For the Safety of Students: Five Questions for Mary Koss

Mary P. Koss, Ph.D.

With close to 300 peer-reviewed publications and a number of academic awards to her name, it’s hard to believe that University of Arizona Regents’ Professor Mary P. Koss once had to fight her way into the doctoral program in psychology at the University of Minnesota. Her test scores put her head and shoulders above other applicants, but it took a tense meeting with the department head — in which she let a bit of profanity slip out — to finally get accepted into their graduate school. Clinical psychology was a very male-dominated field in the early 1980s, when she was starting her career, and that was all too clear when a colleague shared his idea for a study that would explore male undergraduates’ attitudes toward rape — by having models pose in varying sizes of padded bras and be rated for their desirability and culpability if raped.


The term date rape was first used in the news media 35 years ago this month.


From that conversation, though, came the seed of an idea that would soon set Dr. Koss apart from her peers. At that time, Dr. Koss was at Kent State in Ohio, still years before she joined the University of Arizona. She made a name for herself studying campus sexual assault by developing a survey that revolutionized efforts to gauge respondents’ experiences of sexual aggression and victimization, revealing a higher prevalence than previously thought. Her initial study was publicized 35 years ago this month, in Ms. Magazine’s September 1982 issue, in an article that also marked the first time a national news publication used the term date rape. Both Dr. Koss’ research and the introduction of that term to the national conversation were game-changers in many ways.

At the time the article was published, most rape-prevention programs on college campuses were relatively new and narrowly focused on the danger posed by strangers — the assailants waiting in alleyways, rather than the familiar faces in classrooms or dorms. Dr. Koss’ research, as well as the stories writer Karen Barrett reported from Stanford University and the University of Connecticut for the Ms. article, revealed that many cases of rape, especially those committed by the victims’ peers and acquaintances, were often ignored, denied, or misunderstood as something other than rape. The concept of date rape helped many people recognize rape — their own or others’ — that had been perpetrated by people known to the victims.

Greater awareness and understanding of the problem of campus sexual assault soon followed, but the 35 years since then have seen both progress and setbacks. In fact, as the anniversary of that historic Ms. article approached, news began coming from the Department of Education that Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos vowed to revisit Obama-era policies that addressed campus sexual assault. A series of information-gathering meetings included a group that, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, seeks “to roll back services for victims of domestic abuse and penalties for their tormentors.” Continue reading

Meet Our Candidates: Corin Hammond for State Representative, LD 11

The Arizona primary election will be held on August 30, 2016. Reproductive health care access has been under attack, both nationally and statewide, but Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona has endorsed candidates who have shown strong commitment to reproductive justice. To acquaint you with our endorsed candidates, we are running a series called “Meet Our Candidates.” In order to vote in the primary election, you need to have been registered to vote by August 1. Missed the deadline? You can still register online for November’s general election. Make your voice heard in 2016!

Corin Hammond croppedArizona’s Legislative District 11 covers an area northwest of Tucson that includes Marana, Oro Valley, Catalina, and Picture Rocks, extending as far north as Maricopa City. The district is currently represented in the House by Republicans Mark Finchem and Vince Leach. The district — or the district that preceded it, which covered much of the same area — has in the past been represented by Democrats or by moderate-to-liberal Republicans, and I know that we can be again.

Corin Hammond is running for an LD 11 seat in the House. She generously answered our questions on July 25, 2016.


“The right to make decisions regarding one’s own body is essential to the American values of opportunity and freedom.”


Tell us a little about your background.

I am a 31-year-old finishing my Ph.D. in soil and water chemistry at the University of Arizona. I have a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Louisiana State University and a master’s degree in inorganic chemistry from the University of Arizona. I was born in Corvallis, Oregon, but moved all over the country including Las Cruces, New Mexico, Fairfax, Virginia, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and Narragansett, Rhode Island. Now I live in Marana, Arizona, with my husband, David, and my baby girl, Summer, who will turn 2 in September. We have two dogs, Winston and Hazel.

What kind of beneficial legislation would you like to see introduced, and why do you think it’s important to fight for it?

Allocating funding for public education at a nationally competitive rate will allow Arizona to achieve high-performing public education programs at all levels. High-performing public education for pre-K-12 is a cornerstone to reducing crime rates, ending the cycle of poverty, and developing a skilled workforce that will attract high-tech business development to Arizona and bring good, high-paying jobs to our state. State-funded all-day pre-K and kindergarten programs are essential to closing the gender wage gap. Continue reading

Meet Our Candidates: Joel Feinman for Pima County Attorney

The Arizona primary election will be held on August 30, 2016. Reproductive health care access has been under attack, both nationally and statewide, but Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona has endorsed candidates who have shown strong commitment to reproductive justice. To acquaint you with our endorsed candidates, we are running a series called “Meet Our Candidates.” In order to vote in the primary election, you must register to vote by August 1 — and can even register online. Make your voice heard in 2016!

After graduating from law school at the University of Arizona, Joel Feinman spent almost a decade as a criminal trial lawyer for the Pima County Public Defender’s Office. Last September, he decided to leave that role and devote his time to running as a Democratic candidate for the office of Pima County Attorney, where he believes he could play a bigger role in advancing justice. Since September, Feinman’s campaign messaging has shown the depth and breadth of what justice means to him, from providing legal assistance to refugees to ensuring that at-risk communities aren’t further distressed by misguided policies — and enforcement — that fragment families, criminalize people with mental illnesses, and leave high unemployment in their wake.


“People should be empowered to make their own choices and control their own bodies and determine their own futures.”


One of the strongest examples of Feinman’s commitment to justice has been the time and energy he has put into supporting reproductive justice. Feinman, who describes himself as a lifelong supporter of Planned Parenthood, started volunteering for the organization when he was 12 years old. He has continued to give his time to the organization and served for four years as Chair of Planned Parenthood Arizona’s Board of Directors.

Earlier this month, Feinman received an endorsement from Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona, and on July 12, he generously took the time for a telephone interview to answer our questions about his candidacy.

Please tell us a little about your background.

I was born in Tucson and was raised in Phoenix. I went to Northwestern University for undergrad and went back to Tucson for law school. I graduated from the University of Arizona law school in 2007 and went to work at the Pima County Public Defender’s Office as a defense attorney, defending poor people accused of felony offenses. I did that for eight years until I left my job in September of 2015 to run full-time for County Attorney. I’ve also been a volunteer, a donor, and a supporter and a board member of Planned Parenthood in one combination or another since I was about 12 years old. Continue reading

Meet Our Candidates: Barbara LaWall for Pima County Attorney

The Arizona primary election will be held on August 30, 2016. Reproductive health care access has been under attack, both nationally and statewide, but Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona has endorsed candidates who have shown strong commitment to reproductive justice. To acquaint you with our endorsed candidates, we are running a series called “Meet Our Candidates.” In order to vote in the primary election, you must register to vote by August 1 — and can even register online. Make your voice heard in 2016!

Barbara LaWallIncumbent Barbara LaWall is running for reelection to continue serving as Pima County Attorney — a position she has held for five terms since first being elected in 1996. She was the first woman to hold that office, and she has used her position to bring her vision for the Pima County Attorney’s Office to life. Earlier this year, in a television interview with Jim Nintzel, she said that when her predecessor retired, she ran to fill his seat so she could “engage the community and forge relationships with neighborhoods and schools and businesses.” This kind of community outreach could allow the prosecutor’s office to give children the resources they needed to make good life decisions, steering potential criminals down a more productive path. Just as preventive health care saves money and anguish down the road, so too do programs designed to prevent crime from flourishing.


“The primary element of human liberty is the freedom to control our own bodies, and a major aspect of that is the freedom to make our own medical decisions.”


Despite the improvements that have been implemented over the past two decades, Ms. LaWall says she’s not ready to retire. As she told Nintzel, “I am still very much engaged in this office. It is my calling and my passion … I have a few more ideas that I’d like to bring to the office, and I’m ready to keep on going.” In the below interview, she elaborates on some of the positive changes she has made as Pima County Attorney, as well as some of the ideas she plans to enact during her next term.

Her work as Pima County’s top prosecutor was recognized earlier this year, when the Arizona Women Lawyers Association presented her with the 2016 Sarah Herring Sorin Award — an award that was named in honor of Arizona’s first female attorney, and that was given to Ms. LaWall “in recognition of her long-time support and encouragement for the advancement of women in the legal profession.”

Ms. LaWall’s candidacy is endorsed by Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona, and on July 24, she kindly took the time to answer our questions about her record as Pima County attorney and her campaign for reelection.

Tell us a little about your background.

I grew up in Tucson. My grandparents on both sides were immigrants who came to this country to find the American dream. My parents were first generation Americans and the first in their families to graduate from high school. My dad was an auto parts salesman and my mom worked as a secretary on the airbase. My sister and I were the first generation to attend college. Continue reading

“Instrument of Torture”: The Dalkon Shield Disaster

This Dalkon Shield is archived at the Dittrick Medical History Center and Museum at Case Western Reserve University. Photo: Jamie Chung

This Dalkon Shield is archived at Case Western Reserve University. Photo: Jamie Chung

These days, IUDs, or intrauterine devices, have stellar reputations as highly effective contraceptives. Along with implants, IUDs can be more effective than permanent sterilization, and their safety record is fantastic. We also have powerful regulations in place to keep dangerous medical devices off the market, and the FTC can keep manufacturers from making false claims in advertising.

But a previous generation of birth-control users might associate IUDs with dangerous pelvic infections and miscarriages. That’s because a single device, called the Dalkon Shield, almost single-handedly destroyed an entire generation’s trust in IUDs. At the time of its debut, there were dozens of IUDs on the market — but the Dalkon Shield unfairly tainted the reputation of all of them. With no FDA or FTC regulations reining in untested devices or false advertising, women in the late 1960s and early 1970s didn’t enjoy the protections that we take for granted today. And it was actually the Dalkon Shield’s string, which was made with a material and by a method that hasn’t been used in IUDs before or since, that made it dangerous.


Today, IUDs are the most popular form of contraception among physicians wishing to avoid pregnancy.


We’ve known about IUDs for more than a century, and have made them out of ebony, ivory, glass, gold, pewter, wood, wool, and even diamond-studded platinum. These days, IUDs release hormones or spermicidal copper ions, but these older devices were simply objects inserted into the uterus that acted as irritants, possibly enlisting the immune system to kill sperm. They were not as effective as modern-day IUDs.

The Dalkon Shield was invented in 1968, was made primarily of plastic, and had “feet” — four or five on each side — to prevent expulsion. In 1970, after being marketed independently, it was sold to family-owned pharmaceutical giant A.H. Robins Company, of Robitussin fame. It was manufactured in the same factory where ChapStick was produced, and retailed for $4.35.

Dr. Hugh J. Davis, the Dalkon Shield’s primary inventor, claimed that users of his device had a 1.1 percent pregnancy rate — but that number was based on a small, methodologically flawed study conducted over eight months. In fact, the Dalkon Shield had a 5.5 percent failure rate over the course of a year. The fact that the Shield didn’t provide high protection against pregnancy was a huge problem, but its design also dramatically increased risk for pregnancy complications. Of the tens of thousands of users who became pregnant while wearing the Dalkon Shield, 60 percent of them had miscarriages. Continue reading

VOX: Raising Our Voices for Comprehensive Sex Education

VOX represents the University of Arizona

The University of Arizona is home to a passionate chapter of VOX: Voices for Planned Parenthood, where the new generation of reproductive justice activists gains hands-on experience empowering community members with the knowledge they need to make healthy choices. Their current mission is to expand access to comprehensive sexuality education in Arizona, a state with a high teenage pregnancy rate thanks to abstinence-only policies.

Many VOX members are alumni of Tucson Unified School District (TUSD), and these college students have returned to their old stomping grounds to demand a better education for Tucson’s youth. We asked some of them to share their memories of piecing together the mysteries of human sexuality in an environment in which the topic was shrouded in secrecy.

Anna Keene says:

I went to TUSD schools for middle and high school, both with somewhat present sex ed, but not very comprehensive. I remember being separated by boys and girls, talking about weird smells and periods and not too much else. One of the few lectures we received is vividly fresh in my memory: my friend’s mom (who was also our school counselor) explaining to us that there were “different” kinds of sex, and anal sex was something dangerous, and stressing that “once you kiss someone, they are no longer just your friend,” and that condoms are like gloves you put on your privates to keep them clean. Continue reading

The Best of 2015: A Year of Blogging

Every week, we publish new material on the blog — a feat that would not be possible without the dedication and talents of our amazing volunteer bloggers! It is our not-so-humble opinion that the blog publishes high-quality, informative, insightful, and sometimes downright fun pieces, and the entire Planned Parenthood Arizona family is so proud to have it as a showcase. To commemorate another successful year of blogging, we asked our bloggers to pick their favorite posts from 2015.

holding hands from backRebecca usually writes about contraception, but in 2015 she conceptualized the new Teen Talk series, aimed at our younger readers but still plenty relevant to people of all ages. One of her favorite pieces was about the decision to abstain from sexual activity. While we live in a culture in which a lot of us feel pressure to have sex — even before we’re ready — we all have the right to make our own choices about sex, including the choice not to have it! For some of us, saying no can be hard, but can also be liberating. The issue of abstinence is highly fraught in our culture, but we love Rebecca’s deft and respectful handling of the topic.

gloria thumbnailAnne is our newest blogger, and we have been blessed by her lively prose! Anne’s favorite post was called Abortion: Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, in which she wrote about the growing movement to fight stigma by “shouting our abortions” — rather than whispering about them or staying quiet. Given that 1 in 3 women has had an abortion yet the topic remains so taboo, the issue is largely shrouded in secrecy and silence. Anne shares her own story — and speaks powerfully about why it’s so important to shatter that silence once and for all. If “coming out” was so successful for the LGBTQ community, will it also help foster compassion and spread visibility for the many people who have had abortions?

breastfeedingCynthia was another new addition to the blogging team this year, and her debut post was also her favorite. In August, to celebrate National Breastfeeding Month, Cynthia shared her sweet story of breastfeeding and bonding. She wrote about how breastfeeding her son was the most “rewarding, challenging, frustrating, amazing, and empowering” thing she’s ever done. Breast milk has myriad benefits for both mother and baby, and Cynthia covered many of them in an informative post interwoven with her personal experiences and insights.

Stadium thumbnailMatt continues to write insightful posts about the intersection between the personal and the political. In August, Matt helped herald the football season with his look at how expanding the University of Arizona’s stadium shrunk abortion access in the state. As he so eloquently wrote, “Abortion was never meant to be a bargaining chip. It was sacrificed in 1974 to give more football fans a seat at the game. It’s time undo the damage and give more abortion supporters a seat in the legislature.” Whether you’re a Wildcats fan or simply interested in learning more about this chapter in reproductive-justice history, we think you’ll be fascinated (and enraged) to learn about the stadium deal.

Anna is a graduate student in health sciences who has carved out a niche for herself as our unofficial STD blogger. One topic she keeps coming back to is antibiotic-resistant gonorrhea, which is classified as an “urgent threat” by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Thanks to the bacteria’s ability to evolve so quickly, we only have one good antibiotic left to cure this serious infection — and no new ones on the horizon. Find out how the bacteria that cause gonorrhea are able to evade our pharmaceutical arsenal, whether they’re having “bacteria sex” with one another or grabbing genes from their cousins. These bugs have a unique talent for altering their genes, which would be admirable if it weren’t so worrying!

Harvey Milk Day thumbnailMichelle celebrated Harvey Milk Day with a touching tribute to this pioneering LGBTQ leader, who would have blown out 85 candles on his birthday cake last May — if his life hadn’t been cut short in a senseless and tragic assassination in 1978. As one of the first openly gay politicians ever to be elected to public office, Milk sponsored an anti-discrimination bill, fought to establish daycare centers for working mothers, helped to increase low-cost housing options, and consistently advocated for the rights of all marginalized communities. Check out Michelle’s piece to learn more about Harvey Milk, what he accomplished, and why his legacy is so important to celebrate!

condom and hand thumbnailJon joined us early this year — first as an intern, and then as a volunteer blogger. We loved the piece he wrote about the place birth control has in his life, especially in a world in which the birth control burden can too often fall on women’s shoulders alone. Jon used condoms to take responsibility for his part in preventing pregnancy, and to boost the effectiveness of his partners’ birth control pills. With typical use, condoms and oral contraceptives can combine to be more than 98 percent effective! For Jon, birth control helped him plan his future, complete his education, and forge relationships — and condoms were an essential component of that toolkit.

standwithpp pic thumbnailKelley actually isn’t a Planned Parenthood volunteer — they’re our public policy manager! That didn’t stop them from contributing some strong pieces to the blog. For Trans Awareness Month, Kelley shared their journey to living authentically — a post that was both heartfelt yet humorous, personal yet universal. In Arizona, Kelley can be fired for their sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression — but feels lucky to have found a supportive home with Planned Parenthood. No matter what month it is, Planned Parenthood supports the trans community because we stand for autonomy over one’s own body, identity, and decisions.