate paternity and maternity leave and to accommodate breastfeeding moms returning to work — along with the lack of access to quality childcare and the advocacy work of groups like Moms Rising — would be a more welcome and appreciated “Mother’s Day” story.

Plus: This Wall Street Journal’s Heath Matters column focuses on unplanned pregnancies later in life. Close to 40 percent of pregnancies among women over 40 are unplanned, according to a 2001 survey by the National Center for Health Statistics in Atlanta, the most recent data available.

Public Citizen Calls on FDA To Withdraw Ortho Evra Patch From Market: Public Citizen’s Health Research Group called on the FDA this week to withdraw the birth control patch Ortho Evra from the market, citing studies that found an increased risk of dangerous blood clots, reports Reuters.

“The considerable safety concern of high-dose, variable estrogen exposure tips the balance of risks and benefits against the availability of Ortho-Evra as a contraceptive,” wrote Sidney Wolfe, head of the research group.

A Better Method for Handling Rape Kit Evidence: Jessica Voorhees Norris, a Ph.D. candidate in forensic chemistry at University of Virginia, has created a method for handling rape kit evidence that reduces part of the DNA analysis time from 24 hours to as little as 30 to 45 minutes and improves the sperm cell recovery rate by 100 percent, according to this university release.

If her method was to be adopted by forensic labs — and the results accepted by courts — the backlog could potentially be reduced within months.

“There is an overwhelming demand for DNA analysis of sexual assault evidence, but laboratories have neither the funding nor the manpower to handle the caseload in a timely manner,” Norris said. “Juries have come to expect DNA evidence in sexual assault cases, but forensic labs are not able to perform in a timely and efficient manner due to limitations in the currently used technologies.”

“Homosexuality,” “Sexually Explicit” Most Common Reasons for Challenging Books: For the second year in a row, “And Tango makes Three,” a children’s story by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell about two male penguins caring for an orphaned egg, was the most “challenged” book in U.S. public schools and libraries, according to the American Library Association.

Other books in the top 10 cited as “sexually explicit” include “The Color Purple” by Alice Walker; “It’s Perfectly Normal,” by Robie Harris; and “The Chocolate War,” by Robert Cormier.

“Overall, the number of reported library challenges dropped from 546 in 2006 to 420 last year, well below the mid-1990s, when complaints topped 750,” reports the Associated Press. “For every challenge listed, about four to five go unreported, the library association estimates.”

National Women’s Health Week: We here at OBOS like to think of every week as Women’s Health Week, but next week it’s official: National Women’s Health Week runs May 11 – May 17, and the push this year is to encourage women to make their health a top priority and take simple steps for a longer, healthier and happier life.


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