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.

No Longer Afraid: A. Drake’s Story

Content Warning: Descriptions of child abuse, sexual abuse, animal abuse, and transphobia

It was 5am. I woke before dawn and got ready for work in the dark. I went outside into the cold fall air, my breath visible. I went around the side of my car and my heart stopped. My father was kneeling in the frost and gravel next to my driver’s door. He didn’t say a word. I quickly ran back into my house, bolted the door, and woke my boyfriend. “My father is outside,” I said, my voice shaking. “I think he’s here to scare me or kill me; I’m not sure which one.” He jumped up and went outside, but my father was gone.

In the aftermath of that day, I broke family scripts: I called the police.

His behavior alone was creepy and stalking. But the more disturbing thing was that he shouldn’t have known where I lived. Unbeknownst to me, my younger brother had disregarded my concerns about my safety and told my father where I lived. The day before, my older sibling had mentioned to my parents that I was working early the next day. And my father was waiting for me that morning.

It’s been 5 years since that day. For the first 2 years, I left my house every morning for work, prepared to do battle with a spook, a stalker that may or may not be there. And every day he wasn’t there in body, he was there in spirit. I lived my life with the knowledge he might be around the next corner. I wouldn’t know if he was empty-handed or if he had a weapon. Or even worse, I might never see him coming.


Growing up, I worried a lot about the day when my father would snap and murder all of us.

One day, us three older siblings sat my youngest brother down and said “Nathan, what do you think would happen if mom tried to leave dad?” He thought about it for a second. And then without missing a beat he said “I think he would try to kill all of us.” We looked at each other and said “Even he sees it, even he knows.” He was 11. We lived with that reality from birth.

I worried. I worried so much. I worried that if my mother spent too much money on groceries, my father would get angry. I worried that if I didn’t read the Bible long enough each morning before breakfast, my father would get angry. I worried that if I wasn’t contrite enough in spirit, my father would get angry. I worried that when my father got angry, he would hurt us.

Like the Sunday morning my brother went to church with my father’s hand-prints bruised around his neck because he had the audacity to try and walk out of a room when my father was angry. The youth pastor teased him about the bruises being hickies from his girlfriend.

Like the night at the kitchen table when my father became angry. He reached under the kitchen table and pulled out the 60-pound dog lying there. He picked the dog up by the throat with one hand, and threw him down the basement stairs, closing the door in a calm, controlled manner.

See, some people think anger is an explosion. Sometimes, it is. And sometimes, it is the coldest thing you will ever experience.

And sometimes, the anger wasn’t the scariest thing. Sometimes, it was the sound of my bedroom door softly sliding across the carpet at 2 a.m. It was the sound of my breathing as I tried to regulate it so he wouldn’t know I was awake. It was the feeling of his rigid cock pressed into my lower back as I hoped he would leave without raping me.

Sometimes it was the existential agony of knowing that my abuse was either sanctioned by god and I deserved it or god didn’t care enough to intervene.

It was the soul rending pain in my heart, knowing my father was right – I was worthless, useless, and unlovable. It was the bone-searing rage that wanted to tear apart all the people who saw the signs of abuse and turned away. It was the trapped animal in my brain, trying to cut me free from this torturous captivity through the surface of my skin.

And my father was the good Christian who sang hymns at church, chatted with the teens and deacons, and made small talk with everyone. So at the end of the day, if I said something negative about him, I was told I was a bad child, a rebellious teenager. That I must stop speaking ill of my parents, that I must stop lying.


I was raised in a conservative, fundamentalist Christian household. I was homeschooled kindergarten through 12th grade. And somehow I escaped.

I wasn’t supposed to.

My life was not built to prepare me to fly; it was built to contain me in a cage with my wings clipped, never thinking for myself, never dreaming any bigger than the bars that held me.

My narrative is similar to many others who went before me and will come after me, though it is complicated in some ways by the fact that I am both queer and transgender. Neither of those things blatantly came to the surface growing up. I had far more pressing things to worry about, like survival of my physical body and preservation of my mind and spirit, and so I buried my gender and sexuality as best I could. But I couldn’t bury them deep enough. Even if people didn’t often target me directly, they spoke with derision and scorn about queer and trans people in general. My parents and the church I grew up in were homophobic and transphobic. I knew from a young age that who I was, deep inside, was an abomination, anathema, and abhorrent. Those attitudes heavily impacted my internal self-concept; I still struggle with feeling broken and shameful regarding my queerness and transness.

My younger brother did not escape; he left but his wounds were infected with my parents’ poison. He was my best friend for years but he became increasingly racist, homophobic, transphobic, controlling, and abusive as time passed. A few years after I helped him leave my parents’ house, he cut me out as I set boundaries around his increasingly abusive behavior. He made it clear he reviled my gender and sexuality. My youngest brother is still at home with my parents. He has not escaped either. The minimal contact I had with him through text stopped completed after I came out to him as trans.

My older sibling has escaped; they live an hour away from me. They are queer, just like me. We support one another. We have an adult relationship now; we have worked past the experience of our parents pitting us against each other. We are able to affirm for each other what childhood was like.

With time, I found myself wondering if I imagined things or if I made them out to be worse than they truly were.

After being a victim of [gaslighting] for so many years, it’s hard to believe your own brain. But having a comrade to tell you “oh no, I remember that. Do you remember this?” is validating and bonding. It is family. I have begun to build my chosen family of partners and friends, people who love and respect me.

I am 28 years old. I left my parents’ house when I was 19. I have not returned. They still live in the 4 bedroom colonial where I was raised. They still send me mail to a PO box I set up when I moved. I didn’t want them to know where I lived because I was afraid of being stalked and killed. I did not register to vote at my new address for 3 years because I was afraid: voting information is public record.

But there came the day when I had a dream. Until that point, my dreams had always involved my father trying to hurt me or someone I loved. In the dream, I would be too slow, like was I stuck in molasses, or I would hit him and it would do nothing. I would be a helpless observer to abuse, as I had been throughout my childhood. But there came the day when I had a dream. And I beat the shit out of my father. I knew then I had really and truly escaped.

I am no longer afraid of my parents. I have not just survived; I am thriving. I know myself and what I can endure. I am no longer afraid what would happen if my father showed up. Because I have grown and know now that I am stronger than he is.

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.

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

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

Content Warning: Details of sexual abuse and harassment

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


 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Summary of Allegations against Bill Gothard and IBLP

HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Libby Anne’s blog Love Joy Feminism. It was originally published on Patheos on January 7, 2016.

CW: Descriptions of child sexual abuse, rape, and sexual harassment

It has been nearly two years since Bill Gothard stepped down from leadership at his ministry, the Institute for Basic Life Principles (IBLP), amid a growing number of accusations that he sexually harassed and molested girls and young women in his employ. This past October, a group of individuals filed a negligence lawsuit against IBLP. This lawsuit has been amended, and Bill Gothard is now named as well.

This week, Homeschoolers Anonymous obtained the text of the lawsuit, which involves complaints made by ten women, seven named and three Jane Does. This document is over 100 pages long. In the interest of improving accessibility, I have read through the entire document and am listing a summary of each woman’s allegations below. But first, some general thoughts.

Some of the allegations listed in the document were previously published at Recovering Grace, a website run by graduates of Gothard’s programs to express criticism of Gothard and his teachings, and others are similar in content to these allegations. In sum, Bill Gothard selected girls as young as 13 from the audiences at his conferences and invited them to come work at headquarters. Once there, he groomed them sexually and molested them. It was common knowledge at IBLP that Gothard took “pets,” and yet his behavior was allowed to continue unchecked.

Other allegations included in the lawsuit are new, though not surprising. One plaintiff discloses that Gothard raped her, including full intercourse. In addition, we learn that Gothard and his employees failed to report disclosures of physical abuse, sexual abuse, and human trafficking as required by law for organizations working with children, and that this was true not only for allegations made against Gothard but also for disclosures that involved sexual abuse conducted by other IBLP employees or by children’s parents.

In several cases Gothard responded to teenagers’ disclosures of parental abuse by calling the parents, sometimes in front of the teen, to ask them whether the allegations were true. At one point he told an individual that children must obey their parents even in cases involving sexual abuse. However, when an 18-year-old girl Gothard was pursuing rebuffed him, he told her that if she were 17 he would have called social services and had her removed from her parents’ home.

We also learn more, in the allegations, about Gothard’s grooming and the extent to which he would latch onto a specific girl as his “pet.” The plaintiffs allege that Gothard told them he loved them, that they were special to him, that they were his “energy giver,” and more. He dictated where these girls lived, what clothes they wore, how the wore their hair, and even paid for them to undergo cosmetic surgery. That all of this was taking place and was common knowledge and nothing was done attests to the abusive power cult leaders wield over their followers.

Also of note, the lawsuit makes it clear that Gothard continued his predatory behavior all the way up to the point he stepped down from IBLP in 2013. Two of the plaintiffs, Melody Fedoriw and Jane Doe III, describe abuse that occurred in 2011 and 2012. This is especially appalling to me, given that I had friends from growing up who worked for IBLP and at headquarters during this period and in the years immediately before it. I’ll be honest—when I first opened the document I scanned the list quickly, worried that I was see a familiar name.

For most of the women listed in the lawsuit, the statute of limitations for the sexual abuse they suffered at Gothard’s hands have passed. For this reason, the lawsuit focuses not so much on the abuse itself as on the failure of both Gothard and IBLP to handle the abuse as required by law and on the damage caused through the sham investigation conducted by the Christian Law Association (CLA) in 2014.

According to the lawsuit, Gothard himself chose the CLA to conduct IBLP’s internal investigation into the allegations of sexual misconduct. CLA is a fundamentalist Independent Baptist organization run by David Gibbs, Jr., a personal friend of Gothard’s and a frequent speaker at IBLP conferences. CLA has no staff qualified for investigating abuse allegations, and the organization failed to contact or interview the individuals named in the lawsuit, in spite of the fact that many of them had already published their allegations and that it was these allegations that had triggered the internal investigation.

The lawsuit also claims that IBLP has made moves to sell its holdings in Illinois in order to avoid being sued there, where the majority of the abuse occurred.

These women—both the plaintiffs and those who have not been in positions to come forward—deserved better. They were failed on multiple levels. My heart goes out to the ten women serving as plaintiffs on this lawsuit, and with every survivor of Gothard’s abuse who has had to put one foot in front of another day after day. One of the women, Jane Doe III, describes the personal harassment and verbal assault she faced from Gothard after publishing her accusations in the comment section of Recovering Grace in 2012. To my knowledge, this is the first time any of Gothard’s survivors have come forward under their own names. Many of these women will lose family members or friends for what they are doing. They and the other survivors supporting them from behind the scenes are to be commended for their efforts to bring Gothard and IBLP to justice and help protect future young people from facing similar pain.

I am going to summarize the allegations of each woman below, with quotes from the lawsuit. I am doing so in order to get this information out there. Remember, there are still individuals out there defending Bill Gothard. I don’t want them to have any excuse—including the excuse that the information is buried in a 100+ page document full of legalese—not to view and learn the allegations involved in this current website.

First, a very brief summary:

Gretchen Wilkinson was groomed and molested by Gothard during counseling from 1991 to 1993 while was still a minor.

Jane Doe was severely abused by her adoptive parents. When she reported this to Gothard as a young teenager, he blamed her and failed to notify the authorities.

Jane Doe II was sexually abused and trafficked by her father. When she told IBLP staff they failed to notify the authorities. She was also raped as a child by IBLP employee Kenneth Copley while at the Indianapolis Training Center. She reported this, but the other IBLP employees did not believe her.

Melody Fedoriw was groomed and molested by Gothard while working at headquarters in 2012 at age 15.

Charis Barker was groomed and sexually harassed by Gothard while working at headquarters in the late 1990s, beginning at age 18.

Rachel Frost was groomed and sexually harassed by Gothard while working at headquarters in the early to mid-1990s, beginning at age 15.

Rachel Lees was groomed and sexually harassed by Gothard while working at headquarters in the early 1990s, beginning at age 19 or 20.

Jane Doe III was groomed by Gothard in the late 2010s beginning at age 13.

Jamie Deering was groomed and molested by Gothard while working at headquarters in the early to mid-1990s, beginning at age 14.

Ruth Copley Burger was sexually abused by her father, Kenneth Copley, while the family lived at the Indianapolis Training Center in the mid-1990s when she was 11 or 12.

Now a more detailed summary. As you read this, if you choose to do so, please remember that these women have come forward not to give people more fodder to use to mock “fundies” but rather to bring accountability to IBLP and bring Gothard to justice. They are have told their stories not to initiate a snark fest but rather to bring change. Many of the women involved in this lawsuit are still strong believers in God and the Bible. This isn’t about making a strike against religion, it’s about making a strike against abuse and bringing meaningful change.

Gretchen Wilkinson

Gretchen was an IBLP participant and employee as a minor from 1991 to 1993. She was molested by Bill Gothard while being counseled in his home office. According to the lawsuit:

45. The molestation included Bill Gothard placing his hands on Ms. Wilkinson’s breasts and on her thighs—up to her genitals, while she was clothed.

Gretchen was a minor at this time. Gretchen published her account with Recovering Grace under the name “Charlotte.”

Jane Doe

Jane Doe attended IBLP conferences from 1982 to 1988. Jane Doe was abused and neglected by her adoptive family, including sexual abuse by multiple male relatives and severe physical abuse. According to the lawsuit, “she was beaten so severely by her adoptive family that she would duck and flinch anytime someone came near.” When Jane Doe told Gothard about her abuse as a teenager, he not only failed to report it but also blamed her for her own abuse.

80. On several occasions—including when JANE DOE was 14, 15, and 16 years old, JANE DOE informed Bill Gothard of her physical, psychological, and sexual abuse. Bill Gothard’s response was to advise her to ‘let go of her bitterness,’ and to ‘let go of her rights,’ and to ‘stop being rebellious.’ Bill Gothard always made the abuse JANE DOE’s fault.

Gothard also sought to cast demons out of Jane Doe.

82. When she was approximately 15 years old, JANE DOE became aware of Bill Gothard’s teaching that adopted children should be ‘given back’ to their biological parents or to the state. Bill Gothard taught that due to the ‘curse of the sins of the forefathers’ adopted children were doomed to repeat the evils of their biological parents. Bill Gothard also taught that adoptive children tainted a family’s biological children. Thus the reason they should be given back.

83. Bill Gothard attributed his teachings about adopted children to ‘demonic forces’ that he claims affect these children. He taught that if adoptive children were not ‘returned,’ they should at least be ordered to ‘earn their keep’ in the family home. It was his teaching that they should be treated more like slaves than children.

Under the influence of Gothard’s teachings, Jane Doe’s parents ultimately kicked her out of the house and disowned her. Her mother beat her again the day she was kicked out.

At around this time Jane Doe spoke again with Bill Gothard, expressing concern that her siblings, too, were being abused. Gothard never reported anything to social services. Jane Doe wrote to the IBLP Board, letting them know what she had told Gothard, and they, too, failed to report anything.

Jane Doe II

From 1991 (when she was four) through 2009, Jane Doe II participated in IBLP programs and served as an IBLP volunteer. She was physically, emotionally, and sexually abused in her home, as were her siblings. According to the lawsuit, she was “raped by her father and other relatives” and “sold for sex by her father through commercial sexual exploitation and human trafficking.” Jane Doe II reported both the severe sexual abuse and the human trafficking to IBLP staff, but those staff members did not contact authorities.

As a child, Jane Doe II was raped by Kenneth Copley, a counselor at ATI’s Indianapolis training center. Jane Doe II reported this rape to IBLP staff, but nothing was done and nothing was reported to authorities.

Jane Doe II later told Gothard about her abuse.

128. On at least five occasions, JANE DOE II told Bill Gothard that she was being sexually abused by her father and that her younger siblings were also being abused. Bill Gothard took pleasure in the details presented and kept pressuring JANE DOE II for more explicit details of the abuse that took place.

129. On one occasion, when JANE DOE II disclosed details about her abuse and the abuse of her siblings, Bill Gothard called JANE DOE II’s father on a speakerphone and asked if the allegations were true. JANE DOE II’s father denied the allegations. JANE DOE II was humiliated by this process. The last time JANE DOE II tried to disclose abuse, Bill Gothard personally threatened her. Bill Gothard taught that parents were to be believed over children and that children were to obey their parents no matter what, even if they were being sexually abused.

A short time later, Bill Gothard took Jane Doe II to his “private suite” and raped her.

During this entire time, neither Gothard nor any of the numerous other IBLP staff members who also knew of Jane Doe II’s accusations against her father and against Kenneth Copley notified authorities.

Melody Fedoriw

Melody attended IBLP’s Journey to the Heart in 2011 and worked at IBLP headquarters during much of 2012. During her time as an employee at headquarters, Melody, only 15 years old, was groomed and molested by Gothard.

169. Bill Gothard would call Ms. Fedoriw into his office late at night for Bible study and to mentor her. During this time, Bill Gothard would always want to sit on the couch with Ms. Fedoriw.

170. During the Bible study and mentoring process, Ms. Fedoriw reported the fact that she was being abused by a parent to Bill Gothard.

171. Bill Gothard then called Ms. Fedoriw’s parents and disclosed the abuse information that she had disclosed in confidence to her abuser.

172. By the second instance of late night Bible study/mentoring, Bill Gothard was putting his arms round Ms. Fedoriw and pulling her closer to him.

173. Despite the fact that Ms. Fedoriw confronted Bill Gothard about his conduct, it continued.

174. Bill Gothard continued to touch Ms. Fedoriw in ways that made her uncomfortable, including rubbing her back and legs. While Bill Gothard was rubbing Ms. Fedoriw’s legs, he would move his hands to her upper thigh. Bill Gothard was touching Ms. Fedoriw very close to her vaginal area, when he rubbed her upper thighs.

The above quote is long, so let me summarize. Gothard had one-one-one late night mentoring sessions with Melody, who was then 15 and living at headquarters. When Melody disclosed abuse she had suffered at her parent’s hands, he called her parent and reported what she had said. He also sexually molested her during these mentoring sessions despite her attempts to get him to stop.

In March 2014, after Gothard stepped down from his position, Melody reported Gothard’s conduct to the local police department. The police department classified Gothard’s actions as criminal but did not prosecute because they had passed the statute of limitations.

Charis Barker

Charis Barker’s involvement with IBLP began in 1986, when her family enrolled in the ATI program when she was six, and continued through 2000. In 1997, when she was 17, Gothard singled her out at an IBLP seminar and invited her to come work at headquarters. When she was 18, she left home for headquarters, first as a volunteer and then as an employee. While there, Gothard groomed and sexually harassed her.

211. At lunch, at times in his office, while riding in his van, while sitting on his couch, whoever possible, Gothard’s feet would touch Ms. Barker’s feet, whenever her had the opportunity.

212. Gothard’s sexual harassment of Ms. Barker got to the point that the only way she was able to prevent Gothard from touching her feet, while riding in his van, was for Ms. Barker to sit on her feet.

213. Whenever she sat on the couch in his office, he would sit very close to her and put his hands on her knee.

214. During church he would lay his head on her shoulder and he would at least pretend to fall asleep.

Over time, Charis became more and more uncomfortable, and ultimately contacted her parents, who “assured her that Bill Gothard would never inappropriately touch anyone.” Gothard’s behavior continued for the 18 months Charis spent at headquarters. Charis stayed to complete her year-long employment contract (after six months of volunteering). Her parents told her that if she was kicked out of headquarters, she should consider herself kicked out at home, too.

Charis published her story with Recovering Grace under the pseudonym “Grace.”

Rachel Frost

Rachel Frost was a volunteer and employee at IBLP headquarters from 1992 to 1995. Gothard singled Rachel out at an ATI conference when she was 15 and asked her to come work at headquarters. Rachel initially demurred, saying that she was too young, but Gothard hounded her and wore her down, paying for her plane ticket and handing her cash to attend to her needs once she arrived. Gothard then groomed and sexually harassed her.

259. Gothard told Ms. Frost that he wanted to keep her close to him, so she started her work at headquarters as one of his personal assistants (secretaries). However, at the age of fifteen (15), she had poor secretarial skills and no understanding of how the organization ran or who was important. After a week in his office, Ms. Frost was moved to the ATI Department.

Gothard paid Rachel special attention and would touch her feet with is during lunch; she eventually learned to keep her feet back behind her chair to prevent this. Gothard sent a 17-year-old boy home for talking and flirting with Rachel.

265. Gothard advised Ms. Frost that she had a special place in his heart and advised her that he wanted her to remain at headquarters indefinitely.

Rachel returned home after three weeks because of family issues, but Gothard called her soon afterward to ask her to travel with him on a trip to Australia and then to come to headquarters permanently. He offered to pay all of her expenses. Rachel’s parents wanted her to stay at home and finish her education, but were worn down by Gothard’s constant requests. At age 15, Rachel took the GED and headed to headquarters to work for Gothard’s ministry “indefinitely.”

Once she was back at headquarters, Gothard continued to single Rachel out, and gradually initiated further inappropriate physical contact. He sexually harassed Rachel during van trips, pushing his thighs against hers, grabbing her hair, and touching her legs with his fingers and her feet with his feet.

274. As a result of the special treatment and physical attention she received from Gothard, Ms. Frost was referred to as Gothard’s “pet,” his “type,” his “favorite,” or a “Gothard girl.” The sexual harassment, and special attention were no secret. Gothard’s conduct was common knowledge to the IBLP staff.

Rachel began looking for excuses to avoid Gothard, and ultimately left for a job as a nanny. Rachel published her story on the Recovering Grace website.

Rachel Lees

Rachel Lees served as Gothard’s secretary from 1992 to 1993, during the same time Rachel Frost was at headquarters, and had many similar experiences. Rachel was 19 or 20 when Gothard met her at a seminar in New Zealand and asked her to come work at headquarters. He assigned her to himself personally. When she was running low on money, he gave her cash. He quizzed her about former boyfriends and wanted to hear the details of any moral failings she may have had.

312. Approximately six to eight weeks after Ms. Lees began working for Gothard, she noticed that he found reasons to touch her. The touching consisted of sitting so close to her that they were touching. He would sit close, so that his arm or hand would brush against hers. It progressed from there to other physical contact, which made Ms. Lees uncomfortable. The other physical contact included lingering hugs and holding hands. Gothard also began to find reasons to be alone with Ms. Lees.

313. Gothard told Ms. Lees that it was fun. He liked being with her, “just you and me.”

At one point, while on a trip to Dallas, Gothard called Rachel to his hotel room alone, and embraced her as they sat on the couch. At another point, Gothard embraced her and whispered in her ear, telling her that she was his “jewel” and his “energy-giver.”

317. On a long drive to Detroit, Ms Lees felt Gothard put his hands on hers. Later, she felt his foot brush up against her leg. When she first felt his foot run up the back of her leg, she was startled. He locked his leg under hers, and she felt his foot rubbing against hers. He was playing “footsie” with her. But Ms. Lees describes Gothard’s actions as more intimate than that. His foot stroked the back of her leg, played with her toes, explored her leg all the way up her calf muscle and back down over and over again, while he was tripping her hand in between them. When Ms. Lees lifted her hand to intentionally break his hold, Gothard pulled her hand over his thigh. When she resisted, he held her hand and rested it on his thigh, covering her hand with his. He patted her hand, massaged it, rubbed her fingers with his dumb, running his dumb slowly up and down between her fingers, over and over. Gothard would frequently hold hands with Ms. Lees during travel.

And once again, this attention was not secret.

318. Gothard’s emotional and physical attraction to Ms. Lees was no secret at IBLP. On one occasion, the wife of an IBLP Board member approached Ms. Lees and told her that people had expressed concern about “the attachment between you and [Gothard].” “People are starting to notice that he is paying you special attention.”

At one point, one of Gothard’s sisters accused Rachel of wanting to marry Gothard, and was angry with her. Gothard pushed his control further, arranging for a doctor to remove Rachel’s small skin blemishes, which he called “a distraction.” In 1993 Rachel was forced to leave IBLP headquarters due to immigration issues.

Years later, Rachel learned that Gothard had sought permission from the IBLP Board to marry her. She was horrified at this information, finally recognizing him as a predator. She learned that the board denied Gothard permission to marry her. At this time, Bill Gothard was nearly 60 years old. Rachel was 20. The board also reportedly told Gothard that they were not going to allow him to have female personal assistants in the future, but they never enforced this rule.

Rachel published her story with Recovering Grace under the name “Meg.”

Jane Doe III

Jane Doe III participated in ATI from 2003 through 2012. In 2006, Gothard approached Jane Doe III at a seminar and asked her to join a missions opportunity on his staff as soon as she turned 14. Jane Doe III declined the invitation because of a medical condition, and Gothard spent the following five years badgering her.

352. . . . Gothard frequently used the stress in JANE DOE III’s home as a reason that she should come to headquarters.

353. In 2011, at the age of 18, Bill Gothard aggressively pursued JANE DOE III at a conference in Indianapolis. At 11:00 PM one night, he called JANE DOE III’s father to ask permission for her “to come to headquarters for 3-4 weeks” to “learn how to respect him.”

354. Gothard did not want JANE DOE III to work. He just wanted her to come counsel with him personally to learn how to deal with the stress of her strained relationship with her father.

When Jane Doe III’s parents finally agreed to let her come to headquarters for several weeks, Gothard wanted to come pick her up in his van immediately. Her mother refused, insisting on driving her to headquarters herself the following week.

356. When JANE DOE III arrived at headquarters, Gothard announced: “the day I have been waiting for for six years—you are finally here.”

357. Gothard then informed JANE DOE III, that her “[f]ather has lost his authority over [her], because of his behavior. We are your family now.” He made an analogy to Jesus on the cross telling John to care for Mary, her mother.

Rather than counseling her, Gothard focused on convincing Jane Doe III to stay at headquarters permanently. He attempted to turn her against her mother, and to convince her to send her mother away. When Jane Doe III refused, and explained that her mother was her “best friend” and that she would not be separated from her, Gothard commented efforts to convince Jane’s mother to divorce her father and stay and work at headquarters.

361. Gothard would hold JANE DOE III’s hand, touch her hair, carries her, wink at her, whisper in her ear, kick her feet under the table, place his shoes on top of hers when sitting on the couch, and be very flirtatious with her. Frequently, he would press his thigh against hers while sitting together, place his arm along the top / back of the sofa or chair. He would complement her hair, smile and laugh several times per day. He directed her never to cut her hair. He would say to her: “[JANE DOE III] come over here.” “You belong here. Perfect Angel. Beautiful. Amazing.” He said to her: “I love you, you know that, right?” “Maybe you dad doesn’t love you, but I do.” “God has put a special love in my heart to you.” “You are my energy giver.” “I love being around you.” She felt that other people knew that she was one of “Gothard’s pets.” This made her uncomfortable and she would shake her head and with a stern look would frown and correct Gothard and tell him: “No, I’m not perfect.” Despite JANE DOE III’s clear disapproval, the unwelcome complements kept coming.

Gothard gave Jane Doe III his credit card to buy new clothes and had his assistant tell her that he was unhappy that her skirts were ankle length rather than calf length.

364. After ten days, JANE DOE III and her mother decided to leave. After Gothard tried another failed attempt to convince JANE DOE III’s mother to separate from / divorce her husband, Gothard attempted to have JANE DOE III stay by trying to get her to say that her mother was abusing her. Gothard asked: “How old are you again?” When JANE DOE III said: “18,” Gothard replied: “Well, if you were 17 we wouldn’t even be having this conversation, because I would call up DFS immediately and tell them you are being abused and have you taken away from home. After all, emotional stress is just as bad as physical abuse.”

In 2012, both Jane Doe III and her mother wrote about their experiences in comments on the Recovering Grace website. Gothard saw the posts and personally contacted Jane Doe III, verbally besetting her and accusing her of being a liar and of “trying to viciously destroy his life’s work and his entire organization.” Gothard continued to harass and verbally assault Jane Doe III until she removed her comments.

In 2014, Jane Doe III contacted IBLP headquarters hoping to talk to the IBLP Board of Directors about what had happened, but she was refused access. She managed to get in contact with the director of ATI, who told her the Christian Legal Association (CLA), which was conducting a review of the accusations, would be in contact with her. When she failed to hear from CLA, she contacted the group directly, leaving a detailed message. She never received a return call.

Jamie Deering

Jamie Deering was involved in IBLP’s ATI program beginning in 1992. In 1994, when she was 14, Gothard personally invited her to come to headquarters. Jamie’s story is much like those of Rachel Frost and Rachel Lees, with one exception. During a trip to Russia, something “very bad” occurred in the middle of the night that left Jamie sleeping on the couch in another couple’s room and led to Gothard being sent home. Jamie has not recovered full memory of the event, and has other memory gaps as well.

Beyond this, her experiences mirror those of other girls sexually abused by Gothard during these same years, with the same process of groom and the same “pet” status.

404. Gothard went so far as to make sure Ms. Deering’s bedroom was directly across form his office window, so he would know when she could come to his office, after everyone else had left.

. . .

407. As part of his sexual abuse of Ms. Deering, Gothard would tell her where to sit. Gothard would then sit across from her, with his legs spread wide apart. Gothard would frequently have an erection and he wanted Ms. Deering to know it.

408. On airplanes Gothard would have Ms. Deering sit next to him, and—under a blanket—he would touch her thighs and her hand. Ms. Deering was very uncomfortable with this and was afraid people would know what was occurring.

. . .

412. On one occasion, Gothard required Ms. Deering to touch his groin area on top of his clothing.

. . .

414. As a result of the special treatment and physical attention she received from Gothard, Ms. Deering was referred to as Gothard’s “pet,” his “type,” his “favorite,” or a “Gothard girl.” The sexual harassment and special attention were no secret. Gothard’s conduct was common knowledge to the IBLP staff.

At one point when Jamie was back at home, her father physically abused her. At a loss for what to do, Jamie called Gothard for help. Gothard refused to help in any way and did not report the incident to the authorities.

Ruth Copley Burger

Ruth is the adopted daughter of Kenneth Copley and lived at the Indianapolis Training Center from 1994 to 1995. Her father had already been forced out of a previous ministry due to sexual misconduct, and was forced to leave IBLP in 1995 due to “sexual misconduct involving other IBLP staff in the age range of 14 to 20 years old.” In 1994, when Ruth was 11 or 12 years old, Copley began sexually abusing Ruth. Copley used the IBLP facilities to conduct this abuse, which I will not describe.

Ruth has suffered PTSD and has been suicidal on multiple occasions, leading to two hospitalizations, as a result of the abuse she faced at the hands of her adoptive father. Ruth published an account of her abuse in 2010 or 2011 and added more details in 2012. Her allegations came to the attention of the IBLP Board of Directors, and were badly mishandled during the sham 2014 CLA investigation.

Conclusion

Over the past two years, multiple Gothard defenders have asked why, if all of this did happen, no one had had attempted a lawsuit. It’s ironic, really, because these are the same people who argue that Christians should not sue Christians, and should instead settle disputes within the church, and here the were, using the lack of a lawsuit as proof that there was nothing to the allegations. There were, of course, multiple barriers to starting a lawsuit, including the statute of limitations and the personal costs involved in doing so.

Still, I am glad to see that there is now a lawsuit, and I would like to hope that it will help put remaining objections to rest, bring justice for survivors, and save future young people from similar predation. I’ve said it before and I know I’ll say it again—evangelical Christians need to clean up their act when it comes to abuse. Between blaming victims for what happened to them, elevating religious leaders beyond question, and sweeping problems under the rug because they might detract from an organization’s “godly witness,” there are some serious problems that need addressing.

We can only hope that this lawsuit will prod others to clean their houses.

Amended Lawsuit Against Bill Gothard: Text

By R.L. Stollar, HA Community Coordinaor

Today, ten women filed an amended lawsuit against Bill Gothard, the former director of the Institute in Basic Life Principles (IBLP) and creator of IBLP’s immensely popular homeschool program, the Advanced Training Institute (ATI). The women accuse Gothard of not only sexual harassment and abuse (as the original lawsuit with five women alleged), but also of rape. They also are suing IBLP for negligence in responding to reports of abuse.

Sarah Pulliam Bailey interviewed Gothard for the Washington Post concerning the lawsuit on Wednesday. Gothard denied the charges, telling Bailey, “Never in my life have I touched a girl sexually. I’m shocked to even hear that.”

HA has obtained a copy of the text of the lawsuit, which is now public record. You can read the lawsuit in is entirety here. Content warning for the lawsuit text: the text contains detailed descriptions of sexual abuse and rape, including child sexual abuse.

Teaching Abstinence Without Teaching Consent is Dangerous

HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Shaney Irene’s blog. It was originally published on October 9, 2015.

Today, Christian magazine WORLD News published an article about California requiring schools to teach consent in sex education classes. Although not stated explicitly, it’s pretty clear the author, Laura Edghill, is not too happy about this. Only one of the four quotes given in the article is positive, and more time is spent discussing the supposed downsides of the bill, rather than talking about why consent is an important topic to teach. It also demonstrates that WORLD has no idea what teaching consent actually means.

“But advocates for abstinence education say that while preparing students to protect themselves from sexual assault is important, the “affirmative consent” conversation is based on the flawed assumption that the best we can do for students is teach them risk reduction, rather than risk avoidance.”

WORLD has long been a proponent of abstinence-based sex education, so it’s safe to assume that their readers are going to agree with what the abstinence educators say.

But here’s the thing: Teaching consent is not about “risk reduction” vs. “risk avoidance.” Teaching abstinence without teaching consent actually puts kids MORE at risk for sexual assault. Teaching kids to only have sexual contact within marriage won’t stop predators from attempting sexual assault. But teaching kids consent will enable them to recognize what they’re experiencing as sexual assault or not.

I know too many women who grew up in conservative Christian environments who experienced sexual assault, but did not recognize it as such at the time. Why? Because they were never taught that once they said no, the other person was committing a crime. They were never taught that only yes means yes. So they carried guilt for years, assuming they were complicit in sexual sin (“I must have tempted him in some way,” or, “I must not have protested hard enough,”) until they came across the concept of consent and realized they had been assaulted.

“Sex is like boxing. If both people haven’t consented, one of them is committing a crime.”–John Oliver

The rich part of this is that WORLD has reported extensively on the issue of sexual abuse. But in reporting to their readers that teaching consent is “risk reduction” while teaching abstinence is “risk avoidance,” they’re giving parents false information and exposing children to even more risk of sexual abuse. Not one instance of sexual abuse has been prevented by telling people to only have sex inside of marriage.

Assuming abstinence-based sex education will prevent sexual abuse is as ludicrous as assuming saying, “Don’t drive while under the influence of alcohol,” will prevent someone from getting hit by a drunk driver.

And this is a HUGE problem within the church, as this article from Christianity Today’s Leadership Journal describes. The church today does not understand consent. It assumes that teaching that sexual contact outside of marriage is enough, but it’s not. We must teach our kids that their bodies belong to them, and no one else can touch them without their okay. Without teaching consent, abuse will continue to run rampant.

So WORLD magazine, you are part of the problem. If you want to prevent more sexual abuse within the church, you need to stop acting as if teaching consent is a bad thing. You can start by giving away copies of God Made All of Me, a book written to teach consent to young children, to your readers.