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Jessica Hahn, woman at center of televangelist's fall 30 years ago, confronts her past

Tim Funk, The Charlotte Observer on

Published in Religious News

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- It's been three decades since the world found out about the 15 minutes she spent in a Florida hotel room with televangelist Jim Bakker. But Jessica Hahn says it's only been in the last two years that she's finally confronted her anger about what happened, and how it's affected the rest of her life.

She says she's angry at Bakker, founder of the onetime PTL empire near Charlotte, for using his power and his image as a man of God to manipulate her, then a 21-year-old church secretary, into having sex.

"He just believed that everybody should serve him because he was serving God," she said of Bakker.

She's also angry at herself for being in the hotel room. And for reacting to this experience and the sudden media glare by making "maybe not the best choices" over the years that followed – including posing nude three times in Playboy.

Such choices, Hahn said, turned her into "pretty much a cartoon character."

"There are nights now that I get up (at 3 a.m.), and I'm sweating," she recently told the Observer. "I never had that before. I thought I was sliding through. I thought, 'My life is fine. I didn't get injured by this. Nothing affected me. I went off and posed in Playboy ... I did this and I did that. I made it work.' But no! I wake up now and go, 'Oh my God, I'm so angry.' "

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Hahn said she finds herself identifying with some of the women now coming forward, often telling their stories of sexual harassment and abuse after staying silent about them for years.

"People used to say, 'Jessica, you kept quiet for eight years. Why?' Well, there were a million reasons," Hahn said. "These women coming out now – there were a million reasons. ... It's like the power position is abused in every lifestyle, whether it's politics, religion or business."

Hahn, who's 58, attributes her new clarity to a change in lifestyle and locale. After years of living amid "the glitz and glamor and all the B.S." of Hollywood, the one-time actress, model and radio host now lives quietly with her husband, who's a movie stunt man, and their animals – including a pet turkey named Pearl – on a 45-acre ranch an hour north of Los Angeles.

"I moved out into the country to just start over," she said. "We have a bison, horses, chickens. I get eggs every day. ... You really grow up when you're all alone. I mean, I'm married and all, but we live out in the woods. ... Boy, have I changed from what I used to be like."

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