When she was 12, her innocence was violated. But they couldn’t violate her immense love for life. That’s why today, Lianna Rebolledo is a counselor, prolife activist and founder of the nonprofit organization “Loving Life” (www.lovinglife.org).
She arrived in Mexico City a year before two strangers kidnapped her and attacked her. That’s when her life changed forever.
Violence had also colored Lianna’s infancy. Her mother fled Mexico to escape domestic violence and later was able to bring her children to California. She fought her way through life, but didn’t know how to care for her child who had been sexually assaulted.
“My family tried to support me, but it’s difficult for any family to be ready for this kind of situation,” Rebolledo said.
“After a suicide attempt provoked by what had happened to me, I learned that I was 13 weeks pregnant,” she added. “I was 12 and even though I didn’t see the ultrasound, I heard the heartbeat and was aware that what I had inside me was a little person, a person who was mine.”
Since the child was in her body, she never related her unborn daughter to anyone else. Lianna wasn’t old enough to see it any other way, she said.
Over the years, Rebolledo suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder with panic attacks, anxiety and depression.
“There were difficult episodes during which I couldn’t leave the house,” she said. “My family put me in the hospital. There was a fight between my post-traumatic stress disorder and the part of me that wanted to recover and provide for my daughter.”
Her single mother, who provided for her four children, inspired Rebolledo to fight for her own daughter.
“I went to a special junior high and high school. I had to do a lot of work at home so I could take care of my daughter and at the same time I had been working since I was 13 as a cashier and later as a waitress,” she said. “Many people told me my life was ruined, but at 16 I was providing for myself.”
She left her 3-year-old daughter at a daycare while she went to work and study. She worked eight hours a day and studied in the afternoon.
“It was tough to be a young mother without resources, but I knew that at some point I would discover the reason why I was living through it,” she said.
After high school, she began studying communications at UCLA, eventually graduating with a degree in journalism. She later completed a counseling certification at Los Angeles City College.
“I wanted to do something for others, but I knew I had to heal myself first,” she said.
‘Dreams aren’t destroyed when something bad happens’
The unconditional love of her daughter gave meaning to her life.
“I’ve never seen in my daughter the face of my assailants,” she said. “She’s an individual that had nothing to do with that… I didn’t want her to have the life that I did and I fought for that.”
After graduating, Rebolledo worked at various secular radio stations and some television programs, but she said she still had a lot of resentment and rancor for those who had assaulted her.
“I didn’t grow up with any religious influence, but when I was kidnapped, I cried and prayed to God to get me out of there and I didn’t feel he had heard me,” she recalled.
For the next two decades she continued to suffer the consequences of the attack, despite therapy, talks and seminars. Then someone asked her, “You’ve already tried everything else — why not try God?” That led her to seek “spiritual therapy” from a priest.
“He helped me learn to choose to forgive, and how healing begins,” she said. “I now recognize that God was always with me, even when I was kidnapped, because if it were not that way I would not have survived. Many don’t return to their houses, but I did.”
Around 2008, when the United States was struggling through the economic crisis, Rebolledo left her work in journalism and started a foundation called “Prevention and Rescue,” which supports families suffering through alcoholism and drug addiction.
Later she started working at the Manto de Guadalupe Foundation, offering counseling. She also directs “Amor de los Amores,” a radio program that’s broadcast through Guadalupe Radio at 12:30 p.m. in Southern California.
Her work has led to her involvement in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and last Dec. 12 she directed “Ma√±anitas” to the Virgin of Guadalupe.
Loving Life, the nonprofit she founded, promotes the respect of all human life and offers support for victims of abuse.
“Unfortunately we still live in a culture where many women think domestic violence is part of a relationship,” she said. There is too little support for those who suffer through domestic violence and sexual abuse, Rebolledo added.
‘I saved my daughter’s life and she saved mine’
During OneLife LA, which is being presented by the Archdiocese of Los Angeles at 12 p.m. Jan. 23 in Downtown Los Angeles, Rebolledo will be a Spanish-language speaker and will explain why she became a prolife activist.
She travels throughout Latin American and the United States speaking against abortion “even in cases of rape, like mine, because the value of human life doesn’t come from the way in which it was conceived,” she said.
“In my experience, I can be sure that abortion does not erase the trauma of rape. My doctor told me to abort my child and not live with the consequences of the rape,” she said.
“But I asked him, ‘Will I be un-raped? Am I going to go out on the streets without fear?’ He didn’t know what to say,” Rebolledo said. “An abortion is a graver violence against the woman and the unborn. An abortion in my case would not have remedied anything. On the contrary, in my situation two lives were saved. I saved my daughter’s life and she saved mine.”