Runaway Finds Hope at Christian Home for Girls
By Rob Hull
The 700 Club
CBN.com - Jennifer Unagnst grew up in a home filled with darkness and fear. “My dad was supposed to be my hero and someone that I look up to and my protector, but instead he was a monster,” says Jennifer. “He was a child molester, and he molested my sister and I for many years.”
Jennifer continues, “He was angry and he got drunk a lot and he was really unpredictable. During the times of abuse, I would kind of turn my emotions off, or try to focus on things as the abuse was happening, like focus on the tiles on the ceiling and kind of count the tiles, and sometimes I would just cry. But I would try to hold my tears in because I didn’t want my dad to know that I was crying. It was painful because I didn’t want it to happen, but I didn’t want him to be mad at me.”
“I felt really dirty, I felt like I was a bad kid. Being a child and being abused like that, took away my self-worth and my value and my self-esteem. And, I felt really alone. And most of all, the only thing that I wanted was somebody to love me - unconditionally, without harming me, and that’s the one thing that I was lacking. But I knew I wanted that.”
Years of sexual abuse and confusion left Jennifer full of anxiety. She was haunted by demonic dreams at night. Jennifer says, “There was a very dark force at my home. It was really scary. At night I would just put the covers over my head. I lived in so much fear at night especially in the dark. Sometimes I would just leave the house so that I could just take my mind elsewhere and I would do a lot of pretending outside.
When she was eight years old a teenage neighbor taught Jennifer there was no safe place for her. “We were all out riding bikes,” She says, “all the kids in the neighborhood. And he asked me if I wanted to come in for some Kool-Aid. And I went into his house and, he ended up blindfolding me and abusing me. Sexually assaulting me in his house. It seemed like everywhere I went I was a target.”
She never reported the teen but when she was 14 years old she got the courage to tell her mom about the years of abuse from her father. Her father went to prison, but for Jennifer the pain and darkness remained.
She remembers, “All that fear and loneliness turned into anger. I felt guilty for telling –that I broke up my family. And, I just wanted to hurt myself, because I felt like that’s what I deserved. I began cutting myself, using heroin, using cocaine I did everything that I could to get that from now on. That became really addicting to me because it took away all that pain, all that sorrow, all the identity I’d taken on.”
She lived in her car and sold her body for drugs. Jennifer says she stayed high for weeks at a time. “There were times where when I would come down off the drugs, I would sleep for days and eat, but I would cry uncontrollably, just my emotions took over. And then I would walk around outside and walk up and down the streets, just praying that somebody would stop, pull over and help me. “
No one stopped. She says she felt trapped and hopeless. Jennifer got involved with a drug dealing biker that nearly cost her life. “That’s where I took on a lot of beatings. I was being kicked and punched and smothered by pillows. And I figured if he didn’t kill me, you know, I might as well kill myself. I’m going to die either way. So, I took his gun one day when he was at work. And I sat with that gun for over an hour, just crying. I just wanted to end everything. By that time I was done. I just –I didn’t want that life anymore.” She says.
For Jennifer, hope came when she reconciled with her mom who had become a Christian. Her mother told her about Bethany House, a Christian home for girls on the street. Desperate for help, she went to the home. “I could see the light inside the house. The minute I walked in it was almost like a swoosh of darkness that had left. I could see the Holy Spirit on everyone’s face. I felt the love. It was unconditional. It was pure. It was holy. I had never felt anything like that in my life. It was going from hell into heaven in a sense. I knew that it wasn’t from this world. Why would someone like that love me, you know? Why would these people even open a home like this for people like me? That was a really pivotal moment in my life to know that people loved me, and it was for nothing but just their love.”
The next day, Jennifer became a Christian. “What it meant for me to give my life to Christ was that I would no longer have to live in darkness. And I would no longer have to be abused. And that I finally found the love that I had always looked for in my life. It was everything I’d been searching for since a child. Jesus is my heavenly Father. And He’ll always be my protector and He’ll always be my hero.”
She says God began healing the emotional wounds from the years of abuse. She recently founded House of Engedi, an outreach to women who have been sexually exploited and abused, like she was. Jennifer says the goal of Engedi is “To rescue other women who are out there and who are hurt and abused and lead them to Him. When they walk in, they’re going to experience the same thing that I experienced when I walked in the Bethany House.”
She says the abuse that used to define her is now replaced with the love and grace of God. “I’m a new creation in Christ. The old has passed away. And then finding out my true identity, which is in Him. I’m His daughter. I’m forgiven. I’m His friend. Anyone out there who’s, who’s hurt or abused or thinks that they can’t go anywhere in life, who’s at their end or suicidal; God can raise you up to do anything. Just call out the name of Jesus. There’s hope in Him.”
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