Mary Hackett, 30
Mother of Brigid, 6; and Colm, 4 months. Survived a violent rape, then became a single mother over her family's objections.
In August 1998, Mary Hackett, then 22, was driving from her family's home in Connecticut to the University of Nebraska, where she was getting her master's degree in English. Her car broke down, and she rented another during the repair. When Hackett returned the car, the rental agent raped her so violently that, although she didn't know it, she sustained serious internal injuries. But Hackett went back to school, telling few people about the rape until her untreated injuries sent her to the hospital with septic shock and a high fever.
Normally a self-sufficient high achiever, Hackett fell apart. "I lost sight of what I wanted in life, my goals, everything," she says. Longing for some kind of comfort, she began seeing a young man. "I was so desperate and so alone," she says. "And here was this sweet guy I thought was going to save me."
Within months, Hackett was pregnant. Her parents suggested adoption, but later accepted her decision to keep the baby; the baby's father and his parents wanted her to "get rid" of it. Hackett refused. "I knew I loved my baby. Even though I had no one else to rely on, and sometimes I barely had enough to eat, I knew I'd somehow find a way to raise her," she says.
The decision resulted in further condemnation. "Suddenly, everybody--including some members of my own family--kept saying I was this horribly irresponsible person who was ruining everyone else's life." She was working three jobs, and to keep herself sane, she did yoga at home and joined a prenatal support group. "I also got one-on-one therapy," she says. "But mostly, I just made the mental decision that I was going to make it come hell or high water, no matter what people said."
A month after finishing her master's program, Hackett moved back to Connecticut and gave birth to an 8-pound, 8-ounce girl. "I had to go back to work two days after she was born," she says. "For the first year, I worked three jobs because day care was so expensive."
Today, Hackett is married to an architect, Greg, and the two recently had a child together. "So I guess you could say it worked out after all," she says. "I have a wonderful marriage, job and children. It just goes to show you, if believe you can do it, chances are you can."