Sexism and Homeschooling: Maya’s Story

CC image courtesy of PixabayAnimus Photograpy.

Trigger warning: Detailed descriptions of abuse.

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

I don’t even know how to begin to explain myself. Here I am sitting in the place I am forced by income and circumstance to live in (my parents’ home) outing myself to the world when it’s dangerous and precarious for me to do so in the real world. I can’t even use my real name online because I have been stalked and blackmailed by people who choose to support my ex-husband.

I’m getting ahead of myself. Maybe we should start near the beginning.

I was raised Fundamental Southern Baptist. At age 7 I would go door to door with little comic books called “Chick Tracts” spreading the Word Of God to Unbelievers. I was convinced it was my direct heavenly duty to convert people, that I would end up before the great throne of judgment when I die and God would berate and belittle me if I failed in this calling.

By the time I was 12 I would sob in my pillow at night because I had never led anyone to salvation or through “the sinner’s prayer”.

I found no solace in my worship of God because God was to be feared. I was convinced it was proof I wasn’t really saved, and that when the rapture came I would be left behind. It didn’t matter that I was the peacemaker in my family trying to keep my sisters out of trouble any time they saw the cracks in the system. It didn’t matter that I was an A student and had several crown pins in my Patch the Pirate sailor’s hat denoting my dedication and obedience, I failed in my life’s mission before I even hit puberty.

At 13: someone sexually abused my best friend. I was floundering, because I had no idea how to help. I urged them to confess to the parents, so the grownups could help. This was the worst advice I have ever given and it still haunts me.The adults were completely out of their depth too, and relied on the Pastor to fix it all. He had no formal education or resources to assist, and took it upon himself to send my best friend through Gay Conversion Therapy behind the parents’ backs. The atrocities my bestie lived through still feel like they are my fault.

I will forever carry the internal scars for damning their life.

At 16: The doctors declared me infertile. I was raised to believe the highest honor and calling for a woman was to raise children. It was the only thing I ever wanted from life. I took this as further proof that God was not with me. I remained active in the youth group, church nursery and kitchen staff duties. I was a model of obedience and feminine beauty through sacrifices.

The other kids teased me behind the grown ups’ backs that I was just trying to be perfect so the Pastor’s son would like me. They saw the truth even though I denied it. I secretly thought if J wanted me then it was proof I was exactly who I needed to be. We were in a fishbowl, and to be worthy of J’s attention meant I was the Perfect Christian Girl. It didn’t matter if I didn’t love him romantically, it was just a way to grade myself.

At 17: I was dying because my immune system had turned on itself.

It was the first time I ever considered killing myself. My prayers bounced off the rafters of the house. God didn’t care about me or any of my efforts. I didn’t see God protecting his children: I saw cover ups, deceit and an endless empty desert of a life ahead of me. I spent the majority of my time in bed, sick and suicidal. I still worked hard to project confidence and happiness in the face of these “trials”. I don’t know if anyone actually saw what was going on in my head and heart. I knew I couldn’t survive life at Pensacola Christian College, my new best friend had sent me weekly letters of her struggles there. She was a public school kid, but so much smarter than me and I just knew I would fail.

My parents couldn’t afford to send me to college just for me to get an “MRS.” degree, and my senior year of school was being fudged by our cover school so I could squeak through because the grownups thought I wasn’t going to live very much longer anyway. They saw me graduating as a spiritual act of mercy.

At 18: I recommitted my life to God.

That was a huge deal. I decided I was going to believe harder and obey better, and sacrifice until I was purified. If I followed all the steps I would be rewarded. It was promised. My health began to improve with doctor intervention and a new healthy diet. I graduated my homeschooling education. Apparently everything was working with my sacrificing, because my first bestie was “doing better”, my college bestie was surviving, and a suitor had entered my world. He was approved of by my father. I began courting the man, and thought he was handpicked by God just for me. All the signs were there and he seemed to genuinely love me!

While chaperoned by his sister I roamed his house he had bought. It felt like home to me. All the dishes were exactly where I would put them, and I could see myself living there. He was my “soul mate”. He worked on his church’s sound and recording team to broadcast the Word of God to the world. He was friends with all the young people the church held up as examples to follow. He had a good job, and a well known family. He had attended Word of Life Bible Institute, and in high school went to ATI conferences. He had an active ministry and I had the high honor of carrying his equipment and assisting him as he wired S. Truett Cathy and other well respected leaders for sound at events at the local Southern Baptist college.

I was so sure that we were going to light the world on fire for Christ.

That we were destined for greatness. We would be world changers. It would be okay that I had never led anyone personally to the lord, because I was made to assist a great man. His light would shine, and his shadow would be my protection.

At 19: I married him. He confessed privately to me the day before we married that he had sexually touched his sister over her clothes when he was a teenager. I asked him if he followed the keys to forgiveness as laid out by Bill Gothard, and he said he had. I asked if he had anything else to confess, and he said no. I asked if she had forgiven him and if he ever touched anyone else that way, to which he said she had and he didn’t.

I sobbed and told him I forgave him.

This led to heavy petting. I felt helpless, and confused that I had sexual response feelings despite not being on board with what was happening. I had been saving myself for marriage, so sheltered and completely innocent. I had never kissed anyone. I had no sex ed. His advances told me that it was too late to retreat. This was just…a forgivable little thing. God would forgive me for allowing the kisses and groping because I was marrying this man in less than 10 hours. No one had to know.

I’m still haunted by this. The anxiety and disgust have woken me up in the middle of the night so I can vomit countless times. I see it now much more clearly – he preyed on her, and then moved on to me.

At 20: I thought everyone dealt with this sort of thing, that’s why they always warned about “when the honeymoon is over”.

He stopped touching me in a sexual way again after the week of our honeymoon. I knew at a core level he married me from obligation. He wanted to have sex with someone and I was there. He wanted a place to vent his twisted frustrations, so I was there. It made perfect sense. I was there to keep him from giving in to his non-godly desires. I was there to cover up his dark places. I was there to be his “helpmeet”. He constantly told his mother what a failure I was, so she sent me Debi Pearl’s books with highlighted sections to help me improve in my God Given Duties.

Over the next nine years the abuses got worse. He started to manhandle me in front of others, so I would behave in a certain way. We no longer went to church, because the church had withdrawn him from the service team and taken away my kindergartners sunday school class because I had medically diagnosed depression. Obviously his house wasn’t “in order” so he had no further privileges in the church. This made things so much worse for me at home.

It was my fault he was disgraced.

Any failing of his became my failing. There were screaming matches. I can’t even begin to tell you how many times he urged me to kill myself. I knew he cheated on me, the evidence was always there when it was with women. One woman he worked with told me explicitly how she had had her way with him in the break room after work. Another girl threw a brick through his car window when he quit with her.

I became a shell. The more I cut off of my self the more I thought I would control the chaos I lived with. He borrowed money from friends and stole money from me – I had to be resourceful and creative to hide it and pay people back. I worked two jobs in addition to all the 1950’s ideals I was expected to live up to. It was never enough. I was just waiting for him to actually hit me or leave bruises. I was raised to believe only that was abuse.

Again I tried to kill myself. A friend forced me to vomit and the pills came up.

By year 10 of our marriage I had conceived.

When I lost the pregnancy, I was sobbing in the shower with blood everywhere. I was clawing at my skin because I couldn’t stop my body rejecting the new life. I remember him ripping back the curtain and telling me I deserved to lose the child, and that it was a blessing because I was cursed. That no child deserved me as a mother, because I was a failure at being a human being. He spit on me and left me in the shower, shivering, bleeding and alone.

Shortly after that, I learned he had an active account on Ashley Madison and it stated he was game for a good time with any gender.

One week after the miscarriage he pinned me to the wall.

He told me he knew I was going to leave him because I no longer slept under the covers with him. He said I would fall on my ass and come crawling back to him, and when I did he would laugh and turn me away. He frightened me so badly I fell to the ground when he let me go. He told me to clean up the floor and myself, because he couldn’t stand to look at me. I remember scooping up the breakfast into the plate, trying hard not to cry audibly. I used lysol wipes to clean it up and I was terrified he would punish me for not using the mop, but he had taken away my walker and I couldn’t really stand up. I took refuge in the bathroom and ran water for a bath, the sobs had overtaken me by then. I heard the door to our apartment slam, and he was gone. He frequently left on wednesdays to smoke and play card games, but he left earlier than normal. I expected him back at any minute.

I cleaned our apartment top to bottom, hoping to appease him. My atheist friend in Alaska set up a call between me and the local domestic violence center. She convinced me to give staying there one night’s chance, because I had an active suicide plan. I knew if I left my treasured belongings he would never give them to my sisters, so I called my parents to come get the things and my service dog. I thought inwardly if the night’s stay at the shelter changed my mind I would have my own clothes at my disposal.

Through the help of the shelter I learned what abuse is defined as.

I filed a Protection From Abuse order because he was stalking me and still using threatening language. We had a messy divorce. I am still forced through circumstance to live in my parents’ basement. In spite of this I’m learning that I am not cursed, nor a burden. That I am left with scars, but scars don’t inflict pain, they are proof you’ve lived. I will never allow him to hurt or use me again.

I will never allow the Fundamental Southern Baptist religion to control my life again.

I am not cursed. My disabilities are not proof that God has cursed me, or that I am of Satan. My disabilities are proof that I’ve got broken DNA and that’s all.

I will not allow Fundamentalism, Bill Gothard, the preacher, my childhood or my ex-husband to control me or ruin what’s left of my life.

I deserve better than what I was given and better than what I accepted. You do too. If you’re reading this and you’re inside the box still, know you can leave. It’s dangerous and scary, but there are people waiting in the wings to help you.

The world is beautiful.

You are beautiful, and they have no right to crush you.

I am now a Catholic. I vote for the Democratic party. I have friends that are Wiccan/Pagan/Atheist/Agnostic/Muslim/Christian/Jewish. I have friends who are LGBTQIA. I belong with these people. They are the ones that want to make the world a kinder place. They’re the people who turn love into a weapon that defends the weak against others that seek to diminish or deny basic human rights.

I am what I was raised to despise, and I believe God wants it that way. I finally sleep peacefully almost every night. I forge my own future, it’s not predestined or decided for me. I’m an apostate, and yet God hasn’t struck me dead. In fact, I think God and I have an actual understanding now. It’s not my job to win souls, or lead strangers through a rote prayer. It’s my job to be a good person.

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.

The Bible Is Not Your Shield

CC image courtesy of Flickr, louisebatesuk.

By Shade, HA Editorial Team.

Recently, Bill Gothard was hosted by Total Outreach for Christ Ministries in Little Rock, AR for the 2016 Overcomer’s Conference. Based on the knowledge that he is an alleged sexual predator, someone contacted the church’s bishop, Bishop Robert E. Smith, with their concerns that they were having someone like Gothard speak at their church.

The response from the bishop was telling. Referencing 1 Timothy 5:19, which is a companion to Matthew 18:15-17‘s directives to always confront privately first, and then with witnesses. But the question remains ‘Should we be confronting those who have committed crimes as though they are just sins and offenses?’.

The text reads:

Brother Brandon, I am at somewhat of a disadvantage, not knowing you personally, nor being privy to your first-hand knowledge of an Elder’s (Bill Gothard’s) sin(s). I am instructed, ‘Against an elder receive not an accusation, but before two or three witnesses’ (1 Timothy 5:19). If you are a witness against this elder, please gather one or two others who are first hand witnesses and schedule an appointment to sit down with me, and do according to God’s word. Until such time, where I am concerned, you stand in violation both of scripture, where Brother Gothard is concerned, and having not pointed out any discrepancies in my teachings, etc. your judgement of my character, discernment, and ministry is faulty at best. I await your biblical response; no other type of correspondences are necessary. 

In Christ Jesus,  

Bishop Robert E. Smith, Sr.

The patriarchal nature of the Bill Gothard/ATI/IBLP cult is such that leaders are unassailable in their directives, their actions, their lives. There is a tendency to dismiss accusations such as these as merely ‘offenses’. This allows the leader who is being confronted to make it appear as though the accuser is mentally unstable, unable to parse the differences between good and evil. It paints the accuser as petty, overly emotional, unbelievable.

It leaves us with no recourse.

We are not believed, because we either have no witnesses, or all the witnesses in question are ‘offended’. Being offended brings into question the Umbrella of Authority, in which men are the ultimate leaders and voices for God. According to this umbrella idea, there are 3 levels of ‘protection’. The first is God’s role in our lives. He is the ultimate controlling power.

The second is the man’s role, as father/husband to the family. His authority comes directly from God. The third is that of the wife/mother’s umbrella. It is nestled completely underneath the man’s umbrella. She is to be subordinate, submissive completely to the husband. He is God’s voice to her at all times.

Underneath these umbrellas are the children. They are completely covered by both the mother’s and father’s umbrellas, and then by God. The authority of the mother is over them, but her authority is always trumped by the father’s authority. To question the father is to question God. God’s umbrella and the father’s umbrella are often seen as the same thing.

This same umbrella is applied to authority structures within the church.

Everything is a cascading layer of how God talks to one man, and that is to trickle down into complete abject obedience by those underneath. There is no freedom, no sense of self.

It is within this structure that Matthew 18:15-17, and I Timothy 5:19 come into play. With the focus being on ‘sin’ and ‘offense’, the diminishing language leaves those of us who have accusations with little ground to stand upon. Boz Tchividjian has quite a lot to say about this in his article “If your brother sins against you”….and he’s a sex offender.

In it, he delineates the difference between a sin and a crime, and says,

Such offenses are rightly under the jurisdiction of the governing authorities.  In the New Testament book of Romans, the Apostle Paul writes that Christ followers are to be subject to the civil authorities.  He writes, Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.  He even mentions that the role of government is to punish evildoers.  Child sexual abuse is an evil that has been rightly deemed to be criminal by the civil authorities.  Therefore, those who profess to follow Jesus have the responsibility to make sure that a person accused of committing such a crime is subjected to those governing authorities – which includes making a police report and cooperating throughout the criminal justice process.

Based on this, one would assume that the first step would be calling the authorities with information about a crime committed, but I think this first goes back to language.

First, they need to admit that this is a crime, not an offense, not a sin. With this revelation, more responsibility is laid upon the authority in question to listen to those accusing another member of a crime. It brings into play the mandatory reporting laws. It requires them to ‘render unto Caesar’ their trust and confidences in bringing the person accused to justice.

The verses that were used here to hide behind are not being used in their entirety. I Timothy 5:19 has companion verses that make this a complete thought. I Timothy 5: 20-21 says:

But those elders who are sinning you are to reprove before everyone, so that the others may take warning. 21 I charge you, in the sight of God and Christ Jesus and the elect angels, to keep these instructions without partiality, and to do nothing out of favoritism.

The first verse (20) referenced from I Timothy 5 clearly instructs believers to make public the accusations that are being brought against an elder, so that all will know. In the case of abuse, the only way to make sure the abuse is stopped is to make it public. The more people that know, the less likely it is that it could continue. Knowledge is power. In order to burn down the systems that perpetuate abuse, it needs to be made public.

The second verse (21) makes it clear that no favoritism should be employed when dealing with an elder, or authority figure, that has abused. By invoking the Umbrella of Authority, favoritism is being used. Because to question or accuse a male authority figure is to question God Himself. This is expressly forbidden within this patriarchal structure.

Matthew 18 also contains this passage in verses 6-9:

“If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea. Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to stumble! Such things must come, but woe to the person through whom they come! If your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life maimed or crippled than to have two hands or two feet and be thrown into eternal fire. And if your eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into the fire of hell.

Surely it cannot be anymore plain, that committing abuse of any kind against a child is an offense that angers the God of the Bible. Not only does it say that it is better if these people would die, it goes further to state that removal of the offending part of the body is necessary to protect the rest of the soul.

Based on these two passages, it is plain to see that there is far more responsibility on the listener to hear and believe the accused. In attempting to hide behind the Bible’s directives about confrontation, they expose their own biases.

They are not reading, nor following, their own Bible’s commands.

Their own Bible commands that no favoring of elders is to be shown, especially when being confronted with ‘sin’. And by ‘sin’ in this case, we mean crime. Abuse is a crime committed against those who are vulnerable. They are made even more so by the very authority structures put into place by things like the Umbrella of Authority.

This umbrella means it is nearly impossible for us to confront our abusers.

They enjoy impunity, complete power over our lives. In order to confront, we would need to have unquestionable sources, and the only ones who are not questionable are the ones who are in authority in the first place. And within that system, the ones who have power are greatly unwilling to be either questioned, or to have their authority in any way diminished.

They stick together, they believe each other over victims. Even though their own Bible commands that they listen to victims, that committing abuse against children especially is abhorrent. Fundamentalism such as this is unkind to victims, flaying them with the very verses that should support, protect, defend them. Fundamentalism such as this supports the authority in power, upholding, favoring, preserving it.

But in the end, their own Bible damns them.

The Fixer

“Her face was ghostly white… There was nothing left to her.”

By R.L. Stollar, HA Community Coordinator

“Her face was ghostly white… There was nothing left to her.”[i]

When Jeannie Marie picked up her daughter Roxy from New Beginnings Girls Academy, her daughter was a shadow of her former self. Three months at the academy destroyed her. She endured food deprivation, medical neglect, and severe emotional and physical abuse. Despite urinary tract infections and menstrual complications from a recent gang rape, she was routinely denied toilet paper and sanitary pads, locked in isolation cells, and forced to say she was “the daughter of the devil.”[ii] In desperation, the 17-year old attempted suicide.[iii]

Roxy is not a unique case. Many girls at New Beginnings attempted suicide, hoping that a trip to the hospital would allow them to escape the horrors of the academy.[iv]

New Beginnings Girls Academy is a part of a massive, complicated network of homes for “troubled children.” The homes date back to the 1970’s, when an Independent Fundamental Baptist preacher by the name of Lester Roloff had the idea to create homes to reform children considered sinful or wayward by their parents. Roloff described such children as “parent-hating, Satan-worshiping, dope-taking immoral boys and girls.”[v] Often times the children sent were, like Roxy, “troubled” simply because they were victims of child abuse.[vi]

Abuse allegations have plagued the homes since their beginnings. A plethora of lawsuits were successfully brought against them. Yet the homes keep popping up: closed in one state then re-opened in a less regulated state. The regulatory terrain of this network is, for the most part, just like that of homeschooling: intentionally unregulated.

That unregulated network owes its continuing existence to one man in particular: David C. Gibbs III.

David C. Gibbs III’s career for the Christian Law Association began in 1993.

Since 2014, Gibbs III has appeared to many in the Christian homeschooling movement as a champion for abuse survivors. He became the attorney for Lourdes Torres in her sexual assault lawsuit against Vision Forum’s disgraced founder Doug Phillips.[vii] When five brave women decided to sue IBLP and ATI’s founder Bill Gothard for sexual assault as well, Gibbs III was there, filing the lawsuit.[viii] The lawsuit against IBLP and Gothard has now grown to include eighteen plaintiffs.[ix]

Through his National Center for Life and Liberty (NCLL), Gibbs III has positioned himself as an advocate for the abused as well as an individual sensitive and empathetic to those injured by Christian fundamentalism. As Gibbs III told HA’s Ryan Stollar in January of this year, “I vehemently oppose child abuse and those that cover it up with a passion, and I believe that organizations that emotionally, psychologically, physically, or sexually abuse children should be prosecuted and shut down.” Now that he has become one of the primary business partners of the Great Homeschool Conventions, the largest for-profit homeschool convention company in the United States, Gibbs III’s platform and reach is spreading.[x]

Yet some have questioned this positive image of Gibbs III. Despite his current advocacy for survivors, he spent decades doing the exact opposite: serving as a fixer for abusers and defending leaders who spread Christian fundamentalism. Through his work and leadership with his father David C. Gibbs Jr.’s organization, the Christian Law Association (CLA), Gibbs III built a career out of defending accused child abusers. And as recently as last year, Gibbs presented sermons at churches arguing that not only parents, but schools, churches, and even complete strangers have a “fundamental right” to child corporal punishment—which he referred to as “child-beating.”[xi]

This discrepancy has raised concerns. Gibbs III’s current NCLL website makes no mention of his involvement with the CLA, including the fact that he was their general counsel. In his interview with HA blog partner Julie Anne Smith on May 26, 2014, he completely separated his father and the CLA’s work from his own work, making it seem that he was not involved with the former.[xii] However, when pressed on this matter, Gibbs III told HA, “I worked with my father and did legal work for CLA from 1993-2012.”

The discrepancies do not end there. Gibbs III indicated to Smith that he was happily married. However, public records show that his wife filed divorce papers against him later that year. The divorce was finalized in July 2015. Furthermore, Gibbs III indicated to Smith that he was never involved in any domestic disputes. However, public records show a dispute in 2013 between him and Texas Child Protective Services.

The Roloff Homes

To better understand Gibbs III’s story, we need to go back to 1956, when fiery fundamentalist Lester Roloff founded his first home for troubled individuals, the City of Refuge Home for Men, in Lee County, Texas.[xiii] Over the next two decades, Roloff founded a slew of other homes, including the Lighthouse Home for Young Men in 1958[xiv], the Rebekah Home for Girls[xv] and the Anchor Home for Boys in 1967[xvi], and the Bethesda Home for Girls in 1968.[xvii] He also founded the People’s Baptist Church in 1969[xviii], to which he passed ownership of the homes in order to make them “church-based”—and thus garnering of religious legal protections. Beginning in 1972, the CLA represented the Roloff homes, with Gibbs Jr. at the helm.[xix]

The founder of many “troubled children” homes, Lester Roloff operated under the principle, “Better a pink bottom than a black soul!”

The CLA began defending the homes at a convenient time, as it was only a year later when the homes were first charged with abuse. Parents visiting the Rebekah Home for Girls in 1973 were horrified when they witnessed staff members whipping a young girl. Local authorities in Texas launched an investigation. This culminated in the Texas legislature hearing testimonies from sixteen girls who alleged they were whipped with leather straps, beaten with paddles, handcuffed to drainpipes, and locked in isolation cells.[xx] Roloff openly admitted these actions, infamously declaring during the court hearing, “Better a pink bottom than a black soul!”[xxi] The revelations led the Texas State Legislature to pass the Child Care Licensing Act, which required the state to license all child-care facilities.[xxii]

Throughout the 1970’s and 80’s, child abuse and corruption continued to plague the Rebekah Home and other homes created or inspired by Roloff. Homes repeatedly shut down and popped up in other states to avoid licensing or prosecution. The most significant lawsuit came in 1982, when Morris Dees, the famous civil rights lawyer and founder of the Southern Poverty Law Center, helped multiple women bring a lawsuit against the Bethesda Home for Girls (and another home created by Bethesda directors Bob and Betty Wills, Reclamation Ranch) for physical abuse, torture, and food deprivation.[xxiii] The lawsuit demanded that Bob Wills and other staffers stop spanking pregnant girls.[xxiv] Gibbs Jr. defended the Bethesda Home and Reclamation Ranch.[xxv] The last year of Roloff’s involvement was 1982, as he died in a plane crash in November. His longtime associate Wiley Cameron took over the network.

In 1993, only a few years after the Rebekah and Anchor Homes were closed for a second time due to abuse, Gibbs III joined his father as an attorney for the Christian Law Association.[xxvi] Meanwhile, a string of more grievous incidents occurred: A seventeen-year-old girl, Carrie Louise Nutt, was emotionally and physically abused and forced by staffers to strip at Mountain Park Baptist Academy, run by Bob and Betty Wills.[xxvii] A murder also took place.[xxviii]

Through his work and leadership with his father David C. Gibbs Jr.’s organization, the Christian Law Association (CLA), Gibbs III built a career out of defending accused child abusers.

In the midst of this, with the hope that deregulating faith-based programs would increase their efficacy, then-Texas governor George W. Bush pushed for a legislative package that would allow church-run child-care institutions to opt out of state licensing.[xxix] This was an exemption to the requirement established in 1975 by the Child Care Licensing Act because of child abuse at the Roloff homes. The primary witness to speak in favor of the bill before the House Human Services Committee was Gibbs III, who was employed by the CLA at the time.[xxx]

According to the American Bar Association Journal, Gibbs III intentionally misled the committee to give the impression he was not connected to the Roloff Homes through the CLA.[xxxi] However, he denounced this depiction to HA, saying that his appearance during the hearing was not on behalf of the Roloff Homes. He said, “I appeared in Texas as general counsel to a number of churches for the Gibbs Law Firm,” adding that his statements during the trial were “focused on the faith-based community helping meet community needs under an alternative accreditation model that met and exceeded state minimum standards.”

In 1982, Morris Dees of the Southern Poverty Law Center helped multiple women bring a lawsuit against the Bethseda Home for Girls and Reclamation Ranch.

According to the American Bar Association Journal, Gibbs III intentionally misled the committee to give the impression he was not connected to the Roloff Homes through the CLA.[xxxi] However, he denounced this depiction to HA, saying that his appearance during the hearing was not on behalf of the Roloff Homes. He said, “I appeared in Texas as general counsel to a number of churches for the Gibbs Law Firm,” adding that his statements during the trial were “focused on the faith-based community helping meet community needs under an alternative accreditation model that met and exceeded state minimum standards.”

Regardless of whom he represented, Gibbs III’s efforts on behalf of the legislation paid off. The legislation passed, allowing the troubled children’s network to return to Texas, once again without state supervision or licensing. When asked during this time about the three-decades-long history of abuses in the industry, Gibbs III described it as “a glitch alleged with one ministry.”[xxxii] When HA asked Gibbs if he still stands by that description today, he spoke affirmatively, saying, “I do not believe if you have one bad actor that you throw everyone in jail.”

The abuse continued. In 1997, a sixteen-year-old homeschooled boy named Aaron Anderson was physically abused and beaten at the Anchor Home, resulting in broken ribs.[xxxiii] In 1998, sixteen-year-old DeAnne Dawsey was forced into solitary confinement at the Rebekah Home, where she had a nervous breakdown. Faye Cameron (Wiley Cameron’s wife) and three male guards pinned DeAnne to the ground, bound her with duct tape, and kicked her in the ribs. They then neglected to provide her with medical attention.[xxxiv] Child Protection Services investigated and banned Faye Cameron from ever again working with children in the State of Texas.[xxxv]

Once again it was Gibbs III who defended the child abusers. He served as Faye Cameron’s attorney and diminished the seriousness of the charges. He praised her, saying she “served faithfully in that ministry in excess of thirty years.”[xxxvi] When first asked by HA about his representation of Cameron, Gibbs III denied any memory of the account, saying, “I do not recall representing Mrs. Cameron.” After HA provided him with evidence showing his involvement, he stated, “The details escape me.” However, when asked if he stands today by his comments back then regarding Cameron, Gibbs III said, “She did faithfully work there for 30 years.” HA reached out to the Texas Child Protective Services for comment, but they did not respond.

When asked by the ABA Journal in 2001 about the 3-decades-long history of abuses at the Roloff Homes, David C. Gibbs III described the history as “a glitch alleged with one ministry.”

Once again it was Gibbs III who defended the child abusers. He served as Faye Cameron’s attorney and diminished the seriousness of the charges. He praised her, saying she “served faithfully in that ministry in excess of thirty years.”[xxxvi] When first asked by HA about his representation of Cameron, Gibbs III denied any memory of the account, saying, “I do not recall representing Mrs. Cameron.” After HA provided him with evidence showing his involvement, he stated, “The details escape me.” However, when asked if he stands today by his comments back then regarding Cameron, Gibbs III said, “She did faithfully work there for 30 years.” HA reached out to the Texas Child Protective Services for comment, but they did not respond.

The abuse continued. In 2000, two teenagers, eighteen-year-old Justin Simons and seventeen-year-old Aaron James Cavallin, were physically abused[xxxvii] and urinated on by Lighthouse supervisors.[xxxviii] As a result, four Roloff staffers were arrested[xxxix] and Allen Smith, one of the Lighthouse supervisors, was convicted for unlawful restraint and prohibited from ever again working with youth.[xl] Wiley Cameron was arrested for failing to turn over records to the sheriff.[xli]

Yet again, Gibbs III defended the child abusers. As attorney for the CLA, he said People’s Baptist Church was conducting an internal investigation. He determined the abuse allegations were “highly exaggerated” and consequently defended Lighthouse and their discipline practices, saying they were not “overly harsh.”[xlii] When HA first asked about this investigation, Gibbs III denied knowledge of it, saying, “I have no recollection of any internal investigation at People’s Baptist Church.” After HA provided him with evidence showing his comments at the time, Gibbs III changed course and said he still believes the investigation discerned the allegations were exaggerated.

As recently as 2012, on his own organization NCLL’s website, David C. Gibbs III proudly declared his “twenty years of faithful service with the Christian Law Association.”

The next year found Gibbs III as the general counsel for the CLA.[xliii] As general counsel, he was directly involved in advocacy to roll back state oversight and licensing of youth homes through Religious Freedom Restoration Acts.[xliv] Through his involvement, homes established privacy policies requiring parents to relinquish parental rights and agree to not let child welfare workers interview their children.[xlv]

Gibbs III’s career as an advocate for child abusers is not limited to the troubled children industry.

The abuse continued. From 2001 to 2005, fifteen-year-old Brittany Campbell was psychologically and physically abused at the Rebekah Home (which was renamed New Beginnings Girls Academy in 2001).[xlvi] Michael Quinn, who attended the Anchor Home for Boys from 2002 to 2004, alleged verbal and physical abuse.[xlvii] In 2002, more than two-dozen former residents of Mountain Park Baptist Boarding Academy alleged experiences of abuse.[xlviii] Seventeen-year-old Jordan Blair filed a lawsuit against Mountain Park, accusing the school of abuse and imprisonment.[xlix] He eventually lost his imprisonment complaint because the judge determined that “his parents had a right to keep him there against his will.”[l]

Once again, Gibbs III provided a defense. After Mountain Park Baptist Boarding Academy was accused of abuse, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch interviewed him. He defended the homes, saying, “The media tend to fixate on a few unfortunate incidents.”[li] Furthermore, he specifically defended the right of parents to send children (like Jordan Blair) against their will to youth homes.[lii] When asked by HA if he still believes parents have the right to make such decisions, Gibbs III evaded, saying, “Parents cannot legally send children to a place that is abusive” (emphasis added).

Top: In the CLA’s 2011 990 form filed with the IRS, the Florida branch of David C. Gibbs III’s personal law firm, Gibbs Law Firm, is listed as an independent contractor for the CLA and the recipient of nearly $2.5 million from the CLA.
Bottom: In the CLA’s 2012 990 form filed with the IRS, the Texas branch of David C. Gibbs III’s personal law firm, Gibbs Law Firm, is listed as an independent contractor for the CLA and the recipient of over $1.5 million from the CLA.

The abuse continued. In 2003, at New Beginnings, sixteen-year-old Jamie Lee Schmude was beaten until bruised and forced to urinate on herself.[liii] Two other children at New Beginnings testified they were forced to hold Schmude down while she was beaten.[liv] In 2004, a supervisor at the Anchor Home for Boys (now renamed Anchor Academy), Justin Peterson, sexually assaulted a fifteen-year-old boy.[lv]

In 2005, the Mountain Park Baptist Boarding Academy faced a twenty-count complaint for violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Fair Labor Standards Act, assault, battery, false imprisonment, negligence, negligence in providing medical treatment, intentional infliction of emotional distress, conversion, and fraud.[lvi] With Gibbs III as general counsel, the Christian Law Association defended the academy.[lvii]

Tragically, the child abuse continues, even to this day. Roxy’s story, with which this story began, occurred only a few years ago in 2011. Many of these homes continue to exist, renamed or moved to other states where they are exempt from state licensing or oversight.

Trinity Baptist Church

Gibbs III’s career as an advocate for child abusers is not limited to the troubled children industry. Gibbs III told HA that, on behalf of the CLA, he served as an attorney for Chuck Phelps. Phelps is a pastor who repeatedly aided and abetted child abusers at the church he pastored, Trinity Baptist Church. According to several sources, Gibbs III also provided legal assistance to Christine Leaf, a mother who abandoned her daughter after her daughter was raped by a member of Trinity Baptist. However, Gibbs III declined to provide HA with details of his involvement with Leaf, saying, “Whether or not I legally spoke with Mrs. Leaf is confidential under attorney-client privilege.”

In 1997, 15-year-old Tina Anderson was raped and impregnated by a member of Chuck Phelps’ Trinity Baptist Church. Image: Tina Anderson.

The stories from Trinity Baptist date back to 1994, when seventeen-year-old Cheryl’s stepfather began sexually assaulting her.[lviii] Cheryl’s family attended Trinity Baptist Church, pastored by Chuck Phelps. Cheryl told her mother but her mother did nothing. Cheryl then told her pastor, Phelps, who called the family into his office and told the stepfather he needed “to stop it.” [lix] The stepfather did not stop. He continued to molest Cheryl until she moved to California to live with her uncle two years later. Cheryl was told to “forgive and forget.”[lx] Phelps did not report the abuse.[lxi]

In 1996, Cheryl’s uncle, Robert Sheffield, became aware of Cheryl’s abuse. Sheffield called Chuck Phelps to talk about it. Sheffield was told by Phelps that Cheryl, again, “just needed to forgive and forget.”[lxii]

In a parallel event, beginning in 1996, fourteen-year-old Tina Anderson began babysitting for Ernest Willis, also a member of Phelps’ Trinity Baptist Church.[lxiii] The following year, Willis raped Anderson twice. Months later, Anderson was pregnant. Willis offered to either take her to an abortion clinic or punch her in the stomach to cause a miscarriage.[lxiv]

After telling her mother about the pregnancy, and her mother alerting Phelps, Tina was forced by her pastor to undergo “church discipline.” This involved Tina standing in front of the congregation and apologizing for her “sins.” Tina was told she should be happy she did not live in ancient Israel or she would be stoned. [lxv]

Tina was convinced not to press charges. At the urging of Tina’s mom Christine Leaf (but against Tina’s wishes), Phelps coordinated to have Tina moved across state lines.[lxvi] Phelps had Tina put the child up for adoption.[lxvii] To hide her, Tina was homeschooled and forced to have no contact with children her own age.[lxviii] While Phelps reported the rape to police,[lxix] his and Leaf’s action of moving Tina out of state prevented an investigation.[lxx]

Willis continued to be a member of Trinity Baptist Church “in good standing.” He also continued to have young girls babysit for him.[lxxi]

More than a decade passed. In February 2010, after hearing about similar abuse cases, Tina came forward with her story.[lxxii] Three months later, police arrested Ernest Willis and charged him with four felonies: two counts of rape and two counts of having sex with a minor.[lxxiii]

On May 20, 2016, Judge Kenneth L. Popejoy disqualified Gibbs III from the Bill Gothard sex abuse case, Gretchen Wilkinson v. IBLP.

Top: On behalf of the Christian Law Association, David C. Gibbs III (left) awards Dr. Earl Jessup (front, right) the Jack Hyles Memorial Award at First Baptist Church Hammond in 2010.
Bottom: David C. Gibbs III and David C. Gibbs Jr. look on as Jack Hyles’ son-in-law Jack Schaap congratulates Dr. Jessup for the Christian Law Association award. Two years later Schaap pleads guilty for trafficking a girl across state lines and raping her. Despite personal relationships with church leadership, the Christian Law Association is hired by the church to conduct an internal investigation. Image: YouTube.

The next year, Chuck Phelps issued a statement claiming that Willis’s rape of Anderson was consensual and “an ongoing sexual relationship.”[lxxiv] Phelps defended his allowing Willis to continue to be in the church, saying he “didn’t know that he had impregnated a fifteen-year-old girl” because “it was an accusation made, an accusation is not a conviction.”[lxxv]

It was Gibbs III who served as an attorney to both Chuck Phelps and Christine Leaf (Tina Anderson’s mom) during the trial of Willis.[lxxvi] Gibbs III told HA that, “I attended part of the trial and helped coordinate with government officials so Pastor Phelps could voluntarily come in from out-of-state to testify at trial on behalf of the prosecution.” However, several court witnesses—one of whom spoke directly to HA—contest Gibbs III’s account. According to them, he engaged in strange, manipulative courtroom behavior around Anderson[lxxvii] and tried to argue “pastoral privilege”/”clergy-congregant privilege” to keep Phelps from having to testify against Willis. Judge Larry Shumkler ruled against Gibbs III’s motion.[lxxviii] Willis was convicted of raping and impregnating Tina Anderson.[lxxix]

Inspired by Tina’s bravery, Cheryl—now 34 years old—went public in 2011 with her report of being sexually abused by her stepfather.[lxxx] Phelps attempted to portray her rape as a consensual act. Nonetheless, Gibbs III defended Phelps. He justified Phelps’ actions by saying Cheryl’s family told Phelps that CPS was already involved and the abuse was already reported.[lxxxi]

When HA asked Gibbs III about the Anderson trial, he said, “I am deeply saddened that Tina Anderson was abused by many trusted people in her life.  I admire her and her courage to speak out for victims.”

The Old Schoolhouse

Gibbs III’s advocacy for child abusers continued into 2014. In the spring of 2007, Geoff and Jenefer Igarashi discovered that the then-teenage son of Paul and Gena Suarez, owners of the popular homeschool magazine The Old Schoolhouse, “repeatedly molested” their six-year-old son.[lxxxii] Gena and Jenefer are sisters. Gena and Jenefer’s younger sister, “Megan,” accused the Suarezes of physically abusing their own children as well as physically abusing and sexually harassing her.[lxxxiii]

Roxy (right), whose 3 months at New Beginnings Girls Academy reduced her to a ghost of her former self, continues to struggle to this day. Image: ABC News.

In 2014, Gibbs III approached the Igarashis when they threatened to go public with this history of abuse.  At the time, The Old Schoolhouse was, like Gibbs III, a primary business partner for the Great Homeschool Conventions, and Gibbs III was a columnist for the magazine.[lxxxiv] According to a written report given to HA about the situation, “Gibbs eventually pushed Jenefer and Geoff to sign a mediation agreement he drafted. The agreement declared that the Suarezes agreed to stop ‘shunning’ the Igarashis but on the condition that Jenefer was to cease talking about all the potentially damning information they had. It was also insinuated that they could be sued if they chose to speak up.”[lxxxv] This closely resembled how New Beginnings explicitly prohibited “bringing civil lawsuits against other Christians or the church to resolve personal disputes.”[lxxxvi]

Gothard/IBLP Lawsuit

On May 20, 2016, Judge Kenneth L. Popejoy disqualified Gibbs III from the Bill Gothard sex abuse case, Gretchen Wilkinson v. IBLP. Gothard and IBLP had filed motions the previous February claiming that Gibbs was “playing both sides of the street” in the case. One of the motions contained an affidavit from Roger Blair, who was present when Gibbs first approached Gothard to talk about the abuse allegations. Blair alleged that Gibbs III offered to help Gothard derail the allegations against him. Blair testified that, “Mr. Gibbs spoke as if he were connected to the individuals behind Recovering Grace and had inside knowledge that would be valuable to Bill. I recall Mr. Gibbs saying, ‘I know how to handle it.’ He stated that Bill ‘was wronged’ and that it was unfair that ‘people are trying to destroy your ministry as well as other ministries.’ Mr. Gibbs stated that he read allegations on the Recovering Grace website and he knew that they were false. He said that he knew how to adequately respond to ‘get rid of it.’”[lxxxvii]

Gibbs III vociferously denied the allegations of misconduct, saying they were “a desperate attempt to attack the law firm that is publicly and legally holding [Gothard] accountable for years of child abuse.”[lxxxviii] But Judge Popejoy ruled against him. The judge declared that, “There is clearly a clouded, convoluted and inappropriate set of interactions that attorney Gibbs had among the entire set of circumstances and parties pertaining to the litigation.” As a result, the judge ruled, “It is completely and utterly inappropriate for attorney Gibbs to continue as legal counsel for the plaintiffs.”[lxxxix]

*****

For years, David C. Gibbs III and his organizations pulled in millions of dollars[xc] while advocating on behalf of child abusers. When HA asked Gibbs if he stands today by his advocacy on behalf of the troubled children industry, he deflected, saying, “I am not perfect by any stretch but I do try to be principled.” While he added that he “do[es] not support the culture of the 1970’s that lacked transparency, abused, and covered up abuse,” he had no comment on his own decades-long role in creating that culture.

That culture directly enabled the troubled children industry to advance and thrive, shattering countless of children’s lives in its wake. The individuals whose childhoods were destroyed can never get them back. Their adulthoods are often similarly devastated. Roxy, whose three months at New Beginnings reduced her to a ghost of her former self, continues to struggle. She suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder. Despite counseling, Roxy is “doing terrible,” her mom says. “She has no self-worth.”[xci]

Her mom also worries for all the other young girls subjected to New Beginnings: “Many of these little girls will be terribly challenged to remember who God is after this experience.”[xcii]

Citations

[i] Susan Donaldson James, “Biblical Reform School Discipline: Tough Love or Abuse?,” ABC News, April 12, 2011, link, accessed on December 10, 2015.

[ii] Ibid.

[iii] Kathryn Joyce, “Horror Stories From Tough-Love Teen Homes,” Mother Jones, July/August 2011, link, accessed on December 10, 2015.

[iv] Ibid.

[v] Pamela Colloff, “Remember the Christian Alamo,” Texas Monthly, December 2001, link, accessed on December 10, 2015.

[vi] James.

[vii] Chelsea Schilling, “Christian Giant Sued For ‘Using Nanny as Sex Object,’” WorldNetDaily, April 15, 2014, link, accessed on December 17, 2015.

[viii] William McCleery, “IBLP sued for its handling of alleged abuse and harassment,” WORLD Magazine, October 27, 2015, link, accessed on December 17, 2015.

[ix] Ryan Stollar, “’Desperate Attempt’: David C. Gibbs III Fires Back Against Bill Gothard, IBLP,” Homeschoolers Anonymous, link, accessed on May 5, 2016.

[x] Great Homeschool Conventions, “Sponsor: National Center for Life and Liberty,” link, accessed on December 17, 2015.

[xi] See, for example, David C. Gibbs III’s sermon on August 23, 2015 at Metropolitan Baptist Church in Fort Worth, Texas, “Acts 4:29,” link, accessed on May 5, 2016.

[xii] Julie Anne Smith, “Which ‘Attorney David Gibbs’ Leads the Lawsuit of Lourdes Torres-Manteufel vs Douglas Phillips – the Father, or the Son?,” Spiritual Sounding Board, May 26, 2014, link, accessed on December 17, 2015.

[xiii] John Gibeaut, “Welcome to Hell,” ABA Journal, August 2001, p. 47.

[xiv] Roloff Evangelistic Enterprises, Inc., “About Our Ministry,” link, accessed on December 10, 2015.

[xv] Colloff.

[xvi] Maurice Chammah, “Tough Love or Abuse? Inside the Anchor Home for Boys,” Juvenile Justice Information Exchange, June 30, 2014, link, accessed on December 10, 2015.

[xvii] Mike Pare, “Authorities Ponder Course of Action; Status Unknown on Religious Colony,” Rome News-Tribune, October 3, 1980.

[xviii] Mike Pare, “Roloff would ‘delight’ in testing church issue,” Rome News-Tribune, October 31, 1980.

[xix] Colloff.

[xx] Ibid.

[xxi] Joyce.

[xxii] Colloff.

[xxiii] Reginald Stuart, “Home’s Ex-Inmates Tell of Beatings,” New York Times, March 5, 1982, link, accessed on December 9, 2015.

[xxiv] Kim Bell, “Insiders Tell of Boarding School Past and Present; Slaying in Missouri Follows Some Troubles in Mississippi,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, March 31, 1996, link, accessed on December 10, 2015.

[xxv] Ibid.

[xxvi] Great Homeschool Conventions, “Attorney David Gibbs,” link, accessed on May 6, 2016.

[xxvii] [xxvii] John Chadwick, “An abusive ordeal at boarding school fuels a haunting play,” Rutgers Focus, May 27, 2009, link, accessed on December 10, 2015.

[xxviii] Matthew Franck, “Reform schools find a haven here,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, November 17, 2002, link, accessed on December 10, 2015.

[xxix] Colloff.

[xxx] Ibid.

[xxxi] Gibeaut, p. 47-48.

[xxxii] Ibid.

[xxxiii] Chammah.

[xxxiv] Colloff.

[xxxv] Ibid.

[xxxvi] Dan Parker, “State forever bans Roloff home leader’s wife from working at facility; Faye Cameron, who was girls’ dorm mother, drops appeal of allegations,” Corpus Christi Caller Times, April 28, 2000, link, accessed on December 10, 2015.

[xxxvii] Hanna Rosin, “Two Arrested in Texas Child Abuse Case,” Washington Post, April 11, 2000, link, accessed on December 10, 2015.

[xxxviii] Dan Parker, “Youths find structure at church homes; Lawyer calls some allegations of abuse ‘highly exaggerated’,” Corpus Christi Caller Times, April 16, 2000, link, accessed on December 10, 2015.

[xxxix] Gibeaut, p. 45.

[xl] Guy H. Lawrence, “Former Roloff supervisor gets probation; Unlawful restraint conviction also carries fine, public service,” Corpus Christi Caller Times, June 11, 2014, link, accessed on December 10, 2015.

[xli] Rosin.

[xlii] Parker, “Youths find.”

[xliii] Pam Belluck, “Many States Ceding Regulations to Church Groups,” New York Times, July 27, 2001, link, accessed on December 10, 2015.

[xliv] Belluck.

[xlv] Gibeaut, p. 48.

[xlvi] James.

[xlvii] Chammah.

[xlviii] Franck, “Reform schools.”

[xlix] Matthew Franck, “Suit Says Mountain Park Religious School Uses Barbaric Discipline; Founder Calls Ex-Student’s Allegations Ridiculous,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, July 9, 2002, link, accessed on December 10, 2015.

[l] Associated Press, “Federal Judge rules for Baptist boarding school in Missouri,” Nevada Daily Mail, April 9, 2004.

[li] Franck, “Schools hail.”

[lii] Franck, “Reform schools.”

[liii] Alexandra Zayas, “Religious exemption at some Florida children’s homes shields prying eyes,” Tampa Bay Times, October 26, 2012, link, accessed on December 10, 2015.

[liv] Zayas.

[lv] Associated Press, “School worker accused of assault,” Billings Gazette, July 9, 2004, link, accessed on December 10, 2015.

[lvi] Jamie Kaufmann WOODS, et al., Plaintiffs, v. Bob WILLS, et al., Defendants, United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Southeastern Division, November 18, 2005.

[lvii] Woods vs. Wills.

[lviii] Maddie Hanna, “New sex case tied to church congregation: Woman says she was molested,” Concord Monitor, June 10, 2011, link, accessed on December 9, 2015.

[lix] Ibid.

[lx] Ibid.

[lxi] Associated Press, “2nd woman says pastor ignored assault,” Boston Globe, June 10, 2011, link, accessed on December 9, 2015.

[lxii] Hanna, June 10.

[lxiii] Trent Spiner, “Police: girl raped, then relocated,” Concord Monitor, May 25, 2010, link, accessed on December 9, 2015.

[lxiv] Spiner.

[lxv] Ibid.

[lxvi] Ibid.

[lxvii] Lynne Tuohy, Associated Press, “Ernest Willis, Convicted Of Raping 15-Year-Old Church Member, Won’t Get New Trial,” Huffington Post, August 21, 2013, link, accessed on December 9, 2015.

[lxviii] Spiner.

[lxix] Ibid.

[lxx] Maddie Hanna, “Pastor fires back in new abuse case; Ex-Trinity leader says police knew,” Concord Monitor, June 11, 2011, link, accessed on December 9, 2015.

[lxxi] Alan B. Goldberg, Gail Deutsch, Susan James, Sean Dooley, “Compassion or Cover-Up? Teen Victim Claims Rape; Forced Confession in Church,” ABC News, April 8, 2011, link, accessed on December 9, 2015.

[lxxii] Spiner.

[lxxiii] Ibid.

[lxxiv] Goldberg, Deutsch, James, Dooley.

[lxxv] Ibid.

[lxxvi] Chuckles Travels, “Under the Wheels of the Chuck Phelps Bus,” May 25, 2011, link, accessed on December 9, 2015.

[lxxvii] Amy Coveno, “Trial of Ernest Willis Continues,” WMUR 9 ABC, May 24, 2011, link, accessed on December 9, 2015.

[lxxviii] Ibid. Also, Chuckles Travels, “Ernie Willis Sentenced~Chuck Phelps Lies Again,” September 13, 2011, link, accessed on December 9, 2015.

[lxxix] Tuohy.

[lxxx] Hanna, June 10.

[lxxxi] Ibid.

[lxxxii] Hännah Ettinger and R.L. Stollar, “When Homeschool Leaders Looked Away: The Old Schoolhouse Cover-Up,” Homeschoolers Anonymous, October 8, 2014, link, accessed on December 10, 2015.

[lxxxiii] Ibid.

[lxxxiv] Ibid.

[lxxxv] Ibid.

[lxxxvi] James.

[lxxxvii] Ryan Stollar, Homeschoolers Anonymous, “Bill Gothard and IBLP File Motions to Disqualify David C. Gibbs III,” February 20, 2016, link, accessed on May 23, 2016.

[lxxxviii] Ryan Stollar, Homeschoolers Anonymous, “’Desperate Attempt’: David C. Gibbs III Fires Back Against Bill Gothard, IBLP,” February 20, 2016, link, accessed on May 23, 2016.

[lxxxix] Ryan Stollar, Homeschoolers Anonymous, “Lead Attorney for Plaintiffs Disqualified from Bill Gothard Sex Abuse Case,” May 23, 2016, link, accessed on May 23, 2016.

[xc] In 2002, the CLA drew nearly $3 million in donations. See David Karp, “Schindlers’ attorney is used to tough cases,” St. Petersburg Times, March 31, 2005, link, accessed on December 10, 2015. The most recent numbers for the CLA show that it received more than $3 million in 2013. See Guidestar, “Christian Law Association,” link, accessed on December 18, 2015. Similarly, the National Center for Life and Liberty received more than $1.2 million in 2013. See GuideStar, “National Center for Life and Liberty,” link, accessed on December 18, 2015.

[xci] Ibid.

[xcii] Ibid.

Lead Attorney for Plaintiffs Disqualified from Bill Gothard Sex Abuse Case

CC image courtesy of Flickr, slgckgc.

By R.L. Stollar, HA Community Coordinator

On May 20, the judge in the court case Gretchen Wilkinson vs. Institute in Basic Life Principles disqualified David C. Gibbs III from representing his clients.

Attorneys for Bill Gothard and the Institute for Basic Life Principles (IBLP) filed motions in February with the Circuit Court of DuPage County, Illinois. These motions were to disqualify Gibbs III from the court case Gretchen Wilkinson vs. Institute in Basic Life Principles, in which eighteen former employees and students are suing Gothard and IBLP over sexual abuse.

The motions featured two exhibits: sworn affidavits and documents that Gothard and IBLP believe show that Gibbs personally violated the Illinois Rules for Professional Conduct in his interactions with Gothard. Gibbs issued a statement in response to these motions on February 20. Gibbs alleged 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.” While Gibbs admitted he is “guilty of aggressively representing my clients,” he denounced the motions as “a desperate attempt to attack the law firm that is publicly and legally holding [Gothard] accountable for years of child abuse.”

On Tuesday, May 3, Judge Kenneth L. Popejoy held a hearing on the motion to disqualify. During the hearing, IBLP’s attorneys condemned Gibbs for allegedly mishandling the case. Gibbs, in turn, argued that his involvement with Gothard was strictly on behalf of his plaintiffs. While Gibbs admitted that his goal was to get Gothard reinstated on the IBLP board, he claimed this was in order to better aid his clients.

HA obtained the official court transcripts of the hearing. You can view the transcripts here.

Three days ago on May 20, Judge Popejoy ruled in favor of the motion to disqualify. In the ruling, the judge stated that,

Attorney Gibbs had intimate, professional and personal interactions with all of the parties to this case at various times within the calendar year of 2015! He discussed issues of dispute between defendants IBLP and Gothard and prepared bullet points on behalf of one of the trustees for IBLP as it pertained to Gothard. He met with Gothard and had various communications with Gothard in May 2015 and thereafter. In November 2015, he prepared an affidavit for Gothard to sign and clearly obtained information from that affidavit directly from Gothard. He also clearly knew that Mr. Gothard’s interest were in conflict with those of his individual clients as is referenced by the allegations against Gothard, although not a party in the original complaint filed in October 2015. Then, after preparing and forwarding that affidavit to Gothard, attorney Gibbs obviously knew that Gothard was going to be an additional defendant in an amended complaint filed in January 2016. Whether the actions of attorney Gibbs are “strict” ethical violations of the Illinois Code of Professional Responsibility or not, there is clearly a clouded, convoluted and inappropriate set of interactions that attorney Gibbs had among the entire set of circumstances and parties pertaining to the litigation now pending before this Court. Therefore, it is completely and utterly inappropriate for attorney Gibbs to continue as legal counsel for the plaintiffs.

You can read Judge Popejoy’s full decision here.

Fighting for Hope: Elliott Grace Harvey’s Story – Part One

In this series: Part One | Part Two | Conclusion

*****

One household. Three cults. Twenty two years.
Twenty two years more than I would wish on anyone.

“I’m angry because I’m alive, because life hurts so much and I can’t hear the good things. Because my purpose is merely to glorify god and I can do that perfectly in heaven. It’s sick, but it’s true, and I have to deal with it. But I don’t want to. I just want it to all go away. Do I want to die? Not really, I’m not ready to, I just want to be with jesus. I’m tired of the tears.” – Journal entry

Leaving it all behind took a total of four years.


Cultishness

Cult is a strong word to use, and it’s especially difficult to assign to a group you’ve been subject to.

Something I find amusing about the three groups I was in is each of them had their own, “Here’s why we’re not a cult” speech.

Reminds me of a proverb in the christian bible, “The wicked flee when none pursue.”

Here are a few of the signs of a cult shared among all three groups:
● The leaders are always right; hierarchical and authoritarian power structure.
● Use of guilt, shame, and excommunication to manipulate and silence group members.
● Suppression of dissent, you must change your beliefs to conform to the group’s beliefs.
● Newcomers need fixing, the leaders believe they are entitled to know everything about you personally.
● Black and white thinking, contradictory messages, group specific language.
● Insistence that this group holds the source of truth; unquestionable dogma.
● Elitist and isolationist; denigrating other religious groups, and personal attacks on critics.

I don’t know how to live, how to feel. I want to be real, not put-on. It’s just about impossible. I’m so good at being fake, playing the game. Being good enough. I don’t want to be just good enough. – Journal entry

Institute in Basic Life Principles – 12 years

IBLP is a seminar and publication based cult, through which parents and/or churches absorb teaching. Bill Gothard was the long-standing leader of this cult. He stepped down after it came to light that he had been taking advantage of young girls for decades.

Of all the destructive ideologies my parents picked up from Bill Gothard, one in particular regarding bitterness was used to justify any and all abuse toward their children. Interestingly, if I take a direct quote from Gothard, it isn’t quite the reasoning my parents used, rather the root they manipulated:

“When offenses are left unaddressed, bitterness often destroys relationships. Favoritism, disappointments, and misunderstandings are frequently causes of bitterness. …By your example, lead your children to maintain both a clear conscience and loving interaction in the family.” – Bill Gothard, The Rebuilder’s Guide

In practice, this principle translated to a cycle of abuse: Abuse would occur, parent confesses, and the child must respond with express trust and affection.

If the child becomes withdrawn, or exhibits any sadness or fear, this is shown as evidence of bitterness. This accused bitterness is in turn deserving of punishment and abuse, and the cycle continues.

It seems like dad doesn’t want us as friends, we don’t behave good enough, but I know from experience perfect never happens. It’s never enough for him, so why bother? He doesn’t want me anyway, I’m not good enough, and I never will be.
…I know somebody is asking why I don’t say something. Tried that. It doesn’t make a difference. He know’s what he’s doing, and it’s just my fault. You give up hope after a while. It says you can’t be loved until you’re perfect, and you can never do that anyway. – Journal entry

I applied for my first real job at the local fabric store after my father more seriously threatened to kick me out, though not the first time he’d made this threat. I had no social skills, no diploma, and no driver’s license. Amazingly, they hired me. I was ecstatic. I had an incredible learning curve ahead of me; learning to talk to people, pluralism, how answer a phone, so many things.

“I don’t remember when exactly the shy little girl slipped into my life, but I remember where. She was quiet, reserved, and dressed for the wrong century with long flowing hair and dresses. She was quirky when you got to know her, quick with a side snark, and sharp as a pin intelligent. We at the store became used to her quickly (homemade fudge had a little to do with that) and thought of her as a little sister. Her family came in a few times, mom, dad, brothers, but no one was quite like her. Something seemed off about the family. A stillness, a caution. Something hid behind the big green eyes of the girl, but I couldn’t figure out what. As a manager, I was pressed against the wall of deadlines and corporate, so wasn’t able to get a moment to think as it was. She kept on working and blowing everyone’s socks off with her brilliance. And silence…” – A

I continued living with my parents, I couldn’t afford to move out. Life at home got worse, and I didn’t have the ability to cope with it.

There’s so many things I know that are inside of me and I don’t know how to get it out. And more than anything I need a reason to live. Some days are worse than others and I need something for those bad days. When the feeling of adrenaline is so bad I can hardly concentrate at work. – Journal entry

My job became my safe place, where I got away from everything at home and did something I had become good at. I made friends with people that weren’t religious, something criticized in my world.

“I remember when you first started working there, you were so quiet and shy. It seemed like you had no idea what the outside world even looked like, let alone how to live in it. You had your long hair and very sensible long skirts, no piercings or anything. After a few months, you really started to come into your own. You were talking more, and it turns out you were super friendly! No one knew because you never really talked much. That’s when I started learning who you really were. Sweet, kindhearted, and funky as hell, haha. I remember when you got your ears pierced, and it was such a huge deal for you.” – J

In a moment of reflection, I wrote the following:

So what have I learned? …Life is not worth living. Maybe I ought to do it anyway. That tears heal, but it’s not always easy to cry. That saying what I think and feel does not cause the world to implode. That me is a hard thing to find sometimes. That real friends are found in strange places. That any relationship void of honesty suffers. A life with secrets wanting to be told becomes unbearable. A life without hope isn’t. – Journal entry

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.