The Benefits of Unloading a Secret
While in nursing school in her native Pensacola, Florida, 19-year-old Jennifer D. Peterson went out on a first casual date with an active duty sailor stationed in the area. After they ate at a restaurant, her date suggested she come over to watch a movie at his off-base apartment.
But once in the residence, the evening ended with Jennifer’s rape. Devastated, she told no one.
A few weeks later, an ill Jennifer learned at a doctor’s visit that she had been impregnated. As a nominal Christian who didn’t have a relationship with Jesus, Jennifer didn’t feel as though she could tell her parents — or anyone else.
Instead, she drove to a “women’s clinic” an hour away from her Pensacola, Florida, residence. The naïve Jennifer didn’t understand that the facility only offered one solution for pregnancy: abortion.
“Once I walked in, I felt I’d gone that far, so I couldn’t go back,” Jennifer says. “My life was never the same.”
After the worst time in her life, Jennifer returned to school to get her nursing degree.
However, Jennifer dealt with guilt over her decision to the end life of her unborn baby. She felted depressed. She considered suicide. She tried to suppress her emotions by drinking alcohol to excess, which only made matters worse.
Five years after the traumatic event, she met a more honorable man, fellow professional ballroom dance teacher Chris Crawford. In 2001, the two accepted an invitation to perform at a women’s conference at Lifepoint Church, an Assemblies of God congregation in Crestview, Florida. The two began attending the church together at that point and both accepted Jesus as Savior there in 2002. The following year they wed.
Jennifer, then 25, still had never told a soul about her abortion. She never intended to tell anyone, ever. The shy and soft-spoken Jennifer became acquainted with some of the women in the church, but she didn’t want to become too close to anyone. Many considered her standoffish.
“I knew if I got too close to God, I would have to deal with the past I’d buried,” Crawford says. “I knew I would have to unpack and unload a lot of emotional baggage. When you take a life, you put yourself in the position of God, and there are huge consequences.”
Still, women of the church kept pursuing her to establish deeper ties. She joined a Bible study and later received an invitation to address the Women’s Ministries group at Lifepoint, after some leaders learned she had overcome years of infertility to give birth to her daughter, Emma. Although she had kept her abortion a secret for more than a decade, Crawford knew she had to talk about it.
But before baring her soul at the women’s meeting, Jennifer knew she had to divulge her covert sin to her husband. Jennifer says Chris endured much mistreatment early in their marriage.
“I had so much anger and hurt, he was my punching bag,” Crawford recalls. “I didn’t want to tell him because I feared how he would react.” However, Jennifer says Chris responded to the revelation with pure grace.
So did the church women.
“I stood up before highly respected women of the church and sobbed out my horrible story,” Crawford remembers. “I thought they would reject me, but they all came around me and prayed for 30 minutes. I have never felt so loved.”
Crawford’s emotional recovery began at that point and culminated three years ago when she went through a 10-week SaveOne class that offers biblical healing after abortion. Crawford began a SaveOne chapter at the church, and has discovered abortion isn’t all that rare among women attendees. Chris works with men to heal from the aftermath of an aborted baby experience. SaveOne is an AG-affiliated ministry based in Hendersonville, Tennessee, founded by Sheila Harper.
Jackie English, who initially asked Crawford to address the women’s group, has been a spiritual mentor ever since she began attending Lifepoint. They have been involved in Bible studies together and gone on missions trips with each other.
“She is such a faithful, intelligent young woman,” says English, 73. “She’s doing a great work for young women who have had heartache in their lives.”
Jennifer, 42, now is a SaveOne staff member and chapter coordinator conducting East Coast training. The Crawfords have two children, Emma, 11, and son Isaac, 5.
“God’s grace is big enough to cover absolutely anything,” Jennifer says.
Lead Photo: Jackie English (left) has been a mentor to Jennifer Crawford.