Yearly Archives: 2012

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Love and hip hop freeze

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Yesterday Monda Scott Young, producer of Love and Hip Hop, asked the question to the cast, did this show portray black women in a negative light. Mimi, responded, “what was going on was what was going on in our life.” Continuing “It had nothing to do with you or VH1 or a script. So for them to say ‘you were portraying African American women in a negative light’…not so much.” This was followed by an hour of continued insults hurled by the cast to one another, fights and questions from the audience and Young that were borderline disrespectful. So blog world I pose the question to you: Did you think that Love and Hip Hop portrayed black women in a negative light? And if so who is to blame? the cast members? producers? Viacom? Or do you feel that this is a fair portrayal of black women? What do you think about the future of these shows?

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Below is a segments for a larger analysis of rights of the limited protections of women who become mothers through rape. You can find the full article here.

Giving Birth to a “Rapist’s Child”: A Discussion and Analysis of the Limited Legal Protections Afforded to Women Who Become Mothers Through Rape


* Georgetown Law, J.D. 2009; University of Chicago, A.B. 2004. © 2010, Shauna R. Prewitt. I would like to thank Professor Jane H. Aiken for her tireless hours of feedback on this Note and for her stimulating seminar on motherhood and criminality in which earlier versions of this Note were developed. This Note is inspired by and dedicated to Isabella, who has always been worth it.

Approximately 25,000 women become pregnant through rape each year. In response, many states have passed special laws, devised streamlined proce- dures, or both, to aid pregnant women who seek abortions or wish to place their rape-conceived children for adoption. However, few states have passed laws to aid the large numbers of raped women who choose to raise their rape-conceived children. Without such laws, in most states, a man who fathers through rape has the same custody and visitation privileges to that child as does any other father of a child. Moreover, as a result of this legal void, raped women and their children are left to face substantial and poten- tially terrible consequences. This Note argues that the absence of these laws stems from the societal images and other rhetoric concerning the pregnant raped woman that depict raped women as hating their unborn children and viewing their rape pregnancies as continuing their rape experience. These societal constructions have created a biased “prototype” of the pregnant raped woman and of the prototypical rape pregnancy experience by which all pregnant raped women are judged. Women who raise their rape-conceived children depart from the prototype and are, as a result, viewed with suspicion. Legal protections, such as alternate custody rights, are then denied to them because, being viewed as “imposter” rape victims, it is thought that there is nothing special about these women or their conceptions requiring any change in the manner in which custody and visitation determinations are made.



Pregnancy from rape1 occurs with “significant frequency.”2 Of the estimated 12% of adult women in the United States that have experienced at least one rape in their lifetime, 4.7% of these rapes result in pregnancy.3 Therefore, based on a 1990 study estimating that 683,000 women over the age of eighteen were raped in that year,4 conceivably 32,000 rape-related pregnancies occur annually.5 A separate study conducted in 2000 estimated that, given the decline in the incidence of rape, 25,000 pregnancies following the rape of adult women occur annually.6


Preventive Health Measure, 19 AM. J. PREVENTIVE MED. 228, 228 (2000). The number of rape pregnancies that occur each year may be substantially higher given that both studies excluded adolescents from their consideration. “Approximately 30% of rapes involve women under age 18. [Although f]ecundity among very young adolescents is not as high as that of adult women . . . , adult

It is difficult to determine with certainty the outcome of the approximately 25,000 to 32,000 rape-related pregnancies that occur in the United States each year. One study found that 50% of women who became pregnant by rape underwent abortions, 5.9% placed their infants for adoptions, and 32.3% of raped women kept their infants.7 Another study, conducted in a separate year, found markedly different results, concluding that 26% of women pregnant through rape underwent abortions.8 Of the 73% of women who carried their pregnancies to term, 36% placed their infants for adoption, and 64% raised the children they conceived through rape.9

For the women who conceive through rape and seek abortion—who represent approximately 26% to 50% of the women faced with rape-related pregnancies— the law has carved out a “rape exception” for access to abortion, requiring that state and federal funds be used to pay for the abortions of qualifying raped women.10 Moreover, many states’ laws require hospitals to offer emergency contraceptives to raped women in order to prevent rape pregnancies.11 In addition to passing special laws to aid pregnant raped women who seek to abort their pregnancies, many states have devised streamlined procedures for the termination of parental rights of the father when the pregnancy was the result of rape and the raped woman wishes to place her child for adoption.12 However, few states have passed special laws to aid the large number of raped women who choose to raise their rape-conceived children. Without such laws, a man who fathers a child through rape has the same custody and visitation privileges regarding that child as does the father of a child not conceived through rape. Moreover, as a result of this legal absence, raped women and their children are left to face substantial and potentially terrible consequences.13

The purpose of this Note is to examine the legal response to women who become pregnant as a result of rape. Specifically, it asks why more than two-thirds of states have failed to pass laws restricting custody and visitation privileges of rapists over their rape-conceived children. Part I discusses the legal and extralegal issues that arise when raped women decide to give birth to and raise their rape-conceived children. It suggests that the failure to pass laws exclusive to this population of women is surprising in light of the significant consequences to these women’s lives.



As already noted, a significant percentage of raped women choose to raise the children they conceived through rape.15 Under most states’ laws, a man who fathers a child through rape has the same legal rights to custody and visitation in regard to that child as does any other father of a child due to the absence of any laws restricting or terminating such rights; as a result, many raped women face significant consequences following their decisions to raise the children they conceived through rape. They may be forced to share custody privileges of their children with their rapists, to ensure their rapists’ access to their children, to foster their rapists’ relationships with their children, and, in some cases, to make joint decisions about their children’s welfare.

Although there have been no studies analyzing the number of rapists who seek custody of their rape-conceived children, anecdotal evidence demonstrates its occurrence. One raped woman states,

I was raped in [North Carolina] and the rapist won “[j]oint” custody. Torment does not come close to describe what I live. . . . [The courts] have not only tied and bound me to a rapist, but also the innocent child that was conceived by VIOLENCE! [The rapist’s] violence has earned him even more control over my life.16

Another wrote, “I was raped . . . and the rapist has been taking me to court for 5 years for the right to see his son. . . . I am being tormented to death. I just want to die . . . .”17


Although no studies document the mental health impact on raped women who continue to have contact with their rapists, by analogy to the delayed recovery of women who prosecute, it seems likely that women whose child- custody arrangements force continued interaction with their rapists also would experience delays in healing. Furthermore, given that 66% of raped adult women—when asked within one week of the incident—fear offender retaliation and being raped again,(35) forcing a woman to repeatedly face her rapist, or reminders of him, is likely to impede her recovery process. Moreover, raped women who are required to share custody and visitation privileges may be unable to undertake some of the steps raped women have found necessary to move forward and heal. For example, many raped women seek recovery by changing residences,(36) and such a step is one of many important components of raped women’s healing processes.(37) However, women enjoying primary custody privileges often are required to go before a judge to request permission to move and may be denied altogether the ability to both retain primary custody of their children and to relocate to other cities.(38)

The forced interaction with their rapists, and the consequent inability to heal, also may affect raped women’s parenting abilities. Most raped women suffer from symptoms of one of the various forms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD),39 and nearly one-third of all raped women develop rape-related post- traumatic stress disorder (RR-PTSD).40 In order to treat PTSD and RR-PTSD, women must alleviate stress, which may “involve avoid[ing] any thoughts, feelings, or cues which could bring up the catastrophic and most traumatizing elements of the rape.”41 Women who suffer from PTSD and who are unable to adequately treat their illness may “experience uncontrollable intrusive thoughts about the rape” and “may relive the event through flashbacks, during which [they] experience the traumatic event as if it was happening now.”42 Moreover, they may suffer from social withdrawal,43 have “no interest in their children” or “in their jobs,”44 engage in “general unresponsiveness, detachment or estrange- ment from others,”45 and may “exhibit a kind of irritability, hostility, rage and anger,”46 “particularly when the original trauma is . . . re-enacted.”47

Women with PTSD and RR-PTSD who cannot effectively treat their illness are likely to abuse drugs and alcohol in an attempt to cope with these symp- toms.48 Lack of effective treatment also “can often lead to . . . diagnoses such as anxiety attacks, social phobias, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorders, suicidal ideation, self-mutilation, … manic activity bouts, chronic fatigue syndrome and personality disorders.”49 Raped women who choose to raise their rape-conceived children, then, may be put in a Catch-22 if their rapists assert custody and visitation privileges. To effectively parent their children, these raped women must adequately overcome their victimization; however, in order to do that, these women must be able to escape from the “triggers” that make healing from their victimization impossible.50 Unfortunately, escaping from


Raped women also may fear for their children’s safety and health. Although no studies address the parenting abilities of rapists over their rape-conceived children, men who rape often have “serious psychological difficulties which handicap [them] in [their] relationships to other people,” resulting in “the absence of any close, emotionally intimate relationship with other persons, male or female” and “little capacity for warmth, trust, compassion, or empathy.”51 Moreover, men who rape often develop relationships that “are devoid of mutuality, reciprocity, and a genuine sense of sharing.”52 In addition, they engage in bad behavior and are “not deterred by such logical considerations as punishment, disgrace to . . . family, injury to [the] victim” or others.53 Given these characteristics, raped women, already having been victimized by their attackers, may fear for the safety of their children, as well as “the shame, fear, and possible abuse” their children may suffer in conjunction with the rapist- fathers’ visitation or custody.54

Aside from fearing the frequent access of their rapists to them or their children, raped women also may suffer from their rapists having greater control over the criminal case against them. Some rapists may capitalize on these women’s fear of sharing custody or visitation rights by manipulating them into dropping or failing to initiate criminal charges in exchange for an agreement to voluntarily terminate parental rights. In addition to avoiding prosecution, “[s]ome men who commit sex crimes have an inordinate need to control their female victims and may use visitation [or] custody . . . to punish the mother.”55 Thus, even those rapists who do not wish to exercise custody privileges may use that right to exert control over their victims, resulting in the “child . . .becom[ing] a pawn in the predator’s power game.”(56)

State Representative Sam Ellis, who aborting their rape-conceived children. During the 2007 session of the Maryland General Assembly, Planned Parenthood of Maryland and Maryland Right to Life joined together in arguing that the parental rights of rapist fathers ought to be restricted. Maryland Right to Life testified that “women who choose to carry their pregnancies to term ought to be supported and protected from unnecessary burdens . . . [and] women who choose to carry their pregnancies to term should never feel coerced into abortion because of social concerns.” Family Law, supra note 18 (statement of Cathy McLeod, Maryland Right to Life). Planned Parenthood agreed and testified that a woman pregnant through rape should be given the opportunity “to make the choice that is right for them [sic], without having to worry about how that choice may force her to interact at a later date with her perpetrator. If a woman chooses to carry her child to term it is important for her to feel supported and safe in her choice.” Id. (statement of Kate Canada, Director of Communications & Public Policy, Planned Parenthood of Maryland).


Finally, these raped women may be forced to do any number of things associated with joint custody, including sharing decision making about school- ing, healthcare, and religious upbringing, and may even be required to give their children the surnames of the rapist fathers.61 Thus, raped women and their children face substantial and terrible consequences as a result of these women’s decisions to give birth to and raise their children. Yet, despite these severe consequences, only sixteen states have determined that custody and visitation laws ought to be different for men who father through rape.62


~ 19.2% of raped women state that they need to confront feelings of resentment of the pregnancy

~  An analysis of the attitudes of the 21 raped women whose pregnancies resulted in births revealed that 68.75% of the women either had “a positive viewpoint to begin with” or changed, through the course of their pregnancies, “from negative to more positive images, attitudes, beliefs, or feelings about the unborn child,” and none of the raped women changed from a positive to a more negative image or attitude about the unborn child.162

~ 98% of rape victims never see their attacker caught, tried or imprisoned….”many scholars fault the “invidious societal stereotypes regarding rape victims,”(66) which have constructed a prototype of the rape experience and of the prototypical raped woman and offender that frequently fails to reflect reality.”

~ 8 out of 10 rapes are someone the women knows ( this is not at all to say that women are only raped)

~ 6 out of 10 rapes occur in the raped women’s home, home of a friend, relative or neighbor

~ 70% of women report no physical injuries

~ For 80% of white women and 90% of black women, their rapist is of the same race


1. For the purposes of this Note, the term “rape” refers to circumstances in which there has been sex without consent as claimed by the assaulted woman; it does not necessarily mean that the perpetrator has been tried and convicted of rape in a court of law.

2. Melissa M. Holmes et al., Rape-Related Pregnancy: Estimates and Descriptive Characteristics from a National Sample of Women, 175 AM. J. OBSTETRICS & GYNECOLOGY 320, 320 (1996).

3. Id. at 320, 322; see also NAT’L VICTIM CTR. & NAT’L CRIME VICTIMS RESEARCH & TREATMENT CTR., RAPE IN AMERICA: A REPORT TO THE NATION 2 (1992) (discussing a 1990 study finding that almost 13% of women have been victims of a rape).

4. NAT’L VICTIM CTR. & NAT’L CRIME VICTIMS RESEARCH & TREATMENT CTR., supra note 3, at 2. 5. Holmes et al., supra note 2, at 322. 6. Felicia H. Stewart & James Trussell, Prevention of Pregnancy Resulting from Rape: A Neglected

15. See Holmes et al., supra note 2, at 322; Sobie & Reardon, supra note 8, at 19.

16. Posting of Not avail. to RoguePundit: Rapists’ Rights Over Their Children, http://roguepundit.type- (Nov. 28, 2004, 06:31 PST).

17. Posting of Zoompad to RoguePundit: Rapists’ Rights Over Their Children, http://roguepundit.type- (Nov. 19, 2006, 18:00 PST).

18. Family Law—Denial of Paternity, Custody, and Visitation: Hearing on H.B. 648 Before the H. Judiciary Comm., 2007 Leg., 422d Sess. (Md. 2007) [hereinafter Family Law] (statement of Women’s Law Center of Maryland).

19. RoguePundit, Rapists’ Rights Over Their Children, 2004/10/rapists_rights_.html (Oct. 3, 2004).

30. Family Lawsupra note 18 (statement of Women’s Law Center of Maryland).


32. Id. at 229. 33. JON G. ALLEN, COPING WITH TRAUMA: A GUIDE TO SELF-UNDERSTANDING 189 (1995). 34. MADIGAN & GAMBLE, supra note 20, at 99. 35. KATZ & MAZUR, supra note 31, at 218. 36. See id. at 223 (identifying studies that indicate at least 48% of women “change residences shortly after the rape”). 37. See id. 38. See, e.g., Baxendale v. Raich, 878 N.E.2d 1252 (Ind. 2008) (affirming a family court’s decisiondenying a mother’s request to relocate with her child, over whom she enjoyed physical custody, to another state and further affirming that if the mother relocated, the child’s father would become the child’s custodial parent).

39. See Jacquelyne Morison, PTSD in Victims of Sexual Molestation: Its Incidence, Characteristics and Treatment Strategies, HYPNOTHERAPY ARTICLES, articlep00007.htm (last visited Jan. 2, 2010) (stating that research indicates that most rape victims will exhibit some PTSD symptoms).

40. Id.see also NAT’L VICTIM CTR. & NAT’L CRIME VICTIMS RESEARCH & TREATMENT CTR., supra note 3, at 7 (stating that “[a]lmost one third . . . of all rape victims develop[] PTSD”).


42. Id. 43. Id. 44. Id. 45. Morison, supra note 39. 46. NAT’L CTR. FOR VICTIMS OF CRIME, supra note 41. 47. Morison, supra note 39. Morison notes that “[d]istress and anxiety reminiscent of the original trauma may be triggered . . . for example, by . . . the approach of a stranger.” Id. If the approach of a stranger triggers PTSD symptoms, it may be true that the approach of the woman’s perpetrator would also trigger these symptoms and may even magnify them. Moreover, even women who have recovered from PTSD can suffer from reactivated PTSD, which can be triggered “if the victim experiences additional trauma, is unsympathetically treated, [or] is unfairly blamed or stigmatized.” Id. Even “[a]n unsympathetic or unskilled therapist can inadvertently re-activate trauma—a situation which must be avoided at all costs.” Id.

48. See NAT’L CTR. FOR VICTIMS OF CRIME, supra note 41. 49. Morison, supra note 39. 50. A related argument is that rapists ought to be denied parental rights because, given the threat of forced interaction between raped women and their attackers, raped women may feel pressured into these triggers may range from difficult to impossible because, through the exercise of parental rights, most rapists are able to interact frequently with their rape-conceived children and, as a result, their victims.

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Senate Votes to Improve Access to Birth Control

August 22, 2012

SACRAMENTO – Today the California State Senate voted to improve access to birth control for thousands of women in California by passing AB 2348 on a vote of 23-15. Authored by Assemblymember Holly Mitchell (D-Los Angeles), AB 2348, the Access to Birth Control Bill, allows registered nurses to dispense hormonal contraceptives such as the pill, patches and rings.

“Improving access to birth control is a critical health matter for thousands of women in our state,” said Kathy Kneer, President and CEO of Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California.  “This vote today demonstrates California’s leadership in protecting women’s health, which is important as we witness some elected officials around the country attempting to deny women important health services.”

California currently has a shortage of physicians and advance clinicians, causing delays in access to safe and effective birth control. As a result, many women have to wait for hours in medical offices or weeks for an appointment for contraception. These types of delays leave women at significant risk of unintended pregnancy.

“The Senate’s passage of AB 2348 is another shining example of California’s leadership in expanding access to quality sexual and reproductive health care for all. We applaud the Senators that voted for this common sense legislation,” said Julie Rabinovitz, President and CEO of California Family Health Council.  “This important measure will ensure that women can get the birth control they need when they need it, so they can be healthy and plan for their futures.”

AB 2348 would make contraception more widely available by authorizing registered nurses to dispense birth control under a standardized procedure. Simply put, after taking a routine health assessment, a registered nurse would be able to dispense hormonal birth control, some of the safest and widely used medications in the world. The World Health Organization (WHO), the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) and Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA), have developed evidence-based guidelines for use of hormonal contraceptives which are based on patient assessment, medical history, blood pressure, history of smoking and other basic elements that are well within the skills, training and scope of practice of registered nurses.

AB 2348 is sponsored by Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California and the California Family Health Council. The bill is supported by a broad coalition of health and women’s organizations including United Nurses Association of CA/Union of Healthcare Professionals; California Primary Care Association; American Nurses Association, California; American Medical Women’s Association, Service Employees International Union (SEIU), Women’s Community Clinic; Black Women’s Health Project; California Latinas for Reproductive Justice; Black Women for Wellness; Women’s Health Specialists; ACCESS Women’s Health Justice, National Center for Youth Law; Sistersong; American Civil Liberties Union, California; and Physicians for Reproductive Choice & Health.

AB 2348 will now move to the Assembly for a final vote and, if passed, on to the Governor for action.


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How Safe Are Your Cosmetics?
Examining the make up of our makeup

By Rachel Pomerance <>

July 31, 2012

Most of us probably don’t give much thought to our morning rituals,  to the extent that we’re even awake during them. But the parade of  personal care products Americans use each day—from toothpaste and  shampoo to lipstick and aftershave—can affect us more than we realize.  At issue are the chemical ingredients they contain and the extent to  which they pose any risk to consumers. Just as Americans have developed  an appetite for pesticide-free foods and all things organic, so too have  they turned their attention to the make up of makeup.

Mounting  research on the subject has raised questions and stoked concern about  the potential toxicity of certain chemicals and has led to calls for  increased regulation of the beauty business. Fragrance, in particular,  has become a source of concern due to the unlisted ingredients behind  the scents. A study of 17 popular fragrances by the Environmental  Working Group and the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, advocacy groups  focused on exposing products they deem hazardous to health, found 14  undisclosed chemicals, on average. Among them were phthalates, which are  used to soften plastic and have been linked to various ailments.

Last  week, in fact, the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics and the National Healthy  Nail and Beauty Salon Alliance were lobbying members of Congress to  pass the Safe Cosmetics Act of 2011, which, among other things, would  require product labels to list all ingredients and authorize the Food  and Drug Administration to recall products and discontinue ingredients  that may cause “serious adverse health effects.” The groups are also  pressing the FDA’s Office ofCosmetics and Colors to recall  hair-straightening treatments that contain formaldehyde, a carcinogen  that they say jeopardizes the health of salon workers.

[See What Causes Cancer? 7 Strange Cancer Claims Explained <> .]

The  current lobbying activity comes on the heels of new research linking  phthalates to type 2 diabetes and childhood obesity. Found in everything  from toys to perfume, phthalates belong to a class of chemicals called  “endocrine disruptors,” because they interfere with the body’s hormone  systems. Other chemicals in this category are Bisphenol A (BPA), which  is used in plastic and canned foods, and was recently banned in baby  bottles by the FDA, and parabens, commonly used to preserve personal  care products. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has proposed  adding eight types of phthalates and BPA to its list of chemicals that  “may present an unreasonable risk of injury to human health or the  environment” and has requested further study of these chemicals from the  U.S. Office of Management and Budget’s Office of Information and  Regulatory Affairs. Like BPA, phthalates aren’t always listed in a  product’s ingredients. In fact, phthalates are often grouped under the  catch-all ingredient, “fragrance,” rather than separately identified on  cosmetic labeling.

A study presented at the  Endocrine Society’s annual meeting in Houston this summer showed a  correlation between phthalates and childhood obesity. That study along  with “hundreds of others in the last few years,” according to the group,  caused it to issue a forceful statement, calling for further federal  regulation of endocrine-disrupting chemicals, which research suggests  may interfere with healthy human development. Congress banned several  phthalates in children’s toys in 2008.

[See Phthalates Threat: Less Boy, More Girl <> .]

Also  this month, researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston found  that women with the highest levels of certain phthalates in their urine  were twice as likely to have diabetes as women whose urine contained  the lowest levels. “More research is needed,” says lead author Tamarra  James-Todd, who notes in a news release that phthalates exist in  personal care products as well as in diabetes treatments, which could  explain the correlation.

When it comes to  phthalates, as well as parabens and BPA, “we have very suggestive but  not definitive data,” says Michael Roizen, internist, anesthesiologist,  and chair of the Cleveland Clinic’s Wellness Institute. “If it was  definitive, the FDA would have done something about it already,” he  says, recommending that the agency take the “first step” by pressing for  better labeling of cosmetic ingredients. Roizen, along with Dr. Oz,  with whom he has created the YOU series of health guides, last year  launched to provide a science-based beauty resource. Its  online store, BeautySage, notes the ingredients in (and excluded from)  products recommended by chemists and consumers. For his part, Roizen  tries to avoid products with phthalates. “I think they’re putting us at  risk for abnormal gene function, which means there probably is a risk of  cancer and, in this case, diabetes, and maybe abnormal sexual function  as well.”

But Roizen couches the concern in  relative terms. “This is not probably as high a risk as sitting on your  bottom all day and not doing physical activity.”

FDA  representative Tamara Ward says the agency is “reviewing the recent  work that has reported links between phthalate exposure and type 2  diabetes and obesity, in light of the large body of existing scientific  information on phthalates, including FDA’s own work, to see if it is  relevant to cosmetic uses of phthalates and, if so, whether it would  change our current perspective.” The FDA states, on its website, that it  “does not have compelling evidence that phthalates, used in cosmetics,  pose a safety risk.”

Determining ingredient  risk depends on usage and degree, says Halyna Breslawec, chief scientist  of the Cosmetic Ingredient Review, an independent scientific panel  funded by the Personal Care Products Council, the cosmetic industry’s  trade association. Voting members include estimable academic doctors and  professors, with Linda Katz, director of the FDA’s Office of Cosmetics  and Colors, serving as a liaison member.

“Everything  can be safe. Everything can be unsafe. It depends on the conditions of  use,” Breslawec says. “That’s what makes it so complicated.” But making  safe products only makes sense, she says. “The cosmetic industry would  not have a market if its products weren’tsafe…It’s not like we’re  manufacturing products that we’re not using ourselves.”

[See Beware Free Trials of Anti-Aging Products Sold on the Web <> .]

Certain  ingredients have been deemed flat-out toxic. Mercury, for example,  which has been found in imported products that claim to lighten skin or  reverse aging, has been banned by the FDA. “It can damage the kidneys  and the nervous system, and interfere with the development of the brain  in unborn children and very young children,” according to the FDA  website.

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For Immediate Release: July 23rd, 2012

Contact:   Sabrina Williams, Sabrina@safecosmetics.org305-904-3960
Jamie Silberberger, jamies@womensvoices.org406-531-1811

Salon Workers Expose Ugly Side of Beauty Industry to Lawmakers
Horror stories, health risks spur calls for reform

WASHINGTON DC – This week, dozens of salon workers and advocates from all over the country will be descending upon D.C. for a day of action to raise awareness about toxic chemical exposure in the workplace.

Workers will meet with lawmakers and share personal stories of the negative health impacts they have suffered as a result of working with salon products that contain toxic chemicals, including the still popular hair treatment Brazilian Blowout that was found last year to contain very high levels of the carcinogen formaldehyde.

The National Healthy Nail and Beauty Salon Alliance (the Alliance) and the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics (the Campaign) are organizing the day of action in an effort to garner support for the Safe Cosmetics Act of 2011 (H.R.2359), introduced last June and currently being debated.

The visits with lawmakers are part of a larger week of action that the Alliance is organizing, including a meeting with Cabinet Secretary Chris Lu and top level officials from multiple federal agencies, where over 40 letters from salon workers to the FDA will be delivered. The letters are directed to Linda Katz, Director of the FDA’s Office of Cosmetics and Colors, and will ask the agency to issue a voluntary recall of hair straightening treatments that contain formaldehyde. There will also be a conference about salon worker health and safety on July 26th.

A growing body of scientific evidence indicates there is reason for concern regarding chemicals found in salon products. One recent study has shown that nail salon workers have higher levels of dibutyl phthalate (DBP), a reproductive and developmental toxicant, than the general population.[i] Another study found that beauticians and hairdressers are likely to have significant exposure to solvents that are linked to birth defects.[ii] Other studies have found cosmetologists are at a higher risk for having spontaneous abortions and low birth weight babies.[iii],[iv]

“We’re meeting with government officials this week because, despite thousands of women being poisoned in their own workplaces due to the dangerous chemicals in unsafe, unregulated products like the Brazilian Blowout and other nail and hair salon products, lawmakers and the FDA haven’t done much to address the issue in any significant way,” said Alliance spokesperson Jamie Silberberger. “We hope that these meetings will educate lawmakers and encourage them to finally take actions to reduce these risks in salons.”

The Brazilian Blowout company settled with the California Attorney General last year, and it is now required to state on package labels that the product contains formaldehyde. However, the products remain on the shelves and a class action lawsuit by salon workers has been filed both in the U.S. and Canada. Although the products have been banned in Canada, France, Germany, Australia and Ireland, the US continues to lag behind health protective standards.

“While the Attorney General’s ruling will help keep Brazilian Blowout honest about formaldehyde in their products, the fact is it doesn’t stop salon workers like myself from being exposed to high levels of the carcinogen. Without action from the FDA thousands of workers across the country will continue to experience adverse health effects, such as I have, as a result of being exposed to these treatments” said Jennifer Arce, a hairstylist in California.

In 2011 the FDA issued a warning to letter to Brazilian Blowout citing the company for labeling and safety violations. However, the agency has not moved to issue a voluntary recall of the product. The Cosmetic Ingredient Review Panel (CIR), established by the cosmetic industry to review the safety of cosmetic ingredients, determined in 2011 that the use of formaldehyde in hair straighteners is unsafe. However, the CIR is not a regulatory body and the panel’s recommendations are only voluntary.

“Workers are on the front lines in the fight for safer cosmetics and we hope that Congress will move to protect workers and all of us by overhauling our outdated and ineffective 70 year old cosmetics laws by passing the Safe Cosmetics Act of 2011,” said Lisa Archer, director of the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics at the Breast Cancer Fund.

The Safe Cosmetics Act of 2011 (H.R.2359) would give the FDA Office of Cosmetics and Colors authority to phase out ingredients in cosmetics linked to cancer, birth defects and developmental harm, provide a strong science-based safety standard that protects children, pregnant women, workers and other vulnerable populations, require full disclosure of ingredients and give the FDA the ability to recall dangerous products. Under current law, the FDA can’t require companies to conduct safety assessments, or even require recalls of cosmetic products, even when a product has been shown to be dangerous.

# # #

The National Healthy Nail and Beauty Salon Alliance (Alliance) works to increase the health, safety, and rights of salon workers by reducing toxic chemical exposure through engaging in strategic movement building, policy advocacy, and media efforts nationwide.

The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics is a coalition effort to protect the health of consumers and workers by securing the corporate, regulatory and legislative reforms necessary to eliminate dangerous chemicals from cosmetics and personal care products.

[i]   Hines J, Cynthia et al. “Urinary Phthalate Metabolite Concentrations among Workers in Selected Industries: A Pilot Biomonitoring Study.” The Annals of Occupational Hygiene. (2009); 53(1):1-17.

[ii]   Garlantezec, Monfort, Cordier. “Maternal occupational exposure to solvents and congenital malformations: a prospective study in the general population.” Occup. Environ. Med. (2009); 66: 456-463.

[iii] John, EM, Savitz D, Shy C. “Spontaneous abortions among cosmetologists.” Epidemiology. (1994) Mar; 5(2): 147-155.

[iv]   Herdt-Losavio ML. “The risk of having a low birth weight or preterm infant among cosmetologists in New York State.” Maternal Child Health Journal. (2009) Jan;13(1):90-7.

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July 17, 2012

Contact: Shannon Coughlin, 


FDA Bans BPA in Baby Bottles: Good Move, but Not Enough


Statement from Janet Nudelman, Director of Program and Policy, Breast Cancer Fund


After more than five years of pressing the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to restrict the toxic chemical bisphenol A, or BPA, in food packaging, the Breast Cancer Fund is heartened that the agency announced today a ban on the chemical in baby bottles and sippy cups. But given that Canada, the European Union, China, and at least five other countries as well as 11 U.S. states have prohibited the use of BPA in children’s products, that every major baby bottle manufacturer has already stopped using the chemical, and that BPA is also found in canned food linings, some infant formula containers and other food packaging, this action is too little, too late.


The body of scientific evidence linking BPA to an increased risk of breast cancer and a whole host of other diseases has been mounting over the years we’ve been calling on the FDA to make a definitive determination on BPA’s safety.  Most of us are exposed to BPA every day. In fact, the CDC found BPA in 93 percent of all Americans tested, and the National Institutes of Health point to food packaging, including food cans, which are lined with BPA, as a major route of exposure. BPA has been found in the blood and urine of pregnant women, in the umbilical cord blood of newborns and in breast milk soon after women gave birth. Nearly 200 lab studies show that exposures to even low doses of BPA, particularly during pregnancy and early infancy, are associated with a wide range of adverse health effects later in life, including breast cancer. Studies show that BPA exposure can make non-cancerous breast cells grow and survive like cancer cells, and can actually make the cells less responsive to the cancer-inhibiting effects of tamoxifen, a drug used in the treatment of breast cancer.


The FDA’s slow response to protect the public from BPA is in stark contrast to consumer outrage and business and legislative action. In March, the Breast Cancer Fund’s Cans Not Cancer campaign publicized the fact that Campbell Soup Company will phase out the use of BPA in its can linings. Baby bottle and sports water bottle manufacturers abandoned BPA over the last few years. At the public policy level, 11 states have banned BPA from baby bottles and sippy cups, and three of those states have also banned it from infant formula and baby food packaging.


Scientists, consumers, retailers, manufacturers and the states are sending clear signals that BPA doesn’t belong in any of our food packaging and that investment insafe alternatives is an investment in the health of the American public. Now the FDA needs to catch up. The FDA needs to take decisive action to ensure that all of us are protected from this toxic chemical. The agency should enact a ban on BPA in infant-formula containers by approving the petition submitted by Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass.  The FDA should quickly release its long-awaited reassessment of the safety of BPA.  And Congress should pass Rep. Markey’s legislation, the Ban Poisonous Additives Act (H.R. 432), which would instruct the FDA to ban BPA from all food packaging.



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Game Change Series RJ Bootcamp….

There has been an onslaught of attacks on women’s health and our reproductive justice over the last couple of years… from anti-choice policy legislation across the country to cut backs in social services, now more that ever we need a well-informed, take action group of advocates.

THE WHO: Black Women for Wellness is hosting a one-day RJ training to arm community members who are ready to take action and be game changers. We will share skills and tools on how to navigate and be effective in today’s political and social climate.

THE WHAT: We will be covering:


  • Mobilizing 101 ( including GOTV)
  • Advocacy quick and dirty
  • Media quick and dirty
  • The Basic ( sexual and reproductive health)
  • RJ Principles (with a touch of EJ)



Saturday, August 11, 2012

10:00 am – 4:30 pm

4340 11th Ave

Los Angeles, CA 90008


RSVP with Nourbese Flint @ 323.290.5955 or

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Ethnic cosmetics market is doing well despite recession, says market researcher

By Michelle Yeomans , 25-Jun-2012

Related topics: Market TrendsColor CosmeticsHair Care

According to a recent report by US market researcher, Packaged Facts, the market for cosmetic products aimed at consumers of ethnic origin is fast growing as figures reveal it rose to $3 billion in 2011.


According to the ‘Ethnic Hair, Skin, and Cosmetic Products in the US’ report, compared to many consumer packaged goods categories, ethnic hair and beauty care products are doing well during the recession and are continuing to chart steady growth “even though US minorities were especially hard hit by the economic downturn.”

The market is noted as posting growth of nearly 13 percent in 2010 and has continued to advance at a healthy pace to approach $3 billion in 2011.

According to the market reseacher, with rapid expansion of racial and ethnic population in the US over the next 10 years, ethnic cosmetics products is a fast-growing target market for the industry.

Moreover, the study reveals that Hispanic, African-American and Asian population growth is far outpacing that of whites and are expected to collectively be the majority of the US population as soon as 2042.

Brand loyalty

According to the market researcher, loyalty of African-American and other ethnic communities to their products kept the market on track to resume impressive growth as soon as economic conditions began to improve.

As more and more ethnic cosmetic products are introduced, they are meeting the needs of people of color that had previously been either ignored or mis-targeted.”

Ethnic consumers are noted as still spending more on general market HBC (health, beauty and cosmetics) products than they do on targeted ones, a dynamic that highlights the continued opportunity for specialized beauty care marketers to expand their reach.

Market Drivers

As of 2012, market drivers are noted as including a desire for more natural products; greater participation in HBC categories on the part of men overall, but especially men of color; and a surge of innovative, better-quality products.

“Traditionally, marketers active in Health, Beauty and Cosmetic (HBC) products have sold some of the most chemically harsh items available, but today manufacturers are taking simple yet significant steps by adding a degree of natural or organic content to their products,” says the firm’s Tatjana Meerman.

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I stand here today, a bit amazed, that it’s  2012. That it is 2012  and here we are again fighting for the very bare bone basic women’s right to dignity and respect.

Over the last couple of years, we’ve seen an on slot of vicious attacks blatantly calling women sluts and being proud of it. We’ve seen a race based billboard campaign targeting black women and families across the nation, and Latinas right here at home. Over the past several years over 700 anti-choice/ anti-women bills have been introduced, not limited to force transvaginal ultrasounds and personhood initiative so extreme it couldn’t pass in Mississippi.

But they say it’s not a war on women…

Well lets talk about what’s going on with women and our families in this very community. Black women are dying at three times the rate of other women from complications of giving birth. 1 out every 1000 black infants will not make it to his or her first birthday. Los Angeles County has the highest rates of chlamydia in the country, with the majority of those cases impacting black women and latinas. All while some argue to cut health services and programs that support women and families.

However, there is a silver lining for us in California, we have women champions like Assemblymember Holly Mitchell that are authoring bills to increase women’s access – like AB2348. Making sure that women health is not a political pawn in an election year but something that we continue to work at and do better every year.

Increased access to birth control and family planning via AB 2348 is crucial to the reproductive health and safety of the women in our communities. Black Women for Wellness supports this bill as it preserves a woman’s right to reproduce at a time she feels prepared, if at all she chooses. This bill will help prevent unintended pregnancies by offering women the appropriate contraceptive care in a timely manner.

Unintended pregnancies – not necessarily unwanted but unplanned, pose great risks which include stress and difficulty during and after birth to both mother and infant with effects that could carry on though out both mother and the child’s life.  African American women have the highest rates of unintended pregnancies and also lead in the realm of low and very low weight births.

Proper family planning services are imperative in the efforts to reduce if not eradicate this disparity and AB 2348 seeks to do just that. By increasing the availability and timeliness of contraception, a woman is encouraged and empowered to make her own decisions regarding her pregnancy. Increased availability of birth control and family planning services reduces the chances of an unintended pregnancy which fosters the decrease of a stressful pregnancy and maternal and infant mortality.  We encourage the overall health and well being of our women by securing her mental, physical and even financial health -which access to safe and effective birth control is an essential part of.

AB 2348 advances reproductive health by offering a woman greater control over her body and thus her life. Black Women for Wellness is asking our elected officials to stand with the community – to stand up for women – and support AB 2348.

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think like a

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First – it was hilarious – I laughed out loud and needed that happy ending on love between African American folks.

By Jan Robinson Flint


Tim Story, Director o f Think Like A Man should be commended. The story he told is funny, just laugh out loud funny, the cast looks good and it shared the glamour of Los Angeles on screen, including a fabulous night time skyline. Mr Story had a promotion budget and I will assume learned many a lesson on the way to Think Like A Man, he is one of the folks whom I was truly worried about as he personally sold his films on the sidewalks and in the shops of  Leimert Park. This overnight success is long in coming and well deserved for all the work he has put into this art form.
There seems a sense of camaraderie among the cast – no one hogged the screen, the ensemble of 6 couples (kinda sorta) stepped up and stepped back with grace and style, so each could have their story unfold. Gary Owens (what ever happen to him after winning BET comedy show) wife did not appear on screen, and Kevin Hart  character ‘s wife (surprise guest appearance by Wendy Williams) only arrived for the final scenes of the movie. That left Taraji, Michael, Meagan, Romany, Jerry, Gabrielle, Regina and Terrence J plenty of room and time to showcase the characters. Yes Steve Harvey had a cameo being interviewed by Sherri Shephard, and yes Jennifer Lewis who has played one too many mentally disturbed mama’s (so that I am starting to believe this is her real life not acting) pulled their weight in Think Like A Man too, but the couples in search of themselves pulled off this light hearted romance. I must say here though Kevin Hart really was over the top, his electricity and hi energy was fabulous, he is simply hilarious and almost stole the show, almost.
Fluff over, let’s take a deeper look into this expose on the politics of race and relationship among African Americans. Where/Why is it that I cannot find a dark skin woman who is middle or working class, even economically gifted to play a positive role in a romantic comedy and get the man. Don’t we deserve love and importantly to see women like ourselves on camera looking good? Colorism is a huge problem in our community and certainly in Hollywood, Think Like A Man demonstrated it is more a problem for women than men, but it is one that needs immediate address with all of its potential to divide our community as it is perpetuated on screen, in classrooms, in courts and job markets.
Of the men, only one job mentioned which he lost stealing a car to catch up with Taraji’s character. While the men must have been working as they lived in fabulous apartments, even the mama’s boy did not live at home. We did not see Black Men Working. So the books’ test question to be posed by women on short and long term goals, was never answered except of course by the one who had a dream of opening a restaurant. Yes the same one who got fired stealing a car and busted being a waiter at an event where Taraji’s COO character was being honored.
Gabrielle Union character is  in an inter racial relationship with a white guy who is not working and has strung her along for 9YEARS. Hmmm what message my sisters does one take home from this, are we normalizing inter racial relationships for Black women? If so brothers yall are in trouble, deep deep trouble. Of the women, only one had a job too, so most of the characters in Think Like A Man had no visible means of support but thank goodness at least they were not selling drugs, pimping, ex cons, or other illegitimate forms of money making stereotypes often found in movies featuring African American stories. It would have been good to see some role models of Black folks going to work but that is asking for a lot I know, being in love with each other is good. I will take it for this movie. Speaking of stereo types, only one baby mama and while it was not clear what happen to her son’s father, there was no negative drama, bitterness or hating going on, no job either but taking the good here…
Every  one was well dressed, coiffed and on best behavior, with the possible exception of Taraji’s kissing Micheal Ealy character (hmmm seemed a bit more than a Hollywood kiss there but I ain’t trying to start nothing). There was balance in the story with airing both the male and female perspective, as well balance of the whom was at fault in contributing to the breakup of relationships. Yall know they had to break up to get back together for the happy ending right?
Nice surprise with the basketball players from the Clippers and Lakers, as well Lisa Leslie with the Sparks, demonstrating to me we have a director here truly in love with Los Angeles and wanting to highlight our wonderfulness. The scene on the basketball court was super funny though I must admit I did not feel the love from the sports team and that interaction has so much more potential.
As we were walking home from the movie, my daughter wondered out loud about the matching of the ages, mentioning Terrence J was matched with an older woman being a trend for him. And thinking on it, if that was the intention of the story line, it did not make it apparent. Romany and Regina seemed to be more aged suited, while Terrence and Meagan are closer in age to each other however Black women can be ageless for quite a long time and the make up was impeccable.  No cougar intentions were felt, and the older man with a younger woman is played out much too much in our communities and as Kevin Hart pointed out in case one was not looking, Romany looked damn good. The pajamas with no shirt scene was yummy.
Chris Brown dropped in for a few scenes, being the irresponsible lover of Meagan Good that drives her to read the book Act Like A Lady, Think Like A Man. He too gets to show off his tattoos and his acting chops though only for a moment. The sound track is great nope no Chris Brown music tune in for John Legend. Sound track was a great match for the movie.
Over all this PG romance was worth the time, there was a balance of male /female energy, it was light, funny, no villains, loving Los Angeles and demonstrates that yes Black people do read and yes we go to the movies too. We lead normal lives, we work hard, play hard, have friends, lovers, education, hopes and dreams and should be able to see them from time to time on the big screen. Shout out to Tim Story for getting this out…looking forward to the next one.

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Celebrate Across the Generations – Saturday, May 5, 2012 2-5pm Fundraiser

This year’s event is FREE! Bring your wallets and pocketbooks though, as the day promises to be a fun event!!  We ask that you RSVP (by emailing fundraising[at] or calling 323.290.5955) so that we may have an accurate headcount for our healthy food offerings prepared by our Kitchen Divas!

Community Build Garden
4305 Degnan Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90008
RSVP: Phone 323-290-5955 or fundraising {AT}

Support this event by submitting a photo of your loved one to be displayed during an electronic slideshow throughout the event, with a donation of $10, below.

Mother’s Day Tea Advertising is Going Green!

We want to reduce on paper and printing costs and are going mostly electronic with our ads with logo placement on a keepsake.  Please support this fundraiser by selecting one of three advertising options below.

Please submit Advertising Application, BlackWomenforWellness_AdvertisingApplication2012.doc

$50 Advertisement – Rotation of Your Ad/Logo on and
$175 Advertisement – Rotation of Your Ad/Logo at event and on and and more!
$250 Advertisement – Rotation of Your Ad/Logo on at event, Ad/Logo on event keepsake, placement on and and more!

This Year’s Honorees

Nike Irvin
Black Women for Wellness’ Community Champion of the Year

Ms. Irvin is vice president of Programs, Nike oversees a staff of 13 professionals and discretionary grants budget of $26.4 million for fiscal year 2011-2012 at California Community Foundation. From past experience, she believes, “The social sector plays a critical role in our era of collapsing government budgets and corporate consolidations. And no matter the sector, smart, ethical, authentic leadership matters.”   A native of Los Angeles and active member of her Los Feliz community, Nike attended LAUSD public schools through 9th grade. Through the nonprofit A Better Chance, she attended a Connecticut boarding school. She then earned a B.A. in economics and political science from Yale, and later, an MBA from the UCLA Anderson School of Management.

Moya Mzuri Pambeli
Black Women for Wellness’ Amy Jacques Garvey Award

Being from  Africa ,  born in the projects of Aliso Village –Los Angeles in 1955, then moving to  55th and Vermont, then to Watts/Compton area, I am a child of my community.   My  community was full of examples of progressive voices and personalities of resistance. I sought out these soldiers as mentors. First being mentored by church elders and especially the wormen, then a Watts motorcyle group called  ‘Brothers of the chosen Few”, then the young Panthers who were all mentors and protectors of our community.   A graduate from –CentennialHigh School in Compton 1973, we took on the theme ‘Uziku Za Watoto’-children of the night!   I attended and studied at the University of California Berkeley, following in the proud footsteps of activism. I majored in Economics receiving a Bachelor of Arts with a minor in Urban Planning and later received a Masters of Arts in Organizational Management from the University of Phoenix.

Stephanie Haynes
Black Women for Wellness’ Volunteer of the Year

Founder and CEO of Fashionably Fit, Ms. Haynes is a gifted multitalented personal trainer and life coach with 30 years experience in the field of fitness and fashion. She has first-hand knowledge of healing the mind, body and spirit. Her famous saying is “When you heal the mind the body will follow.” Ms. Haynes specializes in self-empowerment with a focus on empowering the individual to create a fulfilling and successful life by supporting them in transforming negative beliefs and replacing them with powerful positive beliefs.   Ms. Haynes has been working in the community for over 30 years in different capacities such as community activist for youth education and displaced homemakers. She has also been an advocate for stroke patients, diabetics, arthritis and chronic pain sufferers as well as alcohol and drug abuse clients.

This young lady has given so much of her time, energy and enthusiasm to Black Women for Wellness.  We hope you come out to find out who she is!!

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By Erika Siever, MPH

Hello Black Women for Wellness Family!

April is autism awareness month.

What is autism?  Autism is a neurodevelopment disorder characterized, in varying degrees, by difficulties in social interaction, verbal and nonverbal communication and repetitive behaviors often appearing in early childhood — usually before age 3.  Some children diagnosed with autism are highly intelligent; others are mentally challenged.  Did you know that 1 in every 88 children in America is affected by Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)1 ; and the ratio of boys to girls with ASD is about 5-to-1.  On average, white children are diagnosed around six years old, while Black children are not diagnosed until they’re almost eight. It may only seem like a small difference in time, but early treatment is the key to reducing the challenges parents stand to face ahead.  No one knows exactly what causes autism and at this time there is no known cure, but with early interventions like speech, behavioral and occupational therapies children on the autism spectrum develop speaking, social and motor skills they’re missing.   As a mother of two, with a 7 year old son on the autism spectrum, I’m grateful that I learned the signs of autism early to help him to become the vibrant boy that he is today.
Know the signs:

Social skills

  • Fails to respond to his or her name
  • Has poor eye contact
  • Appears not to hear you at times
  • Resists cuddling and holding
  • Appears unaware of others’ feelings
  • Seems to prefer playing alone — retreats into his or her “own world”


  • Starts talking later than age 2, and has other developmental delays by 30 months
  • Loses previously acquired ability to say words or sentences
  • Doesn’t make eye contact when making requests
  • Speaks with an abnormal tone or rhythm — may use a singsong voice or robot-like speech
  • Can’t start a conversation or keep one going
  • May repeat words or phrases verbatim, but doesn’t understand how to use them


  • Performs repetitive movements, such as rocking, spinning or hand-flapping
  • Develops specific routines or rituals
  • Becomes disturbed at the slightest change in routines or rituals
  • Moves constantly
  • May be fascinated by parts of an object, such as the spinning wheels of a toy car
  • May be unusually sensitive to light, sound and touch and yet oblivious to pain

My tips for parents with a child with autism:

  • Be your child’s biggest advocate
  • Learn everything you can about autism.
  • Ensure that their educational institution meets their specific learning needs
  • Connect with a Regional Center in your area
  • Join a support group
  • Great websites
  • Find a Defeat Autism Now (DAN) doctor in your area. These are clinicians specially trained by the Autism Research Institute to treat autism.4
  • Find a ‘Generation Rescue Angel’ in your area for answers and advice from parents who’ve been in your shoes.5
  • Ask your child’s primary care doctor for a referral to a speech pathologist, occupational therapist and applied behavior specialist.6


BWW Event Calendar