When she balked, saying her husband needed to deal with his abusive behavior, Graham dismissed the idea of going to a “godless psychiatrist” for help with abuse, she said. All Panahi needed to do was to follow Graham’s advice.
“This can be fixed,” he told her. “And it can be fixed, easy. If you want it.”
The recording of the 2016 meeting recently became public on a podcast hosted by author and blogger Julie Roys, who often writes about abuse in the church. Panahi talked on Roys’ show about the pushback she got for a social media post about an abusive pastor in her adopted state of Idaho. Some of her social followers wanted her to take the post down, Panahi told RNS, arguing that conversations about abuse painted the church in a bad light.
Abedini has long denied any abusive behavior, despite pleading guilty in 2007 to domestic abuse for which he was given a year’s probation. Court records from the couple’s divorce also showed a pattern of abusive behavior. In 2018, he was arrested for violating a no-contact order.
He told Religion News Service in an interview that he is working on a book entitled “Against the Powers,” which he claims will vindicate him. He claimed that he has been the victim of false allegations and was betrayed by Graham and others who once rallied to his cause.
“I never saw anyone be a used and abused person like myself,” said Abedini, who declined to tell Religion News Service where he was other than outside the United States. A Muslim call to prayer could be heard echoing behind him as he spoke.
Abedini also said God had forgiven all his sins, even though he was not worthy. But instead of criticizing him, Abedini said that his former wife and critics ought to be praying for him and building him up. Tearing down his reputation, he said, was not God’s way.
Panahi heard a lot about protecting Saeed’s reputation after she made her allegations known, she said. She was told that by going public with her story of abuse, she had put Saeed in danger and was a poor witness to the Christian faith. Other supporters, meanwhile, felt betrayed that she had kept the abuse secret.
Panahi said she loved her ex-husband and wanted him to change. But he would not. And she could not reconcile with him unless he got help.
“You guys want a happy ending photo, but what’s going to happen after that? I’m going to live with this man and my life is going to be in danger,” she recalled telling Graham. “When all of the cameras go away, it’s going to be me that has to deal with this.”