Dawn Stefanowicz: Coming Out from Under

CBN.com Growing up, Dawn Stefanowitz knew her parents didn’t have a normal relationship.

"My father was much closer to his male partner that lived in our home, than he was to my mother," she tells The 700 Club.

Her dad lived an openly gay lifestyle, despite having a wife and children. She explains, "There was no sexual relationship whatsoever between my parents, but they did reside in the same home.  But my father would bring his partners into the home environment. My mother had been ill, and she was very subservient, basically did everything my father commanded." 

Seeing her dad with other men had a devastating effect on Dawn.

"I already had seen my mother being completely rejected from the time I was very young. My earliest years I don’t remember them ever being close or affectionate. I don’t remember my father ever being respectful towards my mother. It made me feel very depressed, very alone, like I couldn’t talk to anyone about it. It taught me that I wasn’t good enough, that I was a little girl who really wasn’t valued. 

"To substitute for not having daddy there, I started to have boyfriends at age 12, and I was quite vulnerable to boys if they were affectionate towards me and provided that attention that I was looking for from my own father."  

But a neighbor wanted Dawn and her brother to know that there was another way to live.

"She was very aware of the relationship that my father was involved in. She was very loving.  She wasn’t angry or judgmental. [She was] an incredible woman of God who demonstrated the love of Jesus Christ to me."

Dawn asked Jesus into her heart, but her home life didn’t change. 

"I was looking for God to miraculously remove me from the situation.  He didn’t do that right away." 

She eventually walked away from God.

"I was trying to find, again, a substitute for my father that I was missing so much. I remember I was just feeling like there was no hope outside in the world.   The only hope that I could find was from my childhood faith in Jesus Christ."

So Dawn went to a church service at her college and recommitted her life to God. 

"I remember my arms were raised and my body was shaking. I was just so confused, and God knew all that was happening in my heart. I just said, 'You know, God, here’s my life.  Do what You will with it.  I can’t figure this out.  I can’t deliver myself out of the situation.' It really took time to get my feet on the ground and start seeing that God was still in control, He’s sovereign, and to really trust him."

Dawn learned that in order for God to heal her emotional scars, she had to let go of her past.

"I had to forgive my dad, no matter what he had done to me, no matter what he had said, even what he hadn’t provided for me, that security, stability, pure love and affection that I so needed from him."

Though she was growing in her faith, Dawn still had a hard time trusting men.

"I didn’t want to be abandoned.  I didn’t want to feel rejected down the road. I had to know that this man was moral and would stand there with me and go through the ups and downs of life."

She met Nick Stefanowicz. She knew this was a man she could trust. 

"With my husband, he offers me a soul rest.  Even before we were married, there was a sense of acceptance."

Dawn and Nick prayed daily for her father.  Eventually, her worst fears about her dad were confirmed.

"I saw that the road that my dad was on was a dangerous one, and we had already sensed that he was dying of AIDS."

Her father eventually died at age 51, but before his death, he accepted Christ as his Savior.

"During those last three years of my dad’s life, he shared with me his regrets. His own childhood that had been horrendous.  He had a violent, alcoholic father, and he had been sexually abused. No matter what my father had done, no matter where he had been, who he had been with, God was able to come in there and forgive my dad.

"I have confidence knowing that the Lord has said He will not leave us. He will not forsake us.  I know what abandonment is like.  I know what it’s like to be left all alone and knowing that God has this big picture. He knows how to hold me and take care of me. He is able to redeem. He is able to heal and just do beyond what we can even imagine."

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