Tigers for Life (TFL) sponsored a lecture from Darlene Pawlik, vice president of pro-life organization Save the 1, who discussed her personal story of sexual assault and her “no exceptions” pro-life stance on abortion. About 20 people attended the event and it was split evenly between genders.
Senior Luke Ayers, the founding president of Tigers for Life, was contacted by Pawlik over the summer, and he arranged for her to come speak about Save the 1 and her personal story of abuse and sex trafficking.
“Anything about abortion is a difficult topic to address, but especially when you talk about sexual assault,” Ayers said. “It’s something that we should talk about, but it’s hard to do that in a way that’s compassionate and doesn’t presume to speak for anyone else. I think that having someone share their personal story and why they’ve still come to the same conclusion is a really good way to do that.”
Save the 1 is a global non-profit organization that comprises women who were conceived from sexual assault or have conceived from sexual assault, as well as other usual pro-life exceptions. They offer peer support to people with these experiences and to those who have had abortions.
“We are the people that people call the exceptions in pro-life discourse. People say, ‘I’m pro-life except in the case of rape, or incest or fetal anomaly,’ but we are those people,” Pawlik said.
Members of the organization, like Pawlik, speak at conferences and share their stories and pro-life perspective.
“I knew from a really young age that I had been conceived by rape, which made me feel worthless than other people, but I also knew that my mom thought I was a person right away and wanted to protect me,” Pawlik said. “The outcomes for women are greater, in most cases, if they choose life for their children. They honor their children’s lives, and they have more of a sense of victory than the people who choose abortion because they were not complicit in ending their child’s life.”
As a daughter of sexual assault, as well as a mother by sexual assault, Pawlik shared her story of being a survivor of sex trafficking and abuse to the people at the meeting.
“In the scheme of things, saving my baby saved my life. By being able to totally focus on bringing up the baby, I learned all kinds of new things. And I learned to protect her from everything I had been through,” Pawlik said. “The only problem with that was that I didn’t deal with a lot of the trauma that I had gone through.”
Pawlik explained that she did eventually receive counseling and techniques on how to handle and process her trauma. She believes that experiencing hard stuff can help people help one another and that someone who has been assaulted can get better.
“When all of it is said and done, I believe that each of us has our own journey that we go through and nobody’s got it easy. Life is hard. Life is messy,” Pawlik said. “There’s really hard stuff, but you can get through it. Because people get through stuff, we’re survivors.”
This was the second TFL meeting that junior Andrew Kinney has attended. Kinney, who shares Pawlik’s views concerning the lack of exceptions to the pro-life cause, expected the meeting to be very painful but inspiring.
“Darlene didn’t dwell on the awful parts or the painful parts, even though they composed most of her story. Instead, she seemed to radiate joy, even when speaking of unspeakably awful things,” Kinney said. “What was most compelling about her story was, above all, the goodness of life even in the midst of pain and tragedy.”