Worksheet Claims That God Allows Sexual Abuse: Part IV

CC image courtesy of Flickr, andy li.

By Shade Ardent.

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

Recently Homeschoolers Anonymous was given access to a worksheet from The Institute of Basic Life Principles‘ training center. It is titled ”Why Did God Let A Four Year Old Boy Be Molested By A Fifteen Year Old Neighbor?’. The Institute of Basic Life Principles is run by Bill Gothard, who is currently facing a lawsuit for molestation, rape, and sexual harassment. The Institute of Basic Life Principles has many training centers around the world.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Closing Thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

End of series.

Worksheet Claims That God Allows Sexual Abuse: Part III

CC image courtesy of Flickr, andy li.

By Shade Ardent.

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

Recently Homeschoolers Anonymous was given access to a worksheet from The Institute of Basic Life Principles‘ training center. It is titled ”Why Did God Let A Four Year Old Boy Be Molested By A Fifteen Year Old Neighbor?’. The Institute of Basic Life Principles is run by Bill Gothard, who is currently facing a lawsuit for molestation, rape, and sexual harassment. The Institute of Basic Life Principles has many training centers around the world.

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

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

8. To learn how to discern evil companions.

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

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

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

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

9. To work out justice and mercy.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

They shrunk our worlds, controlled our access to everything.

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

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

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

To be continued.

Worksheet Claims That God Allows Sexual Abuse: Part II

CC image courtesy of Flickr, andy li.

By Shade Ardent.

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

Recently Homeschoolers Anonymous was given access to a worksheet from The Institute of Basic Life Principles‘ training center. It is titled ”Why Did God Let A Four Year Old Boy Be Molested By A Fifteen Year Old Neighbor?’. The Institute of Basic Life Principles is run by Bill Gothard, who is currently facing a lawsuit for molestation, rape, and sexual harassment. The Institute of Basic Life Principles has many training centers around the world.

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

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

4. To transform aroused desires to Spiritual power.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

7. To confirm the importance of avoiding evil companions.

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

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

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

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

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

To be continued.

Gothard Explains Why God Allows Child Molestation: Part One

CC image courtesy of Flickr, andy li.

By Shade Ardent.

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

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

Recently, Homeschoolers Anonymous was given access to a worksheet from The Institute of Basic Life Principles‘ training center. It is titled ”Why Did God Let A Four Year Old Boy Be Molested By A Fifteen Year Old Neighbor?’. The Institute of Basic Life Principles is run by Bill Gothard, who is currently facing a lawsuit for molestation, rape, and sexual harassment. The Institute of Basic Life Principles has many training centers around the world.

Most of these training centers were used for all ATI students, offering “apprenticeship opportunities” and training. However, this piece of literature (dated around 1994-1995) came from the Indianapolis Training Center, which was special. This training center was used for for troubled teens and juvenile delinquents. This literature, while old, reflects the current beliefs of the Institute of Biblical Life Principles.

Each handout of this type contains a lengthy list of victim blaming statements, complete with verses. They detail the reasons God not only did not prevent the abuse, but allowed it for His purposes. Victim blaming is very common in fundamentalism, with leadership doing everything they can to assign responsibility to the victim instead of the abuser. The stated goal of such literature is supposed to prevent bitterness and force repentance upon abuse victims. In reality, it revictimizes victims, causing them more pain.

According to them, we are to recognize our own culpability and then confess our sins.

Fundamentalism, by its very nature, requires victims to submit their pain and their autonomy to the leadership. The leadership is always presented as a spokesman for their God and demands complete abject obedience.

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

1. To Teach him his responsibility to cry out to God.

In our fallen world with all its evil men and women, there will be attacks by a stronger upon a weaker. When this happens, the law of God is very clear that the weaker must cry out for help or he will be equally guilty. This principle is found in Deuteronomy 21:23, 24. When a ‘victim’ does not cry out or immediately tell his authority he will carry around a sense of guilt which Satan will then use for condemnation and further defeat. It would therefore be important for your son to confess his failure to do this and ask God to forgive him.

To back up this principle the verses Deut. 21:23-24 are cited. However, there is no verse 24, and verse 23 has nothing to do with this concept. Verse 23 discusses someone who has been put to death, and what the responsibility is towards their body. Nowhere does it discuss what someone should do when they have been abused.

It takes an immense amount of courage for anyone to divulge their abuse to a trusted person, let alone an authority. In this case, the authority has set themselves up to be God’s spokesman, making it even more daunting to tell. Far too commonly in this culture we are not believed; rather, we are blamed for causing it, for not telling, for not telling the right way, and for not telling soon enough. No matter what a victim does, we are wrong for not handling this in some magically ‘biblical’ way that is being outlined here.

This literature begins by placing the word victim in quotes, to denote that it is not a real status (fundamentalism believes that all have sinned, there is no innocent party). Thus, there is no such thing as abuse in the first place. It also begins with accusing victims of not telling soon enough and letting us know that Satan will be using this against us forever. We are to confess and repent that we did not tell soon enough.

We are already carrying around the guilt, fear, and shame from being abused. In this literature, the first response a victim hears is disbelief and blame from authority.

2. To motivate him to dedicate his body to God.

Romans 12:2 explains the importance of every believer presenting his body as a living sacrifice to God. Once this is done, our body no longer belongs to us, it belongs to God. This concept is important in order to avoid bitterness. Your son is able to then say, ‘That neighbor did not molest my body, he molested God’s body and God’s judgement is upon him for doing that’.

Again, a verse is referenced as though it will clear up all the questions about the veracity of this requirement. Romans 12:2, which says “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God,” has nothing to do with dedicating one’s body to God, or even about one’s body in the first place.

Dedicating one’s body to God is another way for the victim to lose more agency over themselves. It’s not their body that was molested, it was God’s body that was molested. This means any anger they have is wrong; it’s God’s place to be angry or not at the abuse of His body, not the victim’s right to be angry at the violation. This removal of bodily autonomy further abuses the victim.

The abuse that happened has already shown them clearly that someone bigger and stronger than they are can use their strength to hurt another person. A victim clearly knows their body is not their own. And so, with a few words, the victim is again abused by the ones they should be able to trust.

In order for healing to occur, it is important to give a victim back their sense of self, to validate that their body was violated, to reiterate that they have every right to be angry, and that their body is theirs. We need to be able to find our sense of self, our sense of consent, and come to grips with the fact that abuse happened. Instead, we are reminded it’s not our body, we are reminded that it’s not our right to be angry.

It is God’s body.

3. To give him a ‘moral vaccination’ against future temptations.

God will severely judge the fifteen year old boy for the evil that he did. However, your son can turn what was meant for evil into good. The vaccinations we receive for various diseases contains a small amount of the actual disease. Our immune system builds up a reaction to it so that if our body is exposed to the disease, it is prepared to fight it off. A similar result can occur in the life of your son if this matter handled in a Scriptural way.

One thing fundamentalism likes to teach is that God allows bad things to happen to us in order to prepare us for the future. It is a twisted way of taking ‘all things work together for good’ and applying it to abuse and other very negative things. Gothard is making a very young child responsible to protect themselves from here on out.

It is their job to recognize and stay away from further abuse because it happened once. This is viewed as a good thing, a lesson to be learned. A frequent phrase might be ‘What can we learn from this?’, as though abuse is only a character lesson, instead of the horrifically wrong action that it is.

It is never the job of a child to protect themselves from abuse. This job belongs to the adults in their life. These adults are to be aware of risk factors, and not allow predators into the child’s life. This is not to say that parents are at fault when abuse happens (unless they are the abusers, or knew of abuse), it is to say that it’s the parents’ job especially to protect their children.

Within fundamentalism, authority is placed over children every step of the way. There is no scenario in which they have full choice, or even partial choice, to control what is happening to them. Placing the responsibility on them to avoid further abuse victimizes them even more.

It says to the child “If you are abused, it’s your fault. Why didn’t you learn what you needed to learn?”

To be continued.

Leaving Before You are Ready: AJ’s Story

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It was easier for my brothers to leave.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I went back into the cult.

There. I said it. I double dipped.

Oh, horrors!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I was wrong.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Not a Nice Story

Image copyright 2016, Darcy.

HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Darcy’s blog Darcy’s Heart-Stirrings. It was originally published on February 19, 2016.

From babyhood they said “You are a dirty sinner, there is nothing good in you, you are destined for hell because of your nature.”

So we, small humans, awoke to a world where toddlers need the sin and foolishness beaten out of them with switches and wooden spoons and belts.

They said “Only with Jesus are you worth anything.”

So as small children we begged Jesus to come into our hearts and make the dirty clean.

They said “Because of your sin, God cannot look at you, Jesus had to die. You killed him.”

So we mourned that we were so sinful that God couldn’t look at us without someone else standing in our place.

They said “You are human, a sinner, you cannot help it, only Jesus can make you worth anything.”

So we felt that we were worthless, that no matter how hard we try, we will never be good enough, while some kept trying anyway and some completely gave up.

They said “If you fall in love with a boy, you are committing emotional fornication.”

So we guarded our hearts lest sin defile us with merely a thought, and when our hearts betrayed us and we fell in love with a boy, we hated ourselves and knew we were worth less than before, we had lost a piece of our hearts we would never get back.

They said “Your body needs to be hidden because it is dangerous and if a man lusts after you because of your clothing or movements, it is your fault”.

So we covered our bodies from head to toe, swathed our femininity in fabric hoping no one would notice the curves, and spent years of our life worrying that we may cause a man to stumble and thus defile our own hearts and his.

They said “Boys only want one thing, so be sure you don’t do anything that makes them think they can take it from you. They can’t help it, this is how God made them, we must help them.”

So we lived in fear of men who God made pigs then placed the responsibility for their pig-ness on us.

They said “If you kiss a boy, you’re like a lolly-pop that’s been licked, a paper heart that’s been torn, you are worth less than before, and you’ve given away a part of you that you can never get back.”

So we spent our days afraid, terrified we would lose our worth and have nothing to give a future spouse.

They said “Virginity and purity give you value, don’t give that away.”

So whether virginity was taken forcefully or given lovingly, we were left worthless, used goods, and told no godly man would want us now.

They said “You cannot hear God for yourself, you must obey your authorities. They know what is best for you.”

So we submitted to things that no human being deserves to suffer, because otherwise God would be angry and not bless our lives. Submitting to unjust treatment was what Jesus did, after all.

They said “You are rebellious. Rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft.”

So we begged God’s forgiveness for the ways we wanted something different than they wanted.

They said “You are a woman, emotional, incapable of leading, easily deceived. You must stay in your place, submit, and only then God will bless you.”

So we felt loathing for our womanhood, wondering why God would make us inferior, and feeling guilty that we dare question the Almighty’s plan, that we are not happy with his decree.

And now…..now we are told “Why are you depressed? Why do you have anxiety? Why the addictions, the anger, the rage, the self-loathing? Why can’t you just be happy and normal?”

As if no one can connect the dots. As if their actions did not have consequences. As if a child can be raised to hate themselves in the Name of God and suddenly grow into an adult that is healthy. As if a lifetime of emotional trauma and spiritual abuse suddenly vanishes because a person changes their mind about who they are and their place in the world.

That’s not how it works. That is only the beginning of a journey that could take the rest of our lives. A journey we are told not to speak of because it makes people uncomfortable, because they’d rather call us names like “bitter” and “unforgiving” than to look deep into the darkness of our hearts and hear tales of pain and see the rawness of souls taught to hate themselves. Because those stories aren’t nice ones. But we will not change them in order to make others comfortable.

Do not tell us to “forgive”. Forgiveness has nothing to do with it. Do not tell us to “get over it”. One does not “get over” years of trauma and brainwashing and brain-wiring from babyhood just by making a single choice. We do not choose the nightmares. We do not choose the triggers and the gut-level reactions and the panic attacks. We had 18+ years of being taught that we are worthless, that God cannot stand to look at us, that we killed Jesus, that our worth is in our virginity or how well we obey our parents, that who we are is dirty and sinful. Give us at least 18+ years to re-wire our brains and heal those festering wounds and to learn to love ourselves where before there was only self-loathing. Some wounds cannot be healed. They can only be lived with. And scars do not disappear on a whim. But they can tell our stories and make us strong.

And tell our stories we will, and get stronger for the telling. We heal a little more every time we speak out loud what was hidden and decide that we are worth loving and our stories worth the telling.

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

*****

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!

How I Survived Homeschooling in Gothard’s Cult: Part Four

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

*****

Part Four

After the trip to Russia I was excited to finally go home. My first sister was soon to be born, and Thanksgiving was almost upon us. Once home I thought my HQ days were behind me. I told my parents and a few ATI parents we knew about some of my experiences (good and bad). When asked by these parents if I thought it a good idea for their daughters to go to HQ, I emphatically said NO. Between the silly rules and legalism, which have nothing to do with a relationship with Jesus, and the strange, uncomfortable manner of Bill, I thought it unsafe and not worth it. I again expressed my wonder at people following a man who had never left home, married or had children. As a parent now, I can see where my comments would seem arrogant and offensive, so it’s probably no wonder no one really listened to me. At the time I truly, genuinely wanted to know what all these parents saw in the program – I didn’t get it. My parents didn’t have much to say to all this, at least in front of me. I’ve often wondered what they said to these parents when I wasn’t around, since I saw no action or talk against Bill or the organization. I do know that the children (mostly around my age) of these parents started to treat me a little bit coldly after this.

Life seemed to move forward and settle back into what was normal for me – the almost daily “family time”, soul searching/self-analysis, guarding my heart and mind as well as my body from my dad.

In December of 1991 two important events happened for me. The first was meeting my future husband, Chris, who was in medical school and occasionally helping in the youth group at the time. When I first saw him across the church parking lot, my spirit leapt inside of me, literally stopping me in my tracks. My mind thought it strange but let it go for a while. The second event was my sister being born – what an adjustment for us all! But wonderful all the same. She was the first of six more living siblings over the next ten or so years. I think having a large family is wonderful when the parents are doing so because they just want and love to have a passel of kids. I think it sad and unnecessarily stressful on the parents when they do so because they think that God requires it of them. Any rule or law is now unnecessary because Jesus fulfilled the law and brought Grace and Peace to all men.

Fast forward to early March of 1992. I had spent a small amount of time with Chris when the youth group got together (and I was allowed to go), but he never paid any special attention to me or anyone else. He basically helped out when we had events and he could get off from his studies. I liked what I knew and saw of him but knew to keep it to myself. Evidently I was giving off signals since the youth pastor’s wife called me one day to tell me that Chris was engaged to marry someone, that she didn’t want me to get hurt. I thanked her for her warning, but I determined that I would ask him myself. So I called him to ask if it was true. (I had his number because I had recently injured my wrist working with my dad, and asked his help with it.) He said it was true, but that he was having doubts about it. We talked some more of it and other things, then we hung up. As soon as the phone hit the cradle, I heard an audible voice tell me that I was going to marry him. I looked around and saw that no one else was in the room – my mom and sister were taking a nap. “Well,” I said to God, “You’ll have to work it out, and I’ll have to be patient.” Later I told my mom, who took the news calmly. Then I did a stupid thing and told my dad. I guess I was too excited to keep quiet about it. My dad flipped out and forbade me to ever see, talk or have anything to do with Chris. He talked about Chris being untrustworthy, like a snake in the grass, stealing me away. I thought he was way over-reacting and treating me like I had been caught doing a bad thing, like sneaking out to see him and whatever else his imagination came up with. I had only ever seen Chris at church functions or with my family.

I later realized that my dad thinks everyone else thinks and reacts like he does. I understood early in life that doing things or being different from my parents was bad, almost akin to evil. Which was why I usually kept quiet and told my parents what they wanted to hear.

At sixteen and a half my facade/charade was beginning to crack – I was speaking out more often.

I was tired of being oppressed and treated like a sinful slave.

Unbeknownst to me, my dad quickly contacted Gothard about me. Next thing I know we’re heading up to HQ for a job interview. We were there for a couple of days, and I don’t remember much of it, only the last few hours before we left for home. Bill, my parents and I were all in his office. Bill looked at me very gravely and began to quietly berate me for breaking my vow to my parents in regards to courtship. I felt sick and confused, plus very betrayed by my parents. Bill proceeded to say untruths about a man he’d never met – Chris was wrong to have met with me in private (which never happened), to encourage a young girl to disobey her parents (which also never happened), he was a danger to me, etc. In conclusion, I was commanded to renounce Chris, renew my vow to courtship and commit myself to following my dad’s authority. My parents watched all this in approval – they never said a word – as I was made to prostrate myself by getting on my knees at the Couch and repeating all that blasphemy. I was left hurt, shaken, shattered, betrayed in my trust, love, respect, anything towards my father, and I could only wonder at the lies they had spread about Chris and me. My last shred of attachment to my dad broke that morning in Gothard’s office. And my dad wondered why I wouldn’t talk or look at him the rest of that long 12 hour day. But I was the dutiful daughter that they seemed to want.

At home my parents asked me what I thought about moving to HQ, so I told them one last time, “No, it didn’t seem right.”

I never understood why they ever bothered to ask me anything since they never heard a word I said.

They certainly never took the time to get to know me as myself and after I was married claimed that Chris had changed me. They have always failed to understand that Chris gave me the love and freedom to be myself.

How I Survived Homeschooling in Bill Gothard’s Cult: Part Three

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

*****

Part Three

My dad was on cloud nine that I had been invited personally by Bill to HQ, but I was never asked, only told it was a great privilege.

I asked not to go, that something about it wasn’t right.

My parents only replied that I “didn’t know what I was talking about and this would open doors of great opportunities for me.” So shortly after I turned 16 I headed off to Chicago via a plane ticket bought by Bill or IBLP, about mid-September, for a two month visit.

It was a little nerve racking flying alone not knowing what to expect when I got there. I stayed in the house directly across the street from the main building and worked in the kitchen below Bill’s and the administrative offices. In fact, as you step out the front door of the house, you’re facing Bill’s office windows. The girls seemed like most other girls I’d ever met – polite with that underlying bite that criticism and legalism breeds in people. I didn’t click with anyone there, but I didn’t expect to as my life experiences up to that point had taught me that it was better not to get too much involved with others since I wouldn’t be there long. I was shown around and introduced to my housemates, the house rules being explained to me first thing. Most of the rules were practical and made sense – pick up after yourself, do your chore rotation (dishes, bathroom, etc.), curfew. Then there were ones that I felt were silly and none of their business. Like when I was to have quiet time (Bible reading), the fact that quiet time was required, get up and do “Wisdom” Searches as a group (6am!!), what music I could listen to and when, was my wardrobe right ( I could only wear loose sweat pants in the house [but must run and hide if a male came to the door] and never jeans at any time [seriously?!], no dating (as if I even wanted to!).

After about a week and a half I put in my music from home (just church stuff), closed the bedroom door (my roommate was out) and played the music softly. After a bit the house mom, who was only about 4 years older than me, came in and told me I couldn’t listen to it, remember the house rules. I replied that yes, I knew the rules, but my parents okayed my music. Well, I was just going to have to turn it off, and she would take it from me if I did it again. I was reported to Bill and called into his office the next day. When I went in we were alone and he motioned me to sit on his couch, where he sat facing me, his knees close to mine. He told me I was called in about the music, and my house mom thought I didn’t respect her and the rules. I said I respected her position and had been following the rules, but that my parents were my authority and had approved my music.

He leaned toward me, his knee making contact with mine (I tried to scoot back from him), earnestly looking into my eyes, and told me that I misunderstood my position.

That while at HQ my parents had put me under his authority and I was to follow the rules and his guidance. He picked up my hands, which had been resting in my lap, and went on about the evils of music that used drums and beats of any sort. I needed to search my heart and root out any sin and evil influences, so that I would see the will of God. Still holding my hands, he told me to pray, ask for forgiveness and help in searching my heart. I was also to commit to not listen to any music with a beat of any kind. Since my father taught me well most of my life the “umbrella of protection” through the “chain of command”, this was normal for me. However chastened I felt, I was also confused by feeling dirty and guilty of something I couldn’t understand or explain. So after drying my tears (he loves to make you cry-shows real repentance evidently), he stands up pulling me to my feet and hugs me front to front. (I mention this because I never, even without my parents’ teaching, hugged a male that way- only from the side.) This made me feel uncomfortable.

Later, away from him, I was upset that he would dare to take the place of my dad and dictate what I could and couldn’t do. My parents never told me I was under Bill’s “authority”, only to be respectful and remember our family rules. I complied outwardly but secretly continued to live as I would have at home. Towards the end of my time there, I listened to my music whenever I wanted to. My thought was, what’s the worst they can do? Send me home? Great! I wished they would!

A few days later I was called into Bill’s office. He told me I was to go on the first ever trip to Russia in October. I said I wasn’t qualified to go, nor did my family have the money for it. He called my parents to give them the “good” news. He told them that he would pay to send me to Northwoods for the Medical Seminar training I needed, that they would have to raise the money for the trip to Russia. They thanked him and then asked to speak to me. When they asked me if I wanted to go, I answered, “I guess so, maybe. I don’t know.” I was certainly feeling pressure with Bill sitting there listening to every word I said. They thought it was a good opportunity for me and that I should go. My mom did say that they wouldn’t make me and the church might not support me with the money, so in the end I might not be able to go. So I said okay. My parents went to our church asking for help, which I hoped wouldn’t be enough. It almost wasn’t – I found out from Bill the money came through three days before the trip was scheduled to leave.

In the meantime, I worked in the kitchen. One night around 8:30pm or so about two weeks after arriving, Bill called me up to his office. I used the back staircase to get there, since it let out in an area right outside his door. I went in wondering what he could want at this late hour.

Once again he was alone.

He asked me to make him a chocolate milkshake. So I head back down thinking I didn’t even know there was a milkshake maker, and I sure didn’t know how to make one. A couple of us kitchen staff were still there so I asked them about it. They showed me where everything was and how to use it. I told them I thought it strange that he asked me, why didn’t he ask the guy that was still there. They just shrugged their shoulders and said he’d asked for me. So I took it up. He asked what took me so long. I answered that it was my first milkshake. After he tried it, he smiled and told me it was one of the best he’d had in a while, I was from now on to make his milkshakes. I smiled and said okay. We chatted a little before I was dismissed. As I walked back to the kitchen all I could think was, really?!, now I’m stuck waiting on him every night! The whole thing seemed kooky to me, it was just a milkshake and anyone could make it, why me?

Soon it was time to head up to Northwoods for the “training” week I needed to qualify to go to Russia. I was surprised to find myself riding with Bill’s entourage and dismayed to be seated next to him on the bench seat behind the driver. He made small talk with me – was I enjoying my time at HQ, working in the kitchen, had I made any friends, etc. I answered politely and what I thought he wanted to hear. In general, I felt slightly uncomfortable and was annoyed that I had to ride with him. Why did I have to sit next to him?

It reminded me of how I would feel sitting next to my dad – I kept expecting Bill to put his hand on my knee at any moment.

At some point Bill took off his shoes and encouraged me to do the same. I gladly took them off, since I’m used to not wearing shoes whenever I can. Shortly after, I felt his foot on my ankle. I quickly pulled my feet away and to the side, looking over at him. He was smiling at me. I said “Pardon me”, and tried to put distance between us. Yuck was the word running through my head, and I couldn’t wait to get out of the van. A part of me wondered if I’d misunderstood – maybe his foot accidentally hit me. Even so, I made sure to keep my body as much to myself as possible. I was enormously relieved when we arrived.

I don’t remember very much about what was taught that week, except that it was more of the same stuff in the “Wisdom” Booklets. I learned how to play the bells, which I enjoyed. Occasionally Bill had me sit across or next to him when we gathered to eat. I learned quickly to sit with my feet tucked securely away from him and my chair moved away as far as possible. He would also sometimes stop me when we were passing and chat with me, doing the usual hand holding and looking into my eyes.

There was one incident that stands out to me particularly. At some point towards the end of the week, we had an afternoon session where we were instructed to examine ourselves and find any sin that would hinder us from helping others. We were told this sin could be unkind thoughts, lust of the eyes, too much “worldly” influence (i.e. music with a beat, wrong clothes, spending time with the wrong people-anyone outside the group or who lived life differently and wouldn’t accept “God’s truths” as taught by IBLP/ATIA), stepping outside of your father’s authority, etc. So after the soul searching time, I wrote down a few “sins” I thought qualified. I felt very repentant about them and talked with God about it.

Later that night, around 8pm or so, I was surprised to be summoned by Bill to his suite. He invited me to sit by him, which I did but kept some space between us. He asked how my day went, how did my time searching for hidden sins/distractions go, was I ready to confess, that he wanted to help me come clean. I shared a few of the “sins” (which I can’t even remember now) but he kept pushing for more. Finally I reluctantly shared a “sin” that I thought would stay between God and me. I didn’t think it was any of his business, but I had been well trained to submit to “authority”. After dragging as many details as he could get from me, he told me that he was going to call my parents so I could confess to them and ask forgiveness. So he calls them and sits there listening, as I embarrass and humiliate myself even more. My parents didn’t seem to find it strange, wrong, or humiliating that Bill was talking about this with me. They acted as though I was making “progress”.

I just felt guilty, ashamed, humiliated and somewhat violated over something that I felt was between God and me and didn’t hurt or involve anyone else.

I was made to feel dirty and sinful over something that I later found out in counseling (with a woman) was very common and nothing to be ashamed or feel dirty about – masturbation.

So my parents “forgive” me and, under Bill’s direction, I commit to staying clean. Really, I’m amazed that I emerged with any healthy, normal outlook on sexuality! After the call, I dried my tears and stood up to go. Bill hugs me, telling me I’ve done the right thing and I’ll be blessed for it. It felt awful, was what I thought. I wanted to go home and curl up into a ball and never show my face again. I felt hurt, confused, exhausted, etc. and wanted it all to go away. Shortly after, we headed back to HQ, and this time I made sure to sit in the back of the van!

The milkshake times continued to happen a few times per week until it was time for the Russia trip. On the planes I generally had a seat in the back, which suited me fine. At some point on the Russian plane (we called it Aroflop, it rattled so badly) Bill’s male assistant came to me and said Bill wanted me to come see him. Thinking “what is it this time?”, I walk up to where he was seated, smiled and said, “Sir, you wanted to see me for something?” He patted the empty seat next to him and said he wanted to check on me. I sat down and answered his questions – how was I doing, was I looking forward to ministering in Russia, etc. I stayed as shortly as I could, giving an excuse to go back to my seat. Frankly I was bored and didn’t appreciate being singled out. I couldn’t understand how any young lady could be jealous of a 56(+) year old’s attention. I don’t remember much else happening outside of the usual with him. I tried to draw as little attention as possible to myself.