Housing, healthcare, reproductive rights, abuse: A local woman shares her story of resilience

Consider this Cape Cod woman’s story of resilience and ask yourself if we are doing enough.

On Being Resilient.

by Meaghan Mort

My story of resilience begins when I was in middle school if I recall correctly (this was some time ago), when a neighbor sexually assaulted me. He asked me to “come here” because he “needed to show me something.” He was older than me, in high school. He directed me under the raised porch of his home and proceeded to unzip his pants, take his penis out, and grabbed my hand forcing my palm to touch the glans of his penis. I remember the cold feeling, and bolted as soon as contact was made. I knew what had just happened was wrong, but I wasn’t quite sure how wrong.

I never told anyone, because I didn’t want to get anyone in trouble.

A couple years later, in high school when I was 15 or 16, I experienced my second and third sexual assaults. After marching band practice, a band-mate sidled up next to me in the band locker room (it was one large room where the chorus practiced as well, coed, nothing really private about it, nor should there have been), pressed his groin against my thigh and attempted to kiss me. I backed away from the attempt and left the room, and once again, didn’t tell anyone. I was embarrassed because I didn’t want anyone to think I liked this person, so I refrained from exposing what had happened. That same year, that same person assaulted me again, this time putting his hand up my sleeve when I was asleep on a bus during a trip to “Fiestival,” a marching band competition in Virginia. I awoke when he was almost inside my shirt, and he backed off immediately and we avoided eye contact. Again, I never told, this time because I didn’t want to ruin the trip for anyone.

A year or so after that, during my senior year I believe, I was raped by a friend’s brother at a party. I was intoxicated at the time, and went outside to urinate (we were partying in a garage loft, separate from the main house so the actual bathroom was unavailable to use.) He knocked me down so I was on lying on the ground and raped me. By the time I realized what was happening he was through and went back upstairs the party. I was dazed and had to steady myself, but for the fourth time, I didn’t say anything. This time, I didn’t want to rock the social boat, be called a slut, and be shunned by “friends.” Maybe I would not have been at that time, maybe I would have been believed, but I doubt it very much given the attitudes that surrounded me – I was “one of the boys” – I had very few female friends so this definitely would have affected my social circle and I was afraid to lose that.

Looking back, I recognize the attitudes I carried then that I have shed now. When talking about other girls, I used the term “whore,” referred to women that had multiple partners as “easy”, as “sluts.” I would like to think a large part of my reasoning for that attitude was because it was acceptable and reasonable within my largely masculine social circle at the time. Back then, sex and sexuality didn’t often come up between myself and my female friends. I started to become offended at the use of such words when I started to become what many of my friends had been referring to as a women. My housing situation was not stable in my teens. I couch surfed due to circumstances at home, and became engrossed in what I would now refer to as toxic relationships, mostly so I would have transportation to school or work (at this point I was no longer in day school, I was in the night program at my high school because I had to work and pay rent and a cell phone bill.) Looking back, these were psychologically, emotionally abusive relationships. Though the sexual encounters were consensual, they were (largely) not pleasant or fulfilling, I traded it to be sure I would continue to have a place to sleep and a ride to work and school.

I ended up bearing 100% of the responsibility for the consensual sexual encounters I engaged in, and by that I mean that I was slut-shamed by many of my peers, while my male counterparts were the conquering heroes, high-fived among their social circles not just for the encounter itself, but for leaving me, or for making fun of me after, sharing our experiences and laughing behind my back. Because of this, I left town and moved elsewhere on Cape, learning to weed out the toxic personalities that I had surrounded me. Moving gave me room to breathe and to cultivate a healthier social circle. I met people that I remain good friends with, and people that positively influenced my decision making. I became a better person, not because of or despite my sex life, but because my attitude became one of more understanding and acceptance of who I am and what I am capable of; that I should not be shamed by my experiences, but that I should learn from them and move forward putting them in hindsight.

From this, I learned what abuse in a relationship can look like, and I learned what I did and did not want in a relationship. I drew hard lines that helped me identify when abuse was taking place, and I learned what gas-lighting was. I stopped accepting sub-par treatment, and I knew that I wanted to be treated as an equal in a relationship, doing equal parts of the work to maintain any relationship I was in. This helped me avoid many of the circumstances that I had found myself in in years prior.

I am grateful for the resources that I was able to utilize through these years. Family Planning in Hyannis was integral to my healthcare, as I had no health insurance and was only able to get birth control through them without a PCP. None of the jobs I had gave me full time hours with benefits, and I had been working since I was 14.

I am grateful that at the time I became pregnant (due to unreliable birth control, and inconsistent sleeping arrangements) there was an abortion provider in my area, as I did not have transportation at that time. I am not sure how I would have gained access to an abortion in my teens, without transportation. I paid out of pocket and it was about $400ish at the time. I know that I borrowed from a friend and worked as much as I could prior to my appointment. I felt nothing but great relief that I was able to access that point of healthcare. I was certainly in no position to bear children, nor did I want to given what my life experiences were up to that point.

And now, after having our son in February of 2017, at 33 years old, I am particularly grateful that I had access to an abortion provider when I was younger, because now I know that I carry a rare disease  which caused our son to nearly pass away at 5 days of life.

After a liver transplant at just shy of one year old, he is much healthier now.  But 17 years ago, he may not have stood a chance, as the rare disease I carry is relatively new as far as treatment and discovery goes. Ornithine Transcarbamylase Deficiency is often fatal and misdiagnosed as sepsis, leading to brain injury, come, and death.

I would DEFINITELY not have been capable of caring for a child in my teens, scratching out a roof over my head, no means of transportation, and desperately trying to work a decent paying job. I am grateful for the small network of friends and family that helped lift me out of where I may have been headed, I consider myself lucky, as many do not have such people in their lives.

I am not sure that the Night Program at BHS exists any longer, but I know that I would not have been able to graduate on time without it. It broke my heart to not be able to participate in marching band in my senior year because I was enrolled in the Night Program, so I am planning on speaking to the relevant person(s) at the school to ask if a learning program with alternate scheduling still exists, and if so, if participation in extracurricular activities remains prohibited.

I will always support Family Planning, and support funding them as well. Throughout my active sexual life, they have been there for me for pap smears, birth control, counseling, STI/STD screening, condoms, and referrals when necessary.

There is no longer an abortion provider on Cape Cod.  For medical or surgical abortion,  women must travel 58 miles to Planned Parenthood Providence (out of state, possibly excluding any coverage a patient may have), 64 miles to Planned Parenthood Boston, or 66 miles to Four Women Clinic in Attleboro.  All of these distances are from Hyannis, MA.  To this end, I am in the ears of my representatives locally and statewide to improve healthcare coverage and access for women seeking abortion services. The dearth of these services on Cape Cod disproportionately affects low income women and families, many of whom already have children and who are already struggling with work, healthcare and housing in our economies.

We must fight against insidious TRAP laws that target abortion clinics and providers, support the full range of healthcare services for our local families, and offer medically accurate, factual sex education for our youth.

I will continue to fight for these things and work with and communicate with people who can help make positive changes happen.

I hope that you will too.

________________

For help with sexual abuse or domestic violence on Cape Cod visit Independence House, or see more resources on this page.

To learn more about Meaghan’s son see Ollie’s Odyssey on Facebook.

To learn more about organ donation and to register to be an organ donor visit organdonor.gov.

Visit Boston Children’s Hospital Hale Family Center for Families to learn about the support they provide and how you can help.

Read the page we put up on this site to help Meaghan and her family.

Support NARAL of Massachusetts.

Support Planned Parenthood Advocacy of MA.

Meet Meaghan and her family:

Ollie, when he was an infant, with Meaghan and John Boston Children’s Hospital, then shortly after transplant surgery in early Feb and a selfie in hospital as he was recovering.  They’ve all come a long way.

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Ollie recovering from transplant surgery Feb 23, 2018, at BCH with Meaghan and her husband, John. Photo credit – Eisley Images

Ollie is home and doing well with his new liver, the family is still making regular trips to BCH for monitoring. He has started to eat food by mouth rather than a feeding tube.  Organ donation saved his life.  Learn more about organ donation.


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