Today I am joined by Kelly Lester, and the conversation was so in-depth, that we had to split it into two parts. In this episode, Kelly shares her story of sexual abuse, abortions, and how to be a safe place for your children to open up about their lives. Kelly believes in creating a place in your home for your children to feel safe to fail so that when the big challenges of life come up, they can trust you will be there to support them. After a rape and later abortion when she was 15, Kelly had drastic changes in her life. She was forced to grow up fast and deviate from the life she was building for herself. Kelly bravely shares her story and advocates for safe places for young women to share their own stories. Listen in to this tough and important conversation.
About our guest:
Kelly’s story is one that covers so many difficult and painful topics in our world today. Child molestation, raped as a teen, several abortions, drug dealing, eating disorders, homosexuality, pornography, prostitution, and even working in the clinic where she had her first abortion. But beauty triumphs from the ashes, and Kelly is a testament to how God can clean all the dirty parts of a painful life story and make it brand new.
Now a wife and mother of six children, Kelly loves to share her story to give hope to the most desperate situations proving that God can save anybody. She is currently a client advocate for LoveLine Ministries, Director of Outreach for And Then There Were None and Pro-Love Ministries, and a board member for Village Ansanm: Living Stones Ministries.
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I know you, you are afraid to speak up. You are scared of what other people think of you. And you blame yourself for what happened to you. I know how it feels. Because I’ve been there. If you found me, I’m so grateful you’re here. This podcast will give you hope. And now I’m your host, Anna ditchburn. I’m going to hold your hand and provide the guidance that I needed the most. It’s time for you to find your why. And turn your experience into your superpower. So lock your door. Put your headphones in, and enjoy. Kelly Lester, welcome to the world’s best Trauma Recovery podcast.Kelly Lester:
Thanks. Thanks for having me on.Anna Ditchburn:
Kelly, I’m so glad you came for my podcast, because the topic you are talking about at your speaking engagements is a pro pro life and pro life and abortions. And this topic is very close to my heart. And Kelly, I would love to ask your first question. To start off with a question. What do you seeing happens to the soul of aborted child?Kelly Lester:
Oh, well, that’s a good question. Can I answer your question with a story? Yes. Okay. Yes, please. So, back. Gosh, it’s been before I was married, so it’s been like 1617 years ago, I had a dog, who was when I was going through my life and going through a lot of my trauma. He was like, you know, he was like my child. It was before I was married. It was before I had kids, and he was my everything. And I was in like abusive relationships. And he was there. And he was really, really, really special to me, when I came home, moved back home with my parents after some domestic violence things and nearly being killed in a domestic violence incident. He moved back with me and there was a point where he wanted to go outside to go to the bathroom. And we were out in the middle of nowhere in the country. And so I just let him go out and he never ran off. He always stayed close to the house. But there were some hunting dogs off in the distance. And so he went out to chase the hunting dogs. When he did he ran out in the road. And he was hit by a car. And he died instantly. Now he was a huge pit bull. He was like 120 pounds, this giant dog wrecked the car because they hit him. And he died instantly. And I went out, you know, my dogs out there dead. And I it was one of the hardest losses I’ve had to up to that point that I’d had to have. And that night, went to bed. And the next morning, you know, it was brokenhearted didn’t have my dog and my dad tells me about a dream he had had the night before the night that night. And I was like, Alright, and so he tells me now my dad does not know anything about my story or my past. He tells me that in the dream, he saw my dog, which his name was D OG he’s saw do G running in a field of flowers. And in that field of flowers, there were four children running and playing with him in the field of flowers. Well, my father did not know this, but I had had four abortions. And so I took that to mean that my dog and my four children were in heaven together. So I don’t know for sure where they go. But that is what I think that’s what I hope to think that’s where I hope they go. And I think my dad, you know, his dreams summed that up pretty well for me. So all dogs do go to heaven, just like the movie said. I think children do too.Anna Ditchburn:
Well. I’m getting emotional just from thinking about the oxen, children passing away. Because i i When I left my parents house at the age of 21 When my sexual abuse stopped, I got a dog from Iranian and he became my baby, my child. And he helped me to get through this situation, mentally and physically. Otherwise I wouldn’t survive without him. And it looks like you’re very close to your father. And it wasn’t the only dream he saw. To save you. Yeah. Kelly, would you share this story with us when, when your father’s dream literally was a turning point for you?Kelly Lester:
Yeah. So right before that, I was living in New Orleans, with a boyfriend. And it was a really volatile relationship we had been fighting. We lived here in Virginia. And it was a very, you know, abusive relationship. We fought all the time. And he moved down to New Orleans to help rebuild. This was right after Hurricane Katrina. So all of New Orleans was wiped out, he went down to do construction to help rebuild. And I stayed here in Virginia, and then decided that I was going to come down there with him. And when I was done there, it was really hard because I was not from there. And at that time, the people of New Orleans really only wanted to hire people from that area. And so I wasn’t from there. So I was having a hard time finding a job. And, you know, you change locations to try to leave your problems, but they oftentimes go with you to the new location. And that certainly happened with us. And so the relationship stayed very violent, you know, a lot of alcohol, a lot of drugs. And we decided that the relationship was not going where we wanted it to, it just wasn’t working out, and so that I was going to come home. And so then we just went out to party the night before I was supposed to leave, and got into a fight, which we usually did. We went out drinking and partying. And he came home. And then a couple hours later, I came home and the fights intensified even more. And there was a point in the fight where we had ripped the door off the hinges, and there was a two by four, which was the frame of the door laying on the ground. And he’s leaning over top of me and he picks up the board. And he goes to hit me over the head with it. And as he’s going to hit me over the head with it, he drops the board, punches me in the face several times, blood goes everywhere, you know, my eyes explode, my nose explodes. And he looks and he’s like, oh, gosh, you know, I’ve actually really hurt her. And so the fight stopped. Well, the next day I wake up, and I have text messages and phone calls from my father in Virginia 1200 miles away. And I didn’t answer them. Because you know, your dad is the last person you want to talk to after an evening like that. And I waited another 24 hours to drive home. So I drive home with a U haul with all my stuff. And I get to Virginia and my dad meets me and he comes out and I mind you I have two big black swollen eyes, my nose is flat and crooked. And he’s he looks at me. And as soon as he sees me, he starts crying. And I’m like, Oh dad, I was in a car accident, you know, the things that we say when we’re in situations and, and he looks at me and he says Kelly, two nights ago, I was asleep. And in the middle of the night I was woken by by God. And when he woke me up, I had a vision of you laying dead on the floor with your head split wide open. And so I began to pray. And so I didn’t tell him this. But I knew that at the moment when my boyfriend had dropped that board. That was the moment when my father had began to pray for me and saved and save literally saved my life. And then several weeks later was when he had the vision about the dog. So yeah, my dad definitely influenced me and all of those things.Anna Ditchburn:
But how did you feel when he told you about his dream? Like what what clicked in you that you really realized Enough is enough?Kelly Lester:
Well, you know, it’s funny, and I because up until that point, like my dad, my dad heard from God all the time. And so a lot of times I didn’t want to talk to my dad because I was afraid he would knew know what I was doing. And so when that happened, it didn’t surprise me necessarily. But I had had up to that point. I had had several supernatural encounters. I had one in Arizona where I was driving a Jeep Wrangler and pulled out into traffic like you know, into like a medium to take a left hand turn. And as I did a car hit me and I physically went out of the vehicle something grabbed me and physically brought me back into the vehicle. And the two other people that were in the car with me, said they felt something hold on to them and keep them from going out of the vehicle. None of us were wearing our seatbelts. None of us were thrown out of the car. Several years after that. I was driving a car I got somebody came I swerved went into an embankment. Now this was before airbags or the car that I was driving didn’t have airbags, and as I hit the embankment I felt this was like an airbag but it wasn’t an airbag come around me and save me. So I had had encountered Here’s like that, you know, up until this point, but this was the first time that somebody else was involved in it. You know what I mean? Where it wasn’t just like, wow, that was a freaky thing that happened. It was like, somebody 1200 miles away was warned about what I was happening and intervened. So it really made it real. You know, it wasn’t something that I could be like, Oh, that was that was my imagination, or that was like, just a freak accident. You know, it was like, This is real. And it freaks me out, quite honestly, it freaks me out a little bit that you know, that that happened and to realize how close I was to dying. And I’d had many, I mean, I’ve had many instances in my life before that, where it was, like, if I don’t change something, now, I’m going to die. But that one was like, you know, this was, I was supernaturally saved through my dad’s prayers. So yeah, it was it was pretty crazy. For sure.Anna Ditchburn:
I believe that God had much bigger plans for you.Kelly Lester:
Yeah, for sure. Yeah, apparently,Anna Ditchburn:
Kelly, but how everything started for you, because I the daughter of the priest, and having such a heavy childhood, and he thought history because people will, will have this picture, you know, growing up in a priest family, you you, you would think you would be a good girl. What what’s happened? Why?Kelly Lester:
Yeah, you know, it started at a very young age. I didn’t realize it till later on when I went through some healing and some some trauma processing. But I later found out that when I was probably four years old, I was molested by somebody in my family. And then, so that caused some things you know, not in my not my dad or my mom, but like an extended family. And that caused some things in me some insecurities of shame, you know, that awakened things in me that should not have been awakened as a four year old child.Anna Ditchburn:
So did you did you speak up? Sorry for interrupting? Did you speak up did peopleKelly Lester:
did not at that time I did when I found out about it, and the person had passed away, which part of the way that I found out about it was in a session, like in a therapy session, I saw the person with a white wife beater, you know, a white tank top and gray polyester pants, and I knew who it was. And several weeks before that, that person had passed away, and I had gone to their funeral. And I was weeping and weeping and weeping like, it was somebody very close to me. And this person was not close to me, it was just someone I knew. And then it was like, the, the points got put together. And I realized that what I was weeping for was my innocence that that person had taken. And I asked my parents about it. I talked to my dad again, my dad, and said, hey, you know, I feel like this might have happened. And he told me that when my sister and I were young children, my mom worked for a while outside of the home, and they put me at that person’s house, they had a daycare. And they didn’t home daycare, and there were allegations of abuse. And so because of that they pulled us out not realizing that something had happened. But that being said, there were very marked there was very marked change in my behavior. From like a three year old, four year old to a four year old, five year old, I went from being very outgoing, very talkative, very secure, to very not talkative, very insecure, you know, like Telltale things that my parents just didn’t pick up on. So that started it. And then at 1213 ish, I went to a party and was, you know, just Well, first off, in elementary school, middle school, I was picked on I was teased, I was bullied, like in the worst possible ways. So that added to feeling insecure, you know, it was you bullying for I have no idea. To be totally honest with you. No idea. I mean, they would make fun of my clothes, they would make fun of my hair. They would make fun of my shoes. I can remember one kid making fun of my dad’s name. And his name was Wayne and they would like make fun of it. So it was just anything but it was like non stop. You know, like I was like the weak one that they would just pick on and pick on and pick on it pick on at the bus stop on the bus and Yeah, I’m not sure why I guess because I was the weak one. And then so I snuck out with some friends trying to, you know, to fit in kind of thing trying to be cool. And at the party was raped and told people about it, not my parents, but I told like friends about it, nobody believed me, because the boy that did it was very popular. And why would he have to do that to me, you know, kind of thing. When I was a nobody, and he was popular. I told it to the youth pastor at my church. And she said, Well, if you’ve never snuck out and gone to that party, that would have never happened. And so blamed it on meAnna Ditchburn:
out, this is divorce is the worst thing ever. Yeah, I can tell you,Kelly Lester:
it was pretty terrible. And so that just, you know, added and added and added and you know, I’m a teenage young teenager, which everybody’s insecure, and you add all of that to it. And so that led me down, it quickly led me down a path of destruction, you know, started, I became very promiscuous. And then at 15, I found out that I was pregnant. And that led me to have my first abortion. And that was a very marked change, probably affected me more than anything else. I walked into the clinic, a straight A student, nationally ranked tennis player, going to church every time the doors open, you know, and when I walked out, I didn’t want anything to do with God, I quit playing tennis, and I barely ended up graduating high school. I had early acceptance to University of Georgia, thankfully, or I probably would not have gone somewhere because my grades just absolutely plummeted. And started drinking started doing drugs started all of the things just compiled. So it was, you know, although I had a good home, there were outside factors, you know, that affected me.Anna Ditchburn:
I resonate with your story so much. Yeah. Firstly, my my first abortion was at 15. And I remember I had two grown up so fast. Yeah, it’s it is the thing. 15 years old, we’re still a child. Like we’re still children. You. I remember when I opened up, what’s happened to me? People, people started to judging me. It’s 15. You, you. You are, like, mature to understand what was happening to you. Why didn’t you? You know, tell anyone? Why didn’t you fight back. But now I’m realizing I was conditioned when my stepfather first first sexually abused me. I was conditioned to obey. So I freeze. And having the abortion at 15 is quite traumatizing event itself. Yeah. And I understand why you turned turn away from God.Kelly Lester:
Yeah, you know, you think 15 and some ways you think 15 years ago, Akash. You’re a teenager, you’re almost 18 You know, like, but I have children? Who are I have a son who’s 14 and a daughter who’s 13. And I think, like, now I’m like, gosh, when I was their age, this was happening. And I think, how did I even survive it? You know, because they are still I mean, in my children have grown up in a home, that’s pretty conservative, you know, that’s pretty sheltered in some ways. And I think, Gosh, I was them. And how did I get through it? How did I survive that? You know, and, and to think that leaders and adults put it back on me at that point, you know, it really, it makes me angry. It makes me angry that they did that and treated me that way. And it makes me concerned for my kids, you know, hoping that they’re not going to go through the same kind of things that I went through, because you’re still so young. You know, that’s so it’s so young to have to deal with anything like that.Anna Ditchburn:
Killing now, when you are a parent, when you understand from when you can see the situation from both perspectives. What would be your best advice for parents who are going through a similar situation with their kids? What is the best thing to say? What is the best thing to do for their kids?Kelly Lester:
Yeah, people ask me that a lot. Like what? And my parents have even asked me, you know, what could we have done differently? You know, people say what are you going to do differently? And, you know, my parents did the best that they could they both came from broken homes and you know, issues and their families. And so they really did the best that they could. But I think the big thing is, we have to be, we have to build relationships with our children, you know, we have to, I don’t mean, you have to be their best friend, because you need to be their parents, I’m definitely not one who thinks, you know, we should be our kids best friend. But we do need to know our kids. And we do need to be aware, and like, I look at my parents, there were a lot of red flags that they missed. And that was because they were busy working and trying to give us you know, a better life than they had or that was because they were busy. You know, everything was like, go and do and not a lot of like, Hey, how are you doing? You know, I see this change in you what’s going on? Or if there was a change, it was like, you can’t wear that you can’t do that. You can’t go there, you know, instead of like, Hey, I see this going on? Do you just like white black now? Like, all of a sudden you just like, or is there something going on that’s making you you know, want to do this, you know. And I think for a lot of parents, unfortunately, they start the relationship, when they see these red flags. It’s like, oh, gosh, now I need to have a relationship with my child. And it’s too late, you know. Whereas you want to start early being a safe place, I say, my husband, and I’m talking about we want our home to be a safe place for them to fail. And so we don’t want it to be where you have to be perfect all the time. Or you have to, you know, yes, we want you to excel. And we want you to do your best and be your best. But I want you to screw up when you’re here. So we can talk through it and work through it and know, you know that we’re going to love you even if you screwed up. I mean, I was so afraid to tell my parents what had happened to me because I thought they would be disappointed in me. Yeah, and, you know, yeah, I thought that they would never forgive me, and you know, all of these kinds of things. And so instead of telling them what had happened, I kept it in, and it piled up and got worse and worse, you know. And then when I did start failing, they got upset. And so it just further like, reinforced what I was already thinking. So we have tried with my kids, our kids to really not have it be that way, you know, to take them out and be like, you know, with my 13 and my 14 year old Hey, I see this going on with you. I see this happening, you know, what’s going on? You know, why is this happening? Why are you doing these things? Why? How is school? How’s your friends? How you know, and having those conversations? Because kids, especially nowadays, they don’t have anybody talking to them? You know, they don’t have anybody checking on them. And so really just trying to be in tune with them and know them, like what are their love languages? You know, what are their personality types? Are they an Enneagram? Three, or an anagram eight, you know, like, figure out about your kids. Study your kids, I had somebody tell me that one time, like you should study your spouse and study your children. So that when those things happen, you can be aware of it.Anna Ditchburn:
What’s happened with me? When I told my mom, what’s, what my stepfather was doing to me? She said, I’m so, so sorry. Yeah, I knew it. I knew and the person who who created created to kill for your child, if anything happens, just looked away. And I know, it’s not easy for some parents to realize what’s happening to their kids because they just don’t know what to do. And the same with abortion. I told my mom that they had an abortion. The second one in a couple of years. Yeah. Not when it happened. And I didn’t tell you the whole story. Kelly, I’m just wondering, how much of your story of your past Do your kids know about you?Kelly Lester:
So my oldest, so I have six. I have a five year old, a seven year old, a nine year old, 11 year old 13 year old and a 14 year old. My oldest for no good bit of it. When when I started becoming more public and started you know, my story came more out there. When you could do a Google search and find my story. I was like Okay, it’s time to tell them and so I’ve shared it with them. My younger two don’t know much of it at all. But yeah, we’ve talked about it and that’s been a really great niche sharing my story with them has been a great way to kind of open conversation with them. Because they know that I get it you know I’m not telling them things. Just as this like mean I don’t want you to have fun I don’t I’m I’m telling you things because I’ve actually been there and actually done it and experienced it and want what’s best for you and don’t want you to have to go through that. And you can’t lie to me because I’ve been there. And so it’s kind of it’s been, it’s been really, it was hard, you know? And of course, you’re afraid, like, what are they going to say? What are they going to think, you know, is this gonna change their perspective of me, and they had so much grace, and like, we’re so compassionate. And so like, you know, for them, because of what I do traveling and speaking, and, you know, knowing what I’ve done, they were like, Mom, you have to do what you do. Because you’ve been on all sides of it. So you have to so it, like, gave them reason for me for why I do what I do. And so that was great, because it cost you know, my job what I do it cost them something mom’s on the road a lot. And, you know, so they don’t get to spend time with me, like some kids do with their moms. So it helps them kind of process that.Anna Ditchburn:
And I’m sure it made your relationship stronger. Much stronger. Yeah, it did for sure. When I opened up to my mom, and we talked through, it was a huge shock for her. Huge, but I have noticed that me opening up how it hurt to start her own healing journey. Yeah. Because she had a lot of unresolved trauma from your childhood. And from growing up. What were your relationship like with your parents? Did they found out about anything?Kelly Lester:
So they, I think that they suspected some things. But I was a runner. So when when my dad would say he would know when things were not going well with me, because he wouldn’t hear from me for a few days or a few weeks. I ran I hid you know, I did everything I could to put on a good face of everything’s going well. I am sure that they had some suspicions, but nothing that they ever brought up. They didn’t hear my full story until, gosh, it was probably 10 years ago. So it was a long time before they heard. And then when they heard it, it wasn’t like anything was like, you know, we had no idea. I think it was some comp now. Maybe not the number of abortions, maybe not the extensiveness of some of it, but it definitely wasn’t a complete shock to them. And at the time, when I was going through all of my craziness, my sister who is four years younger than me, was also going through craziness. And so a lot of their attention simply because of age, because she was 14 and I was 18, you know, a lot of their focus was on her. And again, I put on a good face, I made it seem like everything was okay. And so it was they were kind of, you know, split in their ability to. And she got pregnant at a very young age and had a child. And so then now they have a child. So you know what I mean? It was kind of she was kind of a distraction from me, and from what was going on. But I had, I would say that I had a good relationship with them. I talked to them pretty regularly. I now have a great relationship with them. I mean, my dad passed away a little over a year ago. But up until that, you know, had a really good relationship with them. And my mom, my mom was here yesterday, in fact, have had a great relationship with her.Anna Ditchburn:
Wonderful. Kelly, if you would have an opportunity to go back to your 15 years old self when you just got pregnant. What would you do differently?Kelly Lester:
You know, that is a really tough question. Because at the time, I didn’t know that there were and to be honest with you at that time, I don’t know that there were resources to help me. You know, like now, nowadays, gosh, it’s 30 years later, you know, there are resources for young unwed mothers, there are programs for you to continue in high school and graduate there are programs for you to go to college, and people to help you, you know, stay in college. There are pregnancy resource centers that help with you know, counseling and parenting classes. And when I was 15 I don’t know that any of those things were there. And so, neither for me. Yeah. While I would love to say to me as a 15 year old, don’t do this. You know, there’s other options out there. If there really weren’t other options out there. And so I would definitely want to have answers for 15 year old me, you know, I would want to have someone to come alongside her and say, Hey, I’m gonna walk with you and help you through this. Because I didn’t have that. And thankfully, again, thankfully, nowadays, we have those things. You know, nowadays, there are a lot more organizations, I work for one of them, you know, that helps women in crisis, and there are a lot more maternity homes, and there’s just a lot more out there. But I would tell her, I think back to the answer the question as best I can, that you think that having this child is going to ruin your life, but you’re going to go down a path that’s going to be far more destructive than having a child would be, and, you know, hopefully, then I could give her a resource that could help her. But it’s hard. You know, it’s definitely women and young girls in those situations. It’s not an easy thing. It’s not an easy, you know, we like to make it so black and white. And it’s not, it’s, it’s really, it’s really hard. It’s a really hard thing.