Recently staff members from Big Sister had the opportunity to attend a screening of The Gloucester 18, hosted by the Mass Alliance on Teen Pregnancy. The documentary billed itself as “the definitive investigation into the Gloucester pregnancy pact.” It was the antithesis of the highly glamorized Lifetime movie, The Pregnancy Pact, and it supported the theory that there never was any pact at all.
The Gloucester 18 explores the lives of the girls allegedly involved in the pact and aims at getting to the truth of what happened in Gloucester. The interviews were often heart-wrenching—girls who ranged from tentative to elated at their status as new mothers and the struggles and triumphs that accompany it. It was suggested that the national attention drawn by “The Gloucester 18” was due to the perceived unexpectedness of the story. These girls were white and living in a sleepy fishing town on the north shore of Massachusetts. Teen pregnancy is often presented by the media as an urban issue—or a very rural one—and one that far more prevalent among black and Latina girls in low-income communities. The reality is that 45% of the teen births in Massachusetts in 2007 were among the white, non-Hispanic population, making it the highest of any ethnicity in the state (according to data provided by the Mass Alliance on Teen Pregnancy).
However, one thing was clear: there was no pact; there was simply a group of girls who could have benefitted from the care and support of someone who could show them more options than teen motherhood. In the panel discussion afterward we learned that there is in fact a mentoring program now in place for girls in Gloucester (which is outside of Big Sister’s service area). But teen pregnancy and a mentor’s role in preventing it are not new. The fact is, teen pregnancy is on the rise in Massachusetts and across the nation, and has become almost in vogue again in regard to the attention it is receiving (MTV’s 16 and Pregnant and Teen Mom, anyone?) It’s a topic we often discuss at Big Sister and one on which our social workers often counsel our volunteers (“My Little Sister is telling me her friends are all starting to have sex, how do I respond?”).
We want to encourage you to see this film, to bring your Little Sister or another teen girl you care about. We also encourage you to keep the conversation about teen pregnancy going. Be that person in a girl’s life who is caring, supportive, and non-judgmental. Let her know she has many options for her future and nurture her strengths.