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`LOVE AND GRACE’ LOOKS UNFLINCHINGLY AT DATE RAPE

SHARE `LOVE AND GRACE’ LOOKS UNFLINCHINGLY AT DATE RAPE

Author Anita Stansfield is known for her LDS love stories, "First Love" and "Forever." Her latest book takes an unflinching look at a subject too many teens, young adults and their parents ignore: date rape.

Nationally, 70 percent of all rapes are date or "acquaintance" rapes. Jamee Roberts, public relations coordinator for Salt Lake's Rape Crisis Center, said, "In Salt Lake City, 78 percent of all rapes are acquaintance rape - where the rapist is someone who is known to the victim, where an element of trust is involved."But even beyond this difficult subject, "By Love and Grace" is not the standard by-the-numbers Mormon-oriented novel.

Stansfield has crafted a believable and tender love story that develops between two university students whose paths cross in the library. Just as Sean O'Hara and Tara Parr begin falling in love, Tara has one last date with Danny. Sean has a bad feeling about this guy, but Tara laughs and says, "He has tickets for a play that I'm supposed to see for my humanities class. We've had this planned for weeks. But don't worry . . . I doubt I'll have much need for Danny after Tuesday."

Tara finds out that bad things do happen to good people. The date ends with a rape that devastates and almost destroys her. She is too frightened to tell anyone and tries to lock all her pain inside:

"Sean watched Tara carefully through the class. His initial joy at seeing her quickly faded. The knots in his stomach tightened until they threatened to explode. This woman, whom he had become accustomed to watching as she'd studied in the library, always sat straight with poise and confidence. She'd had an aura of vibrancy and self-assurance. But this . . . this was someone else. The Tara Parr sitting in front of him now hunched down in her chair as if she could somehow make herself invisible. She kept her head down, and fidgeted with her hair as if she could somehow hide behind it . . . While Sean has spent the last few days trying to convince himself he was letting his imagination run away with him, he realized now that his feelings had been valid. Something had changed her. Something horrible had happened. And he wasn't letting her out of his sight until he got to the bottom of it."

"By Love and Grace" follows this young couple as they deal with not only the rape but the subsequent pregnancy. And the tough decision is made to give the child up for adoption. While the problems they encounter are realistic - an ecclesiastical leader that is rather insensitive and one woman is clearly thrilled to have some juicy gossip - Sean and Tara find strength, peace and joy in their love. And love truly has the ability to heal.

Writer Stansfield said in a telephone interview that a young woman who had been raped read the manuscript. "She read it through twice and said it helped her acknowledge her feelings that she was a victim, that it wasn't her fault. She said it was validating and very healing."

Stansfield seems to have nailed down the rape and recovery experience. "I'm not a rape victim myself. I just tried to feel what it would be like," she said. Interestingly, in the book she has Sean experience a gut feeling that Tara shouldn't go out with Danny again. Jamee Roberts from Salt Lake's Rape Crisis Center said she wished she could educate young women to understand how valid their instincts can be. "When the hair rises on the back of your neck, you should follow your instincts!" she said.

- RESOURCES FOR young women who have been raped include: Rape Crisis Center, 2035 S. 1300 East, 467-7273; and for those who are pregnant who chose not to abort: LDS Social Services, 10 E. South Temple, adoption service, 240-6500; and the Pregnancy Resource Center, 805 E. 900 South, 363-5433, run by nondenominational Christians.