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You Know Her
Susan Dix Lyons is there as a Nicaraguan girl struggles with the pervasive shame of teen pregnancy.

By Susan Dix Lyons

She was 13 years old and had traveled from the coast with her grandmother to deliver. At 32 weeks, the baby could arrive any day. As the doctor moved the wand of the ultrasound across her slick belly, the girl stared down at nothing, her gaze hard and flat.

"El sexo?" asked the grandmother, a tiny woman in a faded blue dress that nearly reached her ankles. She smiled weakly to show a mouth of splintered teeth.

"Varon," said the doctor. It's a boy. He said the girl's name, then repeated it again to get her attention, but she seemed not to hear.

"Tiene verguenza," he said softly. "It's shame."

Within days, she would be a mother. Within days, a little boy would be born to a girl who the doctor said was probably raped.

She lives thousands of miles away, in a small village near the Atlantic Coast of Nicaragua. But she could be from anywhere. Steubenville, Ohio. Maryville, Missouri. Modesto. She could be your neighbor, your daughter's classmate, the teen who passes you in Union Square.

You know her. She is the girl who looks away, whose eyes refuse you. She is the girl who doesn't want to be seen.

On the table, the girl's face remained unchanged. Her eyes were unreachable. The skin of her full cheeks was as smooth as an eggshell. Dirt covered her bare feet, a spot of pink nail polish clinging to a single toe.

I hugged her as she prepared to leave, pulling her close, her baby's life cupped between us. Her body stiffened, then released, just a little.

Her name is Carmen and she's 13 years old. She will pass me in the street. I will look her in the eyes. I will see her.

With a Perspective, I'm Susan Dix Lyons.

Susan Dix Lyons is founder of a medical clinic in Nicaragua. She lives in St. Helena.

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