Domestic Violence 101

Today’s guest writer, “Deeds,” is a Masters of Public Health student (with a concentration in health education) and has BA in exercise science. Some of her areas of interest are body image, sexual health, and LGBT issues.

Domestic violence affects men and women alike. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV), nearly 1 in 3 women will experience domestic violence in her entire lifetime and 1 in 10 men will experience some form of abuse in his lifetime. Domestic abuse occurs in relationships when an intimate partner uses physical and verbal threats to gain power over the other. It’s a power game that represents the dissolution of trust and respect in a relationship in an intimate relationship. Victims are manipulated and convinced they are at fault and deserving of the violence; they feel trapped in their relationships for fear they will be judged, or worse, that their batterers will kill them. Perpetrators will repeatedly try to smooth over or even deny their behavior with apologies and promises of change. explains this phenomenon as “the cycle of violence” or “power wheel.”


It’s normal to have the occasional argument in a relationship, but what crosses the line? What is abuse? Below are the common types of abuse adapted from Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

  • Physical abuse: Has your partner ever hurt you? Have you been kicked, slapped, punched, or shoved?
  • Sexual abuse: Has your partner forcefully touched or tried to make you do sexual things? Do they refuse to practice safe sex with you?
  • Emotional or psychological abuse: Does your partner frequently insult, lie, blame, threaten you, or obsessively monitor your phone, computer, or other activities?

According to the NCADV, domestic violence is one of the most underreported crimes in the United States. Had security officers not arrived when Janay Palmer was knocked out cold, who knows what could have happened to her within the confines of their home?

Break the silence. If you or a friend may be experiencing domestic violence, check out the resources below:

  • If you are in immediate danger, dial 911. U.S. National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 and TTY 1-800-787-3224 TTY 1-866-331-8453
  • Text “loveis” to 22522 or live chat at
  • U.S. National Sexual Assault Hotline: 1-800-656-4673 (HOPE)
  • For more safety tips, such as how to stay safe online, please visit the National Resource on Domestic Violence.

Do You Have That Not-So-Fresh Feeling?

close up of a woman body with  white  rose on her pubesWomen have been taught for generations that our genitals are smelly or dirty and need to be constantly cleaned. These messages are passed on through the media, peers, and even family members. Just like any part of our bodies, we should clean our vulvas and vaginas, but our body is not supposed to smell like rose petals!

If you have just finished working out you might smell a musky odor. If you smell like baked bread or beer you may have a yeast infection. Our crotches and anal cleavage are full of sweat glands and some of us have more active sweat glands than others. If you smell “fishy,” you might have a bacterial infection. A healthy vagina has its own unique smell and varies depending on what you eat, if you wear tight clothing, how often you shower, how well you wipe, how much you sweat, and your pheromones. It is important to note that females should not douche unless you want to go to the gynecologist. The vagina is self-cleaning and does not need any help from an outside source. You wouldn’t squirt a harsh chemical in your eye, so leave the delicate tissue in your vagina alone. Douching can actually disrupt the healthy balance of good bacteria that grows in the vagina and cause an over-growth of bad bacteria. All you need to use is a mild soap to clean the vulva and anus. You can use your hand or a wash cloth to gently clean the area. Do not put soap in your urethra or vagina, just warm water. It is also a good idea to stay away from feminine sprays, washes, scented tampons and pads, and don’t stay in wet workout clothing or swimsuits for too long. If you follow these rules you will have nothing to worry about. If you suspect you might have an infection, call your doctor or local Planned Parenthood.


Fun Friday: Condoms for Vegans!

rubberThere is literally no exuse left for not protecting yourself. Condoms have gone fair-trade, non-GMO, all natural, and vegan. You can even pick up a box with the always-reassuring PETA label on it! Go to NPR for the full story. And check out Glyde in case you need to stock up!

And if you’re a big nerd like me, you’ll enjoy this YouTube video describing how you tap and harvest natural rubber from the Hevea tree.


Asking the Right Questions

Image via Time

Like a lot of folks last week, I found myself talking about the situation with Ray and Janay Rice. In particular, I’d heard about the #WhyIStayed campaign, and was really impressed with the way that Beverly Gooden had taken one of the most painful and intrusive questions that comes up around domestic violence – “Why did she stay” – and had turned it into a platform for speaking out. We don’t talk about intimate partner violence a lot in our culture, and it’s even rarer to hear people’s individual stories, especially from a wide range of folks.

So I was happy to be able to post a link online and direct some more attention over to #WhyIStayed. But I was even happier when a friend pointed me to this piece in Time, which talked about the fact that this campaign – powerful as it is – still starts the conversation after the violence has happened. A lot of people have been asking why Janay Rice has stayed with her husband, but far fewer people are talking about why he was violent.

Obviously, there are some specific reasons behind that – these are questions that pundits and announcers are asking each other, and not questions actually being asked of Ray or Janay Rice. And even the most bombastic announcer will likely blanch at the idea of speculating on a player’s private life at that level, even if he (and it’s so often a ‘he’) feels perfectly comfortable speculating about his wife’s response to it.

And that’s why the questions are so important. When we’re comfortable asking questions like “Why did she stay?” and “What was she wearing?,” it puts the crimes themselves in the background. And if we want to really work on making sure that our society addresses and prevents these crimes, we’ve got to talk about them directly.

We’ve made progress – police officers and marriage counselors used to ask “What did she do to make him mad” when faced with husbands beating their wives (a version of “why was he violent” that misses the mark entirely). And one of the only good things to come from the theft of female celebrities’ photos earlier this month was the fact that a lot of the conversation about it did focus on the theft itself, rather than on what the celebrities might have done “wrong.” Even Forbes talked about it unequivocally as a sex crime. (Forbes!)

We want to have conversations that help us to create a more just and less violent society. And the only way we can do that is to make sure that we’re talking about the whole issue, not just the pieces that let the abusers and criminals off the hook.

Chlamydia 101: A Refresher Course on a Common STI!

gytEveryone here at the Feronia project cares a great deal about sexual health. Why else would we spend time writing about it if we didn’t!? We try to give you as much information as possible about current issues, new findings, and exciting research. However, sometimes it’s important to get back to basics. Recently, I was talking with a friend of ours at the Feronia Project about Chlamydia, and she highlighted how important it was that we keep everyone informed about the infection! So today, we’re doing some Chlamydia 101, and giving you all the info you need to know about this sexually transmitted infection!

What is Chlamydia?

It’s a common STI that can infect anyone who is sexual active. It can be spread through sexual contact, and no ejaculation has to occur for it to be spread! Chlamydia can also be transmitted through childbirth. While chlamydia can be easily treated if it is detected early enough, there can be serious long lasting damage if an infection is left for too long without being treated. These long term consequences include pelvic inflammatory disease, infertility, and increased risk of ectopic pregnancy. Check out this CDC fact sheet to find out more.

What are the symptoms of Chlamydia?

When symptoms of chlamydia are present, they can include abdominal pain, abnormal vaginal bleeding, abnormal vaginal and penile discharge, low grade fever, swelling inside the vagina, swelling around the anus, painful or burning urination, and swollen testicles. However, it is important to note that MANY people are asymptomatic, or have symptoms so mild that they do not notice them. According to Planned Parenthood, three out of four women with chlamydia have no symptoms, while half of men have no symptoms.

What should you do?

The first thing you can do is get tested, and make sure you have a regular testing schedule. If at risk, people between the ages of 15 and 24 should get tested yearly, while those 25 and older should be screened with each new sexual partner that they have. Additionally, you need to use a barrier method (like condoms) to help prevent the spread of this infection. While abstinence is absolutely the best method to prevent any STI transmission, the next best thing that you can do is use a barrier method. Condoms are very effective at reducing the spread of chlamydia, but it is important to use them during ALL sexual acts where transmission is possible, such as anal, vaginal, and oral sex. Condoms which are effective against STD transmission include latex condoms (the most common kind), as well as polyisoprene and polyurethane condoms. Lambskin condoms are not as effective at preventing sexually transmitted diseases, and should only be relied upon for pregnancy prevention.

So that’s the 411 on chlamydia! It’s important to always use a barrier method and to get tested regularly, particularly because chlamydia can often leave people without symptoms despite causing damage later! If you have chlamydia, it’s important to not engage in ANY sexual contact until you have completed your treatment, even if you are using a condom! Additionally, if you have been diagnosed with chlamydia it is important that you tell any partners that you may have infected. It might be embarrassing or uncomfortable, but there is a good chance they won’t know otherwise!

Fun Friday: Celebrating a Winner

alisonThe MacArthur Foundation recently awarded 21 people with a “genius” grant. The winner we’d like to celebrate is Alison Bechdel, a graphic memoirist. She is credited with “changing our notions of the contemporary memoir and expanding the expressive potential of the graphic form.” She’s best known for her comic strip Dykes To Watch Out For but you might want to check out Fun Home and Are You My Mother? too. The no-strings-attached award money is meant to allow recipients the freedom to explore their creative potential.

To learn more about Alison Bechdel, check out her website.

Long Acting Reversible Contraception…FOR MEN!

Today’s post is by “Obi,” a Nigerian doctor conducting his field experience at Planned Parenthood as part of his MPH program. He was a general practitioner in his home country with main interest and expertise in maternal and child health.

Over the past decades the tedious, but important job of using contraception has mostly been the woman’s – from daily pills to injections to invasive surgical procedures – the burden is uneven. I come with good news!

A relatively new long acting reversible contraceptive (in the biz we call them LARCs) is currently being tested on men in India with a likely release to the general public by 2017. It was created by Professor Sujoy K. Guha from the Indian Institute of Technology with the name Reversible Inhibition of Sperm Under Guidance (RISUG). It is being spearheaded by Parsemus Foundation. Like a vasectomy, it is an outpatient procedure and needs a tiny incision in the male genital area but unlike vasectomy, it’s more easily reversed.

Here’s a brief description of how RISUG/Vasalgel works:

  • a pin hole-sized incision is made at the base of the scrotum
  • the physician locates and gains access to the vas deferens
  • Vasalgel is injected into the vas deferens and then carefelly placed back into the scrotum

vasalgelThat’s it! Vasalgel is made up of two chemicals which mix when injected and thickens to make a polymer lining the vas deferens. Its specific mechanism of action is that it lines the wall of the vas deferens and lets sperm flow through it but ruptures the sperm cell membrane as they pass by. Fantastic, right?!

Vasalgel can be effective for up to ten years. When the male wants his fertility back, a solution of dimethyl sulfoxie or sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) and water is injected into the vas deferens, which flushes it out. The procedure has been proven in clinical trials to be very effective and there are some side effects like scrotal swelling and pain but those were very limited. As you know, female contraceptives also have side effects (good and bad) so you can expect the same from a male contraceptive. It is important to note that Vasalgel will NOT prevent the spread of sexually transmitted diseases.

Have you heard of this simple, yet innovative LARC procedure for men? What do you think?

To read a similiar article, see The Daily Beast.

STD Testing During Pregnancy

cdcSo you just found out you or your partner is pregnant. There are so many things to think about, but one thing many people never think about is getting tested for STDs. Most prenatal visits include testing but it’s also important for a new or old partner to be tested so infections are not spread to mom during her pregnancy. To varying degrees, all infections have the potential to affect a developing fetus. Knowing what tests to ask for depend on risk factors such as age, number of partners, use of condoms or barriers, possible exposure and drug use. Here are the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s 2010 STD Testing Guidelines:


Screen all pregnant women at first prenatal visit; 3rd trimester rescreen if younger than 25 years of age and/or high risk group.


Screen all pregnant women at risk at first prenatal visit; 3rd trimester rescreen women at continued high risk. Risk factors include: young women aged 25 years or younger, living in a high morbidity area, previous GC infection, other STDs, new or multiple sex partners, inconsistent condom use, commercial sex work, and/or drug use.


Screen all pregnant women at first prenatal visit; during 3rd trimester rescreen women who are at high risk for syphilis or who live in areas with high numbers of syphilis cases, and/or those who were not previously tested or had a positive test in the first trimester.

Bacterial Vaginosis

Test pregnant women who have symptoms or are at high risk for preterm labor.


Test pregnant women with symptoms.

Herpes (HSV)

Test pregnant women with symptoms.


Screen all pregnant women at first prenatal visit; rescreening in the third trimester recommended for women at high risk for getting HIV infection.

Hepatitis B

Screen all pregnant women at first prenatal visit: retest those who were not screened prenatally, those who engage in behaviors that put them at high risk for infection and those with signs or symptoms of hepatitis at the time of admission to the hospital for delivery. Risk factors include: having had more than one sex partner in the previous six months, evaluation or treatment for an STD, recent or current injection-drug use, and an HBsAg-positive sex partner.

Human Papillomavirus

There is not enough evidence to make a recommendation.

Hepatitis C 

All pregnant women at high risk should be tested at first prenatal visit.

To find out more information about STDs during pregnancy, visit the CDC website.

How Can You Help?: Getting Involved with the Reproductive Health Movement!

volunteerAre you interested in getting involved with the politics of sexual and reproductive health? Have a passion for reproductive issues, but don’t know what to do with it? At a loss for how to get your feminist foot in the door? Here are some easy steps to take to get involved!

1. Call local organizations (like Planned Parenthood) and find out what they need!

Non-profits always need some kind of help. Non-profits that deal with sexual and reproductive health care have the potential added issue of having to deal with a lot of opposition. There is almost certainly some kind of help that your local organization needs. Simply calling the organization you are interested in, and asking them how you can help is a great start! Here at Planned Parenthood of Southwest and Central Florida, we are always in need some kind of support from our advocates. Sometimes we ask them to come out to rallies or events, sometimes we ask them to call local politicians when dangerous legislation comes up, and sometimes we ask them to volunteer their time. Speaking of…

2. See what you can do to volunteer!

Non-profits NEED volunteers. We rely on volunteers for a variety of essential tasks. We have patient escorts to help minimize patient interactions with protesters, neighborhood canvassers, phone bankers, volunteers who do data entry, volunteers who table community events, and much, much more. Most of these jobs aren’t glamourous, but they make a HUGE difference for the patients and employees. Volunteering is a great way to learn more about issues you care about, and to get to see how organizations work behind the scenes. It might also help you explore a career path in the area of reproductive health!

3. Keep UPDATED!

If you are already reading sexual health blogs like Feronia, it seems like you are well on your way to keeping informed and staying current! Making sure that you have accurate information is an important step to being a good advocate for reproductive health. Unfortunately, so much inaccurate information is spread throughout the media that just staying informed can be a great way to get involved! Some other websites you might like to check out are Planned Parenthood’s tumblr and RH Reality Check for other places to get your news and up-to-date sexual health information.

4. Consider donating.

Donations are a GREAT help to many organizations and something non-profits need to keep providing the services they offer. Not everyone can make financial contributions, and that’s more than understandable. However, lots of people think that they have to donate large amount of money to organizations to be helpful, and that’s simply not true! Every little bit of donations help, and if you’ve ever been interested in donating to an organization like Planned Parenthood, you shouldn’t stop yourself because you can’t give on the level of mega-wealthy donors! Another option is to give a small amount every month, and most organizations have it set up so that this can be done automatically! This is a great way to give more over time, while still avoiding having to give large sums all at once.