Sexual Harassment

It wasn’t until Ashley Judd heroically shared her story a few days ago that I felt ashamed.  If I had spoken up a decade ago, would I have saved countless women from the same experience I had or worse? While I still do feel guilty for not speaking up all those years ago, I’m glad for this moment of reckoning. To the countless other women who have experienced the gray areas: I believe you – Heather Graham

Sexual harassment has been around since biblical times.  Joseph, a handsome young Hebrew slave was sexually harassed and then accused of attempted rape by his master’s wife.   Yes, men as well as women are victims of sexual assault and harassment.  Celebrities such as Kevin Spacey, George Takei, Richard Dreyfuss, Dustin Hoffman and recently, comedian Louis C.K. have had charges of sexual misconduct leveled against them.  This comes on the heels of the allegations launched against Hollywood mogul, Harvey Weinstein.  Stars such as Gwyneth Paltrow, Ashley Judd, Angelina Jolie and more have spoken out against the producer who has been described as “a predator”, “vindictive”.

Celebrities such as Jane Fonda, Matt Damon, Quentin Tarantino, George  Clooney and Ewan McGregor knew of Weinstein’s behavior but didn’t say anything.  Other celebrities are appalled such as Colin Firth, Benedict Cumberbatch and Ryan Gosling.

Sexual harassment is not limited to Hollywood, it’s everywhere.  It’s in workplaces, the military, colleges and other public places.  It’s a form of sex discrimination.  Weinstein’s victims were intimidated because of he had to power to make or break them.  Actress Asia Argento said that she stayed silent for years out of fear and feelings of responsibility and later had consensual sex with him multiple times because she felt he would ruin her career if she didn’t.   Actress Cara Delevingne said that she was hesitant about speaking out because she didn’t want to hurt his family.  “I felt guilty as if I did something wrong. I was also terrified that this sort of thing had happened to so many women I know but no one had said anything because of fear.” 

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (ECCOC) defines sexual harassment as unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature which explicitly or implicitly affects an individual’s employment, unreasonably interferes with an individual’s work performance, or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment.

Sexual harassment can occur in a variety of circumstances, including but not limited to the following:

  • The victim as well as the harasser may be a woman or a man. The victim does not have to be of the opposite sex.
  • The harasser can be the victim’s supervisor, an agent of the employer, a supervisor in another area, a co-worker, or a non-employee.
  • The victim does not have to be the person harassed but could be anyone affected by the offensive conduct.
  • Unlawful sexual harassment may occur without economic injury to or discharge of the victim.
  • The harasser’s conduct must be unwelcome.

How should sexual harassment be handled?  For Gwyneth Paltrow, it was coming forward so that other women to feel less alone and to send a clear message that “this is over.  This way of treating women ends now.”  Angelina Jolie chose not to work with Weinstein again and warned other women who were going to work with him.

Here are tips on how to handle sexual harassment:

  • Be clear and firm. If the person harassing you is told when it happens the first time that you don’t approve and don’t find it funny, they might back off. Be polite, but firm, and don’t giggle. This might be interpreted as a tacit type of consent.
  • Tell others. Don’t keep quiet; this will only make you more vulnerable. Harassers like isolating their victims – physically and socially. If you tell others what’s going on you might also find out that you’re not the only one experiencing such situations. If more than one person lays a complaint, it significantly strengthens the case against the harasser.
  • Don’t doubt yourself. Harassers often try and pass something off as a joke, however if it’s continuously at your expense, or attacks your sense of dignity, you’re being harassed. Don’t allow harassers to make you doubt your observation, how their actions make you feel or that you’re overreacting.
  • Safety in numbers. Make sure that you’re not alone with this person behind closed doors. Take a colleague with you if you feel threatened, and insist that doors be left open if you have to be in a meeting. Make sure that somebody knows where you are at all times.
  • Report the matter. Follow procedures to lay a complaint – and keep records of all correspondence in this regard. If a complaint has been laid and your employers continue to ignore the situation and take no action, they could be liable for damage claims.
  • Keep records. If you want to lay charges, it’s much more convincing if you can give names, dates, places and the names of possible witnesses, than when your charges are unproven. Anyone who has witnessed any of these events can be called to testify if there’s a disciplinary hearing.

It’s a good thing that the victims of sexual harassment are coming forward as in the case of Bill Cosby.  It remains to be seen, though what will happen to the perpetrators.   It took courage for the victims to come forward.  Let’s hope that they will receive justice that they deserve.  It’s time for those who use their power and influence to intimidate and violate others to be penalized.

Victims should never feel responsible for the actions of the perpetrators.

sexual harassment

 

Sources:  National Post; People; ECCOC; Western Cape Government

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Mental Health Crisis in India

More than 50 million people in India suffer from a mental illness.  In 2011, India recorded the highest rate of major depression in the world at 36 per cent.  According to doctors, roughly 10 per cent of India’s population suffers from depression – MGMH

 

Women with mental illness are treated as less than human.  They are dumped, abandoned and abused.  If there are any signs of mental illness, a woman is put in a mental hospital with no chance of getting out.  Men can go back home while women are there for life.  In the following video, we meet a woman whose husband had her institutionalized although she had no history of mental illness.  Here’s a story of a mentally ill woman whose husband built a case against her so that he could get custody of their children after divorcing her.

It is not surprising that women suffer from depression at higher rates than men.  They have to deal with gender inequality, violence, lack of paid employment, lack of education, excessive spousal alcohol use and poverty.  Mothers are blamed for the birth of a female child and many face pressure to have male children.  Women are diagnosed with schizophrenia later in life, oftentimes, following the birth of their children.  The children are often removed from the ill mother’s care and this results in further distress for her. Indian women have higher rates of suicide than women in most developed countries and a higher rate of suicide compared to men in India.  Depression is one of the most common reasons for suicide among Indian women.

Mental health in India carries with it a stigma, especially if the person suffering from mental illness is a woman.  According to MGMH (Movement for Global Mental Health), in rural India, it is common to see people taking their children to temples and faith-healers instead of hospitals and doctors, especially in cases of mental health.  Mental health was something that was talked about in hushed tones.  Thankfully, it is no longer being swept under the rug.  People are coming forward.  Deepika Padukone stunned her fans last year when she admitted that she suffered from anxiety and depression.

At the time the news broke, she was one of the most sought after actresses in Bollywood. It took tremendous courage for her to disclose her illness, especially since people diagnosed with mental illness face discrimination.  Deepika has since launched the Live Love Laugh Foundation to raise awareness about mental health issues and as a result many celebrities were inspired to come out in the open and address the need to talk about mental health.  Varun Dhawan admitted that he was depressed during the making of Badlapur and Honey Singh revealed that he has been undergoing therapy for bipolar disorder.

Sadly, those living with mental illness are victims of a cruel fate.  They are often locked away and stripped of their basic human rights in state-run institutions that are under-staffed. In an article, titled Mentally Ill Suffer a Horrible Fate in India posted on the site for Deutsche Welle (DW), most state run mental hospitals are in deplorable conditions. The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) reported that out of the 43 government mental hospitals in India, less than half a dozen are in a “livable” condition”.

There are doctors in charge of these hospitals who have no business being there.  “These doctors don’t understand the intricacies of a psychiatric illnesses and the comprehensive care the patients require,” said a psychiatrist working in a state-run mental hospital in Uttar Pradesh.

And in the midst of the crisis of hospitals not providing the conditions and care the patients need, are quack healers who are profiting from this.  According to a study by Dr. Shiv Gautam, former superintendent of Jaipur Mental Hospital, 68 per cent of the mentally ill are taken to faith healers before a psychiatrist.  “The reason, besides superstition, is that most general medicine doctors fail to diagnose psychiatric illness,” Gautam said. “A mentally ill patient displays symptoms which superstitious people believe are paranormal,” he added. “Such patients are tortured, chained and used for extracting money from their families.”  Hema, who was suffering from Schizophrenia was believed to have an evil spirit.  Her family took her to Datar Sharif Dargah where she spent a year locked up.  It wasn’t until her condition deteriorated that she was brought to Dr. Gautam.  In 15 days, she began to improve and a month later she was normal.

In other cases, the mentally ill are subjected to one of these horrific ordeals:  whipping, caning, inhaling burnt chili smoke, having their eyes smeared with chili paste or having their eyes branded with red, hot coins.  There are laws banning this practice, however, many dargahs and temples keep the patients chained.  Some of them spend the rest of their lives like this.  In 2001, 26 patients perished in a fire at a dargah in a coastal village because they couldn’t escape the blaze since they were chained.  What a horrific and senseless tragedy.

Families of mentally ill people opt for dumping them.  This means that they are dumped into an asylum where the conditions are not fit for a human.  When an illegal asylum was raided, they found thirty-five men and six boys living in inhuman conditions.  The stench from their unwashed bodies and the excrement drove neighbors to alert the health department.  Naked and chained inmates were discovered, dumped there by their families after they paid the asylum owner.  Some of these poor souls were found crawling in their excrement, some even consuming it.  On their bodies were marks of torture.  Some had surgical scars on their backs, leading to allegations that the asylum had links to kidney theft.  78 patients had entered the asylum but only 41 were found during the raid.

Other patients are dumped in jungles or forests ranges.  Their families pay lorry drivers to drop them.  Women and children are among these victims and in some cases, the females are raped by the drivers before being dumped.  Social activist Murugan S. who has rescued countless mentally ill people from the streets, cautions us not to judge the families by calling them cruel.  Instead we are to examine what forced them to take such extreme measures.  He believes that system needs to change.

Part of the solution is raising awareness.  The suffering of the mentally ill has been brought to our attention. It is out in the open.  The next thing that needs to be done is to show the superstitious and fearful society that mental illness is nothing to run away from or to be ashamed of.  The person suffering from mental illness needs love, support and most importantly, proper care so that he or she can live a normal life.

The government needs to put something place to ensure that patients are placed in reputable, sanitary facilities that will provide the care that they need and to ban the operation of illegal asylums and the practice of dumping.  Quack healers should be banned from profiting from other people’s suffering.  Husbands should not be allowed to institutionalize their wives if there is no record that they have mental illness.

No one wants to be mentally ill but it is a reality for many people and what they need is to know that they have a platform where they can talk about what is happening with them. Here in Canada, we have Bell Let’s Talk, a wide-reaching, multi-year program designed to break the silence around mental illness and support mental health all across the country. It has done so much to fight the stigma of mental illness and encourage people to get involved in educating themselves and others.

It is my sincere hope and prayer that something will be put in place in India so that attitudes toward mental illness would change and those suffering from it will have a platform where they would not be judged, dumped, abandoned or discriminated but supported and be treated with dignity and open minds.  In the meantime, let’s keep talking and raising awareness.

Talking is the best way to start breaking down the barriers associated with mental illness – Bell, Let’s Talk

 

Sources:  Vice News; Movement of Global Mental Health; Wikipedia; Deutsche Welle

Women And Multiple Sclerosis

During 1997, Ann Romney began experiencing severe numbness, fatigue, and other symptoms, and just before Thanksgiving in 1998, she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.  Mitt Romney described watching her fail a series of neurological tests as the worst day of his life.  He later said: “I couldn’t operate without Ann. We’re a partnership. We’ve always been a partnership so her being healthy and our being able to be together is essential.”

She initially experienced a period of severe difficulty with the disease, and later said: “I was very sick in 1998 when I was diagnosed. I was pretty desperate, pretty frightened and very, very sick. It was tough at the beginning, just to think, this is how I’m going to feel for the rest of my life.”  As I watched Ann Romney on the podium at the Republican Convention I never would have guessed that she had MS if she hadn’t disclosed that she did.

Celebrities who have been touched by MS are Montel Williams who decided to view his illness as ” a call to action — an opportunity to make a difference in the lives of millions who suffer from MS and their loved ones.”  Richard Pryor, Annette Funicello, Alan Osmond (Donny Osmond’s brother), Teri Garr (National MS Society WAMS Chair), David Lander (Squiggy from “Laverne & Shirley”. And of course, Michelle Obama whose father was diagnosed with MS at a young age.  He lived with the disease for about 30 years before his death at the age of 66.  Michelle had this to say about her father:

“My Dad was our rock. Although he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in his early thirties, he was our provider, our champion, our hero. But as he got sicker, it got harder for him to walk, it took him longer to get dressed in the morning. But if he was in pain, he never let on. He never stopped smiling and laughing — even while struggling to button his shirt, even while using two canes to get himself across the room to give my Mom a kiss. He just woke up a little earlier, and worked a little harder.”

What is Multiple Sclerosis?  

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a disease in which the nerves of the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord) degenerate. Myelin, which provides a covering or insulation for nerves, improves the conduction of impulses along the nerves and also is important for maintaining the health of the nerves. In multiple sclerosis, inflammation causes the myelin to disappear. Consequently, the electrical impulses that travel along the nerves decelerate, that is, become slower. In addition, the nerves themselves are damaged. As more and more nerves are affected, a person experiences a progressive interference with functions that are controlled by the nervous system such as vision, speech, walking, writing, and memory.

About 350,000 people in the U.S. have multiple sclerosis. Usually, a person is diagnosed with multiple sclerosis between 20 and 50 years of age, but multiple sclerosis has been diagnosed in children and in the elderly. Multiple sclerosis is twice as likely to occur in Caucasians as in any other group. Women are twice as likely as men to be affected by multiple sclerosis earlier in life.

What causes Multiple Sclerosis?  The cause of multiple sclerosis is still unknown. In the last 20 years, researchers have focused on disorders of the immune system and genetics for explanations.

Is multiple sclerosis inherited?

Although its role is unclear, genetics may play a role in multiple sclerosis.  Statistics suggest that genetic factors play a major role in multiple sclerosis, however, other data suggest that environmental factors also play an important role.

What are the symptoms of multiple sclerosis?

Symptoms of multiple sclerosis may be single or multiple and may range from mild to severe in intensity and short to long in duration. Complete or partial remission from symptoms occurs early in about 70% of individuals with multiple sclerosis.

  • Visual disturbances may be the first symptoms of multiple sclerosis, but they usually subside. A person may notice a patch of blurred vision, red-to-orange or red-to-gray distortions (color desaturation), or monocular visual loss (loss of vision in one eye). Visual symptoms due to optic nerve inflammation (optic neuritis) in multiple sclerosis usually are accompanied or preceded by eye pain.
  • Limb weakness with or without difficulties with coordination and balance may occur early.
  • Muscle spasmsfatigue, numbness, and prickling pain are common symptoms.
  • There may be a loss of sensation, speech impediment (typically a problem articulating words), tremors, or dizziness.

Fifty-percent of people experience mental changes such as:

  • decreased concentration,
  • attention deficits,
  • some degree of memory loss,
  • inability to perform sequential tasks, or
  • impairment in judgment.

Other symptoms may include:

As the disease worsens, individuals may experience sexual dysfunction or reduced bowel and bladder control. Heat appears to intensify multiple sclerosis symptoms for about 60% of those with the disease. Pregnancy seems to reduce the number of attacks, especially during the third trimester.

How is multiple sclerosis treated?

There are many issues for the patient and physician to consider in treating multiple sclerosis. Goals may include:

  • improving the speed of recovery from attacks (treatment with steroid drugs);
  • reducing the number of attacks or the number of MRI lesions; or
  • attempting to slow progression of the disease (treatment with disease modifying drugs or DMDs).

An additional goal is relief from complications due to the loss of function of affected organs (treatment with drugs aimed at specific symptoms).

Most neurologists will consider treatment with DMDs once the diagnosis of relapsing remitting multiple sclerosis is established. Many will begin treatment at the time of the first multiple sclerosis attack, since clinical trials have suggested that patients in whom treatment is delayed may not benefit as much as patients who are treated early.

It is important for patients to talk to their doctor before deciding to go on therapy since DMDs differ in their uses.  Utilizing support groups or counseling may be helpful for patients and their families whose lives may be affected directly by multiple sclerosis.

According to an international study, genetic differences between men and women could be the reason why multiple sclerosis strikes more women than men.  MS is twice as common among women as it is in men. The reasons for the gap aren’t known.  Women with MS were more likely to have a variation of a gene that produces high levels of a protein called interferon gamma. Interferon gamma can aggravate MS by promoting inflammation and tissue damage.  The gene variation was less common among men. “That might explain why men are generally protected more from MS.” Brian Weinshenker, MD said in a news release.   Similar findings were reported by Italian researchers.

If you are experiencing any of the symptoms, please see your doctor.  It’s hard for someone who is diagnosed with MS.  They fear what the future holds for them and if they would be able to function.  They may feel alone but they are not.  Here are some helpful tips for new MS patients:
1. Learn as much as possible about MS.

There are many myths and misconceptions about MS, and without the facts, your multiple sclerosis diagnosis can be scarier than it should be. MS is a chronic autoimmune disease affecting the central nervous system. It’s caused when the immune system attacks the myelin, the protective insulation covering nerve fibers in the brain and spinal cord. Myelin is destroyed and replaced by scars of hardened tissue (lesions), and some underlying nerves are damaged. But MS is almost never fatal, and many people diagnosed with the disease never need a wheelchair. Your doctor can provide you with the latest facts about MS and what your prognosis may be. The National MS Society and the American Academy of Neurology are also reliable sources.

2. Be sure your multiple sclerosis diagnosis is definitive.
MS is not an easy disease to diagnosis, so getting a definitive multiple sclerosis diagnosis can be a waiting game. Various tests may be used to make a diagnosis, including magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), evoked potentials (EP), and spinal fluid analysis (spinal tap), as well as a neurological exam. According to the latest criteria, your physician must do all of the following in order to make a multiple sclerosis diagnosis:

  • Find evidence of damage in two separate areas of the central nervous system
  • Find evidence that the damage occurred at least one month apart
  • Rule out all other possible diseases and diagnoses

For many people, getting a definitive multiple sclerosis diagnosis is actually a relief — they now have a name for unexplained symptoms.

3. Understand that MS symptoms are unpredictable.
No two people have exactly the same MS symptoms, and you may have different symptoms from time to time. MS symptoms can include numbness, blurred vision, loss of balance, poor coordination, slurred speech, tremors, extreme fatigue, problems with memory, bladder dysfunction, paralysis, blindness, and more. But these symptoms are unpredictable. “Over the course of the disease, some MS symptoms will come and go, while others may be long lasting,” says Dr. Sheremata. “It will be different for each MS patient.”

4. Don’t delay multiple sclerosis treatment.
At this time, the goal of multiple sclerosis treatment is to control symptoms and improve the patient’s quality of life. After receiving a multiple sclerosis diagnosis, it’s important to start multiple sclerosis treatment as soon as possible. There are now a number of FDA-approved medications that have been shown to “modify” or slow down the progression of MS and lessen the frequency and severity of MS attacks. “The disease is more likely to progress and possibly lead to disability if you don’t begin treatment early in the disease,” says Sheremata.

5. Track your MS symptoms.
Keeping a record of your MS symptoms and how you are feeling will help your doctor determine how the disease is progressing and whether the medications you are taking are working. This will also help your doctor recognize a relapse, which is a characterized by a worsening of previous symptoms or the appearance of a new symptom that lasts more than 24 hours. If you think you’re having MS symptoms, write them down in a log. Include when the symptoms happened, details of what they felt like, and how long they lasted.

6. Avoid these MS episode triggers.
Extreme fatigue is a common indicator of an impending relapse, which can last for days, weeks, or months. But certain triggers are thought to bring on relapses or make them worse. Stress, smoking, fever, hot baths, and sun exposure are believed to contribute to the worsening of MS symptoms and relapses. Additionally, drinking alcohol in excess is discouraged for people with multiple sclerosis because intoxication causes poor coordination and slurred speech, which can worsen or add to existing MS symptoms.

7. Find the right doctor for you.
MS is a lifelong disease, so it’s important to be under the care of aMS specialist who is a good match for you. The neurologist who provides your initial multiple sclerosis diagnosis may not be the specialist you want to stick with for life. Your local chapter of the National MS Society should have a listing of nearby neurologists specializing in MS. Support groups for MS patients (available through hospitals and the National MS Society) are also helpful for getting doctor referrals.

8. Consider complementary and alternative medicine.
In addition to taking medication to control your MS symptoms, you may want to consider complementary and alternative medicine(CAM), such as biofeedback, acupuncture, guided imagery, meditation, massage, tai chi, yoga, and dietary supplements. More than 30 percent of people with MS turn to complementary forms of medicine to relieve symptoms, according to a recent review of studies published in the journal Occupational Therapy International. These natural therapies were most used by MS patients for relief of pain, fatigue, and stress.

9. Think first about who you will tell about your MS.
Announcing to your employer that you have multiple sclerosis could have an effect on your job security, employment options, and career path. Before disclosing the disease at your workplace, learn about your rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Of course, you’ll want to tell your closest family members and friends, particularly those who know you well enough to notice that something is wrong. But you are not obligated to share news of your multiple sclerosis diagnosis with everyone in your life. Instead, pick the people who will be most supportive and helpful as you begin to cope with the disease.

10. Don’t give up hope.
Although there is currently no cure for MS, new treatments and advances in research may better relieve symptoms and even eliminate the disease in the future. Because MS strikes so many people in the prime of life, scientists are racing to find a cure, and a number of new multiple sclerosis treatments are currently under investigation. This research is giving new hope to people affected by MS.

Notes to Women encourages you to seek help, advice and inspiration from others living with MS.  Here’s a website you might want to check out:  http://www.msrc.co.uk/index.cfm/fuseaction/show/pageid/2660  Don’t give up hope.  New treatments are offered for MS.  These therapies are enabling physicians to both control the disease and help patients function better.  Read more.
As I travel across the country speaking about MS, perhaps I can offer others comfort and hope.
Annette Funicello
Multiple Sclerosis is obviously close to my heart and I’m determined to make a difference in the lives of people who suffer from the disease by raising the profile of MS, as well as raising funds for advocacy and research.
Ann Romney
Oddly enough, MS has made my life so much better than it was before. I now appreciate what I have and I am not running around like a rat in a maze.
Teri Garr
MS doesn’t define who I am.
Teri Garr

Sources:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ann_Romneyhttp://www.tampabay.com/news/health/medicine/multiple-sclerosis-patients-doctors-appreciate-help-from-ann-romney/1251966http://www.ranker.com/list/10-celebrities-touched-by-multiple-sclerosis/medicaltraveler?page=2http://www.medicinenet.com/multiple_sclerosis/article.htm#what_is_multiple_sclerosishttp://www.everydayhealth.com/multiple-sclerosis/10-things-new-ms-patients-should-know.aspx