Worksheet Claims That God Allows Sexual Abuse: Part IV

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.

This series will look at each reason and demonstrate how they are revictimizing.

If you are just starting this series, please read Part IPart II, and Part III first.

11. To see the need for a daily schedule for the best use of time.

‘Free time’ is a dangerous and unwise commodity. The phrase ‘Idle hands are the devils workshop.’ is true. The wise parent will schedule productive activities throughout the day so that a child does not have time to get into trouble.

Again, it is apparently the child’s fault and the parents’ fault for the abuse. Gothard contends that abuse would never have happened if the children had both been occupied appropriately. According to Gothard, the appropriate thing to have been doing was to be around adults and memorize lots of Bible verses.

Fundamentalism requires children to be little adults, never playing. In reality, play is important to children’s development, enabling them to come to a greater understanding of their environment.

It cannot be said enough – the choice to abuse was made by the abuser. There is no blame on the child for being abused. There is no blame on the parents for trusting someone around their child. Parents are only responsible for the abuse if they have either done it themselves, or have been aware of abuse going on (present or past) and still allowed their child to be around the person.

Free time is not to blame for abuse happening, the abuser and their choice to abuse is the reason.

12. To remind the father to pray a daily hedge of protection.

Each day it is important for the father to pray a hedge of protection around each member of the family and to ask God to rebuke the principality over the family in the name and through the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Here, the responsibility is being placed on the father. The umbrella of authority places the father at the head of the household, in control of everything, and as a go-between between God and the family. It is his job to be perfect, so as to protect his family from sin. When anything bad happens to someone in the family, the first question is ‘were you under the umbrella of authority?’ with the implication being that if you had obeyed (don’t be alone with children, don’t have free time, don’t sin, etc.) then nothing bad would have happened. The next question asked is of the father, which is generally some form of ‘are you right with God?’, because a father who has done everything perfectly will have a perfect family, untouched by sin (unless they leave his umbrella).

Closing Thoughts

Childhood sexual abuse is no small thing. It has far reaching consequences for both the abused and the abuser. There will be further negative consequences if its not reported and even more still if the child is blamed.

The first step that should be taken when a child discloses that someone abused them is to call the police and report it. Always report. Reporting abuse means that someone will investigate, and hopefully prosecute the abuser. It means that the abuser will, hopefully, not have the chance to abuse more children.

The church frequently investigates itself, and takes the words of an abuser over those of the abused. They side with the abuser when they allow them to repent and then continue being a part of the congregation, as though nothing had ever happened.

Statistics show that by the time an abuser is caught, they have had between 20 and 150 other victims. It is important now, more than ever, to report abuse and prevent it from being repeated within the church.

Gothard’s methods of blaming and shaming the victim and their family is a means of silencing. Fundamentalism cultivates very carefully a culture of silence and fear of outside authority. They capitalize on this with these kinds of teachings.

Who will report abuse to the police when God himself blames you for your abuse? Who will report abuse against their child when the church has said you are to blame for your child’s hurts?

To keep their power intact, fundamentalists rely on us believing the words that have been written down about the bible, or the words that have been spoken about the bible. It uses a top-heavy system of authority in order to squash any doubts, questions held by those who are supposed to be following God and authority.

Gothard employs some very specific cultic and fundamentalist strategies to blame, shame, and silence. The main method being used here to silence doubters is to completely fill their sermons, speeches, literature with so many Bible quotes that it is almost impossible to look up all of them. Even though we were required to memorize large portions of the Bible, we were also taught to accept their statements without questioning.

It was a double-bind: memorize, but never doubt.

Listen and believe, those were our mandates. And we did. We listened, we believed, and so we were victimized over and over again. When it comes to reporting abuse, we are simultaneously disbelieved and blamed for the abuse having happened.

People love to say to us, “But I would never be taken in by such things,” or “I would have looked up all the verses and discovered that they were lying,” but they don’t understand how it was. It is dismissive of our reality, and arrogant. It sets themselves up as better than we were, and blames us for believing. We were helpless, conditioned to obey.

When one combines this method with the blame and shame assigned through these teachings, it is no wonder we feel helpless against abuse, and against reporting abuse. Why report if it’s our fault?

And when it came to abuse, we knew it was our own fault.

Escaping their Bible, their beliefs, is a lifetime of work, and these publications don’t make it any easier.

End of series.

Worksheet Claims That God Allows Sexual Abuse: Part III

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.

This series will look at each reason and demonstrate how they are revictimizing.

If you’re just starting this series, please read Part I and Part II first.

8. To learn how to discern evil companions.

When a person is molested, he develops a new sensitivity to people with wrong motives. This awareness is for future protection and must be developed into the quality of discernment instead of fear. Your son should now have a natural resistance to any person who has impure motives.

This item also places blame and responsibility on the victim. Along the lines of ‘all things work together for good’, it is saying that since the child was abused, they should now be able to protect themselves from further abuse. So if more abuse happens, it’s the child’s fault for not learning their lesson.

It is also taking a very natural response – fear – and turning it into a bad response. It is teaching a child to deny their feelings, to see their feelings as wrong. It is teaching the child that they are responsible to learn from their mistake of choosing to be with an abuser, and learn how to prevent it in the future.

It is never the job of the child to protect themselves. That is the job of adults.

9. To work out justice and mercy.

It is important that justice be carried out in this situation. This means proper punishment should be administered to the offending neighbor. As a preparation for this, it is vital to make diligent inquiry with each boy to find out all the facts. Any hidden aspects of this molestation will give the enemy authority and will be used by him in the further defeat of both boys. Once the full facts are known and repented of, mercy may be extended.

Nowhere in this statement (which is number 9 of a list of 12 items) does he say “This person should be reported to the authorities.” They call abuse a sin. By calling it a sin instead of a crime, they can keep the accountability within the church and not involve the police. But “in-house” investigations are ineffective. No one can investigate themselves accurately, this is why we have the police.

Sexual abuse is a crime, and the proper authorities need to be notified of what happened. This is true justice.

Within fundamentalism, a reliance on the authority within the church is paramount. ‘Proper punishment’ in this case generally has to do with church discipline. They do not report to outside authorities. By saying it’s important to inquire to both parties, the child is highly likely to be revictimized. The methods used to ‘find out’ what happened are often intense sessions where a victim is cornered into saying things and admitting things they otherwise wouldn’t.

Because a child who has been abused is often confused about what happened, how it happened, and when it happened, someone inexperienced in questioning a child will often come to the conclusion that the child is lying. They will (and do in this environment) blame the child for going along with things, for being there, for not telling soon enough. The responsibility solely lies with the abuser, but within fundamentalism the attitude is frequently that it takes 2 to sin.

When an abuser is caught within the church environment, it is quite common for them to ‘repent’ in order to escape punishment. Gothard’s theology requires the victim to forgive their abuser, and to search for ways they invited the abuse.

Gothard leaves no room for anger, for distance from the abuser.

10. To help the parents understand the basis of ‘genius’.

In a study by the Smithsonian Institute, 40 men considered geniuses were studied in order to find common denominators. The three common denominators were 1. Parents protected them from contact with other children. 2. They were continually around caring adults who taught them what they knew. 3. The were taught how to creatively solve problems. Based on this, your son should not have been with the other boy but rather with the adults so that he could learn from them.

The study referenced, The Childhood Pattern of Genius, was done by Harold G. McCurdy in 1957. Not only is it outdated, but it justifies childhood isolation. Children who are not allowed to be around other children suffer physically, socially, and emotionally. However, within fundamentalism isolation is a key component for children and how they are raised. We were to be homeschooled (or schooled at church), away from our peers. We were to be kept at home, seeing others only at church.

They shrunk our worlds, controlled our access to everything.

But assuming for a moment that a child isn’t already being isolated, imagine depriving an abused child of their friends after they reveal the abuse. The child is very likely to feel like they are being punished for being abused. After all, they lost their friends after being abused. They may even feel that it’s their fault they lost their friends.

If blaming the child for their abuse isn’t enough, parents are also blamed for the abuse because they weren’t supposed to have their child around other children. Gothard is saying that abuse would not have happened if the parents had obeyed ‘God’ (really Gothard and his methods, though no one draws a distinction between God and Gothard in that world).

This also ignores sibling abuse, like what happened in the Duggar family. They were following the mandates, and keeping their children isolated (as isolated as one can be while on television). Josh Duggar still abused his sisters.

To be continued.

Worksheet Claims That God Allows Sexual Abuse: Part II

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.

This series will look at each reason and demonstrate how they are revictimizing.

If you’re just starting this series, please read Part I.

4. To transform aroused desires to Spiritual power.

When molestation takes place, sexual desires are often awakened. Sexual energy however can be transformed into spiritual power as we yield up the members of our body to the Lord on a daily basis and hide God’s Word in our heart. Scripture refers to sexual drives as coming from our innermost being and the apostle John states ‘Out of his innermost being shall flow rivers of living water’.

Editorial Note: TW, links will contain graphic images of assault and physical reactions.

This is an especially shaming item in the list. Essentially, Gothard is claiming that any sexual arousal experience during abuse is dangerous. This kind of message is harmful to a child because they might have experienced emotional closeness, or sexual pleasure from the abuse. The child is likely already experiencing confusion if they experienced pleasure but know that what happened is wrong. Adding the idea of sexual arousal being dangerous further burdens the child.

This can lead them to keep quiet about the abuse, because they feel guilty about the good feelings.

The fact that one’s body may respond favorably to rape is one reason survivors keep quiet. Victims may feel their body has betrayed them, because it confuses assault with pleasurable feelings. Gothard takes these normal body responses and makes them evil, reinforcing the victim’s feeling that they have been betrayed by their own body.

It is worth noting that the verse mentioned here has nothing to do with sex. John 7:38 says ‘Whoever believes in me, as scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them’. So either believing in God brings about sexual desire, or, as we’ve seen in other cases, Gothard is just using verses out of context to prove whatever he wants.

5. To motivate him to write God’s word on his heart.

In order to transform this event into spiritual power, your son must begin to memorize large portions of Scripture and meditate on them day and night. As he keeps the Law of God before his spiritual eyes, he will fulfill the requirement of John 14:21. ‘He that hath my commandments and keepeth them [before his eyes] he it is that loveth me, and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father and I will love him and manifest myself unto him’. See also James 1: 21

Here we have Gothard’s typical answer to everything: memorize large portions of the Bible. His belief is that if we do this, God will somehow bless us, protect us, guide us. It’s a setup. Never mind that we have a very young child who, developmentally, should be doing things like learning his ABCs and how to count.  He should be playing, not sitting and memorizing the Bible at all.

The verse referenced here places conditions on the love that God will show a person–that God loves those who love Him. Gothard further interprets “hath his commandments” to mean Bible memorization. Imagine if a young child were asked to memorize this verse after his abuse–he may come to believe he has to earn God’s love through Bible memorization. Pair this with the horrific abuse the child has survived, where it is natural to doubt love, to self-hate, to fear, to be angry, and you end up with a toxic mess for the child emotionally. What the child needs at this time is reassurance of love, therapy, and lots of freedom to express their emotions and needs.

6. To concentrate on God’s hatred of sodomy.

Since this offense would be in the area of sodomy, it would be very important for your son to memorize the law and testimonies which speak of this abomination. He should study the account in Genesis about Sodom and Gomorrah and he should memorize Romans 1 and all the other passages that directly refer to the sin of sodomy.

Let’s set aside the homophobia of this statement for a moment. This requirement is already problematic, but it is especially so when paired with the one above (memorize a great number of verses in order to earn God’s love). Surviving sexual abuse leaves one with so many difficult feelings, among them fear, confusion, depression, isolation, guilt, and shame.

Memorizing verses that all discuss God’s hatred of sodomy, which might have been what happened to the child, is damaging. Combine all of this with the blaming theology that is being created here, and a child is left feeling as though God hates them. When a child is taught that they first need to repent for not telling soon enough, then that they have not memorized enough verses, and further that they need to memorize verses about how sodomy is an abomination, they get the message that this is their fault, and that God hates them. Who can blame them for coming to that conclusion?

7. To confirm the importance of avoiding evil companions.

The book of Proverbs is filled with warnings to avoid evil companions, ‘Be not deceived, evil companions corrupt good manners’. ‘He that walketh with wise men shall be wise, but a companion of fools shall be destroyed’. God wants us to have contempt for the wicked as explained in such passages as Psalm 15, ‘In whose eyes a vile person is contemned, but he honoreth them that fear the Lord’.

This, too, is victim blaming. Going through this list, we have a repeating theme of blaming and shaming. Telling a child that they need to avoid evil companions places responsibility for the abuse back on the child. By teaching this, parents and authority are ignoring the fact that the abuser chose to abuse the child, and are focusing instead on the fact that the child was in the presence of the abuser in the first place.

No one is talking about how the neighbor in this example chose to abuse. This is yet another way Gothard deflects responsibility. It is never a child’s job to keep themselves safe, it is the job of the adults around them to create and maintain safe spaces.

The child may not have had any choice in this situation. But even if the child had been friends with their abuser, this still does not mean that they are responsible for the abuse. Children, people, have the reasonable expectation that their friends or acquaintances are not abusers. This is normal.

Teaching a child this verse will victimize them again because of its message that someone will be destroyed if they walk with ‘fools’. An abuser is no fool, they are usually quite savvy about their choices of whom to abuse. They are also quite savvy about how to appear like a good person. But a child does not know this, and thus is likely to blame themselves. They need to be told that they bear no blame, not told to avoid evil companions.

To be continued.

Gothard Explains Why God Allows Child Molestation: Part One

CC image courtesy of Flickr, andy li.

By Shade Ardent.

TW: Content discusses rape, and other forms of abuse.

Continued in Part II and Part III, and Part IV.

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.

Leaving Before You are Ready: AJ’s Story

Editorial note: Shade Ardent blogs at I am Phoenix. This story is reprinted with permission.

How easy is it to leave a cult? For me personally, the answer is “not very.”

I pay close attention to the stories of those who have left a religious cult. I admit I am a little envious of the females who made their escape from their family’s cult by marrying a man who whisked them away from it all. I wish I had that ticket available back then. It wasn’t available to me because I was terrified of men. I was especially afraid of Christian men because of the religious Christian monster my father was. And I was also scared of the so called secular, worldly men because linking up with them meant my life would be cursed with demons attacking me, and my family would cut me off. Also, there was that unspoken threat circulating in the underground Christin dating advice columns and pastor’s sermons where the non Christian man is guaranteed to cheat on you and leave you. If he doesn’t first rob a bank, then become a mass murderer. Because, gasp, that’s what people do who don’t fear God.

So I knew from  a young age that my escape was not going to be through a man. There would be no prince on a stallion. My sisters didn’t escape with the help of a man or marriage, either. They were about as gun shy of men as I was.

So how did we get out? Well, we couldn’t just leave. It seems so easy, right? Just walk out of the door.

But if we moved out of the house, God would allow Satan to attack us, destroying our physical health, mental health, finances, future career, and future relationships and marriage.

That would happen if we left the house without our father’s permission. The only way he would give us permission to leave was if we married a good Christian man he approved of. A man who our father would transfer us to, so we could be under that man’s authority. We wouldn’t be safe unless we were under a Christian man’s authority. Also, if we left unwed to an approved man, our father said he wouldn’t be able to pray a hedge of protection around us. He said his prayer alone wouldn’t be enough to keep Satan from destroying us while we were out in the world.

There was no safe way to leave. Going into a courtship with a man approved by my father was far too frightening a concept for us sisters to want to entertain. We saw how our Christian father abused our mother, and we weren’t going to be tricked into an exit from our father’s home just to relive it again with a patriarchal man that he chose. No, that was far too great a risk.

And we couldn’t just walk out the door and move into our own apartments. With all those threats and judgments from God? No, doing so would be equivalent to admitting you had a death wish. I would never have thought to leave on my own. Unless I really hated myself and wanted my life as I knew it to end.

It was easier for my brothers to leave.

They were Patriarchs in the making, and were far better equipped than women to make it out alone in the world without risking God’s wrath. My older brother got out after he graduated from college, accepted a good job, and had the financial where with all to go. Incidentally, he timed his departure so that he got married right when he left my parents’ house, but he could have left with or without getting married if he wanted to. My brothers were privileged simply because of their gender. They didn’t have nearly as much oppression or nearly as many rules as my sisters did.

So, this is how my older sisters escaped. My father hadn’t made any matches for them, and they were waiting and getting old. My father did approve of a courtship for my oldest sister L with a Christian man who worked with my father. My sister L did not find him in any way attractive and declined him. That I know of, she didn’t get courtship offers after that. So when L was about 25, my second oldest sister Thalia (aged 24) staged an intervention and secretly got an apartment out of town, where she all but dragged my mild mannered, easy going oldest sister along to. They left quickly and secretly, before my father found out. L didn’t want to go initially, but with Thalia pushing and planning, they made a hasty departure. There was a big blow up when they left, much threatening and cursing of their futures.

All manner of ill will was wished on them, Bible verses were hurled, their characters questioned.

They were called harlots who were practicing the sin of rebellion, which was likened to witchcraft. At this point, my sisters were so naïve and innocent about matters of life, that calling them harlots was just silly. Their harlotry consisted of wearing gel in their hair instead of leaving it natural. That, and going to a university where… non Christian men sullied my sisters simply by walking past them on campus. As if. My younger sister and I were given threatening sermonettes on the dangers of following their wicked footsteps.

When I was about 24, my 21 year old sister Christy staged an intervention. She secretly put a security down on an apartment out of town and rented a U-Haul. The same day, she broke the plans to me and told me I had a few hours to decide if I wanted out or not. She told me I had to make up my mind quickly. Back then I didn’t even know we were living in a cult. I had no outside worldly experience to compare my life to. My 18 year old brother was going along with us. At the last minute I said, “OK.” But I was dragging my feet. I was scared and not ready to go.

I had just graduated college, and had my bachelors degree in elementary education and my teaching certificate. I was too scared to go on interviews, so I lived on a substitute teacher’s salary. This wasn’t enough to pay the rent, even splitting it three ways. My younger sister had just graduated as well and had her bachelors degree and was hired as a nurse days before she even got her diploma. She was strong in her decision to go. I wasn’t as confident.

As an aside, it is quite a shocker that we had gone to college at all. But my sisters and I had discussed how we didn’t want to end up like our mother, uneducated except for a high school diploma, trapped and abused by our father. Since we didn’t trust any man to get us out or have our backs, our ticket was an education, career and independent single gal living.

If it wasn’t for my older sister Thalia paving the way and helping each of us work out the FAFSA and various scholarships and loans, we wouldn’t have had the know how or balls to go against my father and try to extend our education.

All of my siblings and I took part and sometime full time jobs and went to college around our work schedules. I certainly would never had gone to college without Thalia’s example and encouragement. My parents would not help financially based on moral grounds, and kept trying to discourage us from going. According to my father, college was evil and worldly, and all of us had better be prepared to reap the consequences of going through demonic attack as punishment from God for disobeying and going. My siblings laughed this off, but I was terrified. I woke up every day and fell asleep each night worrying when my judgment would hit.

So I entered the real world with reluctance and fear. I had a secret boyfriend at the time, and was able to see him much more often, which was nice.

But I’ll be honest with you. If my younger sister hadn’t staged that intervention, I wouldn’t have left. If I hadn’t gone with my younger sister and brother, I would have been the only one left at home other than my parents and trust me, I was incredibly uncomfortable with that. So I went with my siblings, even though everything inside me was screaming that I wasn’t ready. Home was bad, yes, but it was all I knew. And even more importantly, I knew what would happen if I left as a single female, unmarried to a man who could protect me from the evils of the world. I knew I would be slaughtered. According to cult rules, God would punish me by sending demons to destroy my physical health, career, finances, relationships, happiness and mental health.  

Again, my siblings laughed all of this off. I wish I could have had their thick skin and sensibilities. For some reason, I was terrified of the consequences and they weren’t. However, I think that had to do with the fact that I took spiritual matters far more seriously than my siblings did. And the main reason for that, although I didn’t recognize it at the time, was because I sensed how much my father hated and shunned me, and wanted to do everything possible to get his approval. Since religion was his life, I figured that my following his spiritual rules to the T would be an excellent way to gain his approval. Sadly, though, the more I tried, the more he pushed me away.

But I didn’t let myself see that. I just kept trying all the more to be spiritual. I got baptized, taught Sunday School, tithed, fasted for weeks on carrots, cornflakes and water, wore hideously modest prairie dresses and culottes, went to Bible College, went on a mission trip overseas, wanted to become a missionary, didn’t look sideways at men, read my Bible and prayed regularly. Meanwhile, my sisters left the house in modest attire and changed into tight jeans and tanks in their car, dated wild men, read romance novels, said “Shut up” and “Oh my God,” looked at magazines in the grocery store checkout, pierced their ears and wore clip-ons over top to hide the holes from my father, bought bathing suits and went to the beach (covert trips, of course). Most of my siblings were dancing on the edge of hell, and were just laughing all the way.

My siblings would occasionally talk about how horrible it was growing up.

They would whisper that we had grown up in a cult, and that our father was a sociopath.

They worried he would work himself up into some massive Biblical dither one day, shoot our mother, shoot himself, and then that would be the end of them. We used to check in our mom to make sure she was OK after most of us left. Our father kept loaded rifles on his bedroom wall, and often fell into unpredictable tirades of anger where he got violent. So my siblings worried. I was in a religious stupor myself back then, and told my siblings he was innocent, that he would never hurt our mom, and they were just being dramatic. Again, I didn’t have the foggiest idea of what we grew up in, as I had no experience in a world other than the family home and cult. Yes, I did go to college full time and worked, but I was too afraid of people to talk to them, so it’s like I was just a ghost passing through. I studied, took tests, drove, came, and left without communicating with other people, so it was like I actually wasn’t even doing these things or really in the world. I was technically, slightly “in the world” but without human interaction out there, it pretty much doesn’t qualify as being out.

Even after the intervention, when we moved out, I was in the world but very hesitant to break out of the mold and drop my normal customs and habits. It took quite a long time.

Fast forward a decade. I was living in extreme stress every day worrying about God’s judgment for every little thing I did. And trust me, after ten years, I had started being worldly. It’s like I had one foot back in the cult, since I believed 100% everything I was taught back then. And I had one foot in the world, living the life of a heathen while wracking up punishment and guilt left and right.

That’s the danger of leaving before you are ready. That was the danger in my leaving my family and the cult before I was ready. That was the downside to accepting the intervention my sister staged when I was scared to go. That was the danger of leaving the cult physically, without first leaving mentally and emotionally.

That was the danger of living in the word without shedding the cult mentality. I gave myself permission to try to live a “normal” life like normal people did, but I couldn’t get rid of all the nagging cult fears and threats of punishment for trying to be normal.

Maybe I would have been safer never leaving the cult in the first place. Maybe I would have been safer at home with my parents in the cult, safe from God’s judgment because I was carefully obeying all rules?

Maybe that would have been safer than living a double standard, free on the outside but still in bondage to the cult fears inside?

I can’t even begin to explore what would have happened if I had stayed in my parents’ house instead of leaving with my siblings during the intervention. I think it would have been an incredibly dark experience. I do know that once I started living on my own, I began to experience happiness. I did forget the horrors of the cult. I think I can honestly say that I was happy on my own. Especially when I was geographically far away from my family. I certainly didn’t have any flashbacks, anxiety or any physical manifestations of PTSD for at least a decade. I was pretty much oblivious and happy go lucky. I was always on the move though, never sat still or rested. Never stayed in any one location too long, or with anyone too long. I was antsy. I didn’t ever want to get trapped by any person or situation. I was always running, always busy. I didn’t stop to reflect or look inside. I just thrived on looking outside of myself, and shut my emotions and feelings up tightly. I was my five senses exploring the world, and nothing else.

I do recognize the danger of living in the duality I was immersed in for the decade of time I was out free in the world, living it up, but terrified on the inside.

Like I mentioned, I always felt fear and threats lurking over my shoulder, poised and ready to get me for the huge amount of sins I was piling up every day. I was just waiting for all hell to break loose. I was just waiting for my punishment to begin. Biting my nails hoping that maybe I could squeak by for another day, another month, maybe even another year before disaster hit me.

And then it hit. I was 33 and a half. The PTSD knocked me blindside, and everything fell apart. My health fell apart, even though I struggled for a year to keep myself together. I had to eventually give up my teaching career. Well, I put in for a year’s leave of absence, but my health wouldn’t allow me to go back after that year was up. I had to give up my apartment, my boyfriend left me, acquaintances disappeared, and I didn’t really have friends… the only thing I had left was my family. I had literally forgotten how strange and cruel they were. Time has a way of clouding those things over. So I crawled home, happy to have a family to go stay with.

I was naive. Too trusting. Too gullible. I give too much credit ahead of time. I actually thought I would go home to open arms. They were closed. But I didn’t find that out right away. It was a very slow process of me finding this out.

When I went home, I was so ashamed of my life of sin, that I…. wait for it, wait for it, oh, darn it. Yes, you guessed it. I weep to share this sad revelation.

I went back into the cult.

There. I said it. I double dipped.

Oh, horrors!

That’s what happen when you leave before you are ready. The chances of falling back into the fold are just that much higher.

And I felt so guilty. I fell into it headlong.

To the point that I was back in the Bible, back in the land of religious fear, eating up all the devotionals that said illness was punishment from God, that illness was a gift from God, that I was supposed to praise God for the beautiful gift of character edification that came in the form of illness. I ate it all up.

I even let waver my fiercely held promise that I would protect myself by never getting married to a man. I let myself believe for the first time that perhaps a Christian man would be safe after all. Because what had I ever really known about being safe, right? Here I thought I would the safest out on my own in the world far away from my family, far away from religion, and without a man. I really thought that was my safest bet. But here that plan didn’t pan out. Being alone out in the world unmarried, living a non-Christian life only ended up with me getting PTSD, ME/CFS and severe adrenal burnout.

So I had to re-evaluate my perception of what “safe” really looked like. I had been broken. I had to try a new route. God was a fierce punisher, and the single life alone in the world without Him and a man who served Him was a dangerous life after all. I had learned the hard way that it would be safest after all to do the Christian thing, the right thing, and get married to a good Christian man.

If I did this, perhaps God would ease up his punishment on me and perhaps He would even let me regain my health!

So I over-rode my fear of Christian men and married one. I introduced him to my family (oh horrors!) and I introduced him to Christianity and the cult. I thought I was doing the “right” thing. I was getting back on track. The backslidden AJ rallies and returns to her Christian roots, praise God Almighty, and all God’s people say, Amen.

Right. I married K. He actually wasn’t a Christian when I initially met him. It was I who led him to the Lord. Out of compulsion and duty, not out of a desire. I didn’t trust a Cristian any farther than I could throw one, but at the same time I feared what would happen to myself and him if we didn’t punch our tickets and do our bare minimum as Christians. I felt safer around K knowing that he was brand new to the faith and hadn’t been brainwashed by any sub cults or extremist thinking. He was a good man, and kind, when I met him. I imagined it could stay that way. I figured that as long as I was there to guide the ship and help shape the direction of his newly forming beliefs, he would remain the kind and jolly fellow he always was.

I was wrong.

As soon as K put on the coat of Christianity, he became a monster.

A living and breathing certified, Bible thumping, Christian monster. And that’s when my eyes opened and I didn’t want to go on living or breathing any more. The life vest of Christianity that I had reached for in my hour of need was now no longer a life vest, it was a pile of rocks that drug me to the bottom of the lake and wouldn’t let me up for air. I endured it for a couple years, until one day I woke up and realized that I want nothing more to do with being a Christian.

It’s been about two years now that I’ve left Christianity. I’m still digging myself out of the pit and separating from my family and a few situations and people still involved in the cult. I’m happier now, and K is happier.

On looking back, a part of me thinks that if I had stayed in the cult at my parents house instead of leaving during the intervention, I would have not only obeyed the cult rules, but I would have felt safer, I wouldn’t have feared severe punishment from God every waking minute of my life for years on end, and I wouldn’t have fallen apart with severe PTSD. I could possibly have avoided my health falling apart. Just think!

From this perspective, I wish I would have stayed at the homestead after graduating college and lived a safe life where I could just breath. It is too difficult balancing one world with another, with one foot in one world and one foot in the next. But at the same time, if I had stayed on the homestead in my parents under cult rules, I may have just shriveled up and died inside. Or I may have reached some kind of internal conflict that forced me to examine my beliefs and wake up. After which I would have solidly renounced the cult and made a clean break by leaving the belief system 100% and physically removing myself far from the cult and my family.

A solid, clean break is the ticket. The best way to leave involves breaking away emotionally and intellectually, as well as physically and geographically.

I still do admire those folks who were able to know firmly what they wanted the first time they left, the folks who didn’t have to come back for round two to relive the nightmare. I admire some of my siblings who weren’t so entrapped and who left more easily than I did. But every one’s journey is different.

I double dipped, but that’s OK. The first time only my body left. The second time, my body, heart and mind broke away. I had to experience the horror twice to know what I wanted and didn’t want. I know now. And I’m finally free.

Journey to Freedom: Warbler’s Story

I was barely 19 when my eldest sister decided to make a run for it.

Against all my convictions and everything I parroted that my parents believed, I helped her.
I remember her looking over her shoulder at me, washing dishes, as she went downstairs in our split level home, a silent farewell where we couldn’t embrace or pretend anything was going on.
I remember I was still working on the dishes in the sink when my mom found her empty room and sounded the alarm. I remember pretending I had absolutely no idea, and I pretended that i wasn’t crying into the dishwater as I heard my dad called everyone he could call, attempting to intimidate them into helping him scour the countryside for her or cutting off any resources she might have through them, calling her names and predicting her demise.

I was a little over 19 when my parents sent me to ATI’s Journey to the Heart in an attempt to keep me from following her example.

Against all precedents, they sent me alone on a train and in a taxi to the center of the country where I found theological discrepancies between ATI’s material and my parents own branch of personally branded “THE correct way” philosophy. I remember feeling the sting of rejection when the famed seer himself sent me away curtly when he found out I was there on a scholarship and that our family had never been card-carrying members of his organization. I remember the resentment that would not go away no matter how many times I tried to “tear down the stronghold,” and all the years since that week and this one. I remember the thrill of spending my own money, finding my own train connections, walking around a real college campus with an old friend, and experiencing a day of her academic life.

I was halfway through being 19 when I secretly began corresponding with my sister again.

Against all thoughts of self-preservation, I dared to call her and spend time with her during an afternoon event she came to where the siblings and I were performing our homeschooled talents.
I remember the horrible ending to that evening when my father refused to allow her to hold the baby, and seeing, again as if for the first time, how malicious he was by nature. I remember the tortuously long bible studies he forced us to have wherein he would use an example at least every other week of how wicked she was and how she hated her family and her family’s god. I remember how I first followed one of her links to the blog of a book-writer who changed my life.

I was on the verge of 20 when I began spouting dangerous ideologies that put me on my parent’s radar.

Against every spanking I had ever had, I stood up to my father and refused to allow him to confiscate something of mine. I remember the thrill of having a personal possession that did not have to be shared, a laptop purchased with “graduation” gifts from family. It gave me a window into the outside world, it gave me a taste. I remember looking for the author-lady’s article about how Michael Pearl responded to the first and second child killed by his methods. I remember arguing with my parents in tears that this was deadly and that it was paramount that they look into their punishment methods as they sat there with jaws scraping the floor.

I was a month away from being 20 when I refused to back down one more time, and my father grounded me to my room except for bathroom breaks and meals.

Against my JTTH-inspired vow to serve my family another year, I took a cellphone that was snuck in to me and began calling people who would listen to me and offer advice. I remember “Elizabeth” encouraging me to secure my social security card, and I did it despite having to sneak into my parent’s room and rifle through the family folders to find it. I remember staring at the folder and being too afraid to take my expired passport or anything else in case they would notice the diminished size and suspect I was planning something. I remember the final weeks when our elderly neighbor’s and next-door-secular-homeschooling-family read the author’s finished book and put all the pieces together. I remember being rebellious and locking my room door every night, and every morning finding it unlocked and cracked open.

I was a week and a half over 20 when I went to a local Amusement Park with my family for a special vacation on discount tickets purchased with couponing.

Against all common sense my father ordered all us females to wear skirts for modesty, and I protested by wearing my shortest (knee-length) one with capris underneath. I remember almost getting sent back to the car for the whole day because I pointed out several mini-skirt wearing women and commented on their impressive modesty. I remember holding my tongue because I had one last day to spend with my little brother, and I remember being brave enough to whisper to him what I was planning at the end of the day. I remember the blisters on my heels that I didn’t mind because I spent the night petting my cats and begging them to forgive me for abandoning them.

I was 13 days over 20 when I put a note on my dresser along with money for the cats care and I walked two boxes of clothing over to the waiting car that took me into town.

Against all odds I managed to stay in town most of the day until my sister was able to leave work and come get me. I remember people being extraordinarily kind to the naive should-be-an-adult woman who was hiding in fear and watching the door. I remember staring down at my Friendly’s taco-bowl-salad and being unable to swallow because my brother delivered my father’s ultimatum. I would come home by sundown or my cats would be put out at the edge of the road.
I remember my sister facing her demons less than a year after her harrowing escape in order to help me.

I was only two days older when we drove into a driveway 500 miles distant and I first saw the people who were going to be my teachers and helpers for the next half decade.

Against the new backdrop I bought my first two-piece tankini-and-skirt combo and my sister and I shared a sunny afternoon in their community pool. I remember everyone cautioning us about how these people were complete strangers and if “anything feels off” to come back to my sister’s and to figure things out from there. I remember the new landlady buying me a sheet set for my room in a vibrant lime green along with a “husband pillow” and her humor and kindness made me feel right at home. I remember thanking my sister before she left, and being happy, scared, nervous, and tired as I started my new life with a few hundred dollars in my pocket and the knowledge that I was free, and that I would remain free.

Bill Gothard’s Abuse is Not a Surprise

CC image courtesy of Flickr, Rachael Moore.

HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Lana Hope’s blog Wide Open Ground. It was originally published on February 19, 2016.

If you follow developments in homeschool leadership, you likely know that prominent homeschool leader Bill Gothard is alleged to have sexually groomed and molested dozens of young women during his leadership career in homeschool and other fundamentalist Christian circles, beginning in the 1970s and continuing until he stepped down from leadership a couple years ago. You likely also know that a handful of graduates from his leadership programme, IBLB, are suing Gothard, and subsequently the entire IBLP leadership board for turning a blind-eye to Gothard’s crimes.

In the lawsuit documents, the woman describe strikingly similar Gothard experiences: Gothard noticed beautiful girls or woman at his conferences, asked the girls or women to come work for him, and once the girls or women arrived, he made them his secretary, although they were, in many cases, too young (a minor; only 18, etc) or unskilled for the task. He initially would invite the young girls into his office to “counsel” them, and from this relationship, he groomed and then molested or harassed the young women. He called the young women his “energy giver,” and the lawsuit documents state that it was well-known that Gothard had “pets” and a certain “types” of women.

Homeschool blogger Libby Anne recently describes this grooming in her description of the lawsuit:

10. It was common knowledge at IBLP that Gothard took teenage girls as “pets.” It was also common knowledge that Gothard’s behavior with regard to these girls was not appropriate. At one point in the early 1990s, after Gothard asked the IBLP Board of Directors for permission to marry Rachel Lees, the board barred Gothard from having female personal assistants. This ban was never enforced, and Gothard continued his pattern.

I’m sitting here trying to come up with some explanation for how this went on for as long as it did. People knew this was going on. The IBLP Board of Directors knew, the personal assistant who told Jane Doe III to buy shorter skirts knew, the employee who arranged the room assignment for Jamie Deering knew. People knew something was off. We’re talking about an organization that sent teenage boys home for merely talking to girls, while its leader held late night one-on-one “mentoring” sessions in his office with teenage girls.

Well sure, you say, it was a cult. That’s how cults work. But I want to stress just how widespread IBLP’s influence was within the Christian homeschooling world throughout my entire childhood and beyond. There were hundreds and thousands of families involved who had no idea that anything untoward was happening. This wasn’t so much an insular group like we’re used to thinking about, with its members cut off from contact with the outside. Rather, it was one that faced outward and led wide swaths people across the country to trust it its leadership and its “godly” mission and methods.

I highlighted a couple sentences from Libby Anne’s post that I want to address, namely to what degree did the thousands of homeschool families know about all this.

My family was one of those involved in ATI, the homeschool branch of IBLP, mostly from a distance. We were involved in ATI my entire homeschool career, from about 2nd grade until 10th grade, when we started slowly distancing ourselves from the programme more and more, although my family did not completely severe ties until I was in college. What ATI looked like for my family was yearly visits to the national homeschool convention in Knoxville, Tennessee; quarterly meetings with the homeschool families in our areas; and attendance to several conferences. I did attend one of their local homeschool camps, and we did visit the ALERT academy (a homeschool “army” training programme) occasionally, namely because we lived nearby their main headquarters.

My experiences in ATI were enough to remember some of the strict rules. For example, I had to walk with my head down when I passed ALERT guys, and I can remember the weird campus luncheons where guys pulled out the chairs for us young ladies, and then we sang a hymn and prayed, before eating together.

However, my experience in ATI was still small enough that I had a life outside ATI; my family never visited the Indiana campus, for example, and I never recall speaking to Gothard personally, although I am sure my parents did at some point.

From all appearances, my family was one of the thousand sea of faces that passed in and out of conferences or a campus every year, while remaining mostly a nobody family.

I bring this up because despite the fact that my family barely met Gothard, never worked on our local campus, other than a few volunteer days, and only occasionally visited the campus, my parents were well aware that Gothard had “pets” and “types.”

Here are a few family conversations I remember, which went something like this:

In elementary school:

Me: “Mom, dad, why do we have to wear  our hair down and wear white shirts and blue skirts to conferences. This is so dumb.”
Dad: “Because Mr. Gothard likes girls dressed that way, and he makes the rules.”

In middle school:

Me: “Why does this say we have to curl our hair?”
Dad (beginning to connect the dots): “Gothard is attracted to women with wavy, though not too curly, hair. *He* likes women that way. That’s why he says this.”

In high school:

Mom’s Friend: “We spoke with Mr. Gothard at family camp. You should have been there. Mr. Gothard asked my daughter Hope to come work for him at headquarters. He is so impressed with her and her character and wants her to be his assistant.”
Mom: “Your daughter is ONLY 15.  She needs to finish high school.”
Dad: “Yes, but she knows enough already, and she can catch up during the summer, he says.”
Mom: “He isn’t interested in your daughter because she’s godly. Your daughter is super attractive. He wants her because she is pretty, not because she’s godly.”

I can still remember the conversation my parents had about the daughter Hope at the dinner table that day. Hope was “his type.” Hope had “long, thick wavy hair and perfect complexion.” Hope had little education, and would wait on his every beck and call, because she wouldn’t know better. Dad just kept saying, “Gothard is creepy; I know he is. He spent his whole life [indirectly] telling us that our daughters with very straight hair had inferior hair because it isn’t wavy. Too bad the girls didn’t get my hair, haha.”

I want to be clear; this conversation occurred long before the testimonies of Gothard’s “type” surfaced the internet through the website Recovering Grace. In fact, my family did not have internet at this time that I remember, other than email via dial-up. My parents had this conversations without any personal verification; they obviously had heard gossip about his “pets” and “types,” but they never heard that he was actually touching young girls.

When these young women, who suffered abuse at Gothard’s hands, finally told their story, neither one of my parents expressed shock. They said, “of course, he is guilty.”

And my parents non-shock is not because my parents are cynical; on the contrary, they were extremely shocked when Doug Phillip, another homeschool leader, had to resign from his leadership position, because he assaulted a homeschool girl. My dad said, “nah” when I read him the news about Phillips, and my mom just kept repeating, “How could this be?”

But with Gothard? My parents just said, “of course, he’s guilty; he’s always had ‘types’ and ‘pets.”

When I read the lawsuit accounts, it was creepy to see how much Hope matched the description of the other girls. Like many of the young women, Hope also came from an unstable family. For example, one of Hope’s siblings had a child marriage; her brother married a 15 year girl (I don’t remember his age; perhaps 18? 19?), in a sort of arranged marriage. None of her siblings have a high school education, at least by government standards. Every sibling has married by age 19. Gothard likely knew at least part of this family’s history, because they attended family camp annually (the same family camp the Duggars from 19 Kids and Counting attend) and had the loud-kind of mouth that liked to brag about how they had married their children off. In addition, as I mentioned, Hope was gorgeous, and she spent 2 hours in front of the mirror each day working on her hair and face to make her look even more beautiful.

Thankfully, Hope did not go to the Indiana training centre. My parents had an influence on her family, and for that, I am thankful. Hope married a son of a prominent staff family who worked at the Indiana training centre. (They met at family camp.)

I echo what Libby Anne said; it’s weird that no one stepped in and did anything permanent about the abuse. But I do suggest one additional thing: these allegations are not really a shock, not even to most ordinary homeschool families.

As my parents said, he has always had pets and types; we all knew this.

“Desperate Attempt”: David C. Gibbs III Fires Back Against Bill Gothard, IBLP

By R.L. Stollar, HA Community Coordinator

Earlier today HA reported that Bill Gothard and the Institute for Basic Life Principles (IBLP) filed motions with the Circuit Court of DuPage County, Illinois. Those motions aim to disqualify David C. Gibbs III and the Gibbs Law Firm from representing the eighteen plaintiffs in Gretchen Wilkinson vs. Institute in Basic Life Principles, the court case in which eighteen former employees and students are suing Gothard and IBLP for sexual harassment and assault and mishandling those crimes.

Gibbs issued a statement today to HA in response to these motions. Concerning Gothard’s allegations that Gibbs misled him regarding his role in the lawsuit, Gibbs claims that, “Gothard was fully aware that I was the attorney for Lourdes Torres against Gothard’s protégé, Douglas Phillips, and Gothard was mentioned by name in that Texas lawsuit in April 2014.” Gibbs cites directly from the Torres v. Phillips lawsuit, in which he wrote, “Others who espoused this teaching [patriarchy], such as Bill Gothard or Jack Schaap, have stepped down or are incarcerated for crimes against children.”

Gibbs states that that Gothard and IBLP’s motions “will be fully opposed in court and are full of misstatements and lies.” While Gibbs says he is “guilty of aggressively representing my clients,” he denounces these latest actions as “a desperate attempt to attack the law firm that is publicly and legally holding [Gothard] accountable for years of child abuse.”

Relevant materials can be viewed below:

Full text of David C. Gibbs III’s statement against the motions

• Bill Gothard’s Motion to Disqualify and Sanction

• IBLP’s Motion to Disqualify and Sanction

• Exhibit A: Bill Gothard’s Affidavit

• Exhibit B: Roger Blair’s Affidavit

• IBLP’s press release on February 18, 2016: “Motion to Disqualify Attorney David Gibbs III”

• Second Amended Complaint in Gretchen Wilkinson vs. Institute in Basic Life Principles

Second Amended Complaint Filed in Bill Gothard & IBLP Sex Abuse Lawsuit: 18 Victims in Lawsuit

HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Julie Anne Smith’s blog Spiritual Sounding Board. It was originally published on February 18, 2016.

Content Warning: Details of sexual abuse and harassment

Yesterday, I received the following summary from the office of Attorney David Gibbs III. While it would have been easy to pull only specific highlights, the reality is that for each individual named, either by their real name or a pseudonym, their lives have been greatly harmed by Bill Gothard and/or the leaders at Institute in Basic Life Principles (IBLP).  I would rather let each survivor’s story be acknowledged and read. This is their voice now speaking out. These are true heroes!  Please pray for them. This is an emotional time for them as they finally get their day in court after years of suffering in silence. ~Julie Anne


 

Atty. David Gibbs III asked me to forward you the attached copy of the Second Amended Complaint in Wilkinson, et al v. IBLP & Bill Gothard. The Complaint was filed within the last hour and is currently pending review. Below is a summary of the case, and a brief synopsis of the facts stated in the Second Amended Complaint for each client.

Our clients are telling the same story that happened over and over again. There was repeated abuse – re-victimizing women and men for being raped. Psychological abuse and sexual harassment of rape victims. Manipulating and torturing people – including criminal activity – over and over again for decades. The Board knew about it time and time again. Ultimately, they did nothing but after Internet pressure sent Gothard out to further harass victims and cover up the abuse.

The Board states that they are looking forward to the order and structure of the legal process to find the truth. That means they hope they can hide behind a legal technicality to get the case dismissed. What the IBLP won’t do is sit down with these 18 victims, and the others that are out there – like Christians – and open their checkbook and do what is right for these people. IBLP built a 100 Million Dollar organization on the backs of people that they required to work 70 hours per week without paying them over time or in some cases not paying them at all – it was slave labor – but they won’t consider using the assets of that empire that was built on the backs of its victims to do what is right to help these people get counseling and to compensate them for what they helped Bill Gothard and others do to them.

Many of these victims have lost their health, their opportunity to be educated, and had their faith traumatized by a man and his organization. It is heartbreaking that IBLP will not do the right thing by those they have hurt. Instead, the re-victimization continues.

For each Plaintiff, in the NIED count (counts I,V,IX, XIII, XVII, etc.), you will find a description of the facts of that Plaintiff’s case – their story – what happened to them. Those facts are then used as the basis of each of the counts for that Plaintiff.

The following is a brief synopsis of the facts stated in the Second Amended Complaint for each Plaintiff:

1. Gretchen Wilkinson – the Second Amended Complaint states: she was sexually molested and harassed by Bill Gothard. (See paragraphs 123 – 129.)

2. Jane Doe – the Second Amended Complaint states: she was a victim of incest and severe physical and psychological abuse at home. Despite the fact that she repeatedly came to Bill Gothard and IBLP for help, she was told to “let go of her bitterness, “to let go of her rights,” and to “stop being rebellious.” Because she was adopted, Bill Gothard advised her family to disowner her, which they did. Because she was medically fragile, this had a devastating effect on her health. (See paragraphs 155 – 173.)

3. Melody Fedoriw – the Second Amended Complaint states: she was sexually molested by Bill Gothard at IBLP headquarters in 2012 at the age of 15. She made a report to the Hinsdale, Illinois Police Department. The conduct was classified as a misdemeanor and was not prosecuted, because the criminal statute of limitations had passed by the time the report was made and the matter was investigated. An associate of Bill Gothard’s had made a FOIA request for the police report back in 2014. (See paragraphs 200 – 211.

4. Charis Barker – the Second Amended Complaint states: she was sexually harassed by Bill Gothard at IBLP headquarter for an 18 month period, beginning when she was 18 years old. The details of his behavior toward Ms. Barker a very similar to the ways he sexually harassed many of his other victims. (See paragraphs 237 – 258.)

5. Rachel Frost – the Second Amended Complaint states: she was sexually harassed by Bill Gothard at IBLP headquarters while she was a minor and then while she was an adult. This continued over approximately a three-year period. (See paragraphs 282 – 314.)

6. Rachel Lees – the Second Amended Complaint states: she was sexually harassed by Bill Gothard at IBLP headquarters when she was twenty years old for approximately one year. (Paragraphs 339 – 360.)

7. Jane Doe III – the Second Amended Complaint states: she was sexually harassed by Bill Gothard at IBLP headquarters when she was 18 years old. Gothard had invited Jane Doe III to come to headquarters for counseling due to difficulties in her relationship with her father. He really had no interest in counseling Jane Doe III. He used this opportunity to try to separate her from her mother, so he could have her at headquarters alone. When Jane Doe III posted her experiences to the Recovering Grace website, Gothard verbally assaulted her for three weeks, until she agree to take the posts down. Jane Doe III made a number of attempts to bring Gothard’s conduct to the IBLP Board’s attention. She even went to CLA directly, to make sure they were aware of Gothard’s conduct for purposes of their “investigation,” but she was ignored. (Paragraphs 385 – 408.)

8. Jamie Deering – the Second Amended Complaint states that she was one of the younger victims. The Amended Complaint states: Gothard invited her to come to headquarters – alone – at the age of 14. Gothard sexually abused Ms. Deering, including inappropriate touching while she was a minor. Gothard also refused to help Ms. Deering when she attempted to contact him, as a result of physical abuse that she was suffering at home. (See paragraphs 432 – 453.)

9. Ruth Copley Burger – the Second Amended Complaint states that she is the adopted daughter of former IBLP “Biblical Counselor” Kenneth Copley. The Amended Complaint states: Copley repeatedly sexually molested and abused Ms. Burger. This occurred while Ms. Burger was living at the IBLP Indianapolis Training Center. Copley would use Training Center rooms – outside his residence – as the site of some of Ms. Burger’s abuse. He had a history of sexual misconduct before he was hired by IBLP and was ultimately terminated by IBLP due to sexual misconduct. Copley also raped Jane Doe II. (See paragraphs 477 – 494.)

10. Joy Simmons – the Second Amended Complaint states that she was sexually assaulted on her 24th birthday. When Ms. Simmons’ parents and her pastor, Pastor York (who is also an IBLP Board member), learned of the sexual assault, they determined that she was partly to blame for the sexual assault and determined that the appropriate course of action would be to send Ms. Simmons to Bill Gothard for counseling at IBLP headquarters. There, Gothard would press her for details of her sexual assault, sexually harass her while counseling her for her sexual assail,t and require her – on occasion – to work 100 hours a week for little to no money. IBLP refused to pay overtime. (See paragraphs 518 – 547.)

11. JANE DOE IV – the Second Amended Complaint states that she was raped at the age of eleven years old. She was sent to IBLP headquarters for rape counseling. There Gothard flipped a coin and decided that they should not report the First Degree Rape, as it would have been classified under North Carolina law. Gothard advised JANE DOE IV that he was the only one who knew how to counsel rape victims, denied her the opportunity to obtain professional counseling, and sexually harassed her while he was counseling her regarding the rape that she suffered at age 11. JANE DOE IV had to go hungry because of the minimal amount of money IBLP paid her, while requiring her to help take care of disadvantaged young girls. She is the only Plaintiff in this lawsuit who was interviewed for IBLP’s sham investigation. (See paragraphs 572 – 602.)

12. Carmen Okhmatovski – the Second Amended Complaint states that she was 17 when she went to work at IBLP. Although she was scheduled to have ankle tendon surgery when Bill Gothard began to pursue her – to bring her to IBLP headquarters, Gothard advised her parents that he knew a doctor who could cure her ankle problem by injecting her ankles with sugar water. When she arrived at headquarters, no medical care was provided for her ankles. Rather, Ms. Okhmatovski was sexually harassed by Gothard when he would frequently call her to his office, before hours, after hours, during the day, and in an IBLP van during trips. Gothard also sexually harassed Ms. Okhmatovski on a trip to Russia. Ms. Okhmatovski was also aware of the rape of another Plaintiff, JANE DOE V. Although the rape by an IBLP staff person had been reported to Gothard and the IBLP staff, it was never reported to the appropriate state child welfare agency or law enforcement. (See paragraphs 626 – 656.)

13. Jennifer Spurlock – the Second Amended Complaint states that she went to the IBLP Indianapolis Training Center (“ITC”) at the age of 15. Once she arrived, despite only having an 8th grade education, Ms. Spurlock was denied any further education by IBLP. While she was at the ITC, a juvenile delinquent by the name of “Jarvis” attempted to rape her. Fortunately, she was able to fight him off. The attempted rape was never reported to the state child welfare agency or law enforcement out of concern that it would discredit IBLP and the ITC. Ms. Spurlock was then transferred to IBLP headquarters and was assigned the job of keeping Bill Gothard company by sitting outside of his door and being at his “beck and call.” Still, Ms. Spurlock was denied any education beyond the 8th grade education with which she arrived. Gothard would regularly sexually molest Ms. Spurlock by rubbing her upper thighs, near her vaginal area and by rubbing her breasts by hugging her and rubbing his chest back and forth on her breasts, while he made disgusting noises. (See paragraph 680 – 718.)

14. Megan Lind – the Second Amended Complaint states that she was forced, by her parents, into the Indianapolis Training Center at the age of seventeen years old. Both before and after her eighteen birthday, Ms. Lind was illegally confined to her room at the ITC. Frequently, the only opportunity Ms. Lind would have to leave her room was for a counseling session with Bill Gothard. During these sessions, Bill Gothard would sexually harass Ms. Lind. After her eighteenth birthday, Ms. Lind was transferred to another IBLP facility where she was illegally confined and required to make meals for the people in the facility. (See paragraphs 742 – 761.)

15. JANE DOE V – the Second Amended Complaint states that Bill Gothard convinced JANE DOE V’s parents to send her to headquarters when she was fifteen years old. When she arrived, JANE DOE V spent a significant amount of time in Bill Gotahrd’s office in counseling sessions and running errands for Gothard. During the counseling sessions, Gothard would sexually harass JANE DOE V. Because a young man on the headquarters lawn crew took an interest in her, JANE DOE V was sent to the Indianapolis Training Center (“ITC”) in 1997. During an IBLP conference in Knoxville, Tennessee, JANE DOE V was raped by a 22 year-old IBLP staff person by the name of Matthew Heard. Although the rape was reported to the IBLP staff and Bill Gothard, the rape was never reported to the state child welfare agency or law enforcement. When JANE DOE V returned to the ITC, Mr. McWah, director of the leaders in training program, whipped her for being raped. JANE DOE V was regularly locked in the ITC “prayer room” for weeks on end. Sometimes the ITC staff would forget that JANE DOE V was locked in the prayer room and would forget to feed her. At one point ,JANE DOE V had an opportunity to run away. The only place she knew to run was IBLP headquarters. When she arrived, Bill Gothard ordered her back to the ITC. (See paragraphs 786 – 816.)

16. Daniel Dorsett – the Second Amended Complaint states that he began working at IBLP in 1993. From 1994 though 1996 he was Bill Gothard’s primary driver. During this time, Mr. Dorsett saw Bill Gothard sexually harass or molest over one hundred fifty young ladies. Gothard told him that if he told anyone about what he saw he would go “straight to hell.” In 1996, while a participant in IBLP’s ALERT program, Mr. Dorsett was illegally locked in a room for admitting that he had committed a sin. During his brief stay in the ALERT program Mr. Dorsett was exposed to unbearable torture when he was required to perform a mock rescue in the freezing cold in his underwear with no shirt or shoes. (See paragraph 841 – 858.)

17. JANE DOE VI – the Second Amended Complaint states that she went to work for IBLP when she was sixteen years old. She worked for IBLP from 1991 through 1998. From 1992 through 1997, she was Bill Gothard’s assistant. During this time period, Gothard constantly touched JANE DOE VI. He would play “footsie” with her (against her will), hold her hands, rub her legs, and fall asleep on her. JANE DOE VI eventually approached two IBLP Board member’s wives about Gothard’s behavior and the Board apparently implemented a policy in 1997 that prevented Gothard from having female assistants because of the sexual harassment. Apparently that policy was never enforced and the abuse continued. (See paragraph 883 – 896.)

18. JOHN DOE I – the Second Amended Complaint states that he was initially a volunteer and was later employed by the Indianapolis Training Center (“ITC”) from 1993 through 1994 and later from 1996 trough 1997. While he will still a minor at the age of seventeen in 1994, JOHN DOE I was sexually molested by an IBLP employee by the name of William Tollett. JOHN DOE I immediately reported the molestation to his father and ITC staff. Although Tollett resigned from the ITC the next day, the molestation was never reported to state child welfare officials or law enforcement. (See paragraphs 920 – 938.)

Here is the pdf file to the 213-page Second Amended Complaint. Be forewarned, it is very disturbing and details sexual abuse.  Second Amended Complaint

A Homeschooled Son’s Letter to His Father: Ethan’s Story

CC image courtesy of Flickr, Kevin Dooley.

HA note: The author’s name has been changed to ensure anonymity. “Ethan” is a pseudonym.

I grew up in a homeschooled Christian family, oldest of eight children. For the past several years, conversations with my mother indicated her weariness of homeschool education and a belief that public education was no longer the great evil she once considered it to be. Despite her view, her expression of this exhaustion to my father was limited to periodic bouts of frustration that were dismissed by my father as ‘evidence that Satan doesn’t want our family to keep homeschooling’. I was, to exaggerate by understatement, mildly angered by his cavalier dismissal. Given my financial dependence on my father throughout college, though, I wasn’t in a position to risk his anger by addressing the strain homeschooling was placing on Mom. Now that I am in my last semester with a six-figure job lined up after graduation, I elected to voice my thoughts (in a much cooler voice than would have been likely in person) to my father in an e-mail, included below.


Dad,

This is a long e-mail that was supposed to be a conversation in person, but I didn’t realize y’all were leaving for the wedding and timing just kind of didn’t work out.

I want to preface this with two notes. First, please understand that this is not written from some resentful / I-hate-my-childhood perspective, because it’s not. Second, I beg you to realize that my opinions are not automatically invalid because I haven’t procreated and raised offspring myself.

Section 1: On The Theory of Homeschooling
Homeschooling has highly variable outcomes – some families end up on prime-time news for abuse and incest, some families send all their children to Harvard / Princeton / Yale. I have no problem with homeschooling per se.

To the contrary, growing up in that community gives me a unique view on its pros and cons.

To the extent that Christian parents have a duty to guide the moral development of their children, parents may (ought, even) elect to control the influences, environments, and material available to a young child. Homeschooling in the religious right originated because of a belief that public schools were dangerous, anti-moral institutions that threatened the development of Christian beliefs, and that belief is not unfounded. Public schools are not religious, and are often anti-religious.

It’s important to understand, though, that any child will inevitably be exposed to these ‘great evils’. Homeschooling does not allow a child to enjoy life sans secular influences. In some cases, it delays exposure to said influences. In some cases, those secular influences reach a homeschooled child through different channels. In many cases, though, homeschooling simply creates a unique set of ‘secular’ problems.

Homeschooling doesn’t solve the sin nature – as ideal as that would be.

In a homeschooled environment, some sins will bubble to the surface. In a public school environment, some of the same sins will arise, but it’s likely a different set will be primary concerns. The point here is that homeschooling does not eliminate the need to address human failure, it just changes the topics being addressed.

In economics, there’s a concept of diminishing marginal returns (DMR). DMR basically says that doing something for a certain amount of time has high value for each incremental action, but beyond a certain threshold, very little value is added. I think this is models the homeschool environment quite well. In early years, there is immense value from a Christian environment to build a foundation for moral thinking and behavior, but as the age timeline and the ability for self-reasoning progresses, you [generic you] reap very little incremental value from environmental restrictions.

[As an aside, I always found the quiver and arrows argument about shooting children out into the world very interesting. It was used to justify homeschooling and protecting children from the outside world until adulthood, but the process of making arrows is very different. Arrows are made from greenwood, then allowed to “season” / “mature” in an outdoor environment (while still under care of the archer) until they are ready to be shot out. Protection is not always good].

With one exception, all my Christian friends at [university name] were public schooled from day 1, and it’s arguable that their faith is more sincere than mine. This is perhaps a criticism of my focus on things of God in recent months, but is stronger evidence that the method of education is not the determinant of faith. Morals, godliness, and Christian belief stem from a God-given desire to follow those things.

As a summary: homeschooling has value, but it is not an intrinsic good. Beyond a certain point, it may be detrimental to the rigor of one’s faith and one’s ability to thrive in the outside world.

Section 2: On Finances
This is a somewhat short section, but merely exists because I think it’s important to recall one thing: the thousands of dollars the family pays in taxes every year fund, in part, a school system recognized as one of the best in the nation. From a financial stewardship perspective, electing to not utilize public resources is an unmitigated waste of those dollars. Given that family finances are increasingly stressed, prudent management of available dollars seems important.

Section 3: On Patriarchy
I am attempting to word this section very carefully to avoid giving offense. I apologize in advance if I fail to achieve this goal.

Fathers are recognized generally as ‘head of household’ within Christian tradition. Unfortunately, this tradition systematically has taught that fathers are the only heads of the household, that their decisions are final, and they are endowed with a ‘divine right’ to teach and train members of their family as they see fit.

At a very basic level, this is extra-biblical at best and abusive at worst.

It is especially pernicious because Mothers have been taught to accept the aforementioned patriarchal role without question.

[As an aside, mom knows nothing about this e-mail and i have not solicited her feedback in composing it. Any anger you have should be directed at me, not at her]

Over the years, the concept of ‘[Family Surname] Team’ and ‘family vision’ [quotes are not used ironically, merely to indicate specific phrasing used] have come to be despised by at least [second born sibling], [third born sibling], and myself because they didn’t represent a family vision – they represented your vision, which was to be accepted without question or argument, unless we wanted to face the consequences. While this is as much the fault of our immaturity as any other factor, I think it’s problematically indicative of a family trend – anything that happens must have your seal of approval, regardless of how trivial it is. And any choices that ’the family’ makes are, ultimately, just choices that you have made for us.

You have made some stellar decisions, please don’t get me wrong. This is not a blanket critique of everything that has ever happened. But the family is driven by a centralized power, and it’s abundantly evident whenever a unit of the family attempts to make an autonomous decision that you will brook no autonomy.

The ATI ‘umbrella of authority’ is transformed all too often into a suffocating blanket of my-way-or-the-highway.

Why am I talking about this? In all fairness, it’s often true that attempts at autonomous decisions by children are misguided and in need of parental ‘editing’, but the same should not, and in the case of our family, cannot be said of Motherly autonomous decisions.

I’ve seen the quality of your marriage deteriorate meaningfully for the past few years, and while that may be due to other factors, I’m convinced the largest contributor is the choke-hold you have on Mom’s ability to say, do, allow, or think anything related to the family. [second born] / [third born] and I often comment on the legitimate fear we see in her eyes whenever she allows a younger child to do anything without running it by you first – frightened anticipation of your anger at her for not fulfilling your vision for how the family ought to be.

Any marriage will have differences of opinions, that’s life. But communication, grace, and willingness to not always get your way are how marriages survive. I may not be married, but it’s not rocket science to figure that much out.

Where am I going with all this? Homeschooling is your vision for the children. I may be wrong, but I’m confident Mom no longer has a desire to homeschool. She continues her days in the car, her nights up to 2am managing different children’s classes, her constant fights with children over turning in homework and proctoring exams, in some desperate attempt to fulfill a vision that you have required her to implement. This is not healthy.

As a summary: The power dynamic in the family is driven by your fear, fear that you will lose control. If you made a genuine effort to give Mom freedom to be an independent entity, I think you would discover your vision for family education is sub-optimal.

Section 4: On College, aka, Finances (Again), Choice, and Resources
This is about college. College is expensive, as we’ve all found out.

And homeschooling can [it doesn’t have to] severely limit leadership opportunities / transcript development relative to a public school.

This has a direct financial impact on scholarships, college acceptances [different colleges have very different aid packages], and, consequently, the affordability of higher education. Presuming that blue-collar work is not the optimal adult life track for all the children, doing all that is possible to minimize college tuition is important.

Every child is different. Homeschooling through high school was great for me and I’m sure if I went to public school I wouldn’t be where I am today. But that doesn’t mean homeschooling is optimal for everyone. At the very least, children should be given the option of going to public school for high school, so that they can best position themselves for college applications.

Additionally, public schools have offices designed to educate students on college options, administer standardized tests, prepare transcripts, guide students through the application process, etc. These are professionals, people we’re already paying [via tax dollars], in the richest county in America, to send students to optimal colleges for each family.

Section 5: Action Items and Everything That Didn’t Fit in Earlier Sections
Will public schools open up a new set of problems? Probably. Will continued homeschooling kill Mom? Probably.

Will continued homeschooling eliminate the conflicts that current exist at home? Probably not. Will continued homeschooling ensure that all children love Jesus forever and ever? Probably not. [That was a bit snarkily phrased, I apologize].

Maybe no one wants to go to public school. That’s entirely possible.

But I suspect there is an interest, and I more strongly believe that certain children would massively benefit from it.

[fourth born child], [fifth born child], and [sixth born child] are all IMMENSELY intelligent, and young enough that they have years ahead to shape their high school and college opportunities. If other children went to public school, that would likely allow finances for them to play travel soccer and develop advanced skills there. [fifth born] is fascinated by computer science – if that can be fostered, he would love [elite science / tech high school nearby] as an intense scientific high school. There’s immense potential here.

I 100% support continued homeschooling up to middle school, maybe even through middle school, or perhaps through high school [again depending on individual children’s preferences].

But please, have the humility and intellectual honesty to engage with Mom in a genuine conversation about what she wants, and then implement what she wants.

The world will not end and we will not all become heathens if public schools are opened up as an option.

Who knows, maybe the reduced financial stress and replacement of “mom & dad” with “professor x” as academic task-masters will improve family relations.

Above all, this is about creating a truly family driven vision and contributing to a healthy, high functioning, family unit.

Love,

[Oldest Child]