Teens and Sex:

Linda Tanner’s Story

by Betty Halliburton Linda Tanner’s life of 17 years has been filled with many traumatic episodes and moments. As she sat in the living room of her foster parent’s home, she recalled her shocking past. "I grew up really fast. It was tough. Somehow, I managed."

By the time Linda was in sixth grade she had already been enrolled at 12 different schools, partied with adults, experimented with marijuana and alcohol and lost her virginity. By the ninth grade, Linda gave birth to her daughter Julie.

Linda attributes much of her unstable past to a troubled family situation. She and her maternal mother are currently working through their problems. But at an early age, Linda had already begun searching for comfort, help and love in the wrong places.

"I met my child’s father when I was 12. There was a lot of arguing at my house. There was five of us in a two-bedroom." Linda found refuge at her ex-boyfriend’s house. "When I was there, they treated me nice and they said I was one of their own kids. I was always welcome."

Linda admits the sexual relationship just happened. "I knew it wasn’t right. I did it more because I didn’t want to lose my connection with him and his family." The two of them used some protection, but the inevitable happened. "After we did it, I had a feeling I was pregnant. Then I was late and I told my mom. She was a little mad, but she said we would have to deal with it."

What followed was an emotional roller coaster that took Linda into a deep depression. "I was really down about being pregnant. It was so overwhelming. I didn’t know what I was going to do or how I was going to take care of it." She recalled. "A lot of times I said I don’t want to be pregnant. A lot of times I thought about suicide. Things would just build up inside."

In addition to the depression, Linda had some very serious medical problems. Her doctor had diagnosed her with Toxemia. Then a month and a half before Linda was scheduled to deliver, her blood pressure rose extremely high and her liver had swollen. Linda was rushed to Oberlin Hospital then transported to Fairview General in Cleveland.

The doctors were forced to deliver the baby early by cesarean section. Baby Julie was born at 3 pounds 12 ounces, but with some serious health problems of her own. The infant was diagnosed with Turner Syndrome, a disease that includes deformity and growth problems. Little Julie was instantly hooked up to a heart and lung monitor and was kept at the hospital for extensive care.

The health problems of little Julie only complicated her problems at home between her mother and stepfather. "When I should have been on bed rest we got in a big fight. I didn’t care about anything." I called the family caseworker three times. Finally, I was removed from the home." Linda stayed with an aunt for awhile, but that didn’t last. After three weeks at the Junction, a runaway shelter in Lorain County, Linda was put in a foster home twice, before coming to live with her current foster parents Mary and Joe Tornabene.

"When she first came to live with us it was eight months of struggle," said Mary. We were very family oriented. There were rules and regulations." There were other issues as well. "Linda had to learn how to trust people. We had a lot of rough times and much counseling."

Then on Wednesday, October 2, 1996 something happened. The Tornabene’s who are members of Church of the Open Door had been taking Linda to church with them for four months. But on this particular night the service was for teenagers. "They seemed to have something that I didn’t have. It was peace." Linda remembers. "The Youth Pastor was saying you can be loved no matter what you’ve done. All you have to do is believe in Jesus and you can go to heaven. He said if anyone wanted to be saved to stand up."

Linda said whenever the pastor had asked people to stand before, she wouldn’t get up. This time she did.

"I told them I needed prayer, and I started crying and I asked Christ to come into my heart." Her voice begins to tremble. "It felt so different." Linda’s foster mother agrees. "The Lord was able to touch her heart. To see her now. She had no self-esteem. She always held her head down all of the time, but like a cocoon, Linda has turned into a butterfly."

Linda also noticed some instant changes. "Everyone said I had a hard attitude. After that night, they say I have softened up. I finally realized that the only one who could help me was God. I stopped swearing and smoking. My life has totally changed."

Since her born again experience over two years ago, Linda has had time to reflect on some realities of her actions and believes that the Lord used her tragedy for His glory. "Having Julie wasn’t good, but God forgave me. I realize that it was bad to have sex before marriage, but after I became a Christian, I also realized God used that for me to come to Him."

As for her relationship with Jesus Christ? "It means everything to me. There’s no way I can change what I did. I still have time to correct the future. It’s just by His grace. I should be in the gutter somewhere!"

Linda has been working with a program through Cornerstone Pregnancy Services in Elyria called Youth For Abstinence and she is hoping her testimony will help other young people remain abstinent until marriage.

"If you’re desperate and searching for love and affection, don’t look for it in sex." She said adamantly.

"You are giving away a part of you, and you will never get it back. "

What Linda does hope to get back is a grasp on her entire life. She is still struggling with some guilt and her role as a mother. For now, she has Julie every other weekend.

Although Linda’s story had some very tough chapters, she is the first to admit that the Lord is the author and finisher of her faith. "People won’t always be there, but God will be there forever!"