Category Archives: Teen Sexuality

Teen Dating Violence Awareness: A Community Spotlight Conversation

February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness month, and we are dedicating this month’s Community Spotlight post to this very important topic. To learn more about Teen Dating Violence and how we can all support the young people in our lives, we talked with some of our partners at the Maine Coalition to End Domestic Violence, Safe Voices, and Spruce Run.

What is Teen Dating Violence?

Teen Dating Violence is a pattern of abusive behaviors used to exert power and control over a dating partner; tactics may be physical, emotional, verbal, sexual, and/or financial. Each relationship is unique, but in many abusive relationships, behaviors escalate over time and become increasingly dangerous for the victim.

We should also consider what a healthy relationship looks like. Everyone has the right to a relationship where both people are equals and treat each other with respect. Everyone should have a voice in decision-making, as well as friends and interests outside of the relationship. Everyone has the right to physical safety and the right to say “no” to any kind of sexual activity–even if it is something they have done before.

What forms of relationship abuse do teens experience?

Like adults, teens experience a range of abusive behaviors, including:

  • Physical (force used to cause fear/injury)
  • Verbal/ Emotional (isolation, threats, humiliation, insults, guilt)
  • Sexual (rape, coercion, restricting access to or tampering with birth control)
  • Digital (use of tech to intimidate, threaten, or harass)
  • Stalking (following someone, tracking on social media, showing up at work/home)
  • Financial (controlling spending, interfering with work hours or employment)

Are there warning signs or behaviors to watch out for?

It’s concerning if a partner expects you to spend all of your time with them and doesn’t want you hanging out with other people, since isolation is often a tactic of abuse. If the person loses their temper or gets jealous over small things, constantly puts you down, threatens to hurt you or themselves, or pressures you to do things you aren’t comfortable with, those are also red flags.

Text and online harassment is really common; if someone is constantly demanding to know where you are and what you’re doing, and gets angry if you don’t respond immediately, it’s a big warning sign.

The use of online and digital media to control and abuse someone is relatively new to many of us. Can you talk about this type of abuse?

Digital Dating Abuse is the use of technologies such as texting and social networking to bully, harass, stalk, or intimidate a partner, and a surprising number of  young people report experiencing digital abuse.

The challenging and scary thing about digital abuse is how quickly it’s evolving and how simple it is for the abuser to do. Because young people today are so accessible to their dating partners, it’s important to educate teens about maintaining healthy relationship boundaries both off and online.

Are there any resources you’d recommend for young people or adults who want to support them?

A lot of teens don’t think about calling a helpline, but it’s a fantastic resource that’s free, confidential, and available 24/7. Helplines are not only for people experiencing abuse– you can call if you want to know how to help a friend, your child, or a student. MCEDV’s helpline can connect callers to local centers: 1.866.834.HELP.

There are also a lot of great websites out there. Love Is Respect and Break the Cycle both have a lot of information, interactive quizzes, and resources to help teens. That’s Not Cool deals specifically with digital abuse.

Family Planning clinics offer caring, confidential services, and we do all we can to support our patients’ health and safety regardless of age and relationship status. For patients experiencing abuse, supporting them fully often means connecting them with a local domestic violence organization.

Community Spotlights highlight the FPA’s partnerships with other organizations. These partnerships are crucial to the care our patients receive, and help increase access to reproductive health services in Maine.

Pizza and Choice: It’s What’s for Dinner

Between all these Blurred Lines and a rape case where a teacher who admits to raping his (now dead by suicide) student gets sentenced to only 30 days in prison, it’s hard to imagine there are open and positive conversations happening about sex.

But they are happening! And really, they have to.

Al Vernacchio, a 12th grade high school teacher, gives us a new way to talk about sex and sexuality education that is smart, accessible, funny, and….well, delicious. Continue reading

Abortion in Maine — Protecting Access to a Safe, Legal Procedure

This week, we feature testimony given at a Judiciary Committee hearing regarding LD 1339 and LD 760 – bills that would restrict access to abortion in Maine.

These bills will come up for a vote this week, please call your legislators and ask them to reject any further restrictions to abortion services.

My name is Ruth Lockhart and I am Executive Director and Co-Founder of Mabel Wadsworth Women’s Health Center in Bangor. We are one of only three public centers where a woman seeking an abortion in Maine can go.

I’m going to share with you how abortion care works at Mabel Wadsworth Center to dispel any myths or misconceptions about how are abortions are provided for women in Aroostook, Hancock, Penobscot, Piscataquis, Waldo and Washington counties. Continue reading

Beyond “The Talk” ~ Preventing Teen Pregnancy

In last week’s blog post highlighting Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month, we described what the FPA is doing to support Maine educators and students. As the month of May comes to a close, we want to give you – trusted adults, teachers, parents and concerned community members – ideas about how you can help prevent teen pregnancy.

Maybe you’re wondering, “Me?! What can I do?”

Well, there are two words that can start you on your way – listen and talk. Continue reading

The Local Scene ~ Teen Pregnancy Prevention in Maine Schools

Kathy Kerr, Teacher at Mount Blue Middle School, Farmington

So far during Teen Pregnancy Prevention month, we have taken a global, national and statewide look at teen pregnancy.  Now we’re narrowing our focus even more — to the classroom level — to see what some Maine teachers and schools are doing.

FPA’s Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program works with schools and community organizations dedicated to providing youth with comprehensive sexuality education.  Our program’s main goal is to strengthen the capacity of Maine educators and schools as they provide sexuality education programs that deliver positive results.

We promote the use of evidence-based programs because they’ve been proven to change sexual behaviors among youth, like: Continue reading

Teen Pregnancy — How Does the U.S. Measure Up?

Last week, as we began our celebration of Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month, I noted that the U.S. has experienced dramatic decreases in teen pregnancy rates over the past decades. While this is an excellent trend, our teens still lag far behind their peers in other countries.

Take a look for yourself: the U.S. has much higher teen birth rates than other western,
industrialized countries and it doesn’t stop there– teen pregnancy and abortion rates are also much higher in the U.S.

On average, U.S. teens initiate sexual activity around the same age and are no more sexuality active than teens in other countries.

So, what are we, in the U.S. doing wrong?

Or to put a more positive spin on the question, what are other countries doing right? Continue reading

Take the Quiz ~ National Day to Prevent Teen Pregnancy

Here in Maine, spring has finally sprung—the birds are singing, bees are buzzing, the trees and flowers are budding and blooming. It’s so wonderful.

All this talk about the birds and the bees has me thinking about Maine’s highly successful efforts to reduce the rate of teen pregnancy!

On May 1, 2013, the FPA joins organizations across the country to recognize the 12th annual National Day to Prevent Teen Pregnancy. The purpose of the National Day is to focus the attention of teens and their parents on the value of avoiding too-early pregnancy and parenthood. How are we doing that? Continue reading

What I Learned from Project AWARE Teens

The premiere of the short dramatic film Two Seconds is less than three weeks away and we’re busy getting ready for the big night. As I’m pulling together this special event, I’ve been reflecting on the experience of working with a group of teens over the course of nearly a year.

When we started the project I didn’t know a single one of these young people and most of them didn’t know each other either. Ten months later I feel so lucky to have shared this time with them, working together to create movies to raise awareness of teen sexual health issues.

Here’s what I learned from the teens involved with this project… Continue reading

Where Do Teens Go For Answers?

When teens have questions about sexual health issues, where do they go for answers?

Some may turn to parents or other trusted adults in their lives.

Others will ask their friends or youngish relatives, like that cousin who’s a couple of years older.

Most rely on the internet, using Google and YouTube to search for the information they want.

Luckily for Maine teens, the FPA — with lots of input from Maine teens and young adults — has created a new online resource.

Maineteenhealth.org has useful information about birth control and STD’s. And it has links to resources about LGBTQ health, relationships, mental health, and substance abuse.

And, it’s got two ways for young people to submit their own anonymous questions – directly through the website or using a new text-messaging service.

Check it out and share it with teens you know who may have sexual health questions.

If you’re a teacher or school nurse who wants some FREE posters promoting the new website & texting service for your school, contact askmth@fpam.org with the words ‘mth poster order’ in the subject line.

If you’d rather print your own poster, click here for a PDF file.

~ Nancy

Sound…Camera…Action! Maine Teens Making Movies

This week, we welcome a guest blogger — Faith, a high school student from the greater Bangor area.

A group of twenty-five teens sat in a room, buzzing with excitement at the chance to voice their opinion. In public, the topic they were discussing would cause some awkward stares, hushed voices, and very quiet teenagers.

Sexual health is one of those topics that is rarely discussed seriously, but is incredibly important to be informed about. When I was given the chance to educate parents and  teens, I – along with many others – jumped on it.

I’m Faith, a teen heavily involved with a group called Project AWARE. Project AWARE is a non-profit organization based in Southern Maine, whose goal is to empower and educate youth by giving them the opportunity to make movies or videos on very important topics in life.

The Family Planning Association of Maine contracted with Project AWARE to help them create a 10-20 minute movie on teen sexual health, along with four one-to-two-minute videos, called scenarios.

This long journey to create the movie began last December. Continue reading