CC image courtesy of Flickr, Norbert Posselt.
HA Note: The following is reprinted with permission from Alexa Meyer’s blog Life of Grace and Peace. It was originally published on June 26, 2015 and has been slightly modified for HA.
In this series: Part One | Part Two | Part Three | Part Four | Conclusion
Within a few weeks (April 1992) our family had sold what wasn’t necessary and moved to Oakbrook, IL (HQ). We weren’t expected. No one knew we were coming, and Bill was away at a conference our first week there. My parents and sister were put in a boy’s house, and I went back to the house I first stayed in, working in the kitchen again. It was a strange week, but it was about to get very harassed.
As soon as Bill came back my parents told him that we needed to be together. That took a few days to get settled, but we ended up living in a house off campus owned by the Institute, which, thankfully, also came with furniture.
Meanwhile, after his first day back, Bill tracked me down and told me he wanted me to work as his personal secretary. I said I didn’t have experience in that, but he pushed, telling me to consider it. The next day I wasn’t quick enough, and he cornered me again about working with him. Again I put him off saying I wasn’t sure that was a good thing to do, I would need to talk with my parents. I did tell my parents that he’d asked me and my responses. They didn’t really comment on it that I remember. At work I made sure to listen for his voice and look down hallways first, so I could avoid him. Unfortunately a couple of days later (Thur. I think it was) I rounded a corner and almost ran into him, literally. He escorted me back to his empty office and once again asked me to work with him. I said a point blank “No” this time. He asked me why not, so I answered, “You are a manipulator and I don’t want to work with you.” His answer – “I don’t think you know what that word means.”
He said much more, which I mostly tuned out – he had just proved my statement, what more needed to be said? – but I was surprised when he said he would have to let us go.
I waited until he was done and dismissed me, making sure to leave through his sister, Laura’s, office. As I passed her I told her I would never work for her brother. If looks could kill, I would’ve been dead. Laura disapproved of every female, though, so I didn’t take it personally. That night I told my parents what happened – again not much of a response.
When my dad went into work the next morning (Publications Dept. in the printing and binding area, which is where I shortly joined him), there was a pink slip on his desk. He went to Bill’s office demanding to know why. Bill said we weren’t a fit and we needed to leave as soon as possible. My dad told him we had nowhere to go and no money to do it with. Bill pressed harder and my dad told him that before he had been offered a job, he had received an offer to work in S. Korea teaching English. (My dad had been stationed in Korea for a little over a year with the Air Force from 1985-86.) So Bill said he’d pay for us to go there. My parents talked it over and told him we were going to stay and in a year we would move. (My mom was pregnant again, so I think she didn’t want to move right then.) When my parents confronted him about his timing in firing my dad, Bill said I misunderstood him and his intentions. So we stayed for a year to the day, leaving in April of 1993. (I recently told my dad about Bill sexually harassing me. His response: “That’s why young girls should be taught to go to their dads, tell the man to ask their dad, so things like that don’t happen.” So it was my fault. NOT!)
A month or so after all this happened, Mr. Jim Sammons came to our house to talk with me. Jim was on Gothard’s Board of Directors. He asked me if Bill had been inappropriate with me, and if so, how. I told him about the times of being alone with me, holding my hands, hugging me, asking too personal questions, tracking me down to ask me to work directly in his office; basically everything I could think of. I did tell him that Bill had never touched me in private places, that I wouldn’t have allowed him to.
Jim said that there were problems with girls in Bill’s office and that the Board was working on getting all the girls out.
I find it interesting that Jim quit not too long after this and the McKims later disappeared as well. (The McKims were a favored ATI family that set the bar high, much like the Duggars today.)
I had not been in touch with Chris since my family moved to HQ, until out of the blue one day in October he called asking for my dad. We talked for a bit, long enough for me to find out he wasn’t getting married after all. Yay! With my parents’ approval, we began to correspond (our letters were read by my parents) and talk over the phone (for only an hour a week). Before we left HQ we decided to get our families together. So after my parents and I left HQ in April, I met my future in-laws in July (Independence holiday, to be exact!), became engaged at the end of August (after I turned 18) and was married three months later in December, 1993. I’ve made it sound like it was a smooth process, but it was like a living hell, as my father fought not to lose control of me (even though he gave his “approval”). God proved Himself faithful to me by helping me to mentally hang on, providing me with a champion and the tools to overcome the beginnings of schizophrenia, the double-mindedness that the law/religion gives you and the terrible, long-lasting mental control that my father had exerted over me.
If I knew then what I know now, I would have been more forceful about it when talking with Mr. Sammons and unequivocally stated that it’s Gothard’s false teachings, especially the “authority” one, that were/are wrong and the foundation by which he and his family set out to systematically set up people for abuse, emotionally and physically, and to get to their pocketbooks.
These false teachings enable abusers, give them the power over their victim(s), their family and produce generations of mentally and emotionally (and in some cases physically) hurt, confused, bound people.
This whole scenario is, unfortunately, not new in the world, but it happened to me and thousands of other innocent people, and I know it can not only be stopped, but people’s minds, emotions, soul can be restored through the love, mercy, grace, peace, compassion, all of Jesus. My internal healing began as I listened to Him inside me, knowing that because my spirit is one with Him I can never be spiritually abused, that He came, not to judge the world, but to set it Free!
I appreciate you taking the time to read all of this. I wrote so much family background because I wanted to show how the teachings are wrong, and how they not only facilitate and cause abuse, but also twist even more the thinking of the abuser. My father walked a fine line with me, not quite physically going over it (molestation), but definitely going over it in the mind – I felt mentally, emotionally molested. My parents continued to pressure Chris and me to go to an IBLP seminar for a few years after being married. We, of course, would have nothing to do with it. Even though they didn’t continue in ATIA, they definitely kept up the teachings to their six children. I almost walked away from them entirely after seven months of marriage, when my dad proceeded to try to undermine my marriage by telling me that my husband wasn’t a good leader, wasn’t even a Christian (because he wouldn’t make us do devotions), we wouldn’t be blessed since we weren’t having children right away, etc. The only reason I kept in touch with them was for my siblings. I had to be there for them as they grew up, to help balance the craziness, hopefully.
I’ve recently had it pointed it out to me by a family who have been in ATI for the past 7 years, that her children are safe from abuse since her husband isn’t an abuser and she’s sure that things have changed since I was in it. Her response shows me that the cult atmosphere is still going strong and that parents are still not asking the right questions and finding the truth for themselves.
The way for this to stop is for the truth to be spread far and wide, and people to stop funding the cult that is IBLP/ATI – quit buying anything from the organization!
I was deeply saddened and surprised when I read everyone’s experiences, since I didn’t know that Gothard had been systematically abusing young ladies since the late 60’s. I recognized both Meg and Charlotte from my time at HQ. I remember seeing Charlotte working out on the grounds and being jealous, as I would rather have been outside. I wish with all my heart that I had known her so that I could have helped in some way (taken her to the police!)-that was the first time that I felt physically violent towards Bill, after reading her article. The only reason I’ve written now is with the hope that I may help someone, somewhere.
My patient, loving husband, as well as his parents and my best friend Stacy, have been my greatest help by unconditionally loving me, allowing me to explore myself, talk it all out, and come to know who I am in Jesus. Chris and I have walked this together, individually coming to a greater understanding of the Gospel of Grace & Peace, which allows us to flow as one. I’m thankful every day that he decided to fight for me! Jesus pulled us out of the quicksand of religion and we haven’t looked back, loving being able to teach our four children from the beginning of their life here that they are free in Him, that there’s nothing they can, or have to, do to be right with God. Jesus did it for all of us!
Thanks for sharing.
Love the comment Jesus pulled us out the quicksand of religion, He died to set us free and rose again so we could have His life, He didn’t come to start a religion called Christianity founded on the traditions and dogma of man. Jesus knows the condition and sickness in our hearts and died so we could have a new one that can be His should we choose to give it to Him. Yet whatever we choose, His love will never fail, He will never forsake us, if we abide in Him, in His truth, our souls will be transformed more into His image.
God created us in His image, He loves us, sent His Son to die for us, through His resurrection gave us life in the living risen son through whom we get to know the Father, He created nothing but geniuses, we need to know this from day one, we cant earn it, it is a free gift, but the thief, the father of lies will kill,steal and destroy, and religion is a counterfeit, Jesus came that we may have life and life in abundance, anything other, than love, joy, peace etc and somewhere in our hearts we are believing a lie.
To be free, we need to be more transparent and open in our lives, not hide behind some religious mask trying to earn His approval believing we are not worthy, if we are in Christ there is no condemnation.
I was deeply glad to hear how clearly you were able to keep your head in such circumstances. It’s like you consciously decided to not become trapped as a perma-victim—you were going to survive and move to something much better and you KNEW it.
I know I wasn’t nearly as self-aware back in those times. Thanks for you sharing!!