Jessica Hahn and Pentecostal Silence on Sexual Abuse

In: Pneuma
Author: John Wigger1
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  • 1 University of MissouriUSAColumbia
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In 1980 Jessica Hahn was sexually assaulted by two pentecostal preachers, one of whom was one of the most famous televangelists of the time. Her experience reveals why our current dialogue about powerful men and the reluctance of survivors to come forward applies just as much to Pentecostals, and evangelicals more broadly, as anyone else. For nearly seven years Hahn was pressured into silence. When her story became the center of a national scandal in 1987, she faced unrelenting scorn in the press and silence from the church. Thirty years later she has retreated into obscurity while her most famous assailant, Jim Bakker, is still on television, preaching the gospel. Building on research for the recently published PTL: The Rise and Fall of Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker’s Evangelical Empire and from a subsequent interview with Hahn, this essay challenges Pentecostals to re-examine her story, as a necessary step in responding to the #MeToo movement.

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