#MeToo - Brainerd Dispatch Article

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Brainerd lakes area residents may now take part in #MeToo, a national movement that took off on social media in October when women came forward to share their experiences of sexual assault and harassment.

The #MeToo hashtag was born from the slew of sexual misconduct accusations leveled first at Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein and then a number of other powerful men that followed, according to a Washington Post story. Advocates are seeing the movement as an opportunity to renew their push for constitutional protections against sexual discrimination.

 

The Lakes Area Pregnancy Support Center is displaying a #MeToo board in front of its new location on 315 East River Road, Brainerd—the former Russell Herder building.

Anyone—man or woman—who has experienced sexual abuse or harassment is welcome to stop by and anonymously write a line or two about that experience, Ginny Rogers, LAPS executive director, said. Permanent markers will be provided or people can bring their own.

People have already begun signing the canvas sign. Messages start with #MeToo and include "Boyfriend," "Held against my will by an acquaintance," "Age 5, A true Warrior isn't immune to fear. She fights in spite of it," "At gymnastics practice" and "2-year-old, 5-year-old by dad, as a child and adult by friend and husband."

And there is plenty of space for more people to come sign the board.

Rogers said LAPS staff and volunteers are also making themselves available to offer a "listening ear" for anyone who wishes to come inside and share their story with someone in a safe, confidential environment. It is best to have an appointment, but walk-ins can often be accommodated as well, she said.

LAPS is open Monday through Thursday; and will be open until 8:30 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 22.

LAPS is an organization that provides free, confidential help, both material and educational, to those experiencing an unplanned pregnancy. Services provided include among others pregnancy testing, limited ultrasound, options counseling, parenting education, DADS program and basic life skills classes, as well as baby equipment and maternity and baby clothing. The most recent service added for clients has been life coaching in the area of personal relationships.

Kaydi Johnson and Melody Evens of LAPS said staff were talking about the #MeToo movement and learned how many of them were sexually assaulted or harassed in their life, as well as the LAPS volunteers.

 

Johnson said they didn't want to have #MeToo messages on social media, such as Facebook or Twitter, as actress Alyssa Milano did, as they wanted to allow people to remain anonymous if they wanted to.

"If we write something on Facebook, then people will want more information on what happened," Johnson said. "It's OK if people want to talk about it, but if they don't they can just come and sign the board."

"It's everywhere," Evans said of sexual assault and harassment. "Most of us have multiple stories to share. This is an opportunity to bring the community together and if people want to share their story we are here, we are here to listen. ... This has to stop."

According to a CNN story, Twitter confirmed #MeToo has been tweeted more than a half a million times. On Oct. 15, Milano wrote on Twitter: "If you've been sexually harassed or assaulted write 'me too' as a reply to this tweet." Embedded in her tweet: "Suggested by a friend: If all the women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote 'Me too' as a status we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem."

The tweet was retweeted 25,161 times and there were 53,464 likes.

And the number of allegations of sexual assault and harassment keep growing in the nation. State Sen. Dan Schoen is the latest public figure to fall to credible allegations of sexual harassment sweeping through Congress and the country's state capitols, prominent media companies and Hollywood studios, the Star Tribune reported Tuesday. Schoen's attorney confirmed he would officially retire his Senate seat at a news conference scheduled Wednesday, Nov. 22. U.S. Sen. Al Franken of Minnesota was accused by two women of unwanted touching, for which he has apologized, the Tribune stated.

 

#MeToo

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Come sign our board:

If you’ve been sexually harassed or assaulted write; #metoo

If you want to talk to someone about your story, we at Lakes Area Pregnancy Support (LAPS), are here to listen. No judgment. Just someone who cares. All of us here have a #MeToo story. You are not alone.

Melissa's Story

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The day had finally come when I saw two pink lines. I was a mix of emotions of mostly excitement and a little bit nervous. My husband and I were married in October of 2016. We both knew we wanted more children. I have a step daughter by marriage. We found out we were expecting on my birthday. This was my first pregnancy and as ready as I was for this baby I still wanted to know more. 

I started going to lakes area pregnancy support when I was about 5 weeks into my pregnancy. They offer so many things from "next step" preparation classes to clothing for your growing body. They have an excellent incentive program for parents (moms and dads) who want to learn more. Every time you come you gain a "coupon" that you can redeem for baby merchandise (cribs, diapers, highchairs, etc.) and you can go once a week. They offer support and a listening ear to those who "planned" their pregnancy and even those who didn't.
In my personal experience with LAPS I have formed a wonderful friendship with one of the workers. I went every single week and attended all the next step classes as well. Every week she offered me someone to just talk to about my personal life which was very stressful during my pregnancy. She offered me prayer for ailments and things that weren't going right. She gave me someone else to be as excited as I was.
The day my baby was confirmed that he was a "BOY" she was as excited as I was to pick out a blanket for my son. Every milestone beyond that was a celebration too. The day I was in labor with my son she was one of the few people I shared the news with. We welcomed William into our lives a few weeks early in the end of August. With everything I learned I was very ready for his arrival.
I looked forward to my visits so I'm sad to be ending my weekly visits but LAPS continues to help even after your baby is here by offering clothing once a month for the next two years for tour growing baby. LAPS has so many things to offer and is such a great resource I would recommend them especially to any new parent. 

-Melissa-

Sarah's Story

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Sara's Story:

Karen was my worker who helped me out during my pregnancy. I found out about LAPS by my neighbor since she was pregnant at the same time. Karen helped me learn how to create less stress in my life through talking, videos, and prayers. All the classes gave us a chance to better ourselves as parents. They have awesome clothing selections and baby items to get set up. The best was the baby crib and mattress set which was gently used. Everyone at LAPS has been and had been very helpful and nice since we started through the program. I always let people know where to go if they need some additional help and support. LAPS is amazing.
Thank you for all you have done for us this past year.
~Sara

Ricki & Kib's Story

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Kib & Ricki (Client Story)

My husband Kib and I got married in October of 2014.  In Spring of 2015 we found out we were having a baby.  Our neighbors told us about LAPS.  When we came to LAPS we found out about their classes like car safety and infant CPR.  Since Richard was my first baby the weekly counseling and extra classes were really helpful.  They also helped us get a crib and other things we needed for Richard by earning coupons.  We could use the coupons for those items that can be really expensive when you are paying out of pocket.  Especially while trying to prepare for a baby.  The staff at LAPS are always friendly and super helpful.  My husband Kib and I don't have a lot of family in the area so it was nice to have that extra support.

~Ricki

Sue's Story - Volunteer

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Sue's Story (Volunteer Client Advocate) 

My LAPS story began more than five years ago when a longtime interest in service to a pregnancy center became a calling. Before my husband and I were married, when I was still in college, I became pregnant and rationalized that a very early abortion wouldn't be so harmful, and the timing just wasn't right for us to have a baby. Over the years the abortion was nearly forgotten until one day when it all resurfaced. I was on my knees putting socks in a drawer when a thought came to mind : " Where are you little one?" I was faced with the magnitude of my sin and loss. I cried on my knees for the baby I never knew, and saw an empty chair around our family table all those years. It became clear that my interest in pregnancy centers had been God calling me to service.

I have been blessed to share relationships with young women from the moment they read their pregnancy test as positive, to the birth of a beautiful baby. Relationship, what joy that has brought to my life. Much of the sharing involves helping young women to care for themselves and their babies but there's so much more, like just having a coke and "girl talk", lots of laughter, heartfelt prayer, sharing the gospel, and sometimes tears. I have also enjoyed meeting some of our young men along with their partners. I have been able to share in some of my clients special events like baby showers, a first prenatal ultra sound, a visit to the hospital to see Mom and her newborn, and even a Sunday morning church service together .
LAPS continues to get better for me because it's Gods ministry, and when we accept God's call, we are the ones who are blessed.

Maci's Story

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Maci's Story:

I was 17 years old when I found out I was pregnant. I was still with my significant other, but he worked out of state to establish a good job. My parents had just gotten a divorce. I was still in high school and had to 2 semesters to go. I choose to go to AEC so I could finish school and work before my daughter was born. During that time I found LAPS. It was a great opportunity for me because I was a high school mother with no parents of my own. Shortly after my parents' divorce my mom moved to California to be with her boyfriend and my dad had already moved out of the house. LAPS was a great place for educating new parents. I learned about my options and my boyfriend and I decided to keep our daughter (aborting was out of the question for us). I went once a week after work to earn coupons to get a pack-n-play to use as our crib. It was really great to have to the support of the staff there and how they really encouraged you to make the best out of the situation you had been given. When our daughter was born she slept in her pack-n-play that I worked to get for the first 6 months before we were given a crib. My boyfriend, who is now my husband, just had our second daughter who has used the same pack-n-play for her first 6 months in our room before just recently moving to her crib. Our family has worked very hard to get where we are today. With the awesome support from LAPS we have gotten this far. I encourage anyone to not be afraid and give it a try. They are confidential and a very supportive group

Jessica's Story

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Jessica's Story:

I started coming to LAPS since I was a few weeks pregnant. Coming here was one of the best things I have done in a long time. All the staff at LAPS are very nice and care about you a lot. They have many different programs you can take, which has helped me refresh things I did know and learn a lot about the things I didn't. LAPS has helped me in many ways to get ready and to prepare for my baby. They even helped with getting me a car that was donated by some very nice people. They love to see me and my 6 month old baby on how much she has changed and the new things she has learned. 
If I know anyone that is pregnant I would recommend them to LAPS. They have lots of clothes you can get once a month. Also, you get coupons for coming there and completing programs to buy bigger things for your baby like diapers, changing table, cribs, etc. All of this has helped me out a lot.
Thank you LAPS and all the staff for being there to help and someone to talk to.

Whelma's Story

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My family and I moved from the Twin Cities to the Lakes Area. We don't have any family members in the area. My pastors wife introduced me to LAPS when we found out we were expecting our third child and needed some support.
LAPS for our family has become a place of support, resources and a welcoming environment. LAPS is like family. We are very grateful for having a place like this available.

Faith's Story

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Here's my story:

My journey with LAPS started when I was 14 weeks pregnant. I had called a week before to see what I had to do. I remember being nervous walking in because I wasn't sure what to expect. Kaydi greeted me. She was very welcoming. I had just come from a Dr's appointment and when she stated that they needed to verify that I was pregnant, I informed her that I had an ultrasound and they gave me a disc. So she took out a computer to look at the ultrasound. She then explained the programs that they offered to me and I made an appointment for my first one on one session with Mieke. Everyone has been so welcoming and supportive. I've been lucky to have 2 LAPS advocates, Mieke and Tammy. They have listened to my heartaches, my joys, my fears, and have been supportive. I consider myself religious, but have had a strained relationship with GOD. I don't usually talk about religion or GOD or my beliefs because I haven't been on speaking terms with HIM. But, my journey with LAPS has proven to me that he is listening and he has answered me in ways I would not have imagined. 
I first learned of LAPS years ago from seeing their ads at the movie theater, but I didn't really know exactly what they did until 2 years ago when I started working at the Women's shelter and we had a woman who utilized them. She told me about the program one evening when she came back from one of the next step classes.
LAPS has connected me with Elaine who is a doula. She was and has been a GOD send. She was there for me and helped reassure me that what was happening was in my control during my pregnancy and during my labor and that the doctors know what they were doing. She was also a help to my cousin, who was my other support person during my induction, labor and c-section. LAPS also helped me with the next step parenting classes with Priscilla and Merilyn. They were a good refresher on the different topics they teach about. They have also helped me with items I've needed for my baby and if I needed clothing for him and for myself during my pregnancy. 
Most importantly LAPS helped me by being a part of my support system. I don't have a big support system and it's comforting to have this group of individuals to talk to, ask for advice, and know that there aren't any judgments and they want me to succeed. I feel that having them in my life and now in Isaiah's life for the next 2 years that I get to utilize them and it will help me through as a single parent.