Mattress Protest at Columbia University Continues Into Graduation

Columbia University student, Emma  Sulkowicz has been carrying her dorm room mattress around for months in protest to how the University handled her sexual assault case.  This protest was part of her art thesis project and one of her rules for the project was that she would carry the mattress anytime she was on campus till her accused rapist was no longer a student at the school.  Paul Nassunger, her accused rapist was cleared to stay on campus by university officials after it was decided that their encounter was consensual.  Emma has made national headlines and has raised awareness about sexual assault on college campuses and was even invited to attend the State of the Union Address with Senator Kristin E. Gillibrand .  This past Tuesday she graduated and crossed the stage with her mattress in hand even after being told by universities officials to leave it behind before walking.  President of the University, Lee C. Bollinger turned his head and refused to shake Emma’s hand when she crossed the stage.  An email was even sent out to students stating not to bring large objects to the ceremony.  My question is what will it take for universities to support victims of sexual assault and not shun them in fear or reputation?


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Domestic Violence and the NFL

Last year, a notorious NFL player named Ray Rice made headlines all over mainstream media and news outlets for a horrific video showing him beating his girlfriend unconscious and then was seen dragging her by her hair out and into a parking deck, where she eventually woke up. Since Ray Rice’s domestic violence incidence was leaked through video footage, domestic violence awareness, especially in the NFL settings, has been heightened. It is no surprise these athletes are strong and powerful, but why does it seem that many recent NFL athletes have been discovered to be violent towards their spouses? It seems that lack of awareness is a key issue in many of these situations. This article features steps the NFL has recently been taking to reduce domestic violence and sexual assault situations by educating new athletes. “There were a lot of things I didn’t know,” says linebacker Benardrick McKinney, a second-round pick of the Texans out of Mississippi State. “This was my first time getting taught the definition of domestic violence. A lot of guys like me probably have never been taught it. I was like, Wow, for real? I didn’t know that was going on.”

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University of Oregon, Confidence and Confidentiality Lost

So this article was really interesting to me and I think you all will find it interesting as well! It’s about a girl who attended the University of Oregon who was sexually assaulted on campus. The article didn’t get into the specifics about the case but it stated that she filed a lawsuit against the University because they used information that was stated during her private sessions with the on campus counseling center in their defense. I know a lot of us are social workers so not only does it get into how a student’s university didn’t really help her when it came to this sexual assault, but it also talks about confidentiality in a therapy setting, which is something we know a lot about.

As this article gets out, a question I have for you all is how do you think this breach of confidentially and disrespect for what this girl went through is going to affect how girl’s trust their university when they go through something similar to this? Hearing  this story would make me a lot more cautious with letting my school know if something happened to me. Let me know what you think please!


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Gang Rape Film Banned in India

Why Is the Indian Government so Afraid of This Film?

Check out this article I found about why India is so upset about this documentary.

India’s daughter is a documentary about the brutal gang rape of a 23-year old student Jyoti Singh on a moving bus in New Delhi, India’s capital, in 2012. The rape led to her death a few days later, and caused widespread protests and outrage in India over the next few months.”

This article talks about the Indian government is outraged at this documentary and why.  She talks about the “rules” that were broken when the film was made ad using them as an excuse to ban the film.

When I was reading this article I thought it was going to be about a group of people so outraged that they were going to do something about it. I was wrong.  I was disappointed to read that the Indian government was punishing people who tried to view the film, and nothing would come of the people’s outrage.  The author also talked about one of the rapist interviewed said the woman wouldn’t have died if she would have just let it happen. It seems as though this is a common view point in India.  What do you think about his comment? What do you think would happen if a film like this was released in America?


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Study shows healthcare providers ignore victims of gender-based violence

This article is from The Times of India.  I chose it because it is very recent and because it reports on many of the issues that we talked about this week concerning “blaming the victim” for sexual assaults.

The article states that victims of gender-based violence in India are being refused healthcare or receiving minimal or unsatisfactory healthcare because healthcare professionals perceive most cases to be “fake.”  This is the case despite the fact that the law makes the healthcare industry as responsible for providing services as the police and judiciary systems.  Additionally, healthcare workers are performing humiliating “tests” to determine virginity, and commenting on the past sexual history of the victims.  This reminded me of the stories we read about this week concerning sexual assaults on campus as those women were also more or less “dismissed” (by university officials) and subjected to hours of “rape kit” examinations after the incidents (which many women feel are incredibly invasive, humiliating, and traumatizing after a rape or assault).  Many of these women were grilled about their behaviors and made to feel as if they were somehow to blame for what happened to them (either by police or university officials).  Some of these women were not offered counseling or other healthcare measures that would have possibly made a difference in their recovery.

I was struck by how similar the treatment of these women – from two different countries and two very different cultures – seem to be. Keeping Mills’ seminal work in mind, how is this treatment of women in India not just a “private trouble” as the Indian healthcare system names it, but also a “public issue?” Is it a “public issue” in the U.S. as well? If so, how is our society impacted by the way we treat these victims?



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Rape cultures on campus

College Policies Support Rape Cultures

Take a look at this article, reflecting on an experience from the 1970s: How does her personal experience illuminate the many ways that rape culture may be tolerated or perpetuated on campus? See this point for an illustration of the point I made in our first lecture on taking a sociological imagination to understand the problem:

“I don’t think my former boyfriend was an evil person. He certainly was not mentally ill. He read feminist texts; he liked strong women. He was self-centered in a typical way that the racism and sexism of the era encouraged him to be. He was very, very entitled socially, and the sex culture on campus supported that sense of entitlement in myriad ways.”

Across the past couple of years, campus activists, the federal government, and campus administrators have begun to give stronger attention to this problem, which pervades campuses in our society and in other countries. See all of the ways this can fall between the cracks on campuses, including on study-abroad programs. I have known of cases on other campuses where I have taught, in addition to here at ECU. What thoughts do you have about this?


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No One Wants to Call Husband a Rapist

 By Regina Dooley

 How would you feel if your best friend or sister told you that her husband raped her?  You would probably be outraged.  You would certainly encourage her to contact the police and you would definitely insist that she divorce her abusive spouse.  Do you think you would feel differently if your husband raped you too?  Would you band together or rise against the abusers or would encourage each other to endure it to hold together your marriages and be good wives? How would you react to this news if you knew that your father was abusive to your mother? Or if you knew that your aunts and neighbors endured similar exploitation?

 It may seem preposterous to think that anyone would be capable of brushing something so sever under the rug, but this is the dilemma that many women all over the globe are facing.  In many part of the world violence is so prevalent that people become desensitized to it.  If you are raised witnessing the abuse of your mother, sisters, aunts, and neighbors you are likely to begin to expect that you will go through this kind of battering as well.  If your culture as a whole views spousal abuse as a natural part of marriage, you too are likely to turn a blind eye if a sister or friend confides in you. 

 Many governments do not view wives as independent human beings, but instead as property belonging to their husbands.  This practice is especially common in cultures that expect the groom to provide a bride wealth (a generally informal exchange of goods or services from the groom or his family to the brides family for the bride).  When governments to not recognize the rights of citizens there is sure to be a rise in violence against those citizens.  And those who are not being represented are not likely to speak out against their oppressors.  If a woman reaches out because her husband raped her and she is told that it was her fault or that he could not control himself, it is doubtful that her peers will come forward too.

 Women are being abused emotionally, physically, and sexually on an international scale.  All women should be able to feel safe and protected, even if the perpetrator is their own husband.  To create a world where all women have the right to be protected from abuse those of us who already have these rights are responsible for raising awareness.  Talking about these less than palatable topics puts pressure on our representatives to work for the rights of women everywhere.  The United States has made great strides for women’s rights, but it is still considered distasteful to talk about marital rape.  A husband CAN rape his wife and this dirty little secret needs to be dragged out into the daylight and torn to bits it is ever going to end.

 Regina Dooley is an anthropology major at East Carolina University.


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Beauty and the Beast


By Antionque Penny

                A lawyer was just waking up from anesthesia after surgery, and his wife was sitting by his side. His eyes fluttered open and he said, “You’re beautiful!” and then he fell asleep again. His wife had never heard him say that so she stayed by his side. A couple of minutes later, his eyes fluttered open and he said, “You’re nice!” Well, the wife was disappointed because instead of “beautiful,” it was “nice.” She asked, “What happened to ‘beautiful’?” His reply was “The drugs are wearing off! “ There an ongoing issues that  many adolescent girls and women face around the world.  As more and more countries become industrialized and are exposed to the Westernized concept of beauty and attractiveness they start to abandon their cultural concepts of beauty.  Is success defined by a Westernized standard of beauty? What is beauty really? Why must this abstract concept be confided in a simple concrete mold?

             In this technologically advanced world, it is so simple to see or to be exposed to Westernized beauty from ads on the social media websites, music albums covers and songs right on down to products that that we buy.   We have accepted this concept and it seem as if we have influenced many other nations as well to adopt our standards of attractiveness.

Traditionally, in  Fiji and parts of Africa and China beauty was depicted as being plump or thick yet as these nation were exposed to Westernized television they began to associate being beautiful as being thin and underweight.  Many women began to develop eating disorders as a result and to experience psychological problem about their self-worth and beauty. They start to associate being thin as a way to success yet not realizing that they are harming themselves. 

            This is a huge problem. I feel that in order to change this route of self-destruction, we must first change what we consider beauty. Instead of showing ads of what seem like perfect models show us the beauty within the flaws of the person. Instead of plastering this one concept of beauty we could focus more on abstract ideas such as personality traits. Yet to get to this level and change how beauty is perceived, it must come from the individuals too. You must truly love yourself and love the skin that you’re in; to be a trendsetter and not a follower of the ideals of others.

             I also believe another way of helping women and young girls is to maybe start a movement or have a women are beautiful conferences that would  make a statement to the world that beauty comes in all different forms. In order to be beautiful you must first learn how to love yourself and love every single flaw and begin to change, not necessary your outer beauty but your inner beauty.  As Maya Angelou says “We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty” Beauty isn’t your appearance but who you are as a person. In conclusion what is your definition of beauty? How will you stop this implicit idea of what beauty is in the media?

Antonique Penny is a Sociology major with a concentration in Family and Marriage at East Carolina University.

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Limits on Abortion: The Issues Women Face in Iran

 by Jenna Raleigh

 In the past few decades Iran has progressed immensely in the area of family planning. It has been said that Iran has, perhaps, the best family planning program world-wide. The program’s merits include making contraceptives free and readily available, requiring pre-marital counseling in order to be granted a marriage license, and has greatly improved maternal and child health and outcomes nationwide. With no more than a quick search on the internet you can see plenty of articles and interviews that feature comments of praise for the program, and it is fair to give it praise since it has accomplished so much and succeeds in many ways. However, there are serious problems that have fallen through the cracks and do not get the attention they need. One in particular is the program’s lack of ability to accommodate women who wish to induce abortion. This is due to the Islamic government’s ruling that abortion, when not medically advised, is illegal.

 According to the Qur’an, which Islamic law follows, life is a sacred gift and to abort a fetus after “ensoulment” is sinful and unacceptable. The idea of ensoulment is constructed around the belief that, after 120 days from the moment of conception, a fetus becomes ‘ensouled’ by angels sent from Allah. Through this action it is believed that the fetus becomes a person. Therefore, they believe that from that moment the fetus has rights and the choice of abortion is no longer up to the parents. Despite this, the Islamic government has taken into consideration the life-threatening complications that can arise from pregnancy. Many efforts were made to address this problem but for several years the legal system and the medical community have struggled to create an understandable list of diseases, factors, and requirements that can fall under the category of medically advised legal abortion, which has led to a lot of confusion and many overlooked possible factors. An additional hurdle to overcome is that the law requires a diagnosis from three experts and confirmation by the Legal Medicine Organization, which greatly increases the difficulty of obtaining an abortion. Furthermore, since only 1% of induced abortion is for medical reasons, the majority of women who induce abortion are not being accommodated.

Increasing numbers of Iranian women wishing to pursue higher education, struggling with financial issues, and desiring to have smaller families means that more and more of these women are choosing to have abortions. In addition to that, the trend of Iranian couples using the withdrawal method during intercourse, despite access to contraceptives, makes unwanted pregnancies a frequent occurrence. Worryingly, about a third of these women opt for dangerous methods through which to induce abortion; methods which range from puncturing the fetal sac with sharp objects via the cervix to using strong herbal medicines. If abortions are performed by individuals, not specifically trained to perform abortions, risk for serious complications are very high. Even if these abortions are carried out in safe and clean environments and through use of methods routinely used by obstetricians, such as injection of prostaglandins.

 A study conducted by Anzar Ranji, MS, in which 2,705 Iranian women were interviewed and surveyed, revealed that of those 2,705 women, 495 (17%) had experienced illegal induced abortion and most of these women (84%) experienced complications that required hospitalization. Bleeding, infection, menstrual disorders, chronic pelvic pain, necessity of blood transfusions, infertility, and resulting in hysterectomy are among these complications. Obviously this study could not account for the women who actually died from complications, but death is also associated with these unsafe abortions. One of the big reasons for complications is due to the fact that many of these abortions are incomplete, which can lead to infection and painful delivery of the partially aborted fetus. This study alone reveals that induced abortion being illegal is a big problem. These women should not have to feel as though they need to seek risky methods, especially since it means that they will not receive post-abortion care which is offered even when the abortion was illegal.

 Ideally, the solution to this problem would involve removing Islamic law from the government and the legal system, which would most likely lead to the legality of all induced abortion. This, however, is not a viable option presently and will not, most likely, be in the near future. Alternatively, I think it is important for Iran’s family planning program to make it a priority to teach Iranian couples about the importance of contraceptive use, the probability of contraceptives failing, particularly with the withdrawal method. I also think the program should encourage the women who have abortions to make sure they seek post-abortion care even, and maybe especially, when the abortion was performed illegally.

 Probably the most detrimental force acting against these women is the lack of attention to this problem. Some people may say that the numbers are small or that it is a minimal problem in Iran’s flourishing family planning program, but it definitely is not a minimal problem for any woman facing serious medical and familial consequences. The physical, emotional, and psychological suffering these women endured will undoubtedly have had a huge impact on their quality of life and this should be unacceptable. This is what happens when the strong beliefs of certain individuals and groups, which can be potentially harmful, infiltrate institutions which govern and protect a population.

 Jenna Raleigh is a double major in Anthropology and French at East Carolina University

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Anorexia and Bulimia are Caucasian Western Diseases

by Mary Pettengill

            An eating disorder occurs when an individual manipulates his or her eating habits to drastically change the appearance of the body, usually to fit the social norm or socially idealized body type of their culture.  In America we usually associate these concepts with anorexia and bulimia where the goal is to lose weight and keep that weight off.  However, this only occurs in Western Nations and predominantly among causasian populations in these nations.  These diseases did not exist in the Eastern World until American and European advertisement began influencing Asian and Middle Eastern cultures, and even still the actual numbers of those suffering are extremely small compared to the number in Western Nations.

            America is home to 24 of  the 70 million individual with eating disorders worldwide, a huge number when you consider that this is over a third of the world’s sufferers of such diseases.  Of the individuals struggling with anorexia and bulimia in the United States, they are predominately white.  In 1985 there were only five cases of bulimia in African Americans, showing a huge cultural split.  Numbers take a leap in Asian minorities living in Western cultures where in the same year there were seven girls found suffering of bulimia and one with anorexia.

            More recently, as Japan has had huge economic growth and is being more and more influenced by the Western World, the numbers of those suffering from eating disorders have grown rapidly.  Second in the world to America and Europe in eating disorder statistics in Japan are the world’s highest, but still in 1986 only 1312 individuals were found with eating disorders, and in surrounding counties they are still less than ten.  These numbers alone speak a lot for Western culture and for the countries that Western culture continues to influence with economic growth and advertising.

            It also becomes obvious that the internet and social media has a lot of influence on eating disorders, where people are constantly being bombarded with advertisements and pictures of other people.  Countries in the East with out a large Internet presence clearly would not have this issue because it simply does not exist.  While numbers continue to increase in the Middle East and China as Western globalization continues to expand these countries still have very small numbers they still continue to be almost insignificant compared to numbers in America, Europe, and now Japan because of the pressure Western advertisement continues to put on individuals.  The most vulnerable group in all three of these nations are girls and women fifteen to twenty-four years of age.

            It is not clear whether or not other Eastern World Nations that have not been so heavily touched by Eastern culture have eating disorders of a different manner, where perhaps instead of starving themselves they do otherwise, but it is very clear that diseases such as bulimia and anorexia are Western social diseases caused by our culture and effecting primarily our Caucasian population.

Mary Pettengill is majoring in studio arts-metals at East Carolina University.

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