Rape is not inevitable; 25 years of Prozac; how racism is bad for health

rapeThree posts caught my eye last night. The first was by Jessica Valenti, who writes about feminism, sexuality and social justice for the Nation. She looked at the vitriolic response to political commentator and writer Zerlina Maxwell’s appearance on Fox News’ Hannity. Maxwell made the point that having a gun doesn’t prevent rape. Valenti quoted her as saying: “I don’t think that we should be telling women anything. I think we should be telling men not to rape women and start the conversation there.”

A headline on TheBlaze.com, a right-wing site, shouted Democratic Strategist’s Shocking Claim: Women Don’t Need Guns for Self-Defense, Just Tell Men “Not to Rape Women” and called her approach “bizarre”. Online comments were, well, what you might expect. Valenti pointed out:

The truth is that focusing on ways women can prevent rape will always backfire. Not only because it’s ineffective—what a woman wears or

what she drinks has nothing to do with whether or not she’ll be attacked—but because it creates a culture in which women are responsible for men’s actions. Because when you say there are things women can do to prevent someone from raping them—owning a gun, not walking in a certain neighborhood—you are ensuring that rape victims who don’t take these steps will be blamed.

DavidHealysmall1In the second post, Welsh psychiatrist Dave Healy doesn’t exactly celebrate 25 years of Prozac and other similar anti-depressants. He points out the grim fact that now there’s one prescription for every man, woman and child in the West. Mostly, I agree with his premise that “greatest casualty of Prozac has been holistic medicine” and “psychiatrists have become the doctors who deal in heroic combinations and doses of pills rather than doctors who, like generalists, step back and take a broader view”.

But I’m not entirely on board with “modern depression is a creation of the marketing of Prozac” because the evidence from the CDC’s Adverse Childhood Experience Study, as well as other ACE studies, show that childhood adversity is epidemic, and the source of much of the burden of chronic disease and depression in the West.

He ends with this, however, which is spot-on:

Twenty-five years ago no one would have believed that a drug less effective for nerves or melancholia than heroin, alcohol or older and cheaper antidepressants could have been brought on the market and that almost as a matter of national policy people would be encouraged to take it for life.

The third, by Jason Silverstein on Atlantic.com, points out that research shows that racism is a health issue:racism

A growing literature shows discrimination raises the risk of many emotional and physical problems. Discrimination has been shown to increase the risk of stress, depression, the common cold,hypertensioncardiovascular diseasebreast cancer, and mortality. Recently, two journals — The American Journal of Public Health and The Du Bois Review: Social Science Research on Race — dedicated entire issues to the subject. These collections push us to consider how discrimination becomes what social epidemiologist Nancy Krieger, one of the field’s leaders, terms “embodied inequality.”

He goes on to detail research that shows how minorities experience greater stress because of racism and racist behavior, and how stress leads to greater health problems. The research also shows that it’s not just overt racism, but that “merely the anticipation of racism, and not necessarily the act, is enough to trigger a stress response”.

New York City’s stop-and-frisk policy is a case in point. Silverstein quotes from a report put together by the Center for Constitutional Rights:

In 2011, there were 685,724 stops. In 70 of 76 precincts, greater than 50 percent of stops targeted blacks and Latinos. In 33 precincts, that number skyrockets to over 90 percent. Perhaps most shockingly, the number of stops of young black men (168,126) actually exceeded the number of young black men in New York City (158,406).

However, supporters of Stop and Frisk argue that it is an effective crime control tool and, if you want to avoid a stop, then do not commit a crime. The problem is that 90 percent of black and Latino men stopped were innocent.

As Silverstein points out: “Race may be a social construct, but racism materializes in poor health.” It could be an article well worth your time.


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