Displaying items by tag: Best of Heartbeat Fall/Winter 2021

Call It What It Is

by Dr. Joe Malone, PhD, CFE, LWMC, CPTUntitled design 2022 01 11T120148.380

A former student of mine and I wrote a book that came out in 2018. In it, we outlined many of the damaging effects of hookup culture. From the research of others (and there are too many to name here) these are some of the low lights we discovered.

First, college women’s, but not college men’s, depression symptoms increase as their number of sexual partners in a year increase. Second, research shows that women take part in this behavior even when they feel uncomfortable doing so. Next, men especially overestimate women’s comfort with hookups. Only 32% of men said they would feel guilty about having intercourse with someone they just met compared to 72% of women. In addition, the percentage of women feeling guilty over hooking up was over twice that of men, as women tend to seek more emotional involvement in sexual encounters than men do. Then this - many young adults and again, especially women, feel compelled to take part in hookup culture. Lastly, most times alcohol is involved. In a study of 118 freshman female college students, 64% of the hookups involved alcohol use. It appears that alcohol is usually required to make especially females willing to engage in sex with someone they don’t really know.

If all of that isn’t alarming enough, let’s finish this only partial list of the negatives with two extremely big ones. Around 80% of sexual assaults on campuses occur during a hookup. In the last 15 years the prevalence of sexual assault against women on college campuses has motivated campus authorities to decry what they identify as rape culture. They are justifiable in doing so as any sexual assault is one too many. At the same time, these same authorities say nothing against hookup culture and actually send a strong non-verbal message through the way orientation is handled with condom distribution and instructions about the student Health Center for STD treatment. This affirms, in reality, that they are expecting college students to be sexually active and that this is just part of the college norm. But, when we look at the above cited statistics on college campuses these days, hookup culture is for all practical purposes fueling rape culture.

As already mentioned, a major harm of hookup culture is of course, STDs. Largely because of hookup culture-promoted promiscuity, STD rates have been skyrocketing. They hit their highest levels ever in 2015 and continued to climb. Presently, one in two sexually active people will have an STD by age 25. The 15 to 24 age group makes up 53% of the gonorrhea cases and 65% of the cases of chlamydia. Once again, STDs are more dangerous for women. Currently HPV is the most common STD in America. Both men and women can get HPV, but women are 125% more likely than men to have HPV develop into cancer. The CDC states that a female’s anatomy can place her at unique risks for STD infection in comparison to a male.

As an example, one of my students who I had in class in 2007 gave me permission to share her story. She was a somewhat typical sorority sister who drank and was sexually active. Without realizing it, she contracted HPV. She married after college and had two little boys. About eight years out of college she found out that she had cervical cancer and had to have everything, but her ovaries, removed. It was a very scary, possibly life-threatening experience for her, and she felt fortunate that she and her husband had completed their family before she had to have a hysterectomy. There are many more harms and related heartbreaks that we could list here.

I recently listened to a podcast called Just Sex that I found very curious and even disturbing. The promotion said that it concerned hookup culture on college campuses. One of the first statements it made was that there are certain ideas that send the media into a panic, one of them being hookup culture. The inference was that hookup culture is routinely demonized by the media when it is really not that big of a deal and the panic is unjustified.

From there it went into an interview with the author of a book on hookup culture. What I found curious, and quite frankly disturbing, was that from that point on, despite the opening expectations that hooking up is just what young people do these days and that it is normal human behavior, nearly every observation of it showed how negative and unnatural it is, with so many demonstrated harms. The harms being especially hurtful to young women. As a matter of fact, they flat out stated hookup culture does not serve women well. This is where I could find complete agreement, because I believe hooking up fundamentally goes against the woman’s sexual nature.

As I listened, I found their seeming approval to be paradoxical. It soon became clearer though why this might be. They pointed out that hookup culture had come from the 1960s Sexual Revolution and feminist movement. (I had a suspicion that anything that originated with those movements would not be criticized by these two people for deeply held, shared political reasons.) They went on to discuss many, many negative effects of hooking up. For instance, hookup culture says you should be embarrassed for having feelings and feel weak for wanting connection. The author stated that hookups are decidedly not about finding any kind of romantic connection. They had an example interview of a young woman who felt that she was being used in hookup culture, but she also felt she had no choice other than to be used. They stated that the worst thing you can be called in hookup culture is not a slut or even a prude, but you must avoid at all costs being labeled desperate. They also stated that hookup culture demands carelessness, rewards callousness, and punishes kindness. And the misery of living in hookup culture does not end there. They stated that it is important that hookups be meaningless. In fact, ironically, and nonsensically in a normal world, they stated that people generally will have sex with people they don’t like, and not have sex with people they like. They said loving behaviors and mutual respect are to be limited to relationships. A concluding thought was if a woman wants to be respected, she must either opt out of hookup culture altogether or expose herself by hooking up for a period where she just accepts the disrespect.

The book was published in 2017 and the interview was done around that time. At one point during the interview the author did characterize hookup culture as “toxic.” Even so, in this 2021 update to her research to see how the pandemic may have affected conditions, instead of hookup culture being described as the generally hurtful and heartbreaking phenomenon that it is, and calling for a movement against it, it was stated that students in 2021 just want safer, more accountable, and more pleasurable hookup experiences.

The concept of the entire validity of hookup culture was still not questioned or challenged. To me, with all the emotional/mental, as well as physical health problems that hookup culture generates, especially for young women, it would only make sense to build a movement back to romance.

In my own personal research that I conducted in 2019 and 2020 on 437 college students at a large Southeastern University, I found that 60% of the men wanted no part of hookup culture, and 80% of the women wanted nothing to do with it. At the same time, 97% of both sexes said that they wanted more romance and real love in our society. Again, maybe it is time for a Romance Revolt in which young adults unhook from hookup culture and find real love! This would be in direct contrast to what right now many young adults find themselves in, what should be more accurately labeled “hookup hell” on campuses around the world. After viewing all of the damage and destruction caused by hookup culture itself, lets call it what it is - Hookup Hell -and strategically learn to avoid it (like COVID) especially by young women who deserve far better!

 

Dr. Malone holds a Ph.D. in Health and Human Performance with a specialization in sexual wellness. He has presented at Vanderbilt and Princeton as well as other major universities. Joe served on the CDC Initiative for STD Prevention for Tennessee. His wife of 44 years Jody and he founded the nonprofit Sex IQ: https://www.sexiq.org/

Question from the reader: Is there a way to make sure that there will always be even one resident in the house? Sometimes a month goes by and my house is empty. Am I doing something wrong?

EmptyBedThere has been quite a bit of buzz around this topic since the beginning of the COVID-19 Pandemic. Ministries across the country have found themselves on vacillating ends of the spectrum between empty and full houses with burgeoning waiting lists. So why the variance?

I recently spoke with homes from different regions of the country, each with varied programming models, ministry models, and eligibility criteria. I found that the homes with low occupancy rates (For the purposes of this writing, “low” will be less than 25%) repeatedly described their experiences of receiving calls from women in the community inquiring about their home or even interviewing some women, however, these women did not meet the criteria to be eligible to move into the home. Reasons ranged from past or current drug use, criminal record, previous pregnancies, previous children removed from care, children currently in care, or perhaps a generally poor attitude. Needless to say, this can be an exhausting daily merry-go-round for ministries. 

Question from the reader: Our search for staff has been difficult. We’ve come up empty after months of looking and getting desperate. What do we do?

HiringNow

Great topic of discussion here. First, I’ll share that you are not alone. This is the most common place of exasperation among maternity housing ministries that I hear of on a regular basis! Several factors may play into this, chief among them being our high rate of unemployment nationally at this time. Most communities are facing labor shortages with ministries not being any different.

So, what to do to keep the ship afloat during the storm? While we have a shortage in labor, we ironically do not have a shortage of unpaid labor in most communities! My recommendation is to make the most of this season to build a first-class volunteer program in your ministry. A thriving volunteer program can bolster every aspect of your ministry from recruitment, evangelism, programmatic operations, and especially development/fundraising. 

Keeping Our Eyes on the Joy

by Cindi Boston-Bilotta, Vice President of Mission Advancementparalleltracks
Heartbeat International

I’ve been a part of the pregnancy help movement for 27 years. 20 years of that was spent starting and running a pregnancy center in Missouri. Being in this ministry, I’ve had the joy of holding babies who almost didn’t make it, and the sorrow of not knowing if others had. Now, in my role at Heartbeat as the Vice President of Mission Advancement, I get to describe the miracles of life that you are a part of.

I love this ministry. I love seeing and sharing with folks who want to support Heartbeat and the Abortion Pill Rescue® Network.

We have a lot to celebrate in our work. We get to rescue moms and babies from the travesty of abortion. We help mothers find a way to save and support their babies. We make sure families have the support they need to grow holier, happier, and healthier.

What’s not to love about our work?

Reflecting on the 18 Years of Option Line

by Nafisa Kennedy, Director of Option LineNafisa Kennedy 2018 sqsmall

Earlier this month, Option Line celebrated their eighteenth birthday! It's exciting to think that some of the first callers to Option Line could be parents of children who may be graduating high school this year.

Just like over 18 years a child develops into a young adult, Option Line has changed a lot over the years in some amazing ways. 

When I arrived at Option Line nearly fifteen years ago, we were a developing, yet still relatively small operation. We were answering calls and emails 24/7, but had just started taking on AIM Instant Messenger during 3 shifts per week. We had a paper schedule posted on the bulletin board each week. Nobody worked remotely-consultants would often come to work at 9pm in their pajamas so they could get in bed as soon as they returned home at 2:30 in the morning.

Strengthening the Bond between Teens and their Parents

by Melissa HopperTeenwithMom

In an age where technology is king and information is easily accessible, it’s no surprise that young people are becoming more autonomous at an earlier age. Today’s teens are enjoying higher levels of independence than ever before, and it seems like they are comfortable leaving their parents out of big decisions like getting an abortion or accessing medical care. Although teen birth rates are decreasing, lack of parental support means that teens experience increased pressure to choose abortion over parenting. 

Strategic Planning as Worship Work

by Sue BaumgartenStrategicPlanning

Thinking strategically is not one of my top strengths. By nature, I’m a connector and a communicator, an activator and a mentor. But with almost 3 decades of board service, (respectful of term limits and built-in breaks) and also serving as an Executive Director for a few years, I am no stranger to Strategic Planning. And, I currently serve on the National Maternity Housing Coalition (NMHC) leadership council and we’re in the middle of Strategic Planning as I write this.

Celebrating 50 Years of Heartbeat International

by Betty McDowell, LSW, LASBirthday
Vice President of Ministry Services, Heartbeat International

2021 is a special year for Heartbeat as we announce our 50th birthday. So many things come to mind as we reflect on the original founders’ hearts to offer continuous learning for those serving in the pregnancy help community. While we originally called each annual conference “Academy” we are sure our founders could not have imagined all that is being accomplished today whether in person, online, or in print.

How Providing Alternatives to Contraceptives Makes Us More Credible

by Jennifer Wright, Editor/WriterOrdinary
Heartbeat International

Medical science is truly amazing to me. I’m constantly surprised by how well we as a society have come to understand how the human body works and how we can help the body return to health.

But we don’t always work to improve a body’s function with the knowledge we’ve uncovered. Sometimes, our society tries to break something—like a woman’s fertility—in the name of fixing a problem that may or may not have something to do with her sexuality.

It confuses me that stopping a woman’s fertility—a sign of her body working the way it should—is a solution that the medical community is willing to offer so easily to women with acne, endometriosis, PCOS, hormonal imbalances, and more. It’s so common in fact that, as the Guttmacher Institute reports, about 60% of all women of reproductive age are currently using a contraceptive method.

Even when a woman requests birth control from her doctor for the purpose of sex without children or to protect from STI/STDs, the result is rarely, if ever, a completely positive experience.

I hear stories consistently from women about the various side-effects of hormonal contraceptives. Massive weight gain or loss, changes in mood and sexual desires, intense pain, bleeding – it’s no wonder “green, organic” methods of family planning, like fertility awareness-based methods are on the rise.

But then I am reminded of how many doctors and medical professionals treat hormonal contraceptives. It’s not uncommon for a doctor to prescribe a teenage girl with menstrual cramps some form of birth control. After all, the assumption is that she’s probably having sex or about to start anyway, so it’s a good idea to prevent pregnancy too. At least that’s the reason most cite. (Nevermind the psychological effects known to accompany casual sex.)

It can be difficult to find a doctor willing to explore other avenues of treatment.

A few of my married friends dealing with endometriosis have discovered this. After discussing with their doctors their hopes to start raising a family, they are still told that their best treatment option is hormonal birth control. One was even told her period was the real problem and the only way to fix her symptoms was to halt it.

When the world is so dead set (and I mean that in all it’s implications) on preventing children, who is willing to stand for life and women?

We are.

For these and many reasons, Heartbeat’s Commitment of Care and Competence states “We do not offer, recommend or refer for abortions, abortifacients or contraceptives. We are committed to offering accurate information about related risks and procedures.” (Click here for Heartbeat's full official statement.)

Hormonal methods can serve as abortifacients and have negative side effects for women, and it’s been proven that even barrier methods make individuals more likely to engage in “risky” sexual behavior that could lead to an unintended pregnancy, and sometimes, as a result, an abortion. The pregnancy help movement is committed to other solutions – better solutions – for women. It’s one of the primary reasons I love being a part of this movement.

When a pregnancy help organization provides medical services (STI/STD testing, well woman care, ultrasound, etc.) without providing contraceptives, it supports women more than any of the doctors or medical centers out there willing to “solve” a problem by breaking a working part of a woman’s body. Even more, that organization is ready to give a woman the holistic spiritual and emotional care she deserves to make the best decisions for herself that are healthy and empowering - true reproductive healthcare.

Women are waking up to the dangers of hormonal birth control and are relieved to have better options!

Through the compassionate care of the pregnancy help movement and strong sexual risk avoidance programs, a woman is emboldened to make positive choices for her future. Maybe she will find the strength to leave an unhealthy relationship, draw safer and healthier boundaries, or recognize her own self-worth in Christ that she’s never seen before — all because she was offered something different than the secular mainstream line of “just take this pill," "don't think about it," "safe sex."

Nothing beats the credibility that we gain with our clients when we prioritize them, address their real issues, and treat them holistically without treating their fertility as a problem to be solved.


For more information and FAQs about Heartbeat International's official statement on the provision of contraceptives by pregnancy help organizations, click here. 

Dealing with COVID Fatigue

by Betty McDowell, Vice President of Ministry ServicesUntitled design
Heartbeat International

Recently I came across the term “COVID Fatigue.” I am not talking about one of the many symptoms of coronavirus but rather a collective fatigue we all feel living through this pandemic. We are tired of lockdowns, masks, quarantines, social distancing, uncertainties, conflicting information, and many of us are feeling frustrated, isolated, fearful, restricted, and frazzled. Moreover, while many of us were hopeful in the spring, this has gone on longer than many of us have expected. At this point, many have given up saying, “when things get back to normal, we will …”

Woven into our COVID fatigue is the accumulation of loss. All of us have suffered loss through this time. Loss of incomes, jobs, vacations, family reunions, graduations, weddings, welcoming new babies, and for some of us the loss of relationships through death. During this time when funerals and gatherings are limited or postponed, even grief and closure can be put on hold. Let us be real, there have been moments when the temptation to slip into despair is difficult to overcome.

All that said, there are good things happening too. We don’t have to fall into, or even worse, live in despair. What we do need to do is find ways to live well today, and help our loved ones do the same.

Are you or someone you care about struggling today?

Below are some practical ways to address the struggle, mourn losses, and take steps to a better today:

Do not ignore the accumulative loss in your life. Take time to review your loss and bring these disappointments before God in prayer. Record loss in your journal where you can pour out your feelings and experiences – not only can this be therapeutic, but it can also provide a way to look back in your life to see how the Lord brought you through this difficult season.

Check your self-talk. If you find phrases in your self-talk like, “just give up,” “it’s not worth it,” “why bother,” “the best is over” or any other language in the despair category, BEWARE! We have a spiritual enemy who loves to take advantage of our fatigue and grief. Recognize that while we are in a pandemic we are also in a spiritual battle. Turn to God for strength, and do not surrender your heart.

Choose Gratitude. Gratitude and anxiety cannot co-exist. It’s true. Just try to be grateful and anxious at the same time – you cannot do it! Choose to kick out despair and live in gratitude. Focus on the blessings you have in the present moment and set your heart on the hope for a brighter future.

Tell yourself the truth. This is not the end of things. You are not alone. The pursuit of life and joy is still possible. God is in control. God has a plan and a purpose for you during this time and beyond.

Exercise. Even a short walk can help reset mind, soul, and body. Exercise can help relieve stress and release endorphins helping you feel better and contribute to your overall health.

Talk with friends, listen to worshipful music, memorize scripture, read inspiring books. Find that thing that helps bring you out of despair and dive into it. Take advantage of extra time to find those things that fill your heart. We’re all having to pour out a lot right now, but that only works if you are filling up.

Purposely choose hope. Vietnam POW Ken Cordier shares how he and his fellow prisoners placed bets on when their imprisonment would end. Several of the men placed their bets on upcoming holidays or birthdays. When those dates came, and their release had not come they became distraught and did not fare well as prisoners. Ken Cordier chose a date several years away. He decided he would hold out hope for a future and put his trust in God to get him through one day at a time. Ken purposely chose hope and so can you. You see, hope isn’t about expecting everything to be back to normal tomorrow. Hope is about trusting that God will sort it all out in His time.

And make no mistake, He will. You can depend on it.

I’ll leave you today with Psalm 46, a psalm I spent time reflecting on in my prayer time recently. Perhaps you can take time to sit with it in prayer today. After all, now is a time of opportunity to “Be still and know” who God is and how He can work.

Psalm 46 (NIV)
God is our refuge and strength,
    an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
    and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam
    and the mountains quake with their surging.[c]

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
    the holy place where the Most High dwells.
God is within her, she will not fall;
    God will help her at break of day.
Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall;
    he lifts his voice, the earth melts.

The Lord Almighty is with us;
    the God of Jacob is our fortress.

Come and see what the Lord has done,
    the desolations he has brought on the earth.
He makes wars cease
    to the ends of the earth.
He breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
    he burns the shields[d] with fire.
10 He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
    I will be exalted among the nations,
    I will be exalted in the earth.”

11 The Lord Almighty is with us;
    the God of Jacob is our fortress.

 

The information in this article is accurate as of its publication date (December 9, 2020). We are working to keep our articles up-to-date as changes surrounding COVID-19 occur, and we encourage everyone to check the CDC, WHO and their local authorities as the situation is ever-evolving.

Page 1 of 2