Sexual Violence is Not a Laughing Matter

Sexual violence against women is not a joke. For a public figure, especially someone who is running for the highest political office in the country, to think sexual violence is humorous “locker room talk” is despicable as well as disrespectful to victims of sexual violence. “This was not just a lewd conversation, this wasn’t just lock room banter, this was a powerful individual speaking freely and openly about sexually predatory behavior,” First Lady Michelle Obama said in a speech on October 13. She summed up the situation very well and that started my thinking of the facts and data on sexual violence in America and what can be done to reduce its prevalence. Every two minutes an American is sexually assaulted and the majority of victims are between the ages of 12 and 34, according to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network. One in five women and one in 16 men are sexually assaulted while in college, according to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center. This set of statistics includes all cases of sexual violence. One in five women and one in 71 men will be raped in their lifetimes, according to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center. This set of statistics just looks at rape and nothing else in the sexual violence crimes category. I’m not a sociologist, a criminologist or a police officer. I am not a judge or a prosecutor. I am a college-educated and real-life trained journalist. I am a human being with intelligence. I am a woman — one who has survived sexual assault. I’ve been thinking for a long time about sexual...

Gardasil Can Protect a New Generation

Merck has been hitting major television markets hard with commercials for its product Gardasil, which is a vaccine for human papillomavirus, or HPV. These ads are well-timed as they are appearing at the start of this year’s back-to-school season, which is a time when many children are already being seen by their physicians. This is an excellent time for parents and physicians to have a conversation about the benefits of the Gardasil vaccine. Sadly, research from 2015 shows this is often a missed opportunity on the side of the physician. The vaccine Gardasil was first approved by the Food and Drug Administration on June 8, 2006, for use in the prevention of cervical cancer in females. On September 15, 2008, the FDA approved the expanded use of Gardasil for the prevention of certain vulvar and vaginal cancers. On October 16, 2009, the FDA approved Gardasil for use in boys and young men. On December 22, 2010, the FDA approved Gardasil to prevent anal cancer. The FDA grants additional approvals for a drug or vaccine based on new clinical data submitted by the drug or vaccine manufacturer that proves the drug or vaccine works for the additional uses. Gardasil works best if administered before the first sexual activity of any kind occurs, which is why the vaccine is recommended for optimal administration to children, both boys and girls, between the ages of 11 and 12. Some American parents seem to have some difficulties coming to grips with the notion that their children will have sex one day. Those parents either put off giving their children the Gardasil vaccine or do...

Preventative Exams Can Save Women’s Lives

Last weekend, Dutch and I attended our friends’ annual Indianapolis 500 race celebration and Memorial Day cookout. At this party, I met a woman who is a two-time cancer survivor whose family carries one of the genetic markers for breast cancer. She survived breast and uterine cancer and is now battling the after-effects of chemotherapy on her digestive tract. During our conversation, I discovered this particular cancer survivor was not consistent with undergoing annual preventative exams during much of her adult life. Preventative care is essential to our health and well-being and can help detect any potential health problems, especially cancer during its earliest stages when it is easier to treat. Uterine cancer and cervical cancer are mostly asymptomatic, meaning there are no symptoms that indicate the presence of the cancer. Ovarian cancer is asymptomatic in its early stages and will exhibit symptoms in the later stages of the disease. Dr. George Papanicolaou (1883-1962) was a Greek pioneer in cytopathology, or the study of cells to determine the cause or nature of disease. He was an expert on early cancer detection who, in 1928, invented the Papanicolaou test after having studied his wife’s cervical cells under a microscope for several months. His invention, now commonly referred to as a Pap test or Pap smear, is a sample of tissue collected from the neck of a woman’s cervix or uterus that is then examined under a microscope in order to look for potential cancers in the uterus or cervix. Very rarely will a Pap smear detect the presence of ovarian cancer cells. The Pap test has stood the test of...

Miscarriage: Signs, Types and Treatments

Miscarriage is the medical term that describes a pregnancy that ends on its own, within the first 20 weeks of gestation. Pregnancy occurs in three trimesters: the first 12 weeks of a pregnancy are the first trimester, weeks 13 to 27 are the second trimester and the remainder of the pregnancy makes up the third trimester. Most miscarriages occur in the first trimester of pregnancy. Second trimester miscarriages can occur as well. Miscarriage is the most common type of pregnancy loss. According to the March of Dimes, “about 10 to 15 out of 100 pregnancies end in miscarriage.” The organization reports “as many as half of all pregnancies may end in miscarriage.” In these pregnancies, known as chemical pregnancies, the miscarriage occurs shortly after implantation of the fertilized egg, resulting in bleeding that occurs around the time of expected menstruation. For this reason, women may not even realize they have miscarried. During the first trimester, the most common cause of miscarriage is chromosomal abnormality within the zygote, which is the fertilized egg. Most chromosomal abnormalities are caused by a damaged egg or sperm cell or by a problem that occurs when the zygote undergoes cell division. Other causes of miscarriage include maternal hormonal problems, infections or health issues; maternal lifestyle choices such as smoking, drug use, malnutrition and exposure to radiation or toxic substances; improper implantation of the fertilized egg into the uterine lining; maternal age; and maternal trauma, especially to the abdomen. There are several different types of miscarriage, although most people use “miscarriage” as a blanket term to describe all of these varying conditions. A threatened miscarriage...

Masturbation: Its American History and Its Benefits

Historically, America has held a somewhat negative societal view of masturbation that can be traced back to several centuries ago. In America in the 18th and 19th centuries, the perfect storm collided to help condemn masturbation as being a degenerate act. Decades of the Judeo-Christian tradition of condemning masturbation as being a misuse of one’s sexuality combined with the general prudishness of the Victorian era, which lasted from 1837 to 1901, and with the Great Awakening religious revivals of the early 18th century to the late 19th century to land masturbation into the banned acts arena. Literary works during the Victorian era helped move masturbation from being just a socially wicked act to being one of a physical and mental health nature that required medical treatments and even cures to eradicate. One of the biggest opponents of masturbation during this time was American physician Dr. John Harvey Kellogg (1852-1943), who thought sex was detrimental to our physical, emotional and spiritual well-being. He had evener stricter views on masturbation. In addition to sharing his anti-masturbation and anti-sex beliefs with others, Dr. Kellogg physically lived his beliefs and values. It is believed that Dr. Kellogg was celibate, that he and his wife never consummated their marriage, that they kept separate bedrooms during their entire marriage and that all eight of their children were adopted. Dr. Kellogg was raised as a devote Seventh-day Adventist and kept to his faith all throughout his life. He went to medical school before returning to his home state of Michigan where he would eventually practice as a physician at an Adventist-operated sanitarium. In his written work...

Debunking the Virgin Myth

I recently watched an episode of Game of Thrones in which two characters were conversing about a bride being free to marry another man based on an absurd notion. Basically, since the purported virgin bride did not bleed on the bedsheets on her first wedding night, the first marriage was never consummated and she could now be married off in a second marriage. Let’s ignore the fact that this second marriage would unite two prominent families and just focus on debunking what I like to call the virgin myth. Let’s start with a solid fact: not every virgin bleeds during her first vaginal sexual intercourse experience. Another solid fact is that nearly every female human is born with a hymen, which is a piece of fringed tissue that is filled with blood vessels and located in between the two folds of the vulva. The hymen develops during the third or fourth month of pregnancy, and the reason for its development is still a bit of a mystery. Hymens, just like vulva, come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes, which means no two are alike. The hymen doesn’t actually cover the vaginal opening. Instead, the hymen creates folds that cause the opening of the vagina to be smaller in size than it would be without a hymen being present. The size of the hymen opening can be small enough to prevent some women from using tampons during menstruation. In rare cases, the hymen opening is too small and requires a minor surgical procedure to open it enough to allow for menstruation blood to pass out of the vagina....