Sexual Abuse: Trusting Memories

Recovered memories of childhood sexual abuse (CSA) may be as trustworthy as memories that persist from the time of abuse, reports the journal Psychological Science. In a first-of-its-kind study, investigators checked out CSA memories of 128 individuals by interviewing others abused by the same perpetrator, or people who learned about the victim's abuse shortly after it occurred or when the abuser confessed. Over a six-month period, they found corroborating evidence for 37 percent of memories that had been recovered outside of therapy, nearly matching the 45 percent corroboration rate for continuous memories. Memories recovered in therapy, however, could not be corroborated. While not proving such memories are false, the finding suggests they should be treated cautiously. Elke Geraerts, a postdoctoral research fellow at Harvard University and the study's author, believes suggestive therapy can create an expectation that traumatic memories will be unearthed. "Too many therapists...

Cuddle my world

Maybe the first night of your freshman year was awkward. At least you didn't ask a stranger if you could caress his shoulder. But, according to REiD Mihalko and Marcia Baczynski, founders of Cuddle Party, that's your loss."We need more touch in our lives. Period," Mihalko says. Since 2004, his answer to this problem has come in the form of Cuddle Party, a company devoted to throwing self-described "affectionate play events for adults."This February, the University of Southern California invited them to join its Gender and Sexuality week. In Cuddle Party's campus debut, 20 students in pajamas transformed a regular dorm common room into the site of nuzzling, spooning, backrubs and the signature Cuddle Party puppy pile finale.The parties are facilitated by certified Cuddle Lifeguards who ensure consensual cuddling. Questions like, "Can I hold you now?" and, "May I touch you here?" are encouraged, and their website states clearly that erections should be embraced. ...

Ptsd: For Social Workers, The Price Of Caring

Listening to a victim of sexual assault or a survivor of a natural disaster, social workers hear traumatic stories. Recounting these upsetting events helps victims heal, but, says a recent study, can hurt social workers in the process. A study in the journal Social Work (by Brian Bride, an assistant professor at the University of Georgia) shows that social workers face a heightened risk of developing post-traumatic-stress disorder: 7.8 percent of the general population experiences PTSD in their lifetime, compared with 15 percent of the active social workers that Bride surveyed. Forty percent of participants reported thinking about their traumatized clients repeatedly and unintentionally; 28 percent reported difficulty concentrating and 26 percent felt emotionally numb. This "secondary traumatic stress" could reduce the quality of care social workers provide and may be responsible for driving people from the profession, which already suffers personnel shortages. Bride thinks many...

Weddings: You, Me and Poochy

Fido's more than man's best friend: increasingly, he's the best man or a groomsman, too. Incorporating pets into wedding ceremonies has become this year's hottest wedding trend--and one that experts predict is unlikely to tail off. Mindy Weiss, a wedding planner in Beverly Hills, Calif., says 40 percent of her clients now include pets in their big day, up from just a handful three years ago. Dogs usually serve as ring bearers, though brides will sometimes carry lap dogs or small cats in lieu of bouquets. Either way, couples want to honor their animal. "Pets represent an important link in a couple's relationship," Weiss says.Pet boutiques and suppliers have responded to the boom with new formalwear ranging from pooch pearls and tiaras to leopard stoles and top hats. Alexis Creations, a pet-supply manufacturer in San Antonio, Texas, distributes popular canine tuxedos--$85 for Chihuahuas, $135 for Great Danes--and will introduce a red velvet suit this month. Using pets takes some extra...

Keep On Truckin'

Stephen Fraser, 38, is earning a college degree--and without even leaving his Freightliner. He's one of 500 students enrolled at In-Cab University, the first accredited college catering to the trucking community. Drivers, whose classes start this week, listen to lectures while on the road and submit assignments at rest stops and loading docks using cell phones and Wi-Fi. "Rather than driving all day and dreaming about lottery winnings, I'm actually using my mind," says Fraser, a business-management major.As an additional perk, five major fleets have agreed to cover the $225-per-credit-hour tuition in exchange for long-term commitments--an effort to reduce the industry's 120,000-driver shortage. Besides science, business and humanities courses, drivers can enroll in "personal-growth electives" that address issues like navigating long-distance relationships. Now, that's learning for the long haul.

The Classroom: Other Schools of Thought

Since the publication of "Origin" in 1859, Darwin's theory of evolution has brought trouble to American classrooms. In 1925, 15 states considered legislation to forbid public schools to teach the theory. In Tennessee that year, high-school teacher John Scopes was found guilty--in the so-called Monkey Trial--of teaching evolution. More than 60 years later, in 1987, the Supreme Court ruled that Louisiana's Creationism Act, which promoted the teaching of creationism in public schools, was unconstitutional. Today, the God vs. science debate still rages--now often under the guise of "intelligent design," an argument that proposes that living organisms are so complex that some supernatural entity must have been at work.One current hot spot is the tiny town of Dover, Pa., where parents sued the school board last year after it mandated that teachers read a one-minute disclaimer pointing to gaps in evolutionary theory and steering students to the pro-ID book "Of Pandas and People" (by...

No Kitchen, Water Views

When Justin Omps, 28, moved aboard the Tycho Brahe last September, he transformed the timeworn tugboat into a floating frat house. Docked on the Potomac River at Washington, D.C.'s Gangplank Marina, Omps's 60-foot boat boasts an electric barbecue and a thatch-roof tiki bar lit by jumbo Christmas lights--and, inevitably, a trash bin overflowing with beer cans. Omps left behind a $1,000 apartment in Baltimore and now pays the marina just $700 per month. Saving money was appealing, but it is the marina's anything-goes lifestyle that keeps him onboard. "There's still a bit of pirate in the people who live here," he says.For Omps and thousands of so-called live-aboards--who include recent college graduates struggling to get by, retirees on a fixed income and divorces starting over--life on the waves has become an increasingly attractive alternative to city living. While there are no official Census counts, live-aboard numbers appear to be climbing. Marinas across the country have reached...

BOOKS

At the stroke of midnight on Friday, Harry Potter fanatics will descend on bookstores to claim "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince," the sixth installment of J. K. Rowling's best-selling series. Although Ashley Bernard, 12, says she has read the first five books "at least 15 times each," she will not be among the midnight crawlers. Blind from birth, she has always faced a tortuous delay of at least three months to get a Braille edition. "I don't like to be kept waiting," she says, worried that her friends, who chatter ceaselessly about the book, might give away its ending.Ashley won't have to avoid her pals for long. Thanks to the National Braille Press (NBP), a nonprofit publishing and printing house based in Boston, blind children across the country will receive Braille editions only three days late. Scholastic, the publisher, agreed to give NBP the precious text early this time; last week the press--with all 51 staffers and 23 volunteers began working round the clock to...

GET OUT OF THE WATER!

Four years after a spate of shark attacks prompted a media frenzy, is another "summer of the shark" about to break over us? A week ago last Saturday, a shark killed a 14-year-old girl off the coast of Destin, Fla.--the first fatal attack in the state since 2001. Two days later and 90 miles away, another shark tore into a 16-year-old boy, who survived but lost his leg. While "two shark attacks in three days is unusual," says John Tyminski of Mote Marine Laboratory, "there's no reason to believe it's anything more than coincidence." Shark attacks have risen over the years--hitting a high of 52 in the United States, and 79 worldwide, in 2000--but experts attribute the increase to larger numbers of beachgoers, not a change in the animal's behavior. In Florida, which ranks highest in attacks, this year's tally is consistent with the state's recent average of roughly 30 attacks per year.Most shark attacks result from cases of mistaken identity. "What appears to them to be a prey item"-...

PETS: BIG BREATH, AND BARK

Found on the bathroom floor, the 3-year-old victim of a house fire appeared lifeless. Boynton Beach, Fla., firefighter William Drumm administered oxygen immediately. "She started biting the mask and looking around," he says. Thanks to a canine oxygen mask, Diva, a pit bull, survived the smoke inhalation.Once the province of veterinarians, pet oxygen masks have become a valuable tool for firefighters. The masks fit snugly around animal snouts, providing more oxygen than human masks. Best Friends Pet Care, a Connecticut-based pet salon, began equipping firehouses nationwide with the masks last July; the salon raises funds together with community groups and purchases masks for local fire departments. Each set costs $50 and includes three mask sizes: for small dogs, large dogs and cats. So far, 3,000 masks have reached 154 fire departments in 18 states. But pets aren't the only ones who are breathing easier: firefighters can now avoid mouth-to-mouth.

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