Attendees at the Life Legal Defense Foundation’s annual benefit dinner in Santa Clara, California received a firsthand account of Julia Holcomb’s story.
At 16, Holcomb became involved with Steven Tyler, lead singer of the Rock Band Aerosmith. The relationship led to Tyler becoming Holcomb’s legal guardian, asking her to have a child with him, and later, asking her to marry him.
Holcomb shared that as a teenager from a broken home, the excitement of being in this relationship, traveling the world, living the celebrity lifestyle was all that she could see.
Holcomb was about five months pregnant when their relationship became strained. Tyler entertained second thoughts about their marriage. Eventually, Tyler went on tour leaving Holcomb alone in his apartment—without prenatal care, without a driver’s license, without sufficient money to take care of basic needs. A friend was supposed to come to assist Holcomb to get some groceries.
Holcomb remembers waking up in a smoke-filled apartment, and discovering that both exits were blocked – the back stairway was engulfed in flames, and the lock on the front door was jammed and immoveable. Holcomb crawled to the fireplace in the bedroom, over which hung a painting “Jesus, Light of the World.” The painting recalled to her mind that God is merciful, and in that moment faced with the terror of dying, Holcomb spoke the words to a song she sang as a child in Sunday school: “Into thine hand I commit my spirit: thou hast redeemed me, O Lord God of truth.” (Psalm 31:5.) Miraculously, Holcomb survived the fire.
When she awoke in the hospital, Tyler told her the doctors were afraid she would not survive, and also feared permanent brain damage.
She was recovering well when Tyler and a doctor approached her and told her she should have an abortion. Holcomb was in shock, and said that into her mind came the thought “You had better resist.” She had always been docile and gone along with Tyler’s ideas – but this idea she resisted, arguing with Tyler for hours. The argument ended with Tyler’s ultimatum: have the abortion or the relationship would be over.
Not knowing her rights, or what she would do or where she would go if Tyler turned her out, Holcomb experienced the coercion that statistics show 60% of women who choose abortion experience. She gave in, and was immediately taken to another part of the hospital for the procedure.
Just before he injected the saline solution, the doctor told her “Be very still or you could be killed.” Holcomb described the agony of the hours that followed, and the lies she was fed: “It’s not a baby, it’s a fetus.”
She came home with Tyler after it was all over, but was not the same person. Her happy, bubbly personality was gone. She would wake at night in terror. Tyler brought her the only thing that survived the fire— the painting of Jesus.
When Holcomb did not recover from the trauma she had undergone, Tyler spoke to her about his own guilt. He told her the baby—a boy—had actually been born alive and the nurse “had to do something.” Holcomb described her thoughts on hearing this, “This is the United States, how can that have happened?” She felt the betrayal of all the lies she had been told.
Their relationship never recovered. Eventually Holcomb left Tyler and returned to her mother’s home. It was at this point, she attended a week-long church camp on the Oregon Coast. She said that Jesus took hold of her life. She saw the wholesomeness, the joy and happiness of the young people she was with and wanted what they had. Her friends shared Jesus with her, and she accepted him as her Lord.
Holcomb shared the transformation of her life: she broke off her old friendships, was baptized, and learned to pray, and began attending church where she was encouraged to read and meditate on God’s word. Eventually she met and married a wonderful Christian man. Together they have raised seven wonderful children.
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Holcomb never wanted to talk about her past relationship with Tyler. It was Tyler himself who made the matter public. In fact, Holcomb’s son first learned of it by seeing the story in a magazine – including his mother’s photo. At that point, Holcomb shared the entire story with her children, through many tears. Her teenage son came to her at the end of the evening in which he had heard it all, and wrapping his arms around his mother said “Mom, I love you and I forgive you.”
About discouragement, Holcomb said that there are many things that look like lost causes, but, she said, “People thought I was a lost cause. God is bigger than our worst sin.” She spoke of God’s invitation to embrace life, to embrace conversion. That invitation was good for Holcomb, and she sees that invitation as the hope of our Nation.