Will We Ever Move Past the Normalisation of Sexual Assault


Published: October 5, 2018

Sexual Assault

RH Weekly News Roundup – 5 October 2018

Will We Ever Move Past the Normalisation of Sexual Assault?

There’s a chart about sexual assault making the rounds on social media at the moment. It’s taken from an exercise Jackson Katz uses in classes promoting gender equality and it reveals something we all sort of know. On one side are women’s answers to what they do to prevent sexual assault, and it includes everything from avoiding sleeping in ground floor rooms and where they park to what they say and where they meet friends or dates. On the other side is the male response: “Nothing. I don’t think about it.”

At the same time, there’s a question floating around Twitter asking women what they would do if all men had a 9 p.m. curfew. The answers are equally telling and mostly revolve around exercising outdoors in the evening and camping to just generally being able to go somewhere and get home safely. While there was some backchat about not victimising men who aren’t perpetrating crimes (which was not the point of the question) there were a few responses that made it clear some men were thinking about it, including one guy who hadn’t previously realised his gender privilege. Although we have a long way to go, these small demonstrations are a step towards the realisation that what’s normal isn’t always right.



Making Sleep a Daily Routine

Adequate sleep is necessary for optimal health – for mind and body. However, a recent study suggests that it is not just a matter of getting eight hours each night. American researchers found that sleep regularity – having a consistent bedtime and wake time – may be just as important. After measuring the sleep duration, timing, and regularity of nearly 2000 older adults, researchers found that out of all three measures, regularity was the best at predicting heart and metabolic health. People with irregular sleep patterns weighed more, had higher blood sugar and pressure and a higher projected risk of heart attack or stroke within 10 years than those who slept and worked at the same times every day. Irregular sleepers were also more likely to report depression and stress than sleepers with a regular schedule.

At this point, researchers have only been able to establish an association, not a cause-and-effect connection. More studies are needed to determine if sleep irregularity causes health risks or is it poor health conditions that lead to poor sleep habits. (Or if it’s both!) Whether it prevents or predicts poor health, it may be useful to become aware of your own sleep regularity. There are dozens of apps and trackers to make it easier, but a simple sleep log on your bedside table works just as well. Track your sleep and see if you feel and perform better with a more consistent schedule.


Is This Why Hypertension Is So Prevalent in African Americans?

A new study has revealed a strong link between a “Southern diet” and hypertension in African Americans. For the purposes of this research, the Southern diet is one that’s high in fried foods, processed meats, high-fat dairy, sugary beverages, and added fats. It’s little wonder that there’s a link between these foods and hypertension. And, when factoring in the geographic distribution of lower-income African Americans and the positioning of healthy food stores and fast food outlets, it’s also not a shock that the media latches on to link Southern diets with higher rates of hypertension for African Americans.

But, all biases aside, this study, which followed nearly 7000 adults over nine years did reveal a few useful statistics that may help you make smarter diet choices – wherever you live. For a start, this study shows that there is a much stronger link between diet choices and hypertension than there is between waist circumference or weight to hypertension (though you can’t rule those factors out). Because diet is something that we’re able to alter (unlike our genetics), it’s possible to reduce your risk immediately by choosing fresh fruits, vegetables, and unrefined grains as often as possible.


Shedding Light on Postpartum Depression

Postpartum depression is a serious mental health condition that affects about 13% of new mothers worldwide.  For women in developing countries, the incidence rate is even higher, nearly 20%. In addition to the physical and mental health of the mother, postpartum depression can have a severe and lasting impact on the newborn’s growth and development.  A small, but impressive study may have identified a natural treatment to help reduce the risk and severity of this disorder – light therapy.

Researchers in California analyzed data from two previous clinical trials involving first-time mums, including the woman’s age, her socioeconomic status, mental and physical health history, and sleep quantity.  They also tracked the amount of daylight during the final trimester of their pregnancies. Depression scores were highest among women whose final trimester coincided with shorter days and lowest for women whose final trimester coincided with longer daylight hours.  This suggests that light treatment – using natural sunlight and/or special light boxes – could be used to minimize the risk or severity of postpartum depression for high-risk mothers. If you’re pregnant or plan to be in the future, familiarize yourself with the symptoms of postpartum depression and discuss any concerns with your doctor.  Or reach out to support organisations; Postpartum Support International has an online support group as well as information and links to local resources around the globe.


Could We Really Have a Cancer Vaccine?

Given the sheer number of cancers and cancer-related deaths over the years, it may seem fantastical that researchers may have uncovered a treatment that may turn into a vaccine for a range of HER2-positive cancers. The most common HER2-positive cancer is breast cancer, though this type also includes ovarian, bladder, pancreatic, and stomach cancers. While there are some treatments aimed at mitigating HER2-positive cancers, this new treatment takes things in a new direction.

Essentially, the treatment involves training the body to develop the immune system to attack these cells. And, while the development of this immunotherapy is intense, there doesn’t appear to be any side effects accompanying the treatment. What makes it so complicated? A patient’s immune cells are collected and then modified with an adenovirus and before being injected back into the patient. An early clinical study saw positive results in over half of the 17 participants and reported only irritations around the injection point. Combining current research, undertaken by the Mayo Clinic, using nanoparticles instead of each patient’s immune cells could just be the step needed to transform treatment into a vaccine.

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