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Healing Incest & CSA Through My Christian Faith: A Testimony

Updated: Jun 7, 2023

Note: Incest AWARE has no religious affiliation. However, we support survivors in the ways that they make personal meaning of their experiences and utilize religious resources and beliefs to help them to heal. All ideas expressed are the views of the author, not the organization.

Reaching past the psychologist, I handed the elderly youth minister a picture of an eleven year old girl, standing tall and skinny with a very sad face. The child was me. I told him, “Here is a picture of the child you molested. I want you to remember this girl as I speak to you.”

I spoke softly to him, recalling what he had done to me at the Bible camp. I then directed a question I had not planned on asking him. “Who hurt you so badly that you had to hurt me?” I knew the Holy Spirit was speaking through me. At this ‘discipline hearing,’ I was supported by eight pastors from my childhood denomination.

Statistics are startling! People who harm molest an average of 120 children before getting caught.* According to RAINN, one out of nine girls and one out of twenty boys are sexually abused before the age of 18. Sexual abuse is as common as shop lifting. A child is molested every nine minutes. An Ameican is raped every 68 seconds in the United States. An abused woman continues to take abuse until she says stop or leaves, but most don’t know how to stop the abuse nor have a way out. Long after the abuse, I was held hostage to my past but God heard my cry.

Inside every sex offender is a very wounded child who may have been violated themselves. Power and control are used to reel the child in . . . like a fish to a fish hook to meet the offender’s own perverted needs. Among reported child abuse incidences to law enforcement, nearly 34% are incest. Offenders are rarely strangers, only making up 7% of the cases. The additional 59% are trusted individuals of the child.

As the daughter of a pastor, my daddy led me to faith in Jesus at the age of five. Both my parents instilled in my being the practice of loving the Lord with all my heart, soul, and mind. As a very young child though, I also survived incest by my grandfather’s hands. He violated my cousins as well. When I finally had the courage to tell my parents about the youth pastor’s sin, the generational curse was broken. My mother confided in me that she too had been violated by my grandfather! He was a church elder. The Bible warns in Leviticus 18:6:

“Thou shalt not uncover thy nakedness with next of kin to have sexual relations.”

Unable to speak about those horrors for forty years, much like amnesia, post traumatic stress trauma (PTSD) threw me into deep depression and denial. As a child, I had frightening nightmares, school was difficult because of memory blocks, and at the age of sixteen I needed hormone shots to begin my cycle. When I got married, I had difficulty conceiving a child so we adopted our first born. Other things that crept into my marriage were hideous secrets including pornography and infidelity after my husband’s father committed suicide. I felt all alone and wanted to run away from it all, but who I was running from was me and the demons of my past!

What released years of pain was when I chose to forgive the pastor. He answered my question by asking me a question. He quietly said, “I don’t know if you can find it in your heart to forgive me?” My heart broke! I wasn’t expecting this! “Forgive you?” I asked him. “I could never have come to you had I not forgiven you prior to seeing you again!” What I realized at that moment was that forgiveness does not erase our past. He was responsible for what he did to me and all those he violated. God will be his judge. The memories will never be forgotten, but in letting the ember of hatred go from my heart, I could now be free to grieve all my losses and be empowered to live!

I looked into this pastor's eyes and said, “I don’t know if you asked for my forgiveness because you got caught or because you sincerely mean it. But you need to make amends to everyone you have harmed! But I know that this is impossible! Too much time has gone on. You’ve hurt hundreds of children, but you better get right with God before it’s too late!”

Little did I realize what little time he had on earth. Just seven weeks after facing and forgiving him, he fell and broke his back and died. A broken man who was all alone! I opened my Bible to Job 24:19-20:

“As heat and drought snatch away the melted snow, so the grave snatches away those who have sinned. The womb forgets them, the worm feasts on them; evil men are no longer remembered but are broken like a tree.”

As I began writing and grieving all my losses, my silence could now be broken and I started to give out of my brokenness for others. Comforted, God gave me Psalm 10:14-18:

“The victim commits himself to you; you are the helper of the fatherless. Break the arm of the wicked and evil man; call him to account for his wickedness that would not be found out. You hear, O Lord, the desire of the afflicted; you encourage them and you listen to their cry, defending the fatherless and the oppressed in order that man who is of the earth, may terrify no more.”

My marriage has been restored and my husband and I have celebrated over forty years together. God is inviting us to give back with the mission we are on to free others from the prison of sexual abuse they are in. Many in our churches need comforting, an awakening and much awareness. My husband, my best friend, and I are co-Chaplains of our Christian Motorcycle Association, “His Riders” Chapter in Massachusetts. We freely speak whenever and wherever God opens doors.

For the past several years God has led me to facilitate Beauty Out of Ashes support group for survivors of childhood sexual abuse. Support is essential so that trauma survivors are not alone. We need to cry with them and believe in them to help unlayer the pain so they can be heard in a safe place. It is in the telling that the secrets no longer hold power over us!

Healing came as I had the courage to face the truth about myself. I could remain in denial, and stay bitter and angry or be freed by Jesus who speaks peace to the brokenhearted. Like Isaiah 49:9 says when speaking to captives and in darkness:

“Come out! [...] Be free!”

Like the story of Joseph in the Bible, when his brothers took him captive and sold him into slavery, we can become better and be healed. The choice is ours.

*This statistic was provided by Sports Illustrated: September 1999, in an article, “Coaches Abusing the Children they Coach,” and may not reflect contemporary numbers.

- Barbara Joy Hansen

Barbara Joy Hansen provides much insight into domestic violence and sexual assault as a survivor of childhood incest, preteen clergy crime, rape and tragic losses including betrayal in her own marriage. After living a “silent scream” for many decades, Barbara faced, confronted & chose to forgive one of her perpetrator’s with three other survivors in a Sex Abuse Case. She facilitates Beauty Out of ashes Support Group, teaches battered women and works with male survivors online. She also supports victims of crimes in the courtroom. The Author’s book is Listen to the Cry of the Child published by WinePress Publishing 2003. She can be reached by her website at

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