From Mourning to Dancing
One out of every six women will be sexually assaulted in her lifetime. Rape survivor Rosemary Trible, wife of former U.S. Congressman and Senator Paul Trible, talks about her journey to healing.
About the Guest
One out of every six women will be sexually assaulted in her lifetime. Rape survivor Rosemary Trible, wife of former U.S. Congressman and Senator Paul Trible, talks about her journey to healing.
One out of every six women will be sexually assaulted in her lifetime.
From Mourning to Dancing
Bob: There are events in life that can leave us paralyzed with fear. In Rosemary Trible’s case, it was a brutal attack that ended in rape. But as she has shared her own story, she’s heard from others who have found themselves gripped by fear for other reasons.
Rosemary: This is across culture, across female and male, and it’s something that we as families need to say, “Enough is enough!” That’s why I’m willing to fight and to be vulnerable and to share this story so that others can find the freedom that I found. I call my walk a journey, a journey from fear to forgiveness to freedom because what I found was forgiveness was the key to freedom.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Monday, July 5th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife Dennis Rainey, and I’m Bob Lepine. We’ll hear today from Rosemary Trible about the path God took her on that lead her from fear to forgiveness to freedom.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us on the Monday edition. We had a guest last week who shared with us that one out of every six women will experience a sexual assault of some kind in her lifetime. That’s a bigger number than I would have imagined.
Dennis: I agree, Bob, and one of the reasons why I wanted to share this story with our listeners is I know we have a lot of moms and dads who are raising daughters.
Dennis: And for that matter, sons, who are going to grow up into high school and college and beyond and be single and they’re not going to realize how frequent date rape is in this culture today, and really how devastating it can be to a young lady. We have with us the author of Fear to Freedom, Rosemary Trible, who joins us again here on FamilyLife Today. Rosemary, welcome back.
Rosemary: Thank you so much. Good to be here.
Dennis: Rosemary is married to a former United States Congressman and Senator Paul Trible, since 1971. She has two children. She was also America’s Junior Miss in 1967. Now it was a little different back then, wasn’t it? Wasn’t this tied to some kind of scholarship or…?
Rosemary: Yes. Very much so. In fact, I received four years of scholarship, a full ride, and it was a wonderful opportunity to meet women from all across this beautiful country.
Dennis: And so you got it by being a scholar yourself?
Rosemary: Well, I thank you.
No bathing suits, let’s just put it that way, thank goodness!
Dennis: Well, I was trying to say that without saying that, so thank for sharing that!
We heard earlier, Rosemary, your story of how you were hosting a television program. You had featured the subject of sexual assault on that program. You’d heard from hundreds of viewers who watched your broadcast and you were astounded at the number of women back in 1975 who had experienced sexual assault.
Then two weeks later as you were doing some taping, late one night at a hotel room, you were raped and assaulted by a man who threatened you, telling you if you told anyone, he’d kill you.
Bob: You told us that this perpetrator was never found. There was never any…
Rosemary: No. No.
Bob: …did the police just…no leads?
Rosemary: Well, he had seen the show and was really infuriated, and so I’ll never forget…
Dennis: So it really did motivate him to take action?
Rosemary: Yes. And he said as he first put that cold gun against my head, “Okay, cute talk show host, what do you do with a gun in your head?” My husband was the Commonwealth Attorney. We would have done everything to prosecute this case, but he was such a professional. His face was covered, his hands were covered, and the evidence was only in me. And so, because of that, we were unable to proceed with the case.
The amazing thing is even though I only continued on the talk show for three more months, because of the extent of pain that I was feeling, that was the year that my husband began running for United States Congress at 29 years old. So, it became something that was more silent with just a few friends that knew, and sometimes that’s very difficult to keep that pain inside.
Bob: This never made it in the papers…
Bob: You told your family and friends, but you weren’t going to go share this over coffee with some new girlfriend or be out on the campaign trail and say, “By the way, guess what happened to me,” right?
Rosemary: Right. Never would I have dreamed that from then until this day, though, my ministry has been to wounded women, many who have been sexually assaulted, others that have dealt with other bulimia and anorexia, panic attacks. So often, you just barely look underneath those and there’s been some kind of rape. Too often, it’s been something within the family; a father, a stepfather. It just breaks your heart. This is so much more common than when we would have ever dreamed.
Dennis: Rosemary, you said you didn’t talk about this publicly. In fact, you just mentioned before we came on air that just this year, January 15th, you started talking about this publicly?
Rosemary: Yes, isn’t that amazing? I was 25 years-old when this happened and yet I am now 60. One year ago I was at a church service and they spoke on two topics, two questions: What if you didn’t have to be so afraid? And what if you could help someone else not be so afraid?
It was like God just pierced my heart with that question and as I went up to the altar, with tears in my eyes, I said, “Lord, I’m willing to go public with this story if you will write the book and if my husband is in agreement.”
And on the way home that day, my husband said, “Okay, you’re tearing up with the Lord. What’s going on?” And I said, “Paul, this is out there so much. I feel like it’s time for me to share this story.” And he said, “I absolutely agree, and I think you need to start with this summer.” And that was one year ago.
This book was just released February 1st and our governor’s prayer breakfast in Virginia was the first time I shared it in late January. Then at the national prayer breakfast I spoke to 600 women and on that day Patti Cannady was in that audience, the mother of the beautiful Anne Pressly, who was so viciously killed, murdered, and raped, here in Little Rock, Arkansas.
Rosemary: And so, one of the reasons I’m here today in Little Rock is to talk to the media group and to share with so many that are still wounded from that pain and to say, “This is something that you do not have to stay. You do not have to stay as a victim, but you can find victory. But my faith in God and Christ was what really got me through.”
Bob: Rosemary, let me ask you about the fear that followed this event for you. Would you say that was a life-dominating phenomenon for you and for how long?
Rosemary: Well, especially during that first campaign, at first there were some questions whether I was pregnant. Then I was very grateful that I found myself pregnant withPaul which I think saved my life. Paul was elected to Congress…
Dennis: Now wait a second! Saved your life? What do you mean by that?
Rosemary: There are times where you’ve gone through something this devastating that you don’t know whether life is worth living.
Dennis: Did you think about suicide?
Rosemary: There was a moment I did.
Dennis: Did you try it?
Rosemary: No, but that’s when I passed out. That first day when I had to go back to the station when I ran up those steps I just wanted out and even though I didn’t try to commit suicide, I just totally blanked out. That is the severity of the pain that you’re feeling inside and even those who love the Lord, I’ve have walked through with so many, have come to that point.
I have letters from girls in my drawer that they can’t go further to make that plan without calling me night or day. God wants us to be able to find freedom in Him from this but this is something that is a serious thing, and even the church doesn’t often focus on the fact that we’ve got to acknowledge this pain and be able to help women and men that have been abused.
Only yesterday, a young man, as I spoke at a church, came forward and said, “I’ve never told anyone, but I was raped by my biology teacher in high school.” This is across culture, across female and male, and it’s something that we as families need to say, “Enough is enough!”
That’s why this is so important. I’m willing to fight and to be vulnerable and to share this story so that others can find the freedom that I found. I call my walk a journey. A journey from fear to forgiveness to freedom because what I found was that forgiveness was the key to freedom.
Dennis: I want to move to that, but I also know there is another emotion that you had to experience. In fact, you wrote about it in your book: anger. You actually, at one point, took some T-shirts of your husband…?
Rosemary: When you’re that upset and that fearful, all that adrenaline comes pressing through, and it needs to go somewhere. I found that tearing up my husband’s old T-shirts—you find a hole and you pull and you tear—helps divert some of that anger. I’ve also had young girls write the name of their abuser on the back of their feet or their tennis shoes and go for a long run. Every step they take is helping to pound out some of that emotion. We don’t want to use that anger in the wrong way, so we need to help women find outlets.
In the book, I have many practical tools to deal with the kind of emotions that come up. You have to face your fear, because if you run away from it, it’ll run after you. But also, find tools that will guard your heart, because you’ve been deeply wounded and you just cannot put a band aid on something like this. It needs a tunicate at first.
Dennis: Isolation is never the solution to fear is it?
Dennis: In fact, you’ve referred to it earlier as like bacteria that grows best in the dark, and that’s what the enemy wants us to do in those situations. He wants a young lady—or for that matter a young man who’s been abused—to hide, not to tell anyone, just kind of put it in a bottle and screw the lid on the top.
Bob: Well, but you had to keep in mind, in the back of your mind, is the memory of a man who put a gun to your head and said, “If you tell anybody, I know where you live. I’ll come kill you.”
Rosemary: Absolutely. It was really about a year before I came to some real healing. It’s interesting because it came from another fearful situation. And I’ll never understand why, but so many women or men that have been abused will be abused or frightened or in an insecure situation again.
For me, it was right after my husband had been elected to Congress, and the sweet daughter that I was pregnant with didn’t come and didn’t come. So Paul was elected and sworn in, and 10 days after he was elected, finally I went into labor on the floor of Congress listening to President Ford’s address. I’ll never forget that two members of Congress tapping us on the shoulder and saying, “We’re taking bets one whether you’ll make it through the night or Paul will become the first Congressman to become a father on the floor of Congress.
And I’m going, “Oh Lord, don’t let my water break on national television!
Here I was, nudging Paul, and he was timing my contraction. We made it to Richmond, Virginia two hours away in the snow, and the doctor was amazed that this baby which coming to the world shaking hands and giving political speeches, that’s all she’d done for nine months!
Dennis: That’s right!
Rosemary: But talk about the goodness of God! It was the very doctor that had come that night and really so gently gone through that evidence kit.
Dennis: So that was the second event that God used. Just the fearfulness that surrounded the birth of your daughter?
Rosemary: No, it was the joy of the birth of the daughter but it was only six months after her birth that I was strolling in the Old Town Alexandria and I came back and our house had been robbed. The door had been crow barred, and suddenly, Dennis, all that fear just came tumbling back, and then fear for my daughter. I remember putting her down for a nap. I didn’t want her to sense my fear. I called Paul again and said, “We’ve been robbed and I’m really fearful!” and he called the police.
It was a turning point in my faith because as I fell on my knees I cried out to God and said, “God, I cannot live like a victim anymore! You’ve got to come and hold me close and tender. I surrender this fear, this rape to you.” And it was then like a blanket of love that came over me and I heard these words: “Do not be afraid. I am with you.”
I got up so different from the waiting after the rape because finally I had surrendered my pain to the only One who could really heal me and save me from that terrible memory. That was the beginning of true healing and then the walk toward forgiveness.
Dennis: Yes, and I want to talk about that for a moment because for a time, you found it very difficult to pray for the man who raped you. In fact, you basically, as I would say it, you wanted justice for him.
Rosemary: Of course you do! And my husband, who is a commonwealth attorney, wanted him behind bars forever. Something that he had to his wife that he could not even imagine; he had prosecuted many cases, but never dreamed this fear would come this close to home.
And yet, interestingly I had to press back into a place of fear to be healed from my fear. It was only another six months after experiencing our home being broken into, when I got a call from a friend, Doug Coe, involved at the national prayer breakfast.
He said, “Come into the inner city! I want to tell you about a vision for the city of D.C., set on the hill for God!” I met three African-American pastors and although I went into that city greatly fearful little did I know that the next 11 years God would use those pastors and the work in the inner city for the poor to continue to heal me.
That night was another stepping stone to healing. We had dinner in a place in Arlington and I didn’t know anyone there. I don’t know whether you’ve ever experience this, but I looked around the room as I sat at the table, and then I saw this huge African-American man over 6’3”, about the size and the muscular build of the man that had raped me. I said, “I’ll sit by anyone but that man,” and that man came and sat right beside me.
Bob: Now, you weren’t thinking, “This is the guy who did this to me, were you?”
Rosemary: No, but you get triggered by people of size or shape or the smell or the touch…it’s amazing the triggers that come! The man’s face who raped me was covered, this man’s voice was not like his, a voice that I would never forget, but you get triggered, and as he sat down, I said, “I’m Rosemary, tell me a little bit about your life.”
He said, “I’m Pat. I spent five years in Alcatraz. And then another seven years at Lorton Federal Penitentiary.” Now, my hands are sweaty. Now my stomach is flip-flopping!
Dennis: He has no idea, of course, the context of your life and where you’re coming from.
Rosemary: No! No! Then he says, “I’ve been out of prison two weeks.”
You can imagine how I was feeling! But then he said this: He says, “You see that pastor over there, John Staggers? He came into the prison and for two years, preached to me about the unconditional love of Jesus Christ, and I finally gave my life to Jesus.” I learned that my crimes—you don’t go to Alcatraz for a loaf of bread—and although we became close friends I never let this man tell me what he had done.
But, to realize that whatever he had done, he said, “No matter how great my crimes I was told that I could be forgiven, and that it would be erased as far as the east is from the west.” It was at that moment a light went on and that 1st Corinthians: “If anyone is in Christ, they’re a new creature; the old has passed away, and all things have become new.”
I looked at Pat and I realized he was a brother. I didn’t have to be afraid of him. He was a new creature, and then he went on to tell me that he was going to be working in the inner city schools because he had been there and they couldn’t finesse him.
I left the table and went to the powder room. It was then I fell on my knees and I said, “I forgive the man who raped me, and I will pray every day the rest of my life that he meets Jesus and that he will be forgiven and that I will spend eternity with a man who raped me.”
Again, this release of this burden came off of me, and I felt a peace like never before. I walked back in that room and you never are around a group of African-American pastors without singing “Jesus Loves Me, This I Know.” And I took Pat’s hand, but the fear was gone. I knew that Jesus had in a new way taken me on a journey of healing, and taught me a lesson about the power of forgiveness.
I began to work in the inner city with Pat and these individual pastors, and we gleaned the fields and we worked on latchkey kids, having an after-school program and a playground. I’ll tell you one funny story: Pat became one of my best friends. I did Pat’s eulogy when he died. But one day, at Shiloh Baptist Church, when we had had our time, I couldn’t get in the parking lot, so I parked two blocks away, and of all things I locked my keys in the car. I was a little nervous. You still get triggered.
So, at that wonderful prayer time, Pat was there, and I said, “Would you walk me to my car?” He said, “Of course.” So he’s walking me to my car, and we’re talking, and I said, “There are my keys.” And he whistles to a man across the street who comes over and says, “My friend Rosemary locked her keys in the car. Could you help her?”
And do you know, in one second he was in my car and my keys were in my hand! And I said, “Thank you very much! Can I pay you something for doing this?” And he said, “Oh no, no! A friend of Pat’s is a friend of mine.”
Bob: This is a guy who jacks into cars whenever he wants to, right?
Rosemary: I didn’t realize that then!
But as he walked across the street, Pat put his arm around me and said, “Honey, don’t worry about it. He does this for a living!”
Bob: Oh my goodness!
Rosemary: It was kind of exciting in the inner city.
Dennis: It’s interesting that God took your life, though—you could have just withdrawn! You could have shriveled up. But you did just the opposite. Earlier, Bob had talked about a defining moment…this ultimately defined your life. Even for me to say it, it’s still for good?
Dennis: God’s somehow, in His ingenuity, as only He could do it has used what man intended for evil for good purposes.
Rosemary: You’re so right! I clung to that Isaiah 61: “He came for the broken-hearted” and truly in my life, he gave me that crown of beauty for ashes, and that oil of gladness for despair, that everlasting joy would be ours. In my own life he turned my mourning into dancing and he clothed me with that joy.
Dennis: Well, Rosemary, I want to thank you for sharing your story and for writing your book, because I have just a strong sense there are listeners who are eavesdropping who needed to hear how they can move from fear to freedom, from being angry and resentful to forgiveness, and to ultimately surrender as you did. Your fear, your anxiety, your worry, your anger, your lack of forgiveness, and ultimately no longer be a victim like you described.
But I also wonder if we’re talking to a rapist who doesn’t believe that God can forgive that. What you’re saying on the authority of scripture…
Dennis: I mean, Jesus had two thieves on either side of Him when He died.
Rosemary: “And this day, you’ll be in the kingdom of God.”
Dennis: One of them believed in Christ.
Dennis: We don’t know what he did, either, but he had broken the law, and Christ forgave him. You’re saying that Christ can forgive even someone that does the unspeakable to a woman?
Rosemary: And that’s the amazing thing in my life, and I truly believe that God can even redeem my rapist.
Bob: Yes, and that comes through loud and clear, and what you’ve written in your book as well, and I’ll just let our listeners know we’ve got copies of Rosemary’s book in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. You can go online at FamilyLifeToday.com for more information about Rosemary’s story about the book that she’s written.
Again, the website, FamilyLifeToday.com, or you can call us, toll-free, at 1-800-FL-TODAY, 1-800-358-6329. That’s 1-800 F as in “family” L as in “life” and then the word TODAY. When you get in touch with us, we’ll let you know how you can get a copy of Rosemary’s book sent to you.
Now, I know some of our listeners today because of the holiday weekend, our probably tuning in to FamilyLife Today when they don’t normally get a chance to listen to the program. Let me just tell you a little bit about us.
FamilyLife is a ministry that has been in existence for about three and a half decades now. It started back in 1976, and our goal, from the beginning, has been to effectively develop godly families, to strengthen marriages and families and to provide practical, biblical help for your marriage relationship and to help you as parents as well.
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I want to invite you back tomorrow on behalf of our host Dennis Rainey, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.
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