Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Leading Experts to Discuss How Preventing Violence and Abuse

I received an emailed press release about an event in Washington DC tomorrow which is important for everyone working to make the US safer even though most of us will not be able to attend.

How do physical, sexual and psychological violence affect a person's long-term health? How can reducing rates of violence and abuse reduce health care costs and improve health outcomes? Leading violence prevention and health organizations will host a Capitol Hill briefing to answer those and related questions on Thursday, April 16. Speakers will consider the role of violence prevention as health care reform advances.

Dating, domestic and sexual violence and child abuse are health care problems of epidemic proportions. Studies show that women who have experienced domestic violence are 80 percent more likely to have a stroke, 70 percent more likely to have heart disease, 60 percent more likely to have asthma and 70 percent more likely to drink heavily than women who have not experienced intimate partner violence.

Children who experience childhood trauma, including witnessing incidents of domestic violence, are at a greater risk of having serious adult health problems including tobacco use, substance abuse, obesity, cancer, heart disease, depression and a higher risk for unintended pregnancy.

Experts at the briefing will explore the connections between domestic, dating and sexual violence and health care costs and consequences.

I've gotten to the place where attacks from rape apologists don't trigger me, but for some reason this press release triggered me big time.

I think it's because this reminded me of the intrinsic change rape made to my life and to my body. If it weren't for the aftermath of rape I wouldn't have come so close to dying at age 16 of alcohol poisoning.

If it weren't for rape and self-medicating with alcohol after reaching out for help failed, which left me vulnerable to other sexual predators, I wouldn't have needed surgery to cut out all those pre-cancerous cells on my cervix when I was in my early 20's. Without a free women's-health screening those pre-cancerous cells might have stayed in place undetected until they become cancerous cells. I might have died from cervical cancer before reaching age 30.

Without rape I wouldn't have been an easy target for a man who saw me as something meant to make him happy. Without that first rape I might not know what it feels like to have someone who claimed to love me wrapping his hands around my throat until "till death do us part," seemed about to come true.

Part of this widespread health impact is due to the rapes being committed, but I believe that dismissive attitudes and widespread denial and ignorance continue to be a major contributor to the physical and mental health problems faced by rape survivors.

It's been over a decade since I knew for certain that those who dismiss me and many other rape survivors as not real rape survivors, and who excuse my rapists and many other rapists as doing nothing more than misunderstanding their victims, are spreading dangerous falsehoods, but there were more than 2 decades where those lies ate away at me and kept me from stating a simple truth.

"I'm a rape survivor."

We must do more to cause all rapists to be ashamed of their actions and to make those considering rape or abuse, under any circumstances, to decide that this is not an acceptable choice. Studying the long-term effects of this violence is an important part of this work as is communicating the research on these effects.

Without this research too many people will continue to believe the myth that the impact of most rapes lasts only as long as the rape itself lasts. This myth harms rape victims while it helps rapists rationalize their crimes as no big deal.

Note: The carnival schedule is different this month due to my attendance at the WAM! conference in Boston. Check out the April 8th edition if you have not done so already. The closing date for nominations will either be a few days before the end of the month or when the average number of nominations comes in, whichever comes first.

Update (4/16): At today's discussion a new report was released. It's available from

AVA Announces Publication: "Hidden Costs in Health Care: The Economic Impact of Violence and Abuse".

Violence and abuse leads to as much as a 250 percent increase in healthcare utilization in adults who've been victimized at some time in their lives, resulting in increased healthcare expenditures of up to $750 billion annually or 37.5 percent of all healthcare costs. Download the full Hidden Costs report.


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posted by Marcella Chester @ 9:07 AM   4 comments links to this post


At April 16, 2009 11:54 AM, Blogger Marj aka Thriver said...

This would be another excellent post for the Blog Carnival Against Child Abuse. The deadline for April just passed, but maybe we could hang on to it for May.

Hey, friend, I tagged you with an award over at my blog. ;)

At May 29, 2009 10:54 AM, Blogger Child Person said...

So glad you included this for The Blog Carnival Against Child Abuse. So many triggers...can barely swallow remembering the choking by one who "loved" me, but so happy for survivors finding their voices. Thank you!

At May 29, 2009 7:04 PM, Blogger Marj aka Thriver said...

Thanks for letting me use this amazing post for the May edition of THE BLOG CARNIVAL AGAINST CHILD ABUSE.

At May 29, 2009 11:47 PM, Blogger Patricia Singleton said...

Marcella, thanks for posting this. Maybe with more of us beginning to tell our stories, people are beginning to wake up about abuse.


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