Risky Sex Behavior More Likely In Women Exposed To Violence

A woman lying in bed with her hands behind her headWomen who’ve witnessed or been the victims of violence may be more likely to engage in risky sexual behavior, according to new research.

Read: The New Sex Disease

The study included 481 women being treated at a sexually transmitted disease clinic who were assessed for a history of violence and current sexual risk-taking behaviors, such as having a high number of partners or having unprotected sex.

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The researchers categorized the women as those having low exposure to violence (39 percent), those who were mainly exposed to community violence (20 percent), those who experienced childhood maltreatment (23 percent), and those who were victims of multiple forms of violence (18 percent).

Women who were exposed to community violence and those who suffered multiple forms of violence had the highest levels of risky sexual behavior, said the researchers at the Centers for Behavioral and Preventive Medicine at The Miriam Hospital in Providence, RI.

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“Sadly, our results show that many women must cope with multiple forms of violence, and that some combinations of violent experiences put women at risk for HIV, other STDs or unplanned pregnancy — not to mention the risks from the violence itself,” lead author Jennifer Walsh said in a hospital news release.

The findings provide new insight into the link between exposure to violence and risky sexual behavior, especially among low-income, urban women who may experience high rates of violence, the researchers said.

“Given the ties between multiple violent experiences and sexual risk-taking, clinicians working with women who experience violence or who are at risk for HIV/STDs may need to consider the overlap between the two in order to impact sexual health consequences,” Walsh said.

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“The clustering of different types of violence suggests clinicians who work with women who have experienced one type of violence should inquire about other types of violence in order to get a complete picture,” she added.

The study recently appeared in the journal Psychology of Violence.

While the researchers uncovered an association between violent experiences and sexual risk behavior, it did not prove a cause-and-effect relationship.


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Maya Angelou To Open Women's Health Center

Maya Angelou opens a health center for womenAmong Maya Angelou’s many profound, and very wise, thoughts is:

“I learned a long time ago the wisest thing I can do is be on my own side, be an advocate for myself and others like me,” she said. If I do that well enough, then I’ll be able to look after someone else. But I have to look after myself first,” she says.  “I know that some people think that’s being selfish, I think that’s being self-full,” Angelou adds.

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Inspired by the idea of helping yourself to then help others, Angelou has taken up the cause of women’s health. This philosophy is at the center of her latest effort, a partnership with Novant Health, a not-for-profit integrated system of 13 hospitals that is set to unveil the Maya Angelou Center for Women’s Health and Wellness in her hometown of Winston-Salem, N.C.

The newest facility is the second with which Angelou has been involved. In 2002 she helped open the Maya Angelou Center for Health Equity at Wake Forest University, which is focused on closing the gap in health and healthcare disparities among minorities.

Like the work being done there, Angelou says her women’s health center — which offers an array of clinical programs affecting women’s health, including heart, wellness, cancer and surgical services, will focus not only on treatment, but on prevention, a critical step in closing the gap that she says is too often hindered by denial.

“The disparities are embarrassing,” she says. “What they hope to do at the center is to coordinate all the aspects of women’s health and wellness … encouraging women to look after themselves. In that way, they can almost be sure to count on some prevention.”

Last year, the CDC released its first periodic report addressing health disparities and inequalities in the U.S., which they say highlights the considerable and persistent gaps between the healthiest and the least healthy people in the country. Their research revealed striking differences in the uninsured rates for Hispanics and non-Hispanic blacks; research also indicates that black women have the highest rate of death from coronary heart disease of any group, and an infant mortality rate 2.4 times higher than that of non-Hispanic whites.

“The time has passed when a women can act like everybody is as innocent as she is. So you don’t have to ask a man to use protection. That’s ridiculous. It’s [about] being aware,” she says. “That’s the biggest gift I can give anybody: ‘Wake up, be aware of who you are, what you’re doing and what you can do to prevent yourself from becoming ill.'”

To mark its opening, the Maya Angelou Center for Women’s Health and Wellness is kicking off a national competition titled “Health Inspirations,” which encourages women to share how they have been inspired to practice a new health behavior, change a negative health behavior or improve their overall health and well-being.

To learn more, visit the Maya Angelou Center Facebook fan page.