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

How I Survived Homeschooling in Gothard’s Cult: Conclusion

CC image courtesy of Flickr, Norbert Posselt.

HA Note: The following is reprinted with permission from Alexa Meyer’s blog Life of Grace and Peace. It was originally published on June 26, 2015 and has been slightly modified for HA.


In this seriesPart One | Part Two | Part Three | Part Four | Conclusion



Within a few weeks (April 1992) our family had sold what wasn’t necessary and moved to Oakbrook, IL (HQ). We weren’t expected. No one knew we were coming, and Bill was away at a conference our first week there. My parents and sister were put in a boy’s house, and I went back to the house I first stayed in, working in the kitchen again. It was a strange week, but it was about to get very harassed.

As soon as Bill came back my parents told him that we needed to be together. That took a few days to get settled, but we ended up living in a house off campus owned by the Institute, which, thankfully, also came with furniture.

Meanwhile, after his first day back, Bill tracked me down and told me he wanted me to work as his personal secretary. I said I didn’t have experience in that, but he pushed, telling me to consider it. The next day I wasn’t quick enough, and he cornered me again about working with him. Again I put him off saying I wasn’t sure that was a good thing to do, I would need to talk with my parents. I did tell my parents that he’d asked me and my responses. They didn’t really comment on it that I remember. At work I made sure to listen for his voice and look down hallways first, so I could avoid him. Unfortunately a couple of days later (Thur. I think it was) I rounded a corner and almost ran into him, literally. He escorted me back to his empty office and once again asked me to work with him. I said a point blank “No” this time. He asked me why not, so I answered, “You are a manipulator and I don’t want to work with you.” His answer – “I don’t think you know what that word means.”

He said much more, which I mostly tuned out – he had just proved my statement, what more needed to be said? – but I was surprised when he said he would have to let us go.

I waited until he was done and dismissed me, making sure to leave through his sister, Laura’s, office. As I passed her I told her I would never work for her brother. If looks could kill, I would’ve been dead. Laura disapproved of every female, though, so I didn’t take it personally. That night I told my parents what happened – again not much of a response.

When my dad went into work the next morning (Publications Dept. in the printing and binding area, which is where I shortly joined him), there was a pink slip on his desk. He went to Bill’s office demanding to know why. Bill said we weren’t a fit and we needed to leave as soon as possible. My dad told him we had nowhere to go and no money to do it with. Bill pressed harder and my dad told him that before he had been offered a job, he had received an offer to work in S. Korea teaching English. (My dad had been stationed in Korea for a little over a year with the Air Force from 1985-86.) So Bill said he’d pay for us to go there. My parents talked it over and told him we were going to stay and in a year we would move. (My mom was pregnant again, so I think she didn’t want to move right then.) When my parents confronted him about his timing in firing my dad, Bill said I misunderstood him and his intentions. So we stayed for a year to the day, leaving in April of 1993. (I recently told my dad about Bill sexually harassing me. His response: “That’s why young girls should be taught to go to their dads, tell the man to ask their dad, so things like that don’t happen.” So it was my fault. NOT!)

A month or so after all this happened, Mr. Jim Sammons came to our house to talk with me. Jim was on Gothard’s Board of Directors. He asked me if Bill had been inappropriate with me, and if so, how. I told him about the times of being alone with me, holding my hands, hugging me, asking too personal questions, tracking me down to ask me to work directly in his office; basically everything I could think of. I did tell him that Bill had never touched me in private places, that I wouldn’t have allowed him to.

Jim said that there were problems with girls in Bill’s office and that the Board was working on getting all the girls out.

I find it interesting that Jim quit not too long after this and the McKims later disappeared as well. (The McKims were a favored ATI family that set the bar high, much like the Duggars today.)

I had not been in touch with Chris since my family moved to HQ, until out of the blue one day in October he called asking for my dad. We talked for a bit, long enough for me to find out he wasn’t getting married after all. Yay! With my parents’ approval, we began to correspond (our letters were read by my parents) and talk over the phone (for only an hour a week). Before we left HQ we decided to get our families together. So after my parents and I left HQ in April, I met my future in-laws in July (Independence holiday, to be exact!), became engaged at the end of August (after I turned 18) and was married three months later in December, 1993. I’ve made it sound like it was a smooth process, but it was like a living hell, as my father fought not to lose control of me (even though he gave his “approval”). God proved Himself faithful to me by helping me to mentally hang on, providing me with a champion and the tools to overcome the beginnings of schizophrenia, the double-mindedness that the law/religion gives you and the terrible, long-lasting mental control that my father had exerted over me.

If I knew then what I know now, I would have been more forceful about it when talking with Mr. Sammons and unequivocally stated that it’s Gothard’s false teachings, especially the “authority” one, that were/are wrong and the foundation by which he and his family set out to systematically set up people for abuse, emotionally and physically, and to get to their pocketbooks.

These false teachings enable abusers, give them the power over their victim(s), their family and produce generations of mentally and emotionally (and in some cases physically) hurt, confused, bound people.

This whole scenario is, unfortunately, not new in the world, but it happened to me and thousands of other innocent people, and I know it can not only be stopped, but people’s minds, emotions, soul can be restored through the love, mercy, grace, peace, compassion, all of Jesus. My internal healing began as I listened to Him inside me, knowing that because my spirit is one with Him I can never be spiritually abused, that He came, not to judge the world, but to set it Free!

I appreciate you taking the time to read all of this. I wrote so much family background because I wanted to show how the teachings are wrong, and how they not only facilitate and cause abuse, but also twist even more the thinking of the abuser. My father walked a fine line with me, not quite physically going over it (molestation), but definitely going over it in the mind – I felt mentally, emotionally molested. My parents continued to pressure Chris and me to go to an IBLP seminar for a few years after being married. We, of course, would have nothing to do with it. Even though they didn’t continue in ATIA, they definitely kept up the teachings to their six children. I almost walked away from them entirely after seven months of marriage, when my dad proceeded to try to undermine my marriage by telling me that my husband wasn’t a good leader, wasn’t even a Christian (because he wouldn’t make us do devotions), we wouldn’t be blessed since we weren’t having children right away, etc. The only reason I kept in touch with them was for my siblings. I had to be there for them as they grew up, to help balance the craziness, hopefully.

I’ve recently had it pointed it out to me by a family who have been in ATI for the past 7 years, that her children are safe from abuse since her husband isn’t an abuser and she’s sure that things have changed since I was in it. Her response shows me that the cult atmosphere is still going strong and that parents are still not asking the right questions and finding the truth for themselves.

The way for this to stop is for the truth to be spread far and wide, and people to stop funding the cult that is IBLP/ATI – quit buying anything from the organization!

I was deeply saddened and surprised when I read everyone’s experiences, since I didn’t know that Gothard had been systematically abusing young ladies since the late 60’s. I recognized both Meg and Charlotte from my time at HQ. I remember seeing Charlotte working out on the grounds and being jealous, as I would rather have been outside. I wish with all my heart that I had known her so that I could have helped in some way (taken her to the police!)-that was the first time that I felt physically violent towards Bill, after reading her article. The only reason I’ve written now is with the hope that I may help someone, somewhere.

My patient, loving husband, as well as his parents and my best friend Stacy, have been my greatest help by unconditionally loving me, allowing me to explore myself, talk it all out, and come to know who I am in Jesus. Chris and I have walked this together, individually coming to a greater understanding of the Gospel of Grace & Peace, which allows us to flow as one. I’m thankful every day that he decided to fight for me! Jesus pulled us out of the quicksand of religion and we haven’t looked back, loving being able to teach our four children from the beginning of their life here that they are free in Him, that there’s nothing they can, or have to, do to be right with God. Jesus did it for all of us!