Exhale’s Incoming Executive Director Shares her Pro-Voice Vision

posted October 5, 2017

There was a moment in the middle of August I will never forget. I was sitting outside on a sunny day in Boston talking on the phone with Koya Partners, the search firm Exhale had enlisted to assist us in finding our next Executive Director. As we talked, I felt a feeling I have only felt a handful of times in my life -- a swirling kind of energy that swoops deep into my body and causes me to feel invigorated and alive in a way that I sometimes forget is possible. It is happening, I thought. This is the opportunity I have been searching for and I want more than anything -- this opportunity to be the next Executive Director for Exhale.

That energy has not left me entirely since that sunny day in August. I keep imagining the possibilities for pro-voice in the next phase of Exhale’s story and this opportunity for my leadership and vision to soar within the Exhale community.

Over the past 12 years I have been serving in a Boston-based nonprofit with programs focused on domestic violence and educational support for teenagers. Our domestic violence shelter became one of the first in MA to welcome individuals of all sexual orientations and genders, and among the first to convene conversations on restorative/transformative justice in cases of domestic/sexual violence, following the lead of survivor voices. When I reflect back on this work, I realize it was all shaped by my experience of being an Exhale co-founder and understanding, through the power of pro-voice, that there are no easy, one-size-fits-all answers. All life experiences are dynamic and complex. All of us desperately want to be heard and understood and validated.

It was an eye-opening experience to travel the country this year on Exhale’s Pro-Voice Sermon Tour. I was asking clergy to take a risk with me and to believe in the pro-voice message before they had even heard it; to enter into relationship with me based on trust and a mutual understanding that personal stories matter. In every congregation I visited, countless individuals spoke with me following my sermon about their stories of shame, secrecy, isolation, and pain that they never believed they could bring into the church. Through the sharing of my abortion story which, for me, was completely wrapped up in my faith, there was a possibility of transformation, connection, and healing. Isn’t that what we’re all yearning for?

Truly, 2017 could be characterized as a difficult year. We are seeing a growing disparity in our country, a heightened attack on people of color, immigrants, queer and trans identified people, as well as our Jewish and Muslim sisters and brothers. Climate change and nuclear war no longer seem a threat, but more a not-so-distant possibility. The impact of sexism continues to get pushed further and further into the background -- as though a strong, confident, and capable woman is an innate threat to the world. This is why now, more than ever, it is time for us to continue sharing our abortion stories and weave our world anew.

Our goal with Exhale is to find our way back to that spot at the very core of our being that knows that love, acceptance, empathy, and compassion are the answer. That, my friends, is the power of Exhale and the pro-voice community -- and we need only to find our way back in and invite others to join us. You are worth it. We are worth it. Truth-telling through our stories is worth it.


Susan Chorley and her son Franz

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Exhale is a 501(c)3 organization (EIN/tax ID: 94-3393719)