Project Connect: Unplanned Pregnancy Through a Domestic Violence Lens

Last week, I wrote about reproductive coercion and the impact it has on women’s health. I mentioned that knowing about this issue can change the way we approach STD and pregnancy prevention work. As promised, here’s a follow-up article about Project Connect: A Coordinated Public Health Initiative to Prevent Domestic and Sexual Violence.

Project Connect has lots of moving parts and I think all of them are terribly exciting.  For me, the most wonderful thing about this project is the way it approaches domestic and sexual violence as reproductive health issues.  The best way to explain what I mean is to give you a couple of scenarios. Continue reading

Unplanned Pregnancy & Domestic Violence: Exploring the Connection

With each passing month I work at the FPA, I gain new knowledge of and insights into the lives of women and teen girls. My learning for this month is related to the issues of domestic violence and sexual assault. I am not a stranger to these two facts of life. In my previous work experience, I had many opportunities to work closely with the people and agencies dealing directly with women impacted by both.

I recently met with FPA staff member Kini Tinkham who serves as Program Director of Project Connect. And, as often happens, I learned way more than I expected to.

Project Connect is an FPA-led collaboration of providers and advocates from domestic violence and sexual assault organizations, family planning and school-based health centers, and minority organizations. Now in its third year, Project Connect continues to focus on the goal of creating a coordinated community response to domestic violence and sexual assault, including reproductive coercion.

Here’s where my learning curve banked steeply upward. Reproductive coercion? I knew what the words meant but I didn’t have a full understanding of the scope of the problem and its impact on women’s health. This seemed like a topic worth sharing with our readers. I hope you agree. Continue reading

It’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month — What’s Your Prevention Strategy?

Last year I reached a major life marker in the form of my 50th birthday. Now – a full year into my fifties – I’m noticing bodily changes and limitations I didn’t have in my thirties and forties. And, reaching the age of fifty made me really and truly face the fact that I’m not going to live forever… who knew?!

And here’s a fact I now have to face — for the average woman living in the U.S. the odds of getting breast cancer increase significantly once she enters her fifties. It’s not something I dwell on but when Breast Cancer Awareness Month rolls around, I pay more attention to prevention messages than I did as a younger woman.

I’ve been reading the American Cancer Society website and I thought I’d pass some information along to our readers. Keep in mind that this isn’t a substitute for medical advice from a licensed practitioner. I’m just sharing some information in hopes that it helps you stay healthy. Continue reading

Why Did You Stop Going to Family Planning?

“I went to family planning when I was a teenager.”

I can’t even tell you how many times and in how many different settings I’ve heard this phrase. There’s the woman who cuts my hair, the physical therapist who helped repair my sore ankle, the dental hygienist who cleans my teeth, and the high school classmate I saw at our reunion.

When I tell them where I work, women love to tell me how important family planning was to them when they were teenagers. Depending on the situation and how well I know the person, I may ask “Why don’t you go to family planning now?”

That’s when I get the look. You know the look — the one that suggests you just said something really, really dumb.

The answers I get, although unique to each woman, are always based on two common assumptions about family planning — two common and false assumptions. Continue reading

Top 10 Reasons Why Evidence-Based Pregnancy Prevention is Better than Abstinence-Only Education

After writing last week’s blog post about Sarah, my new teen pregnancy prevention hero, I realized that our readers might not be familiar with the term “evidence-based” as it relates to sexuality education.

I thought I’d write an explanation. But when I found myself mired deeper and deeper in more and more complex terminology, I started to worry.

How could I possibly explain this stuff without putting my readers to sleep?

Then the proverbial light bulb came on and I decided to put together a Top Ten List, a la David Letterman, comparing comprehensive, evidence-based pregnancy prevention programming with abstinence-only-until-marriage education.  So, here goes… Continue reading

Meet Sarah — My Teen Pregnancy Prevention Hero

Last week, I got to spend some time with Sarah Donlin. You probably don’t know Sarah, so let me tell you about her.

Sarah is the Program Coordinator for the Young Parent Program(YPP) of Youth Alternatives Ingraham. Known locally as 22 Park Avenue, YPP is a transitional living program for pregnant and parenting teens and young adults. Sarah’s office overlooks the entryway of the YPP building on the busy corner of Park Avenue and High Street in downtown Portland.  Sarah has the daunting task of providing support, supervision and programming for YPP residents and it’s clear, as she talks, that she cares deeply about them.

Sex ed has always been an essential program component of YPP.  For years, it was done by outside organizations, until budget cuts meant those organizations could no longer come to 22 Park Avenue to provide the services.

Sarah then found herself trying to offer education that she didn’t really feel qualified to provide. She remembers thinking, “I’m not trained in this. I could talk about using condoms but I didn’t know enough about all the birth control methods and I didn’t want to give them misinformation.”

But Sarah was determined to find a way. After some searching, Sarah connected with the FPA’s Teen Pregnancy Program and she now has the knowledge and skills needed to provide sex ed for 22 Park Avenue residents.  Here’s how it happened. Continue reading

Busy Week = A Sampling of Videos For You

It’s been a busy week here at the FPA and what with the Labor Day holiday on top of the general busy-ness, I wasn’t able to write a full-blown blog post.

Luckily, there are a couple of excellent videos I’ve been wanting to share and they’re just a click away.

I promise I’ll be back with a real blog post next week, but in the meantime here are a couple of videos for you.

Enjoy! Continue reading

Tackling Teen Pregnancy in Rockland Maine

Author’s Note: From time to time, On the Front Lines features an FPA program. This week — the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Initiative in Rockland.

Like many Maine communities, Rockland has a teen pregnancy rate higher than the state average. However, while several towns have seen their teen pregnancy rates decrease sharply in the past decade, Rockland is one of the few towns whose rate has remained consistently high — at more than double the state average.

Enter Keegan Ross.

A recent graduate of Rockland District High School, Keegan is a natural leader — he served as Senior Class President and Student Senate Treasurer. Even as a busy senior, Keegan still felt a need to take on another role — to increase awareness about his hometown’s high teen pregnancy rate.

Together with the Student Senate and School Nurse, Ilmi Carter, Keegan organized and spearheaded a week-long project to bring teen pregnancy prevention awareness and education to his fellow students.The awareness week included lunchtime education sessions, an after-school screening of the movie Juno followed by a discussion about teen pregnancy, and a student survey.

Over 300 students completed the survey and the results are really interesting. Sixty-six percent of students say they feel comfortable talking with their parents about sexual health issues. And 77% of students say there is a need for family planning services at their school.

Keegan’s project at Rockland District High School is just one part of a much bigger story. Continue reading

A Back-to-School Suggestion — Be Kind

Another summer break is coming to a close and in the next couple of weeks hordes of eager learners, from preschoolers to college students, will be heading back to school. And, of course, all of their teachers and professors have been preparing their classrooms and lesson plans.

Going back to school, at whatever grade level, is a BIG deal.  So big, that I felt compelled to say something about it in this week’s On the Front Lines.

But I just wasn’t sure what to say.  I could discuss the importance of comprehensive sexuality education. Or I could write a piece about the sexual development of young people, with a link to our resources for parents. I just wasn’t sure what would be most helpful to our readers.

My problem was solved the moment I came across this — Continue reading

On The Front Lines