It was a typical Saturday night and I was babysitting for a great family with two little kids that I loved. They had fallen asleep and I had dozed off on the living room sofa. I was twenty-two years old.

And then the unforgettable and unforgivable happened. I will never forget the fear, pain and terror of being held at knifepoint. Of being bound and gagged and threats of killing the babies I was babysitting. Wanting to scream, but not being able to make a sound; being forced to do the unthinkable by an intruder I never knew.

That horrible night resulted in the birth of my twin daughtersWhen the people I was babysitting for returned and found me, they immediately called the police. But I felt more harassed than helped. Back in the 1960's, it was thought by many that women who were raped probably "asked for it"; and I was told that since I was pretty, I probably had enticed him somehow! Then they finally said there had been reports of a bunch of other rapes in the area, but it was probably someone from across the Canadian border. I doubt they ever pursued it any further.

Why am I sharing this? Because out of that brutal act which was supposed to be an act of love, but was its complete antithesis, created what was to become my greatest love in the world. That horrible night resulted in the birth of my twin daughters.

I remember my parents being appalled at the thought of me first being raped, then being pregnant — especially pregnant and single. It would bring shame on the family, I was told. I was given the option of a backstreet abortion. But I would have none of it. I could not even entertain the idea of ending a life, regardless of how it was conceived. So I endured and I lived at home.

Nine months later I gave birth to the most wonderful and beautiful twins. One was absolutely robust and healthy at 6 lbs 15 oz; the other was born with respiratory problems at 4 lbs 10 oz. She was kept in the Neonatal ICU for thirty days. Back then, parents could not enter the NICU for any reason. So I had to wait an entire month before I could hold my baby.

"How do you raise children borne of a rape?" you might ask. With the same love and attention as any other child, that's how. Children come into this world not knowing anything about love or hate. It's up to the parent(s) to teach them through their example.

I raised these two by myself. No child support, no welfare assistance. Just me, myself, and I. I made certain to tell them as often as possible that I loved them. When they had a hard time in school (the children would make fun of them because they "had no dad"), I told them I had enough love for two parents.

I remember a time when finances were tight. One child mentioned to my father that she really wanted to have a bike, but I didn't have the money. He told her that if I loved her, I would just buy the bike. Her response was: "No Pappy. Mom loves us a lot. And she does buy us stuff. She always buys us what we need. She buys us what we want when she has the money." I was really proud of her for she had learned the difference between necessity and desire. That's a lesson many adults have difficulty understanding.

They wanted to know who their father was, and I felt they were readyTimes weren't always easy. There was the time I had back surgery and was out of work for two years. We had to go on "Aid for Dependant Children" and Food Stamps. I took advantage of the time off work to further my education. And when I finally got the okay from my physician, I did my clinical rotation and received my degree in nursing.

Another difficult time was when I decided it was time to tell my children about their conception. They wanted to know who their father was, and I felt they were ready to listen. They were twelve at the time, yet mature for their age. So I sat them down and told them what happened (leaving out the details, of course). They cried, and so did I. I think we bonded even more at that point. I assured them that if anything ever happened to them they could come and talk to me about it and we would face it together.

I learned during that time that I could sew clothes for my children, so they always looked nice. We learned to plant a garden and can food for the winter. Most important of all, we did it together as a team. They were the only kids in high school (it was a small school) who begged me to go with them to Six Flags Amusement Park! What sixteen-year-old wants their mother coming along!?

Although I sometimes doubted my success as a single mother, there are continuing signs that I didn't do too bad a job with the girls. Now, years later, both my daughters have had their jobs for over fifteen years, so I know good work ethics were passed on to them. They have both become parents themselves and have blessed me with three gorgeous grandchildren between them. They are raising their children with the same rules I set for them. And now with my grandchildren, I see my days of teaching are not over. In fact, I believe they may have just begun.

That fateful night I thought my world had come to an end. But something that began so frightfully in a dark room, thirty-nine years ago, resulted in my beautiful, healthy and happy daughters and grandchildren. If it weren't for having faith in our wonderful Creator, and knowing that He heard all my prayers – and I prayed a lot! – I don't know how I would have made it through.

But I decided then that I had two choices: I could allow the hate I felt for my attacker to define the rest of my life, or I could allow my love for life to define me. And the moment I found out that I was going to be bringing two more lives into this world, there was no longer a question. I chose love, and I have been blessed since that day with an abundance of it in my life!


Editor's Note: Below are some of the many organizations working to prevent abuse and help survivors of abuse to heal. This list was orginally compiled by Miriam Karp for a related article on abuse:

The SOVRI Helpline is an anonymous and confidential helpline staffed by trained volunteers who provide help, information, support, and referrals to survivors of abuse. We don't have caller ID. Our volunteers are trained to understand the dynamics of sexual abuse. They also have training in listening and counseling skills, emergency department protocol, legal protocol, post-traumatic stress disorder, domestic abuse, childhood sexual abuse and incest, and recommending appropriate resources. Our volunteers are supervised by licensed social workers with extensive experience in dealing with these issues. SOVRI Helpline is under the auspices of Beth Israel Medical Center in Manhattan.

The helpline is open Monday-Thursday 9:30am-5:30pm and Friday 9:30am-1:30pm. The phone number is (212)844-1495.

Shalom Task Force Hotline provides information on rabbinic, legal and counseling services for victims of abuse in the Jewish community. (888)883-2323.

Faith Trust Institute is a clearinghouse for information on domestic violence and clergy abuse in the Jewish community. Faithtrustinstitute.org.

Jsafe: The Jewish Institute Supporting An Abuse Free Environment is an organization led by Rabbi Mark Dratch, which provides a certification program for communal institutions, publications and educational initiatives. Jsafe.org

Ohel Children's Home and Family Services of Brooklyn, NY, has therapy and treatment programs for both victims and perpetrators, sensitive to Jewish needs. (800)603-OHEL

The Awareness Center is a coalition of Jewish mental health practitioners dedicated to building awareness in the Jewish community. They also offer an extensive online collection of articles on issues affecting survivors of sexual abuse. Awarenesscenter.org

Association of Jewish Family and Children Services (AJFCA). (800)634-7346. ajfca@ajfca.org

National Center for Victims of Crime (800)FYI-CALL.

National Child Abuse Hotline (800)4-A-CHILD.

National Hotline for Victims of Sexual Assault (800)656-HOPE.

National Organization for Victim Assistance (800)TRY-NOVA.

Find Jewish resources by state at jewishwomen.org/directory/state_res.htm

Sources for internet and general safety include kidsafe.com

Much additional information is readily available online, through family service agencies, and in the library.