She Said God Blessed Us

A Life Marked by Childhood Sexual Abuse in the Church

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About the Book

When Gail Hovey was a teenager, her local Presbyterian church hired Georgia, a seminary-trained Christian education director. Brilliant and charismatic, Georgia used the language of faith to seduce several of her students, swearing each to secrecy. When she eventually abandoned the others and focused on Gail, Gail believed herself uniquely blessed and for the next 15 years modeled her life on Georgia’s—the seminary degree, the minister husband. The relationship had a profound and lasting influence on the woman Gail became and left her a legacy of guilt and shame. Shedding light on the largely invisible issue of sexual abuse of girls by women, Hovey’s brave memoir relates her decades-long journey—from East Harlem to South Africa to Brooklyn—to break free of an overwhelmingly powerful and deeply destructive first love.

About the Author(s)

Gail Hovey is an editor and writer. Her activism began with the civil rights movement and grew to include economic and social justice work with people’s movements from southern Africa to Hawaii. She lives in New York’s Lower Hudson Valley.

Bibliographic Details

Gail Hovey
Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 267
Bibliographic Info: index
Copyright Date: 2020
pISBN: 978-1-4766-8277-8
eISBN: 978-1-4766-4077-8
Imprint: Exposit

Table of Contents

Section I—An End to Childish Ways

1. In the Beginning 2

2. Whither Thou Goest 4

3. Suffer the Little Children 13

4. Your Cloak as Well 19

5. Putting Away Childish Things 25

6. Will Set You Free 35

7. Becoming Obedient 39

8. With Those Who Rejoice 46

9. With You Always 52

Section II—In the Wilderness

10. Neither Jew nor Greek 66

11. Sojourners in a Strange Land 76

12. Neither Death nor Life 84

13. Wipe Away Every Tear 89

14. Not Unless You Bless Me 96

15. Tidings 106

16. Your Neighbor as Yourself 113

17. The Devotion of Your Youth 120

18. A Child Is Born 127

19. Talk Leads Only To… 133

20. Nothing on My Own 140

21. Thou Shalt Not 147

22. Through a Glass Darkly 152

23. Only in Part 160

24. Then Face to Face 166

25. Your Flight Be Not in Winter 173

Section III—By Their Fruits

26. Spirit and Soul and Body 184

27. The Dust from Your Feet 191

28. Unless I See 199

29. The Third and Fourth Generation 206

30. Gather Stones Together 218

31. Time to Embrace 226

Epilogue: And Pondered Them in Her Heart 237

Acknowledgments 253

Index 257

Book Reviews & Awards

• “Hovey’s riveting, beautifully written memoir is an excruciatingly honest account of her complex and committed life after abuse.”—WATER: Women’s Alliance for Theology, Ethics and Ritual

• “Gail Hovey’s brave and honest book 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, New York City

• “Gail Hovey’s memoir is an inspiring and transformative story, brilliantly told. She takes the reader along deeply personal churns and turns, to reach powerful insights into life marked by childhood events. Gail’s imagery of the facets of violation, power, damage, as well as clarity, comfort and completion, echo familiar sentiments in the stories of military sexual trauma survivors I’ve heard, who seek a fit for events that don’t, in their heroic lives.”—Christine Burnett, Military Sexual Trauma Prevention and Response Program Manager, San Antonio, Texas

• “Gail Hovey’s memoir is harrowing and haunting. Searingly honest, full of terrible truths, She Said God Blessed Us shows us, in agonizing truth, the effects of sexual abuse in her church. Hovey’s story shines a light on a history some would prefer to remain untold—but in so doing, helps us all continue our search for justice, and for grace.”—Jennifer Finney Boylan, author of Good Boy and She’s Not There

• “In She Said God Blessed Us, Gail Hovey introduces us to a firebrand who confronts her world with a fierceness and determination to fight for change. As she participates in several of the pivotal social justice movements of our times, from the fight against American racism in the 1960s to the campaign to end South African apartheid in the decades that followed, Hovey grows to recognize how abuse of power also shaped her young life—abuse at the hands of her religious mentor. Wrenching and celebratory, Hovey’s memoir depicts a long struggle to move through guilt and pain toward a peace she can claim as her own.”—Elliot Long, Emmett Till Interpretive Center