Author: Meghan Clark

A Culture of Sexual Assault: When Will We Wake Up?

On Wednesday, the White House Council on Women and Girls released a report, “ RAPE AND SEXUAL ASSAULT: A RENEWED CALL TO ACTION.” Wading through the sobering reality exposed by this report, one thing is crystal clear – sexual violence is widespread and deeply embedded in American culture.  An overview of the statistics:  Women and girls are the vast majority of victims: nearly 1 in 5 women – or nearly 22 million – have been raped in their lifetimes.1  Men and boys, however, are also at risk: 1 in 71 men – or almost 1.6 million – have been raped during their lives.  Women of all races are targeted, but some are more vulnerable than others: 33.5% of multiracial women have been raped, as have 27% of American Indian and Alaska Native women, compared to 15% of Hispanic, 22% of Black, and 19% of White women.  Most victims know their assailants.  The vast majority (nearly 98%) of perpetrators are male.  Young people are especially at risk: nearly half of female survivors were raped before they were 18, and over one-quarter of male survivors were raped before they were 10. College students are particularly vulnerable: 1 in 5 women has been sexually assaulted while in college.  Repeat victimization is common: over a third of women who were raped as minors were also raped as adults. As a college professor, the statistic...

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In Defense of the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Healthcare

Controversies concerning Catholicism and healthcare have been front page staples over the last few years. Currently, it is the ACLU is suing the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops on behalf of Tamesha Means, who suffered from an acute infection and tragically lost her baby. The lawsuit claims that Ms. Means was denied adequate medical care as a result of the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Healthcare (ERDs), a set of directives promulgated by the Bishops to guide Catholic healthcare. The ACLU accuses the hospital of negligence by failing to offer termination of pregnancy as an option.  While the ERDs do forbid Catholic hospitals from discussing or suggesting abortion or the intentional termination of a pregnancy, this alone does not constitute medical negligence. Instead, this case provides an example for the way in which Catholic moral theology, especially through the principle of double effect, may offer greater public understanding of the guidelines that govern Catholic hospitals. Ms. Means was 18 weeks pregnant when she suffered from a premature membrane abruption – her water broke. Within 72 hours of abruption, she delivered her baby who died after 2.5 hours.   There is much we do not know that would be needed to determine whether or not Ms. Means has a legitimate claim of negligence with respect to those aspects of her care (and the question of what information she was...

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A Birth Certificate is a Human Right

Everywhere you look people are preparing for Christmas. For the more than 2 billion Christians around the world, we are preparing for the birth of a child. Christmas then is the perfect occasion to draw our attention to a massive human rights issue: birth registration. According to UNICEF, only 1 in 3 children under 5 have a birth certificate. A birth certificate is a human right. A birth certificate provides the means to be counted and to protect other crucial human rights, especially for women and girls. A birth certificate is somewhat of a gateway human right. Protecting the human rights of women and girls demands make sure they are counted. We are rapidly approaching the 2015 Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) target year. Despite significant success on a number of the individual goals, those related to women’s human rights and health still lag behind.  As the United Nations negotiates the new Sustainable Development Goals, I offer a proposal – reaffirm those MDGs related to women and children’s health and add as a new goal: Universal Registration of Births and Deaths. MDG 5: Improve Maternal Health established a goal: reduce the 1990 maternal mortality rate by ¾  by 2015. While we have seen a 47% reduction in maternal mortality, it is unlikely that we will reach ¾ by 2015. According to the World Health Organization, “About 800 women die from pregnancy-...

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Inspired by Nelson Mandela: A Guest Post by Anna Floerke Scheid

*Guest Post by Dr. Anna Floerke Scheid, Assistant Professor of Moral Theology at Duquesne University. For many theologians, the death of Nelson Mandela – who has been a living symbol of peace, justice, and reconciliation –  invites reflection on core theological concepts like the imago Dei, which Mandela wore with profound beauty and dignity. For my part, I was first exposed to Nelson Mandela and to South African history during my undergraduate education, and since then I have developed a passion that far surpasses intellectual curiosity for the cultures and peoples that make up the nation of South Africa, and for its heartbreaking and hope-rendering history.  In my development as a theologian I am indebted to the political and historical context of South Africa, so much so that my understanding of the most central theological concepts are all coloured in South African hues, or, if you like, steeped in Rooibos:  Jesus Christ is Liberator; suffering and sin are apartheid (and thus inextricably linked – sin causes suffering); forgiveness is something we struggle toward because we want to be free from anger, hatred, and desolation; we want freedom from the desire for revenge, which leads to self and communal destruction; the fullness of reconciliation is the space where truth, mercy, peace, and justice converge.  Reconciliation is God’s work – the fruit of salvation, divine grace. Besides having the context of...

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Re-Imagining the City of Ladies: Fighting Back for Women and Girls

“Does a rake deserve to possess anything of worth, since he chases everything in skirts and then imagines he can successfully hide his shame by slandering [women in general]?” ― Christine de Pizan, Der Sendbrief vom Liebesgott / The Letter of the God of Love               This is the song that does not end….a children’s song that plays over and over again once it’s stuck in your head. At this point, this is how I am coming to feel about blogging – when I look at the last two years I am disturbed by the repetitiveness of the stories which seem to demand a theological response. Nowhere is this more acute than on the subject of sexual assault and rape culture. All week I have been struggling with whether or not to write something on the Maryville Case (Please see the Kansas City story for a detailed account of the facts). The prevalence of sexual assault against women and girls is something that I blogged about repeatedly last spring –on patriarchy, on the effects of dismissing harassing behavior as boys will be boys, on sexual harassment at the NYC Ballet, and  the subversive way the arts can challenge us to think about patriarchy. In frustration then, I write because structural violence needs to be named and repeatedly called out if we are to dismantle its...

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