Bethesda Children’s Home brings Pattie Mallette to Allegheny College

By ROBERT LITZ

Contributing Writer

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“By the time I was five, there were two men, unknowing of each other, who were sexually abusing me, ongoing and repeatedly for five years.  Aside from that, a babysitter, a neighbor down the street and a friend’s grandfather.”

Author and domestic violence activist Pattie Mallette spoke in Shafer Auditorium about her past of abuse and rejection from her family and the life-saving support that Bethesda Children’s Home provided when she had nowhere to go to or no one else to turn to.

To prove that taking action does more good than idly standing by, she introduced the story of Malala, the 15 year old Pakistani girl who was shot in the head by the Taliban while riding her bus to school.

Mallette asked, “Could you imagine? She’s fifteen years old and speaking up against the Taliban, and now she’s getting death threats from them publicly, online and printed in newspapers.”

Like the brave Pakistani girl, Mallette experienced the same revelation and call to action, learning that a ‘no’ is all it took to protect herself from abuse.  However, the struggles young Mallette faced were far from over.      Given the surprise she was pregnant during a routine doctor’s check-up, Mallette faced a cruel ultimatum from her mother: have an abortion, or move out.

“I’ve already raised my children, so if you want to live with me, you’re not going to have a child in this house,” offered Mallette’s mother.

But, it was not an option for Mallette, who pledged she would do whatever it took to have her baby.  Feeling angry, abandoned and hurt, she looked up pregnancy crises homes in the Yellow Pages, and found her saving grace, Bethesda Children’s Home.

“They fed me, they clothed me, gave me a roof over my head, made sure I went to my doctor’s appointments, made sure I went to school and just really cared for me.  I don’t know where we’d be if it wasn’t for that place.”

Hayleigh Ast, ’15, explained how Bethesda’s Right Start program is a safe haven for teen moms like Mallette, where they learn proper parenting and care for their children that would not be learned living at home.

“The program allows them to become comfortable with their pregnancy by associating with other young mothers,” said Ast.

Mallette believes that her tenacity, strong will and fight to not give up are qualities which pushed her through her hardship.  Still battling for her own healing every day, she urges us to consider our own story, reminding us that we cannot forget to fight for our own emotional wellbeing.

Gene Wisinski, Bethesda’s CEO, spoke to the power of Mallette’s book, “Nowhere But Up.”

“It really made me think about how that must look, that climb when you’re 15, 16, 17 and pregnant.  What’s so inspirational about it is when you’re looking down that road, there’s nowhere to go but up.”

Reflection upon Malala’s bravery, Mallette says she does not allow things to hold her back.  Mallette explained the aftermath of the young Pakistani girl’s ordeal, and how Malala’s courageous decision to take action  in the face of fear contributed to over 2 million signatures to a petition leading to the ratification of Pakistan’s first right to education bill.

Like her son, Justin Bieber, Mallette teaches us to never say never.