Gail Hovey

Author and Editor

She Said God Blessed Us:

A Life Marked by Childhood Sexual Abuse in the Church

By Gail Hovey

When Gail Hovey was a teenager, her local Presbyterian church hired a seminary-trained Christian education director. Brilliant and charismatic, Georgia used the language of faith to seduce several of her students, declaring love and swearing each one to secrecy. When Georgia abandoned the others and chose Gail, she believed herself uniquely blessed and from then on modeled her life on Georgia’s—the seminary degree, the minister husband.

The abuse of children, especially girls, by women is mostly invisible. This brave memoir captures, in enthralling, chilling detail, what was required, over decades, to break free of such an overwhelmingly powerful and deeply destructive first love.

Self-understanding is elusive when the language needed to express it is missing altogether or limited to reductive binaries like gay/straight, male/female, and even good/evil. Georgia taught Gail many things but bequeathed her a legacy of guilt and shame for the secrets they shared over fifteen years. Activism, both religious and secular—the civil rights movement, the anti-apartheid movement, the women’s movement—gave Gail a way to grapple with this dubious inheritance, as did work with a psychotherapist. Her vulnerable and nuanced story affirms the necessity of truth-telling. Doing so, she gives voice to the bonds between the social engagement and the personal reckonings that have shaped her life. Her compelling memoir is a testament to courage and to the complex power of love.

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“Gail Hovey’s brave and honest book, She Said God Blessed Us: A Life Marked by Childhood Sexual Abuse in the Church, shows us that clergy who abuse can also be women. This beautiful and yet haunting book is a must read for anyone concerned with stopping cycles of violence in our churches and institutions.” – Serene Jones, President, Union Theological Seminary