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Category Archive: Mabel’s Voices

  1. Hot Girl Summer Fundraiser and Playlist

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    by: Eva Weitman

    Eva Weitman is a former Mabel Wadsworth Center employee and current supporter. 

    A rollercoaster of a year has left me stronger than ever. A divorce, an abusive relationship, the unexpected death of my cat… all left me feeling hopeless. What I was looking for was someone nice I could find a connection with. What I have learned is that without accountability and regular communication, connection can be easily lost.  (Re: “Everybody Business” by Kehlani).

    In the hopes of trying something completely new and different, I reached out to an old friend who has always been sweet. I knew he was independent and driven and that’s what I see in myself. The connection was there. But before we even had intercourse, he asked to be “monogamous” or “exclusive”, or whatever word you want to use. I liked him and coming from my past monogamous relationships, that’s all I knew. I felt like we were on the same page.

    But then I found myself, yet again, compromising myself for a cisman. Sitting and waiting for his attention, waiting on his timeline. I felt that I was not allowed to speak to other romantic interests because loyalty is important to me. And as we continued to sleep together the communication continued to diminish. The sex was good, but with the absence of communication, assumptions and expectations are all that can be left for judgement. (Re: “20 Something” by SZA).

    I made time to talk, where we decided we wanted different things. We broke things off a week before a wedding we were going to attend together. I guess going to a wedding is a “big step” for some, but others? Not so much.

    During that week, we still had some intimate encounters because I felt connected again once we communicated. We decided we didn’t need to be exclusive to still enjoy each other’s company. Then, a day before the wedding, I was personally asked by the bride to attend. She has been supportive in my rough patch, and I was honored to still be included. So I went alone. To find him there… with another date, unbeknownst to me. (Re: “Truth Hurts” by Lizzo).

    Whatever the circumstances that brought him to make that decision, I am not a robot. Surprise, surprise, I was really hurt and took it personally. So, what does a scorned woman do when she feels disrespected? Find a hot sax player on the coast of Maine to have a steamy night or two with.

    That did happen, and that was fun, but my hurt feelings did not go away. Sex does not equal feeling heard or valid. I still hadn’t talked to this person I spent months talking to daily. I felt silenced. So in response, I made a pointed, jaded, spited Instagram post in the name of sexual liberation for attention (the same reason anyone uses social media) and to my amazement, in less than a week, I raised almost $1,000 for my local independent abortion clinic. (Re: “Nightmare” by Halsey).

    After the wedding, I was left feeling like a sexual object. I felt that was all I was seen for by this person I truly cared for on a deep level. I am completely comfortable with casual sex if there is communication. If you can make time to have sex, you can make time to talk. Both parties needs and expectations must be discussed. Advocate for yourself and ask if you feel your needs are being met. If not, do not compromise yourself. Validation starts from within. Sex can be good, but I have learned the best sex is when you feel most connected to yourself. You deserve the same effort you put in to be returned. (Re: “Say You’ll Be There” by Spice Girls).

    I feel my faith in humankind has been restored due to the love and support I have received for my fundraiser.

    From this experience, I have strengthened my boundaries and communication skills, as well as raised close to $1,000, more than the cost to cover the termination of an unwanted pregnancy, but I also lost a friend. I have learned that relationships can start with a strong foundation for communication, but without accountability and continuation of said communication, it doesn’t mean anything in the long run. No love is wasted and once again, I have gained strength from my heartache. (Re: “Thank You, Next” by Ariana Grande).

    If you have ever found yourself in a similar confusing place while dating, check out this playlist of empowering, unapologetic artists that helped me get through it: https://open.spotify.com/playlist/5UYE2SdSo7GWbn8IFZEVgL?si=2c32cefc9ae04190

     

  2. July 2019: Shark Week Stories

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    “I thought I was dying. People had said that you’ll see a little blood. No one tells you that your first period may be clumpy, brownish, and terrifying. I was so scared and ashamed that I didn’t tell anyone, and didn’t realize until two months later when I did see “normal” blood that it was my first period.

    No one should feel as alone and scared as I felt.

    I have taken this lesson of shame and terror and I answer my young daughter’s questions honestly, I use anatomical names for body parts, and I wholeheartedly try to normalize the spectrum of reproductive health experiences.”

    Submitted Anonymously

     

    “I still remember the first time I had ever heard about Periods. I was in either third or fourth grade and in an after school program at my local YMCA. One of my friends had recently had the puberty and growing up talk with her mom and brought this subject up to our friend group. I remember being so horrified at the thought that I would literally bleed one week out of every month “down there” because, honestly, it sounded a little gruesome.

    After airing our pre-pubescent disgust, my friends and I rushed to the bathroom as a group and went into the giant disability stall together to check to see if we were bleeding. (For the record, none of us miraculously started our periods in that moment.)

    I pretty much forgot about that experience until I started menstruating in middle school. I remember thinking to myself, “huh. That’s really not as much blood as we thought.” And that was that.”

    Submitted by Nik Sparlin (they/them/theirs)

  3. As a survivor, I firmly stand with Dr. Christine Blasey Ford

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    Nik Sparlin spoke at our press event and rally to support Dr. Christine Blasey Ford and stop Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination on September 20, 2018, outside Senator Collins’ office in Bangor. 

    Thank you all for being here today in support of survivors and in using your time to take a stance against the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court of the United States.

    My name is Nik Sparlin. I am 25 years old, a current student, an active participant and member of the Queer community, a feminist, and a survivor of multiple instances of sexual violence.

    I first experienced trauma at the hands of my biological father when I was three years old -an important time in childhood development when we begin to form the basis for the people we will become through our experiences. During my formative years, my father used physically abusive tactics in order to silence me through grooming, a process through which a predator isolates and gains the secrecy of a victim through various tactics in order to initiate sexual abuse and control.

    There is much that I am happy to never remember because of how early the instances of sexual and physical abuse occurred, but the pieces that I do remember will always follow me.

    Trauma is pervasive and lasting, though it ebbs and flows on any given day. It affects how we relate to others, with the world, and how we relate to ourselves. My childhood trauma greatly affected my levels of self-esteem and self-worth, creating a vulnerability that could be exploited in the wrong hands: I couldn’t love myself enough to advocate for myself, or to think that my story was worth telling.

    Seventeen years later, I was sexually assaulted by a partner that I trusted when I was under the influence and could not give my consent. The memories of what happened that night are hazy at best, and the thought of them makes me sick to my stomach. I remember being rendered useless on the couch for what felt like hours, and eventually being taken to my house by him, still incoherent. I remember pieces of my assault and how strange my head felt when I was jostled and manipulated on my own bed. But what I remember most is waking up the next morning with the confusing feelings of betrayal, conflict, and guilt; I felt like it was my fault because I couldn’t remember if I had explicitly said “no.”

    There are many people who would be happy to rest the blame on me for what happened that night. They will say that it was my fault for being too high and my consent was somehow “implied” because I was assaulted by someone that I was seeing. They will say that I am lying because I can’t remember all of the details and because I never reported it or shared my story until now, when even saying things like these makes survivors like me fearful to come forward with our experiences.

    It is truly astounding to me that in the era of #metoo, decades after Anita Hill and the “Year of the Woman,” that we still have issues trusting and believing survivors. Being a survivor, someone who has had to reconcile with the pervasive trauma of abuse and assault, this is something I cannot abide by, and it is why I am sharing my story today -because this has happened time and time again to too many people.

    As a survivor, I am here to tell anyone who has faced sexual violence that I hear you and I believe you, no matter what gender you are, who you are attracted to, how you were dressed, what substances you may or may not have been under the influence of, or if you didn’t report your assault.

    As a survivor, I firmly stand with Dr. Christine Blasey Ford as she faces retaliation and an onslaught of threats from being forced to come forward publicly with her allegations against Brett Kavanaugh.

    And as a survivor, I am calling on Senator Susan Collins and the rest of our political leaders to believe Dr. Ford and to take her allegations seriously because recounting these stories is a difficult and truly courageous act.

    Thank you.

  4. There aren’t women who have abortions and women who have babies

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    One of our favorite quotes hanging in our clinic says “There aren’t women who have abortions and women who have babies. These are the same women at different points in their lives.”

    After reading Jessi Leigh Swenson’s op-ed, posted in full below, we invited her to share her story here because it so beautifully illustrates this point. Some people have abortions because they aren’t ready to parent and then go on to have children. Nearly 60% of all people seeking abortion care already have children and decide to have an abortion so they are able to take care of the children they already have.

    Sharing our stories is a powerful way to educate people about the realities of women’s experiences and show our policymakers the impact their decisions have for Maine people.

    Of the time when she called Mabel Wadsworth Center as a teen, Jessi says:

    “I remember the person I spoke with being so kind and compassionate to scared teenage me. It really meant a lot to me, and still does.”

     

    We are so grateful to women like Jessi who are working to implement policies that support women’s health and reproductive rights at the national level. Best wishes to Jessi as she prepares to welcome her first child!

    Women need Susan Collins to stand up for their reproductive rights

    by Jessi Leigh Swenson

    I am a proud Maine girl: hardworking, strong morals and family values, laid back, and happier in a flannel than a blouse. And this Maine girl is happy to share that I am six months pregnant with a planned, wanted pregnancy. I am in a wonderful, supportive relationship with an amazing man.

    Both of us achieved our educational dreams. We have good jobs and are financially secure. We are ready to be the parents we want to be. We have health insurance and work for employers committed to helping workers balance work and family.

    I am lucky to be having the beautiful pregnancy experience that all women and families deserve.

     

    Like so many Maine girls, I would not be where I am today if it weren’t for many years of hard work, living through lean times and making ends meet. I worked multiple jobs through high school to save money for college, and then continued that hard work into law school — even house cleaning and gardening, when times were spare.

    And I would not be where I am today if I had been denied access to abortion when I needed it.

    As a senior at Hampden Academy, my future was laid out ahead of me. I’d been accepted to college with a scholarship, as I’d always dreamed. I was going to study and become a writer, a lawyer or a teacher. Who knew what I could become?

    And then one day I realized my period was over a week late. Time froze. I called Mabel Wadsworth Center in Bangor, my voice shaking, and asked about how much an abortion was. I asked about how one might set up an appointment. I thought about my hard-earned savings account and checked the balance. I thought about my college acceptance letter.

    As it turned out, I wasn’t pregnant. But that moment is etched in my mind as a potential turning point that so many young women in Maine have faced or will face.

    I later experienced an unintended pregnancy at another turning point in my life. I was in my mid-20s and was about to start studying for the LSAT in addition to my multiple jobs. I knew abortion was the right decision for me, and I was lucky to scrape the money together and get the care I needed. Two years later, I started law school.

    In either of these situations, if I had been denied access to abortion, my ability to start a family as I am now — with all the supports I need to keep myself and my family strong — would have been jeopardized.

     

    Picture this in a different light. Picture your friend, daughter, neighbor or classmate facing an unintended pregnancy at a similar time in their life. Picture them having their sights on a secure future for themselves and their family, no matter what that looks like for them.

    Now picture Brett Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court. Kavanaugh passes President Donald Trump’s litmus test. This means that if confirmed, Kavanaugh would undo Roe v. Wade’s protection of legal abortion.

    Beyond Trump’s promise to appoint justices who would overturn Roe, Kavanaugh went out of his way last year to praise former Chief Justice William Rehnquist’s dissent in Roe. Kavanaugh also recently voted to prevent a young immigrant woman from accessing the abortion care she wanted, arguing for a delay in her release that could have made it too late for her to legally access abortion.

    If Roe is overturned, people like me will be denied the ability to choose when and whether to parent. They may be forced into parenthood before they are ready and defer their dreams, and they are more likely to descend into or remain in poverty.

     

    I share my story because sometimes it seems like this Supreme Court seat is all about political talking points and legal mumbo jumbo, but I know my fellow Mainers see through that. Really this Supreme Court fight is about people’s ability to live and parent on their terms. The stakes are high, and they are right in front of you — Maine girls like your neighbors, daughters, nieces, cousins, classmates. Their lives will be impacted by a Kavanaugh confirmation.

    I urge you to speak out, and tell Sen. Susan Collins that for her and for all the other current and future Maine girls, she must vote no.

    Jessi Leigh Swenson, a Hampden native, is senior policy counsel at the National Partnership for Women & Families and lives in Arlington, Virginia.

    This op-ed was originally published by the Bangor Daily News on July 26, 2018.

  5. No One Can Fire Me

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    By Susan E. Davies

    I got the report in Cambridge, MA, in the spring of 1972, 45 years ago.  With other chaperones, I’d taken the church youth group to Bean Town to see a Red Sox game, go to the Science Museum, worship in Quaker silence, and explore.  When we visited Pat’s apartment Friday afternoon, I left her a urine sample.  When we returned to Pat’s Sunday morning before the Quaker meeting, she gave me the news.  I was 29, in a new position with an upper-middle-class commuter congregation as Director of Christian Education, and suddenly pregnant.

    The date rape had happened about two months earlier, at 4 a.m. on my sofa.  He knew I was off the pill after 12 years, and I hadn’t had a period since that night.  I didn’t have the language of “date rape” in the early 70s, so I blamed myself for “letting it happen”.

    I was a young recently divorced woman in a time when that was not socially acceptable in white churches. I had told the search committee about my marital status (over the objections of the senior minister), but the congregation did not know I was a divorcee (secrets live in many places).  I had been at the church about 10 months, and they surely would have fired me if they’d known I was pregnant, let alone planning to have an abortion.  The senior minister would have led the lynch mob.

    Abortions were legal in New York State then, thank God, the stars, and all the people who worked to pass that law!  I strongly supported women’s rights to an abortion, and now, terrified, I was having to live what I believed.  Pat’s sister lived in Syracuse and knew of a good clinic there.  I took the information home with me along with the youth group, furious with the man who had impregnated me.  I was afraid someone at the church would find out, or that he would tell someone in the community.

    I called the man, told him the situation, and that he was responsible for getting me to Syracuse and paying for the whole process.  He was a pilot for Clairol (I stopped using their products), fifteen years older than I, and knew perfectly well what he was doing on that long night.  He wanted me to marry him and this was his way to make it happen.

    It took me 42 years to realize why he had done it, and in the spring two years ago my guilt about “letting it happen” was suddenly released.  As a childhood and teenage incest and other sexual abuse survivor, guilt and shame are constant potential and actual distortions in my psyche, and the realization was a great relief.  It wasn’t my fault.

    I made the appointment, based on his flight schedule. He went with me on the flight, made the hotel arrangements, and couldn’t understand why I didn’t want to have sex the night before the procedure because “It’s safe now”!  When I checked in at the clinic they wanted to know my occupation.  I hesitated because it was church-related.  She said, “Oh, we’ve had nuns here.  Don’t worry.”  The D&C was simple, relatively painless, and I was up and out fairly quickly.  We flew back, he took me home, and that was that.

    I went to the office the next day, then flew to my home town to “counsel” my older brother and his wife about their marriage, flew back, turned up to assist in the Sunday service, still bleeding slightly, did the youth group meeting that evening, all without further ado.  Several weeks later the date rapist came over to my home with a hand saw to cut up the painting on wood he had made of me.  And I told no one, except Pat.

    After the abortion was over I felt immense relief.  No guilt.  My position in the church was no longer threatened, my life was free to move forward, and I was ordained a year later.

    But the fear of public shame has lasted all these years.  Since my work continued in congregations and theological education until I retired, I have never until now spoken publicly about my experience, although I’ve spoken and acted for women’s abortion rights as well as other justice issues.  I speak now because no one can fire me, this is a crucial issue, and supporting other women who face unwanted, often abusive, pregnancies is essential for all of us.

    Today I am immensely grateful that a 29 year old white middle class woman, still recovering from divorce and caught in a terrifying situation, had the option of a legal abortion a year before Roe v. Wade.  Without my friend in Cambridge, I don’t know what I would have done.  I knew that abortion was legal in New York, but had no idea how to find out where and how to have it done (no internet!).  Pat probably saved my future, and I wish I could tell her that now.  My only other option would have been to tell my father (one of my abusers), who would have paid to fly me to a Caribbean island for an abortion, as he had for my brother’s girlfriend.  That was not a pleasant idea nor might it have been as medically safe.

    Today, as the Right closes down options for all women, particularly low-income women, women of color and Native women, Mabel Wadsworth Center’s work continues to be crucial.  I am so glad I was a small part in starting what has become an essential part of our regional support for all women in Maine. Thank you, for the Voices Project.  It is one more thing you/we are doing to bring justice and essential connections for women.