When I was 13 I had a best friend. She and I did everything and went everywhere together. Our lives pretty much revolved around our friendship and youth group. We were inseparable. If I wasn’t at her house, she was at my house. Her mom had her baby brother when we were in 7th grade and we pretty much “mothered” that little baby boy. I have always been infatuated with babies, even when I was a really little girl. I remember meeting him in the hospital the day he was born and his little wrinkled toes and legs were just so precious.
The summer before 8th grade, my friend went for a month or so to stay with her dad in a different state. One night I babysat her baby brother and other young brother so her mom and her mom’s live-in boyfriend could go out. Around midnight I started to get worried. I didn’t like the dark, and being only 13, that was a late time at night to still be babysitting. Her family was very poor too so they lived in a beat down trailer that had mice. I started counting down the minutes for them to return.
They finally returned and the boyfriend said he was taking me home. I lived up a hill heading out of town. When we got closer to my house, he sped up and drove right past my house. I told him he had passed my house and he told me to shut up. By that time, I was screaming and had no idea where we were going. He drove down around curvy winding roads, for what seemed like a long time. It was so dark outside and I was terrified. He pulled off the road into some gated off parking lot. It was surrounded by trees and bushes. I was somewhat aware of where we must be because of the winding roads, but I was far from home and really disoriented. He began pulling and tugging at my clothing trying to undress me. The more I resisted the more forceful he became.
I still remember every single detail. At the time, I wasn’t sure if I was going to live or not. I sobbed uncontrollably and begged him over and over to please just take me home, repeating that I didn’t want to have sex with him and I just wanted to go home. He told me to shut up and that no one could hear me and no one would find me out there. I remember looking around and wanting to try to get out of the car, but I was so afraid. He was violent and I was scared to death.
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When he was done raping me, he drove me home and as we winded around all the bends he told me to never tell anyone and that if I did, I would get it. He dropped me off at home, I went to my parents bedroom, stuck my head in the door and said “I’m home.” Then I went to my room, hid my clothes way down in the back of my bottom drawer, and went to bed.
I didn’t tell my parents or anyone else except my best friend — who then told her mom. I was scared every single time the phone rang that it would be my friend’s mom, and that she would tell my parents. She told me I should tell them. I waited 3 months to tell anyone. It was summer time and my family spent a lot of time out on the lake boating/skiing/tubing and everyone was having so much fun. I thought that if I told them about the awful night, it would ruin our fun times and ruin my family.
A couple weeks after being raped, my period was late. I was concerned I might be pregnant, but I didn’t want to tell my parents because I knew they would be upset. About a month later, there was still no period.
My family went to Pennsylvania to visit my grandparents and extended family. My friend Crystal came with me. We rode my pony (which my grandparents kept when we moved when I was 10.) Later that day, I started having stomach pains and started bleeding. I told my mom and friend I had started my period, but inside I was terrified — terrified I was miscarrying. I still wasn’t sure I was pregnant, since I hadn’t taken a pregnancy test to confirm it. I thought I probably was since I knew when my period was due and I knew enough to understand that I could get pregnant from him raping me. Bleeding and in terrible pain — not like a normal period, I thought that I had caused a miscarriage because I rode the pony. Over the next night and following day, I continued to have stomach pains and passed large blood clots. At 13, I still wasn’t sure at this point if it was so bad because I hadn’t had my period for several months, or if I was having a miscarriage. After that day, the pain subsided and I continued to bleed for 14 days straight. I never told a soul. I didn’t really understand what had happened to me, but I thought it was my fault.
On the first day of school that year, we met all our teachers. I knew that day that my English teacher was someone I could confide in. She was a beautiful woman who was strong, sweet and tender, and she said the words that I so needed to hear. She stood in front of class and told us that if any of us ever had a problem, if we ever had something terrible that we needed someone to tell, then she would accept them and help them.
I felt sick that day — a nervous sick, knowing that I might someday be able to tell my secret. Within a month into the year, my English teacher gave us an assignment to write a paper that was to be about three wishes. Being my sweet, tender little self (I really did have a heart for people,) I wrote about how 1 – I wished that everyone in the world would be saved, 2 – there would never be anymore world war. and 3 – “that” would have never happened to me. I didn’t even know then that what had happened was called rape. I just knew he forced me to have sex and that it was wrong. As I wrote about that 3rd wish, my handwriting got so bad that it was hard to read, and I remember being so sick and nervous because I was finally letting the terrible secret out.
The wait until my teacher read and graded our papers was hard. I kept asking her if she had read them. Finally one day I handed her a folded up piece of paper that said “I need to talk to you sometime.” She called me into the hall that day and it went from there — I told her everything. She was precious with me. She cried, she held my hand, she listened, and she asked me questions. She convinced me that I had to tell my parents. Giving her the go ahead, she called my mom and dad from the school.
My dad had a dentist appointment so he went to that and my mom came in to the school. My teacher told her, and then my mom and I went home and told my dad. My parents were heartbroken. They quickly pressed charges. Later that English paper became part of evidence for the trial. Once the man was arrested and taken to jail, the girl who was my best friend became very angry with me. She passed horrible rumors around my school lying and calling me names. Along with what had happened to me, I was hurting so much from losing my best friend.
The next year was a continuation of the nightmare. By the time we actually started the court trial (there had been some delays with our lawyer who was working on a murder case so court was postponed a couple times,) it had been nine months since the rape. I remember looking over to the man in the court room and I actually felt sad for him. I had my family, but he was so alone and I just thought of how lost he was — how incredibly lost he had to have been to ever consider doing something so awful to a 13 year old girl.
The day of trial, he ended up agreeing to a plea bargain. He went before the judge to explain what he did to me, but then began to lie saying he thought I was 16. The judge got angry, stopped him and told him he needed to talk to his lawyer again and get his story straight. So they took the break, he came back out, then admitted to what he did to me. The original charges had been for 1st degree sodomy and rape of a minor, and the plea bargain was for up to two years for a reduced sexual abuse charge. He ultimately ended up serving less than 8 months. Running into him at a store in town, I remember feeling really awful, sick and scared, while my father was absolutely furious. Looking back, I understand that the prosecutors were wanting to spare me the trauma of a trial, but I think a trial would have been better than knowing he was free in my community. I knew he’d raped an 18 year old girl before. Instead of being there to testify at the trial, her family instead chose to pack up and move out of town that day, so the prosecutor lost a key witness.
Starting in 10th grade, I went to counseling. I didn’t sleep well during those years, so I would read my bible and journal to God late into the night. God was faithful to me and He was very close. I had this connection with Him because of my pain that went deep. Sometimes it felt like I could reach out and touch Him, other nights I would beg and cry for Jesus to please just come in person and hold me. One night as I was crying out to God at a little reservoir by my house (I went there often at night to pray and talk to God,) God showed me a vision of Jesus on the cross. I could see the pain and the sacrifice, and for the first time, I felt deep sadness that my sin had nailed Him there. God spoke to me and reminded me that He died for that man who had raped me too. That night, He helped me to forgive my offender completely.
During my time in counseling, I was able to finally tell my counselor about the possibility that I had been pregnant by rape and miscarried. I also told one of my church youth leaders, but her response was really hurtful to me. She said, “Becky you wouldn’t have wanted a baby with that man, it would have been a constant reminder of that monster. God took care of that for you.” Her words deeply wounded my soul because I adored babies. God had wired me to long for and look forward to becoming a mother from a very young age, so I couldn’t accept that to be true that God would have created a child, then taken that child from me just because I’d been raped. After being wounded by those words, I vowed to never tell anyone else about the possible miscarriage, thinking no one else could ever understand. Years later, as a mom to several children, I finally talked with my friend and midwife about what had happened — the missed periods, the pain, the blood clots, and the prolonged bleeding. She confirmed that what had happened sounded like a miscarriage.
Over the years that followed, I’ve found healing and hope that could have only come from Jesus. Time helps, but time doesn’t truly heal — only Jesus’s work in us can over time heal our wounds. I’ve found Jesus to be a comfort to me when I was hurting, strength to me when I’ve been too weak to go on, light when all I could see was dark, peace when I’m afraid, patience when I try to walk alone. I truly don’t think I could have walked through the valley of the shadow of death without God there to hold my hand, to tell me I could go on, and to show me the way.
In the last couple months, God has put His finger on the miscarriage again. With all the Planned Parenthood scandal surfacing, God has shown me that He wants to heal me deeper and especially relating to the miscarriage. At 38 years old, after 25 years, I am finally now accepting that loss and feeling the grief that I never allowed myself to experience. I’m allowing myself to grieve the loss that wasn’t safe to grieve back then. Whether or not anyone else can comprehend this, the truth is, I long for that child. I want to have a voice for that baby, especially after keeping this hidden for all these years. Though I am at home with my 6 beautiful children today, there isn’t a child who can replace another. So I still long for and wish I could have that child who I never get to hold.
I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about what it would have been like had I carried that baby to term and birthed him/her. I’m aware that it would have completely changed my life, that I would as a child be growing up with that child. I also know without a shadow of a doubt that God created that baby and had I carried him/her, God would have given me everything I would have needed to love that child.
I don’t for a second think of abortion as an option for rape. Had I continued and decided for an abortion, I would have only introduced a deeper trauma, a greater amount of pain, and more evil on top of an already evil act. Nothing about abortion would have helped my situation. That baby had as much a right to live as I do. I feel like God has given me a greater passion lately for both the girls/women who are hurting and broken due to rape, and a desire to have a voice for the unborn babies conceived in rape. Life is precious, all lives are precious and all are created and given by God, the giver of life. Last week, I named that baby Zechariah, which in Hebrew means “Yahweh Remembers.” I take comfort knowing that my God indeed remembers.
God had deepened my understanding of just how present and close He was with me the night I was raped. Nothing went from the hands of that man to my body that didn’t first go through the body of Jesus. God gave me a vision where I saw that man’s hands reach towards me and go straight through the back of Jesus before touching me. It was like God was a human shield and He felt everything I felt. In my darkest hour, the most terrifying night of my life, I lay there being stripped of all my dignity, in complete raw and utter helplessness and loss of control, being laughed at and told no one would hear my cries for help, and I felt alone. But God didn’t just watch as a bystander “present” with me, He entered into my pain and experienced what I experienced. My tears were not the only tears shed that night. For years, I would look back on that night and all I could see was my ugly naked body. In my eyes, I was tainted and felt ashamed. God spoke to me and revealed to me that I was captivating to Him. (Captivating is the meaning of my name Rebecca). He told me that He SAW my naked body lying there, He SAW me being wounded and broken, and He saw my body as beautiful. He didn’t have to look away, cover His eyes or shudder like I had imagined. He watched, he felt, he SAW and He too was broken. We were one. I wasn’t alone.
This wasn’t unfamiliar ground for Him though. It makes me think about what it must have been like for my precious Jesus, the night He endured the cross. There was no darker night than that, the night he was stripped of His clothing, beaten and bruised, laid on a cross naked, laughed at, mocked. People questioned why His God wouldn’t save Him. It is comforting to know Jesus knows the pain and anguish I felt that night. He too experienced the stripping of clothes, but even more so the stripping of His heart. He too questioned where His Father was, and He too had a Father that felt every tear, every drop of sweat and blood that fell from His brow. Nothing touched Him that night on the cross that didn’t first go through the hand of His Father, God. He wasn’t alone, nor was I alone. Realizing I wasn’t raped alone, knowing that He chose to go there with me, knowing He experienced what I experienced, deepens my understanding of His love for me. He chooses to go into the valleys with us. He isn’t afraid of our mess, He knows our humanness and loves us in it.
Jesus created us, and He knows our deepest parts. Nothing is hidden from Him. He knows us outwardly and He knows us inwardly. He knows what’s been hidden in the dark and what is seen openly. He knows the memories, the shame, the brokenness. Not a moment does He turn His eyes away. He knows exactly what happened that night, and exactly what it felt like. He too cried every tear, spoke every plea, felt every touch. He experienced it on the cross, and He experienced it with me. And as my Creator, My Father, the One who loves me most, how it must have hurt Him. I am deeply grateful for His love, His faithfulness and His healing. I am grateful that He doesn’t just discard our broken places but instead He brings beauty for ashes. He restores all that satan takes from us. He redeems it all.
LifeNews Note: Becky Dunlap is a wife of 17 years and a stay-at-home mom to 6 children. She blogs at www.the8dunlap.blogspot.com, and is a blogger for Save The 1. Becky says: “My story, for His Glory . . . . Please be aware there are parts that I have never before told. God is giving me a voice and strength to tell more as He helps me process through parts that I’ve kept hidden. It’s in the truth that God sets us free.”