Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Helping Women Fight Back Against Rape

At the South African World Cup soccer games this week, in a country with alarmingly high rape rates and low conviction rates, 30k condoms of a different type are being distributed: female condoms with teeth.

South African doctor invents female condoms with 'teeth' to fight rape
(CNN) -- South African Dr. Sonnet Ehlers was on call one night four decades ago when a devastated rape victim walked in. Her eyes were lifeless; she was like a breathing corpse.

"She looked at me and said, 'If only I had teeth down there,'" recalled Ehlers, who was a 20-year-old medical researcher at the time. "I promised her I'd do something to help people like her one day."

Forty years later, Rape-aXe was born.

Ehlers is distributing the female condoms in the various South African cities where the World Cup soccer games are taking place.

The woman inserts the latex condom like a tampon. Jagged rows of teeth-like hooks line its inside and attach on a man's penis during penetration, Ehlers said.

Once it lodges, only a doctor can remove it -- a procedure Ehlers hopes will be done with authorities on standby to make an arrest.

"It hurts, he cannot pee and walk when it's on," she said. "If he tries to remove it, it will clasp even tighter... however, it doesn't break the skin, and there's no danger of fluid exposure."

Ehlers said she sold her house and car to launch the project, and she planned to distribute 30,000 free devices under supervision during the World Cup period.

"I consulted engineers, gynecologists and psychologists to help in the design and make sure it was safe," she said.

After the trial period, they'll be available for about $2 a piece. She hopes the women will report back to her.

"The ideal situation would be for a woman to wear this when she's going out on some kind of blind date ... or to an area she's not comfortable with," she said.

The mother of two daughters said she visited prisons and talked to convicted rapists to find out whether such a device would have made them rethink their actions.

Some said it would have, Ehlers said.

Critics say the female condom is not a long-term solution and makes women vulnerable to more violence from men trapped by the device.

It's also a form of "enslavement," said Victoria Kajja, a fellow for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the east African country of Uganda. "The fears surrounding the victim, the act of wearing the condom in anticipation of being assaulted all represent enslavement that no woman should be subjected to."

Kajja said the device constantly reminds women of their vulnerability.

"It not only presents the victim with a false sense of security, but psychological trauma," she added. "It also does not help with the psychological problems that manifest after assaults."

However, its one advantage is it allows justice to be served, she said.

Various rights organizations that work in South Africa declined to comment, including Human Rights Watch and Care International.

South Africa has one of the highest rape rates in the world, Human Rights Watch says on its website. A 2009 report by the nation's Medical Research Council found that 28 percent of men surveyed had raped a woman or girl, with one in 20 saying they had raped in the past year, according to Human Rights Watch.

In most African countries, rape convictions are not common. Affected women don't get immediate access to medical care, and DNA tests to provide evidence are unaffordable.

"Women and girls who experience these violations are denied justice, factors that contribute to the normalization of rape and violence in South African society," Human Rights Watch says.

Women take drastic measures to prevent rape in South Africa, Ehlers said, with some wearing extra tight biker shorts and others inserting razor blades wrapped in sponges in their private parts.

Critics have accused her of developing a medieval device to fight rape.

"Yes, my device may be a medieval, but it's for a medieval deed that has been around for decades," she said. "I believe something's got to be done ... and this will make some men rethink before they assault a woman."
H/T Jill Stanek

I honestly think this is a great project. On the positive side, in countries where women do not often enough receive protection from rape and justice against rapists, it will provide a new form of self-defense and empowerment for women. And in developed countries such as the U.S.  it will hopefully lead to more arrests of and deter date rape. However, while this condom is intended to deter potential rapists, one of my concerns is that it doesn't prevent the act of rape from occuring, but rather is made to very quickly put an end to a rapist's attack. And with that said, while it does provide protection against seminal fluids, because it is designed as a defense once penetration has occured, it's faults lie with that it doesn't protect the woman from the physical and pyschological devastation of being forcibly penetrated against her will. Also, my concern lies with protential violent retaliation against the victim by the would-be-rapist. There are benefits, but also disadvantages to this. The Rape-Axe is a start, but we've got a longs ways to go.

While we're talking about this issue, it's worth noting that a while back, feminist and progressive blogger, Bitting Beaver wrote a contraversial, but informational article, entitled, "The Rapist Checklist" which defined and clearly defined rape so that men and women can know boundaries.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Blogger's Home Vandalized for Expressing Pro-Life Views

This is just sad. In the United States, he has the same right to free speech and to express his political views and opinions as anyone else, whether others agree with his views or not. All too often pro-choice individuals are defenders and advocates of "tolerance" and "free speech," that is until a differing view from their own is expressed. As the old saying goes, "Free speech for me, but not for thee!"

Update 6/25/10: Apparently this has made the news: Telegraph Harold: Man believes vandalism tied to his opposition to abortion

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

More About Me

Some interesting questions have been raised, as well as implied, in the course of discussions with others on political blogs and I would like to take the time to answer these questions as well as provide an opportunity for you, my readers, to get to know me better.

Question: You've mentioned that you have been a peer counselor for 10 years. Did you have any sort of training? When and where does your experience come from?

In the spring of 1999, I began peer ministry through a local church's highschool youth group, which ended the following summer. In peer ministry, we trained to be peer counselors through role-playing, a work book, discussions, and peer evaluation. Some vital key points we learned were: reflective and active listening, how to provide non-judgemental responses and advice, guidance through basic problem solving, with an emphasis on confidentiality unless the person was in danger of harm or death & refer to a professional if issue is severe. Issues we learned about included: unplanned pregnancy, illegal drug use, underage drinking, and depression/suicide.

From 2002 until January 2004, I maintained a now defunct website (seen here), with a section of information on unplanned pregnancy and provided an e-mail where men and women could contact me for advice and support. Basically I would guide and support them through the decision-making process using active and reflective listening and basic problem solving skills and connected them with resources in their communities to further meet their needs. I received and answered up to 5 e-mails a week.

May 17, 2003, I completed and received a certificate for 6 contact hours of Infant Adoption Awareness Adoption Liason training  (Provided by the National Council for Adoption, through a grant from the state of Indiana. Training personnel provided by Bethany Christian Services)

In 2003, I created a Yahoo! Group Pregnant_Teen_Support, a peer support group for teens (12-20yrs) who are facing an unplanned, unexpected, or unwanted pregnancy, with an emphasis on politically neutrality and non-judgementalism. Today, the group has over 400 members and I have stepped down to co-moderator due to pressing issues in my personal life.

Also, I have become an accepted member at the following online unplanned pregnancy/abortion recovery support communities starting in 2004: Yahoo! Groups: I Might Be Pregnant, IVIllage Abortion Support Board, and the PASS Support Boards.

Question: What are your spiritual/philosophical beliefs?

Answer: I consider myself an agnostic theist. I was born and raised a Catholic, but in my college years I choose to leave the Catholic Church and started attending my husband's church, a small congregation (less than 100 members) which at the time was afffiliated with the United Methodist church. My parents jokingly call me a "Matholic" a combination of Catholic and Methodist :P At that time that I felt very much at home in a United Methodist church because of their scripturally based beliefs (sola scriptura), emphasis on mission work, traditional services, very similiar to the Catholic mass, traditional music, and more conservative stance on political issues. However as time went on, a series of life events led me to start doubting my faith and the existance of a Christian god or higher power(s). I no longer found comfort in or the answers I was seeking in the Christian faith, nor did I idenify with any of the world religions, which led me to identify myself as agnostic two years ago in 2008. I do not believe in multiple gods/godesses, but I am undecided about whether or not one omnipresent, benevolent god/godess exists. My spouse is a practicing Christian and does not agree with my decision and so I do attend church from time to time with my husband to maintain relationship harmony.

Question: What are your political beliefs?

Answer: I would consider myself a moderate, voting democratically on some issues and republican on others. My politically beliefs on the various issues are described here.

Question: But don't you oppose abortion and contraception based on moralistic, bible-based thinking? Didn't we even see a blog entry where you clearly made biblical references in oppositon to abortion?

From when I began to write this blog in 2004 until about mid 2008, I did indeed write a couple of spirituality based entries, at a time when I still believed in the Christian god, but was starting to doubt my faith. These entries can be found under my Religion and Spirituality post tag. There is one entry, written in late 2004, entitled Political Corruption in the Church, in which I took the United Methodist Church and other Christian denominations to task for taking a pro-choice stance based on false and loose interpretations of the Christian faith. You will find this is the only entry on my blog where I make biblical references in oppositon to abortion, which at the time 5 years ago, was made when I still believed in the Christian Faith. However  my beliefs have changed over the years and these days my primary reasons for opposing abortion are based on social, ethical, and medical reasons, and thus these are the basis of my writings on abortion from mid 2005 on. I do not believe in making abortion illegal. Rather I believe we would benefit from: more medical regulation of abortion practices, changing hearts and minds with education and knowledge, reducing the need for abortion through a focus on preventing unplanned pregnancy with availability of contraception and sex education, a better support system for pregnant and parenting women who are working or continuing their education, and addressing the societal pressures which lead women to abortion.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Happy Birthday to Meeee!!

Just wanted to share that today is my 27th birthday :)

Plans? We celebrated my birthday this past Sunday with a dinner at home with a couple of close family friends attending. Although I do have to say it was interesting because we heard the local tornado warning sirens go off around 7pm, just as we were getting ready to sit down and eat. A small cold air funnel touched down on the south west side of town, with no serious damage in that area. The cell which produced our funnel cloud was part of a cold front with severe thunderstorms which produced 6 tornadoes in Indiana over Saturday and Sunday, causing moderate damage to homes, outbuildings, trees, and utility poles.
Tornado: National Weather Service tracks path of tornadoes in Indiana - WXIN

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Expressions of the Mind: Living with Clinical Depression

Art can be a creative and healing outlet for many. I've created the following Wordle to express what living with clinical depression feels like, so that others may have a better understanding, awareness, and more compassion towards those living with clinical depression and other mental illnesses—