‘I was on my hands and knees, crawling, at my college graduation. I felt ashamed that me, a Christian girl, was pregnant.’: Woman proudly receives diploma after unexpected pregnancy, rape months prior

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“I literally was on my hands and knees, crawling, to walk at my college graduation to receive my degree. I did not want to walk because I felt ashamed. Ashamed that me, a Christian girl, was pregnant. Me, whose parents were beginning the first ever pro-life organization in the Bahamas. I was afraid of how people would view me.

My life for the past 2 years had been hell. Raped months before, ridiculed, rejected and now this. A night of stupid decisions that left me pregnant and alone, except for my parents and a few friends. They encouraged me to walk. They said I had done the work and should receive the accolades, and that my daughter deserved to see me in these pictures later in life.

This was not the way I saw my life playing out. My friends and those who knew me intimately could not believe I was pregnant. Can I say though, my daughter was my life saver. She was a catalyst in my life; my days of despair turned to light.

Audra Darville

I finally decided they were right about celebrating and embracing my graduation, so I signed up to walk. I got my cap and gown and told one of my friends that I’d like to sit with her during commencement. It was May, and commencement was on the football field of my university. It was hot, I was 8 months pregnant and in a black cap and gown. I had a bag filled with two big bottles of Gatorade and I was ready to go. But the longer I waited, the weaker I got, so I decided to crawl onto that field!

Audra Darville

When the other students saw that I was crawling they asked what was wrong. My friend told them I was pregnant, so they started to congratulate me and allowed me to jump the line. My parents were worried so they tried to bring me food, but I sent them away and told them I was going to do this like everyone else. I sat there drinking my Gatorades and I made it through.

Audra Darville

When I walked across that stage the screams from my friends and family filled the place and I felt incredibly proud of my decision to walk. Now I have the proof and ability to tell my daughter I never gave up, even when it was hard. When I knew I couldn’t walk anymore, I crawled to the finish line. If I did not give up, neither should she. I am forever grateful for my mom, family and friends that pushed me. It is a decision I am glad I made for not only me but also my daughter. This was an exciting time given the past 18 horrible months.

Audra Darville

I had grown up in a Christian home my entire life. My parents led bible studies and small groups. They are passionate about the Lord and what God has them doing in life. So passionate in fact, they moved our family to Virginia from Nassau, Bahamas, in order to study the Bible. They had $1,500 and a plan to pursue God. I grew up understanding what faith was. There were times when the little we had couldn’t pay my school fees and we would be told that an anonymous donor paid the bill in full. God sent our family to Virginia and He kept us there and provided for us. I got a true understanding of what faith and trusting God looked like. I gave my life to God in 2007 and I was excited about where He would take me and what plans He had for my life.

College for me was the beginning of that plan for my life. When I got to college I was a ‘good Christian girl.’ I hadn’t had my first kiss. I was pursuing saving sex for marriage. But a few years into college (junior year), things started to change for me. I started hanging out with the wrong crowd, and I got connected with guys that were pushing me to give up on my promise to wait for marriage. I met a guy in January of 2015 that I thought was nice enough and I went to his house for a movie date. I was naive and did not understand what I was walking into. One thing led to another and that night, my virginity was taken through rape. I was left feeling afraid and did not know what to do, so I stayed quiet about it. In my mind I thought it was my fault because I went to his house.

The next day when I went to campus I heard people talking about me, I couldn’t believe it. He was a football player and he gone into the locker room and told the guys I was easy and if they were nice to me I would give it up for them too. From that conversation in the locker room, other guys started lying and saying that they had gotten sexual favors from me as well. They said things like, ‘If you get her drunk enough, she will do whatever you ask her to do.’ Those lies became my reputation. From then, I had multiple men, also on the football team, grabbing me inappropriately in the halls and making suggestive comments and gestures toward me as I walked past them. I was horrified and scared, yet I still stayed silent. I allowed people to believe the rumors, because it seemed easier than facing the truth. Along with staying silent came substance abuse and partying. I wanted to be numb from the pain of everything that was going on.

One night a few weeks after the rape, I was pulled away from the party I was attending by another male on the football team. He pulled me outside and forced me to perform sexual acts on him. I was scared and sick afterward. At this point I was left feeling used, abused and worthless. I had not told anyone what had happened to me until my parents asked me what was going on in May of 2015. I told them and they cried with me and held me. They told me I needed to go to counseling and I began the journey of healing throughout that summer. I began to remove negative people from my life and began to get more involved in my church. I had never stopped going to church throughout all of this, but I was disconnected.

Audra Darville

In November 2015, during the first semester of my senior year, I woke up from an hour nap four times to pee. It hit me like a brick wall, I could be pregnant. I looked up pregnancy symptoms and realized that I had every single symptom. My heart sank, I was in shock. I screenshotted the list and sent it to my mom, and told her I may be pregnant. She knew I had been sick for weeks so it did not come as a complete shock. During those weeks most of my friends and family were joking about the fact I may be pregnant, but I was in denial. I even went to the doctor and he suggested that they do a pregnancy test but I told them no because it was impossible.

That night in November I told my best friend and roommate that I needed her to take me to the store to get a test. She was shocked but agreed to help. I went to bible study, tried to act normal, meanwhile freaking out inside. I started to write in my journal and I asked God if He would give me peace if I was actually pregnant. A few minutes later, someone at the bible study read out Philippians 4:6-7 ‘Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.’ The person then said, ‘I believe the God is saying that this is for someone in here.’ It was for me, so at that moment I knew that I was pregnant and the test the next morning confirmed it.

I cried with my best friend and called my mom and my daughter’s biological father and told them that it was positive. My parents told me that they would support me through this. My dad told me that he loved me and will never stop loving me and that he will protect and take care of me. The next week I walked up and down my campus and met with deans and professors to change all my classes to online classes. Every single professor I met with went above and beyond to help me. They encouraged and loved on me. I then told my closest friends. They were excited and made me feel as though I was allowed to be excited about my pregnancy. My parents and friends started looking for baby stuff and told me I needed to celebrate and enjoy my pregnancy and that really helped me to let go of some of the shame I was carrying.

Audra Darville

I moved in with a family friend, which was the best decision I could have made for my daughter and me. I celebrated my pregnancy and decided to post about it on social media to get rid of the last bit of shame. Some people responded negatively but most were supportive and encouraging. I was not proud of my mistakes but I was proud that God chose to bless me with motherhood in spite of those mistakes. My pregnancy was a time of spiritual growth and restoration. My church family supported me like I had never seen before. Those people believing me gave me the strength to be the mother I am today. The way my community embraced grace and loved on me really changed the outcome of this situation that for so many other people can be a very difficult road to walk. I push others to never leave someone facing an unplanned pregnancy to walk this road alone.

Audra Darville

My parents have been a constant support system for me. They always reminded me that I was beautiful, and that God has great things for my life. They reminded me of my dreams and fought hard to help me achieve those goals. They gave me hope that my life was not over just because I got pregnant. My dad is a quiet man, but throughout my pregnancy he messaged every day to remind of how much he loves me and how proud he is of who I am and the mother I would become. He renewed my hope that there are good men out there. He told me I shouldn’t close myself off from love just because I had been hurt, and told me I should never settle for less than I deserve. My mom has always been my best friend, and she has always been someone I share everything with. Throughout my dark times, she continued to talk to me every day without fail. She spoke truth into my life during that time and she never once condemned me for not living in a Godly way. They never turned their backs on me. Looking back, I see they were watching their baby girl dying and wasting away before their eyes and I think their unrelenting love, gracious attitude, and constant prayers are what saved me. A few months into my pregnancy I told my mom I thought me being pregnant was God’s way of giving me an exit to the lifestyle I was in. My mom said she agreed, and that she had been praying for me to have a way out.

Audra Darville

I pray that a young lady in my situation sees that the hard times are not the end of her life. Sexual assault is a horrible evil that does not have to ruin your life. Please speak out, do not stay silent, and seek help. There are lasting affects but through time, counseling and healing, it gets easier. You do not have to do this alone. I hope my story can be a part of the bigger conversations, giving people the opportunities to discuss some of the more challenging things that people go through on a daily basis. I have learned that you never know what life will bring you. It has been 2 years since I had my daughter, I am getting married to a Godly man who loves us both and I’m still sharing my story. There is hope after choices that could potentially destroy you. Being a single mother is not the end of the world and does not have to limit your opportunities. You just have greater sacrifices to make.”

Audra Darville

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Audra Darville, 23, of Nassau, Bahamas. Submit your story here, and subscribe to our best love stories here.

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