CC image courtesy of Flickr, andy li.
By Shade Ardent.
TW: Content discusses rape, and other forms of abuse.
Recently, Homeschoolers Anonymous was given access to a worksheet from The Institute of Basic Life Principles‘ training center. It is titled ”Why Did God Let A Four Year Old Boy Be Molested By A Fifteen Year Old Neighbor?’. The Institute of Basic Life Principles is run by Bill Gothard, who is currently facing a lawsuit for molestation, rape, and sexual harassment. The Institute of Basic Life Principles has many training centers around the world.
Most of these training centers were used for all ATI students, offering “apprenticeship opportunities” and training. However, this piece of literature (dated around 1994-1995) came from the Indianapolis Training Center, which was special. This training center was used for for troubled teens and juvenile delinquents. This literature, while old, reflects the current beliefs of the Institute of Biblical Life Principles.
Each handout of this type contains a lengthy list of victim blaming statements, complete with verses. They detail the reasons God not only did not prevent the abuse, but allowed it for His purposes. Victim blaming is very common in fundamentalism, with leadership doing everything they can to assign responsibility to the victim instead of the abuser. The stated goal of such literature is supposed to prevent bitterness and force repentance upon abuse victims. In reality, it revictimizes victims, causing them more pain.
According to them, we are to recognize our own culpability and then confess our sins.
Fundamentalism, by its very nature, requires victims to submit their pain and their autonomy to the leadership. The leadership is always presented as a spokesman for their God and demands complete abject obedience.
This series will look at each reason and demonstrate how they are revictimizing.
1. To Teach him his responsibility to cry out to God.
In our fallen world with all its evil men and women, there will be attacks by a stronger upon a weaker. When this happens, the law of God is very clear that the weaker must cry out for help or he will be equally guilty. This principle is found in Deuteronomy 21:23, 24. When a ‘victim’ does not cry out or immediately tell his authority he will carry around a sense of guilt which Satan will then use for condemnation and further defeat. It would therefore be important for your son to confess his failure to do this and ask God to forgive him.
To back up this principle the verses Deut. 21:23-24 are cited. However, there is no verse 24, and verse 23 has nothing to do with this concept. Verse 23 discusses someone who has been put to death, and what the responsibility is towards their body. Nowhere does it discuss what someone should do when they have been abused.
It takes an immense amount of courage for anyone to divulge their abuse to a trusted person, let alone an authority. In this case, the authority has set themselves up to be God’s spokesman, making it even more daunting to tell. Far too commonly in this culture we are not believed; rather, we are blamed for causing it, for not telling, for not telling the right way, and for not telling soon enough. No matter what a victim does, we are wrong for not handling this in some magically ‘biblical’ way that is being outlined here.
This literature begins by placing the word victim in quotes, to denote that it is not a real status (fundamentalism believes that all have sinned, there is no innocent party). Thus, there is no such thing as abuse in the first place. It also begins with accusing victims of not telling soon enough and letting us know that Satan will be using this against us forever. We are to confess and repent that we did not tell soon enough.
We are already carrying around the guilt, fear, and shame from being abused. In this literature, the first response a victim hears is disbelief and blame from authority.
2. To motivate him to dedicate his body to God.
Romans 12:2 explains the importance of every believer presenting his body as a living sacrifice to God. Once this is done, our body no longer belongs to us, it belongs to God. This concept is important in order to avoid bitterness. Your son is able to then say, ‘That neighbor did not molest my body, he molested God’s body and God’s judgement is upon him for doing that’.
Again, a verse is referenced as though it will clear up all the questions about the veracity of this requirement. Romans 12:2, which says “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God,” has nothing to do with dedicating one’s body to God, or even about one’s body in the first place.
Dedicating one’s body to God is another way for the victim to lose more agency over themselves. It’s not their body that was molested, it was God’s body that was molested. This means any anger they have is wrong; it’s God’s place to be angry or not at the abuse of His body, not the victim’s right to be angry at the violation. This removal of bodily autonomy further abuses the victim.
The abuse that happened has already shown them clearly that someone bigger and stronger than they are can use their strength to hurt another person. A victim clearly knows their body is not their own. And so, with a few words, the victim is again abused by the ones they should be able to trust.
In order for healing to occur, it is important to give a victim back their sense of self, to validate that their body was violated, to reiterate that they have every right to be angry, and that their body is theirs. We need to be able to find our sense of self, our sense of consent, and come to grips with the fact that abuse happened. Instead, we are reminded it’s not our body, we are reminded that it’s not our right to be angry.
It is God’s body.
3. To give him a ‘moral vaccination’ against future temptations.
God will severely judge the fifteen year old boy for the evil that he did. However, your son can turn what was meant for evil into good. The vaccinations we receive for various diseases contains a small amount of the actual disease. Our immune system builds up a reaction to it so that if our body is exposed to the disease, it is prepared to fight it off. A similar result can occur in the life of your son if this matter handled in a Scriptural way.
One thing fundamentalism likes to teach is that God allows bad things to happen to us in order to prepare us for the future. It is a twisted way of taking ‘all things work together for good’ and applying it to abuse and other very negative things. Gothard is making a very young child responsible to protect themselves from here on out.
It is their job to recognize and stay away from further abuse because it happened once. This is viewed as a good thing, a lesson to be learned. A frequent phrase might be ‘What can we learn from this?’, as though abuse is only a character lesson, instead of the horrifically wrong action that it is.
It is never the job of a child to protect themselves from abuse. This job belongs to the adults in their life. These adults are to be aware of risk factors, and not allow predators into the child’s life. This is not to say that parents are at fault when abuse happens (unless they are the abusers, or knew of abuse), it is to say that it’s the parents’ job especially to protect their children.
Within fundamentalism, authority is placed over children every step of the way. There is no scenario in which they have full choice, or even partial choice, to control what is happening to them. Placing the responsibility on them to avoid further abuse victimizes them even more.
It says to the child “If you are abused, it’s your fault. Why didn’t you learn what you needed to learn?”
To be continued.