HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Julie Anne Smith’s blog Spiritual Sounding Board. It was originally published on March 31, 2015 and has been slightly modified for HA.
The following is Part 2 of Dash sharing how the teachings of Bill Gothard influenced his parents to “spank” his siblings. Although I know Dash’s identity, he has asked to remain anonymous. Dash’s account shows that they were not spankings, but abuse:
I am a survivor of Gothard’s cult. I experienced unspeakable physical, sexual, and emotional abuse from my mother and father, who were at one point among Gothard’s “model parents.” Gothard is not human. Gothard does not deserve compassion. Gothard is not a man, and he does not have the slightest shred of decency or humanity within him. Bill Gothard is a monster in human form, and as far as I am concerned, he can’t die soon enough.
I asked Dash questions about his childhood and more specifics about how he was disciplined. Again, I must issue a trigger warning to those who have experienced abuse. There may be some parents reading who used to follow Gothard’s teachings and have now left that behind. This, too, might be difficult for you to read.
In the following, Dash responds to my questions. My questions are in green:
What kinds of things did you and your sister do that resulted in “spankings?” Can you give an example of what disobedience looked like, i.e, talking back, not doing what you were told to do, etc.?
It’s hard to dredge up specific examples of behaviors that resulted in beatings (I’m going to use the term “beating” rather than “spanking,” because that’s what they were), because frankly my recollection of the events leading up to the beatings are hazy. However, punishable offenses included: Not getting a chore done on time, or to the required degree of perfection (chores included dusting, vacuuming, taking out the trash). Arguing or fighting with my siblings (to clarify, I have an older sister and younger brother), and I mean trivial things like arguing over which record we were going to listen to or who got to play with which stuffed animal. Arriving home late from a friend’s house, arriving home late after school, not getting out of bed promptly in the morning, complaining about going to church. The list is endless.
As our family began to seriously decay and slide toward doom, punishments extended to include: making a salad incorrectly, accidentally dropping a dish or a milk bottle, getting the bathroom floor wet during a bath, not setting the table for dinner quickly enough, forgetting to put clothes in the laundry basket, putting a book back on the bookshelf in the wrong place.
In other words, any trivial perceived imperfection became grounds for beatings.
One of the worst beatings of my life was administered by my mother around nine years old when we were making chocolate chip cookies. I was given the task of running the hand-held mixer, which I was happy to do because then I might get one of the detachable beaters with cookie batter on it after. I was standing on a stool, and I turned to ask my mother a question. Being an absent-minded kid, when I turned I unconsciously lifted the mixer out of the batter and cookie dough flew all over the wall. My mom went livid and slapped me full in the face, knocking me sprawling off the stool. She then dragged me bawling upstairs and beat me with the 3/4″ dowel rod for almost 30 minutes.
What made them stop the beatings after an hour or however long? Was there something you or your sister did that helped them to stop? Were your parents looking for signs of remorse? Did they finally give up?
The stipulation was that we had to hold still and submissively accept the beating, and we had to stop crying and be silent and not make a sound. This was a specific part of Gothard’s beating protocol, found in one of his pamphlets: the silent, limp submission to a beating was his metric for a “repentant spirit.”
To this day, I cannot show normal emotional responses to my environment as a result of this aversive conditioning; I reflexively suppress every emotional response.
I cannot maintain a long-term relationship with a woman because of this emotional dysfunction, which is why I am still single at 44. I have had therapists hint that I might be a sociopath because of the superficial appearance of this emotional dysfunction, which I know not to be the case. I have emotions; I just cannot show or express them properly. It makes me want to kill myself.
Did your parents talk to you while you were getting spanked? How was their tone of voice? Were they yelling or did they use a normal tone of voice? Did they use scripture while “spanking?” Did they pray with you after?
They would yell and scream and bellow. They would tell us what bad, awful, evil, horrible, sinful children we were. In the beginning, there was no pretext of spiritual context; later on as I got older and the beatings continued, my father began making attempts to pray with us after a beating, as if it was a spiritual exercise. For the most part, however, the beatings took place in an atmosphere of apoplectic, psychotic rage, especially when my mother was administering them. I use the term “psychotic” because my mother has been diagnosed as bipolar, and her fits of apoplexy were probably manic fugues. It was terrifying. To this day I have nightmares about it.
Did they realize you were bruised? Did they ever acknowledge they went overboard or apologize?
The bruising and other injuries (which at one point for me included a broken finger, and for my brother once included a broken forearm) were never acknowledged by my parents. It was implied that we deserved it.
“That’s what you get for your sinful disobedience” was the message.
My parents have never really acknowledged the specific details of what they did. Both of them have acknowledged that hitting us was wrong, but we can’t discuss details properly because they are so horrified and humiliated by the recollection of what they did to us. My mother has sobbing fits when I try to bring any of this up. Both my parents have tried to make amends through financial reparations: paying for therapists, occasionally helping with rent or medical bills. But I’m still broken, so everyday life is a constant struggle. I wake up every morning and look in the mirror, and I have to find a reason not to kill myself.
I have a cat that I adopted 13 years ago who snuggles with me and is my little buddy. Having a cat is the only thing that keeps me going; I have to take care of my cat, so I can’t kill myself. I have to focus on something other than myself in order to go on living. It’s pretty bleak.
I’d like to state again for the record that Gothard apologists are remorseless sadists, and this includes that Alfred character who comments on your blog. These people KNOW THAT THESE THINGS ARE HAPPENING IN THE IBLP/ATI PROGRAM, AND THEY ARE FINE WITH IT. They are sociopaths.
And Gothard is a monster, because he knows about these events and he ENCOURAGES THEM.