Secrets and Sexual Abuse

Auntie Anne Beiler
September 21, 2021

Auntie Anne Beiler

Founder of Auntie Anne's Pretzels

In episode two of Overcome With Auntie Anne, I began sharing my personal story of struggle by talking about the death of my young daughter. If you missed it, I encourage you to go back and listen or read the show notes.

This week, I continue sharing and recounting the abuse I experienced after her death and the freedom I eventually found. Listen to the podcast to hear it in my own words, or keep reading below for an overview.

The beginning of abuse

The first time I visited with my pastor, I shared about the hurt and pain I was experiencing because of my daughter’s death, but I also talked about the distance my husband Jonas and I experienced. We were having a hard time connecting and were essentially living in a silent relationship.

The pastor said that Jonas and I would never be able to connect again because of the tragedy. But, he said, he could be what I needed. By the end of the session, I was feeling confused about everything.

In my mind, “meeting my needs” meant getting together, talking, and sharing. But at the end of the session, the pastor walked me to his office door, gave me a long and close hug, and then kissed me.

In the church I was involved with, hugging and saying, “I love you” were normal parts of church life. But this was different, and I was immediately uncomfortable and wanted to break loose from his grip. But, before I left, the pastor told me that I couldn’t tell anyone about this because no one would believe me.

I felt so ashamed about what happened, even though it wasn’t my fault. And that shame kept me silent because even if I did speak out, I didn’t know how I would describe it. At that moment, I became paralyzed emotionally and knew that something had changed within me. This pastor friend, whom I had once trusted, became a force of evil in my life, and I felt like I had no choice but to remain silent.

The progression of abuse

This first session with my pastor, and the subsequent abuse I began to experience, led me into a state of confusion. On the one hand, I met with the pastor weekly and felt heard and understood regarding the pain I was experiencing. On the other hand, he was getting more aggressive. He continued to sow the lie that things with Jonas would never get better and that he was the only man that could meet my needs. This pastor was setting me up to be completely dependent on him.

As a young, pregnant mommy in a silent marriage, I was beginning to doubt that I would be with Jonas forever. This pastor fed into that by talking about how bad his wife was and saying that he and I could run off together one day and get married. Having come to the point where I was completely dependent on this man for my emotional wellbeing, I reluctantly obliged his invitation to meet at a hotel room. I had no idea what would happen, but what did happen left me scared to death.

This trusted pastor friend raped me, then got up and left, leaving me alone in a dingy hotel room with fear and shame as my companions.

Keeping the secret

For seven years, this abusive relationship continued. And just like with the death of my daughter, I started to pretend again. The pastor continued forcing me to keep the secret by reinforcing the lie that no one would believe me if I told them. And he said it was all okay because he was my spiritual leader.

Deep down, though, I knew it wasn’t okay. If it was, why keep it a secret? But I didn’t believe I could ever have a healthy marriage with Jonas again and felt my pastor was the only person I could run towards. The only times I felt okay was when I was with him, and yet, at the same time, I wanted to run away as fast as I could. But I couldn’t. So I did what I had always done--I built up a wall and reverted into myself.

Jonas and I, along with my two sisters and their husbands, eventually followed our pastor friend to Texas to plant a church. And through it all, I continued to pretend and perform. I played the part of the good housewife, cooking, cleaning, and taking care of the kids. But deep down, I didn’t feel like a good mom or a good wife because of what the pastor was doing to me. That was always on my mind, and because of that, I became emotionally absent from my family.

My relationships with my sisters became estranged during this time as well. I lived in a different town than they did, and even though we sang together on Sunday mornings, we lost the connection we once had. All over again, I felt the pain of rejection like I’d experienced as a child.

It was during these times that I simply existed. I didn’t feel I could go backward and didn’t feel like I could move forward. I was stuck with no way out, and it was all because of what this pastor was doing to me.

Getting out

Eventually, I began to see the abuse I was experiencing as what it was--evil and full of darkness. But, unbeknownst to me at the time, I wasn’t the only one this pastor was abusing and deceiving. It turns out the perpetrator was a force of evil in the community, abusing many women and children in the church and getting away with all of it.

I started to suspect his involvement with other women and eventually confronted him. But as with any perpetrator, he used that to keep me in bondage, telling me I had a big mouth, that he never did trust me in the first place, and that I had no facts to prove it. He began to threaten me subtly, saying that if I ever said anything, he’d haunt me for the first of my life. I was stuck once again.

But my saving came in the form of my sister. After six years of no connection, my sister invited me to her home to have coffee. While we were together, she shared with me that she, too, had been abused by our pastor but found the courage to end it and walked away. For me, this was the encouragement I needed. If my sister could walk away and be fine, then maybe I could too.

Over six months, my sister became my lifeline, and eventually, my fear turned into anger at what this man was doing. Emboldened by my anger, I confronted him over coffee and told him, “I’m done,” and that this was the last time we were ever going to get together.

He, of course, said I’d never make it without him and that if I did leave, he’d haunt me for the rest of my life. And then he played the money card, saying he had lots of money and he and I could run away together. But I laughed and said there’s no way I’m going with him, that I’m done, and that he’ll never see me again. So then I left the restaurant shaking like a leaf but knew deep down that I had finally won the battle.

The beginning of freedom

It took me six months after leaving the pastor to tell Jonas about what happened. I didn’t know how he’d respond but was afraid my worst fears would come to reality and that he’d leave me. But I finally found the courage and one day went to his shop. Standing there, I asked if he’d heard about what was happening at the church with our pastor (more about what he was doing began to come out). Jonas said he had, and all I could say was that I was one of those women and that I’m sorry and I’m a sorry person.

I left, having no idea how Jonas would react. Later that night, he came home, and what he said changed my life. If I needed to leave, Jonas said to tell him rather than just leave a note on the dresser and walk away. If I need to leave, he wants to help me find a place to live. And he said that if I leave, I should take the girls with me because they need their mommy.

For me, someone who, at this point, didn’t believe in myself, didn’t have any self-respect and self-esteem and viewed myself as unloveable and unforgivable, this moment changed my life. For my husband, who had just gotten this devastating news, to say that he wants to take care of me, and more than that, believes that I’m good enough to continue being the mommy of our girls--this was the first time in seven years that I began to feel a little hope. Hope that Jonas and I will be fine. Hope that life would okay. Hope that my past wouldn’t define me.

And it was all because I chose to confess and tell my story.

It takes time

It wasn’t until 15 years later, with the help of a therapist, that I finally realized and admitted that all that happened wasn’t my fault. And it took another 15 years after that for me to admit I was raped.

Sharing our stories isn’t easy. And the outcome may not be what we expect. But, it will break something within us, release us from the bondage that our past is holding us in, and bring us into freedom.

And that’s not the end of the story. Jonas and I have been happily married for 53 years and remain best friends. We have two wonderful daughters on earth and one in heaven and blessed with four grandchildren.

After our darkest days, we went on to create the world’s largest international pretzel franchise without an education, business plan, or money. And while that outcome doesn’t mirror everyone’s story, it all started with the freedom one small confession brought, one small part of my story being shared that eventually led to my overcoming.

The post Secrets and Sexual Abuse appeared first on Auntie Anne Beiler.

Auntie Anne Beiler

Want Auntie Anne Beiler for your next event?

Find out more information, including fees and availability.
Find Out More
Keep Reading
A Husband's Perspective on Loss, Grief, and Learning to Forgive featuring Jonas Beiler
Auntie Anne Beiler
Auntie Anne Beiler
November 30, 2021
When my husband, Jonas Beiler, and I recited our vows ...
Surviving the Cancer Storm with Yoli Origel
Auntie Anne Beiler
Auntie Anne Beiler
November 23, 2021
When Yoli Origel found out she may have cancer, the first question out of her mouth was, "Oh my ...
Stepping Into Your Godly Assignments with Chantell Cooley
Auntie Anne Beiler
Auntie Anne Beiler
November 16, 2021
When Chantell and her family were at the lowest of lows, they were living in a ...
A Husband's Perspective on Loss, Grief, and Learning to Forgive featuring Jonas Beiler
When my husband, Jonas Beiler, and I recited our vows 53 years ago, his only real goal in life was to get married and have a family. But the death of our 19-month-old daughter and the subsequent sexual abuse I experienced at the hands of our pastor put his dream in jeopardy. However, as we've both learned together over the years, we may not be...
Read More
Surviving the Cancer Storm with Yoli Origel
When Yoli Origel found out she may have cancer, the first question out of her mouth was, "Oh my gosh. Am I going to die like my mom?" 21 years earlier, when Yoli was just ten years old, her mother passed away from cancer and thoughts of suffering the same fate ran through her head. But now 14 years later she's still surviving and thriving and ...
Read More
Stepping Into Your Godly Assignments with Chantell Cooley
When Chantell and her family were at the lowest of lows, they were living in a run down, falling apart camphouse for free--because they couldn't afford to pay rent--and had no food left. Fast forward to today, and Chantell and her family are founders of Columbia Southern University, an active university with 31,000 students. So how does someon...
Read More
Finding God In the Valley with Lynda Randle
Have you ever heard a song or read a poem only to later hear the story behind it and have it take on so much more meaning? There's a gospel song I love called God Of The Mountain and the lyrics go like this: For the God on the mountain is still God in the valley / When things go wrong, he'll make them right / And the God of the good times is s...
Read More
Journaling Through Life's Heartaches and Depression with Priscilla Dobbins
Priscilla Dobbins is a three-time widow. Her first husband died of a heart attack when she was just 26 years old. Her second husband died of cancer. And her third husband, Doc, as he was affectionately known, passed away in 2014. It wasn't until the passing of Doc, though, that Priscilla fell into a deep depression, unlike anything she'd ever ...
Read More
Learning to Ask "Why Not Me?" with Casey Baynes
It's natural when struggles in life come to ask, "Why me?" But what if we learned to turn that around and asked instead, "Why not me?" Could we start to reframe the struggle, as difficult as it is, in a way that allows us to help others? Casey Baynes is a "Why not me?" type of person. The struggles she's faced throughout her life have been tak...
Read More
Trying to Feel Feelings After Trauma Shuts Them Off with Fi Lusby
By the world's standards, my sister, Fi, and I shouldn't be in a relationship with one another. No one would condemn us if, after our shared tragedy, we were estranged and never spoke. And no one would blame us if we walked out on each other years ago and never returned. But today, we're best friends, because instead of driving us apart, the t...
Read More
Finding Your Place with Timbrel Chyatee
When Timbrel Chyatee traveled from the United States back to her homeland of India with her family in February 2020, she was planning on being there for only a few weeks. But when the then unfamiliar Coronavirus hit and the world shut down, India went into lockdown. With no one allowed in or out, Timbrel was stuck, and she began to panic. But ...
Read More
Battling Depression and Loneliness with Comedian Chonda Pierce
I often hear that laughter is the best medicine. But is it? For the award-winning comedian Chonda Pierce, making other’s laugh was an escape from her deep depression and loneliness. It wasn’t until she hit a wall (metaphorically) at the peak of her career that she finally had to deal with both. Not only does she open up about her story of over...
Read More
Overcome Your Brokenness and Find Your Anointing with Nicole C
The Bible says that the rain falls on the just and the unjust, meaning some storm eventually hits us all. So what do we do when that storm, filled with pain and sorrow, leaves us with nothing but brokenness? According to Nicole C (formerly Mullen), this is where you find your anointing, or in her words, “your anointing comes out of your broken...
Read More