When I read that a 16 year old girl, Faith Shirley, ran away from Bill Gothard's cultic Institute of Basic Life Principles (IBLP) training center out in Hinsdale, I was relieved.
I understand that runaway teens can cause much heartache to their families, and I can sympathize with the pain of simply not knowing how they are, where they are, or what they are doing.
On the other hand, I have absolutely NO tolerance for cultic and abusive environments, which IBLP most certainly is. That is why I'm so glad she ran away, and I hope she can stay away and build a new and healthier life for herself. Apparently she ran away once before, in Florida, but was returned to her parents.
People run away for many reasons, but just the mere fact that her family follows Bill Gothard's teachings and sent her to an IBLP center makes me quite sure she is unhappy (well, probably downright miserable) at home and with the whole Advanced Training Institute organization.
I talked at length about ATI and IBLP in my past post about the Duggars.
Let me take a moment to reiterate the dangers that Faith faces if she is returned to her family and the Gothard cult.
- She faces sexual harassment from Bill Gothard.
*This is what people need to realize: If any other man, any pastor, any employer, any teacher, had behaved in this way, it would instantly have been recognized for what it was: Sexual harassment.
*Let's put this in perspective: If a secular, older man, with no claims to being a man of God, let alone a minister, conducted himself in this way around young girls, he would be called exactly what he is. He is a pervert who is grooming girls for the next steps. But because it was Bill Gothard, even the victims doubted their own feelings and observations. Even their own parents would not believe them. This is what happens in a cult-like environment, where no one dares question the so-called authority. In addition, these testimonies are so numerous and so alike as to method and approach, it is clear that Gothard knows exactly what he is doing, and that it is indeed planned and premeditated.
*Putting girls into awkward situations where you take occassion to show physical affection is uncalled for and not considered "safe" in the interests of the girl--especially in light of the documented happenings in this organization.
*I remember several times late at night either driving past Bill Gothard's office or walking into the building where it was located and seeing through his window that he was alone with a certain young woman. And I dismissed it too. It must be me. I must be reading into it more than I should, etc.
*From what I saw and heard, Bill often was very aggressive in getting these girls to HQ, and was very manipulative with their parents in order to prevent them from going home. (He was often "counseling" them about some problem, and was able to use that to get between the girl and her parents.)
*During my 18 months on staff at HQ in the late 90s Bill had several attractive young "pets" constantly at his side. Having worked at HQ the same time as Lizzie I absolutely believe every word of her story, and I am now deeply ashamed that I joined every other guy in turning a blind eye to Bill's blatant infatuation of girls 40+ years his junior.
*The clinical term is 'grooming.' The predator 'grooms' his victims by conditioning them to his presence, touch, voice, etc. Grooming may takes days, weeks, or months. It looks very innocent at the beginning and can be explained away by the predator (if someone is willing to buy his story).
*Honestly, I doubt that Bill G was/is actually having sex with any of those girls or even with himself. Instead, it's a psychosexual game for him. By having beautiful young girls under his control, who are taught to give him veneration and attention, Bill G is able to assert his male dominance, not only over them but also over the men in his sad "ministry"
- The training centers are physically abusive and cult-like.
- She would continue to face spiritual abuse
Religion is used to coerce members to follow Gothard's particular interpretation of the Bible. People see Gothard as a sort of demigod, and often overlook his "familiarity" with young, thin, pretty, blond women with curly hair because he's such a "godly" person, how could he be doing that? People were obsessed with outward appearance and behavior, all controlled by him, as if it was essential to their salvation. He operated by "extra-Biblical" principles, which is a hallmark of cults, and frequently and completely misinterprets the Bible in order to suit his own opinions.
I sincerely hope Faith can break free.
UPDATE: Faith, if you're reading this, I found an article someone shared on how to escape the abusive culture. Please, take care of yourself, stay smart, and steer clear of assholes (men and women) who might try to take advantage of you in your hour of need. There are so many of us wishing, hoping, and praying that you can successfully break free.