By Diane Perrone
Lee Kinney was an 18-year-old secretary at a small sailboat manufacturer in the San Francisco area. One night, when she and two other secretaries were working late, a salesman named Jack invited the three over to his trailer for pizza.
Lee followed him home in her car, as she was new to the area and the other two women knew where Jack lived. Scarcely had she walked in the door of his rickety trailer and sat down when Jack wrestled her onto the couch. Amid her cries of “No!” and “Stop!” he beat her, tore her clothes from her, and raped her. He dropped to the floor when he finished, giving Lee time to escape. She drove frantically from the scene, wondering why her co-workers had not appeared. She felt ashamed, alone, and angry. Her attacker had been cruel enough to complain that she was a virgin. Was this what she had saved herself for?
Lee did not want anyone to know what had happened. She blamed herself for being naive enough to go to his trailer alone. She did not report the attack because she thought the police could not do anything (she was 18 and thought rape was only illegal if the victim was a minor). Because she wanted to forget the whole thing had happened, Lee decided to carry the secret of her humiliation to her grave.
One month later, Lee came down with a case of the “flu.” She had an upset stomach most of the time and did not feel like eating. After two weeks, she decided to go to a doctor to obtain antibiotics so she would not feel so tired. He suggested she could be pregnant. Two days later, her blood test came back positive.
Lee knew that because of her mother’s personal circumstances, she would not be able to help her. She also knew she could not go through with an abortion. So, Lee’s sister arranged for her to live with a blind, older relative outside Los Angeles. While she was there, she met some good friends who cared for her as though she were their own daughter. She had time to think about her future and realized it would be best for her child to be placed for adoption.
On February 11, 1964, Lee went into labor. After 16 hours, she was put under general anesthetic, and when she awakened her baby had been born. She asked whether the baby was a boy or girl, whether she would be able to hold her child. The nurse told her she had delivered a healthy baby girl, but it would be best if she did not see the child. That baby girl would grow up to be Julie Makimaa.
Julie Makimaa (now living in Springfield, Illinois.) learned in childhood that she was adopted but was not told she was conceived from a rape. “Mom explained the love she felt for me was no different than any other mother felt for her child, and that my birth mother, through an act of love, placed me for adoption since she wanted the best for me. I didn’t grow up with resentment, only gratitude.” But over the years, Julie did have questions and some mixed feelings. Did she look like her birth mother? Sound like her? Was her birth mother also musical? She did not want her adoptive parents to feel she was rejecting them, but she wanted to know her natural mother. She also worried about hurting her adoptive parents because of this strong desire to discover her birth mother. Julie knew that not all adopted children act upon their desire to learn the identity of their birth parents.
In 1984, Julie was living in northern Michigan, married, and with a daughter of her own, when she began to search in earnest for her biological parents. A faint phone number in the margin of her adoption records led her to a woman (“Mom” Croft) who had befriended her birth mother during pregnancy. Had Julie made the call only a few weeks later, the only link to her birth mother would have been lost because Mrs. Croft had planned to move and have her phone disconnected. But Julie did reach Mrs. Croft, and she called Lee and gave her Julie’s telephone number. Julie was very excited and happy when Lee called from her California home the next morning.
They discussed Julie’s childhood, their interests and looks, and planned a reunion for eight weeks later in Washington D.C. Julie asked about her birth father. Lee told her his name but said, “I don’t think you want to search for him.” The subject was dropped. Julie thought there would be time to pursue that later.
The Long-Suppressed Secret
Shortly before the planned meeting, Lee asked her husband, Harold, to call Julie’s husband, Bob, and reveal to him the long-suppressed secret that Julie was conceived through a sexual assault. Amazingly, Bob Makimaa’s heartfelt response was, “Just think … that happened more than twenty years ago … just to give me my Julie.” He broke the news to Julie about the violence and pain which brought about her existence in the world.
Julie then became concerned that the reunion might bring back painful memories for Lee and was afraid it would be cancelled. But in a subsequent call to confirm reunion plans, Lee reassured her that, while the rape had been agonizing and painful, she had been through a healing process and did not consider Julie a part of that negative experience. Instead, Lee saw their relationship and reunion as the opportunity for good to come out of her past. Julie met Lee in Washington D.C. in February 1985. They celebrated Julie’s 21st birthday together.
“I had questions about myself,” Julie admitted. “Am I bad because of my conception? Did I inherit evil genes? Would I have psychological problems?” Julie sorted through her feelings and eventually realized, “I am a unique person. I love and am loved because of who I am, not how I came about. I wasn’t conceived in love, but it’s not how you came about that’s most important, it’s what you do with your life once you’re here.”
How does Julie feel about her biological father? “Since I had always pictured him as a nice guy, I now had to deal with the fact that he hurt my mom. But I realized I couldn’t be angry with him; that wouldn’t benefit me or Mom.”
Help and Hope For Victims
Today, Lee and Julie want their lives and experience to stand as an example of everyone’s right to live, no matter how difficult the circumstances. And, there has been another enriching, positive effect resulting from what most people would believe to be an unbearable situation. Learning the truth of her personal circumstances has led Julie to share her story publicly and to form a support group for children born from sexual assault and their mothers, as well as for women who aborted children after being sexually assaulted. This organization, called Fortress International, educates the public on issues of assault pregnancy and offers support to women, children, and families affected by sexual assault pregnancies.
Because she was adopted, Julie said, she might have naturally gravitated to involvement in the pro-life movement. But now that she knows the full story behind her existence, she is more convinced than ever that her beliefs against abortion are right. While not diminishing the severe trauma caused by her birth mother’s rape, Julie states, “I’m not ashamed at all, because if the sexual assault hadn’t happened, I wouldn’t be here.”