“She was a sex slave.” For years, Joy was tortured by her church pastor husband in secret.

Video via 60 Minutes

Warning: this post discusses sexual assault. 

A 63-year-old woman has detailed the horrific sexual assault and abuse she suffered daily at the hands of her former church pastor husband in Australia.

For over four decades, Joy Harris said she was raped, verbally assaulted and abused by her ex-husband, Independent Baptist Minister Larry Harris. At its worst, Joy said she was raped up to seven times a day.

“He thought the more times a day he could have it, the more of a man he was. He would get up to 6, 7 times a day and he didn’t care if it caused me pain,” Joy told 60 Minutes reporter Liam Bartlett on Sunday.

baptist cult
Joy Harris. Source: 60 MInutes.

"My husband knew I would do it because I wanted to please God. I look back on it now and realise I didn't have to stay, but I thought I did," Joy said.

Joy and Larry Harris met when they were still teenagers living in the United States, coming together over their love of Christian teachings. But within a few short years, Larry had led them towards the Valley Forge Baptist Church in Pennsylvania, a conservative denomination of Christianity.

Former members have reportedly likened it to a 'cult' that believes in answering only to God and tells women to submit to their husbands.

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Larry's belief comes from a passage in Ephesians 5:24 that reads: 'Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything.'

baptist cult
Joy and Larry Harris. Source: 60 Minutes.

Described as "a bully with a bible," Larry soon became a pastor of the church, which is independent of mainstream Baptist ministries, and the couple was sent to Australia as missionaries in 1994.

It was here that the abuse worsened, becoming a daily occurrence.

Eventually, Joy and Jason say, the church learned of the abuse and flew the couple back to the USA for "intensive marriage counselling". It ultimately failed, with Joy pressing charges against Larry and succeeding in having him jailed.

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When asked why they did not alert authorities or intervene, a church official claimed they knew only of the verbal abuse. When asked if they were surprised to learn of Larry being convicted of rape, they said no.

“It was sexual assault, it was rapes, it was deprivation of liberty, look it was disgusting, to be honest,” Detective Sergeant Brendan Young said of Larry's abuse.

In 2006, their son Jason Harris left the church in support of his mother.

"We didn't realise it at the time, but she was a sex slave," Jason said.

This is at odds with Joy and Larry's other child, Kevin Harris, who is now an Independent Baptist Church pastor and preaches in the NSW town of Dapto.

baptist cult
Jason Harris left the church after learning of his mother's abuse. Source: 60 Minutes.

On Sunday, Kevin told 60 Minutes that while his father is guilty, his expression of remorse and repentance now absolves him of guilt. He is no longer in contact with Joy.

“[Kevin thinks] I’m just as guilty as a rapist, my rapist. I’m wrong; I’m displeasing God,” Joy said.

Larry is currently serving a five-year prison sentence in Queensland for two counts of rape against Joy.

She is also seeking to have Larry charged in New South Wales, the state where they previously lived and where multiple other counts of rape allegedly occurred.

If this article has raised issues for you or anyone you know help is available via 1800 RESPECT and Lifeline on 13 11 14. 

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