I knew Bill Gothard was creepy and sexually harassed teen girls, but as more stories come out, it’s become increasingly clear that he is a sexual predator.
I’ve always been glad my parents never got involved with the Advanced Training Institute or the Institute of Basic Life Principles seminars or teachings. Gothard wasn’t even much on my radar while I was being homeschooled–not until college and I started hearing more about the Duggars’ beliefs. Thank goodness, because Gothard’s teachings leave much to be desired.
Right now, I’m even MORE glad that I was never involved. You see, he has a history of grooming pretty teen girls to accept his sexual harassment and advances. At least one was groomed so extensively that he nearly coerced her to become his wife without her realizing it, until fortuitous circumstances helped her slip away from that fate.
What makes this even more disturbing is the spiritual abuse that accompanies the sexual harassment. Because people see him as beyond reproach and having impeccable behavior, they turn a blind eye to his shenanigans. Or else they blame the women for “leading him on” and for “not being Godly enough.”
It follows a pattern, judging from the allegations.
First, he sees the young woman in one of his many seminars, speeches, or some other circumstance, and arrange for them to meet.
Then he tells her that God has a plan for her, and she is called to serve God by being a secretary or doing some other work–often in close quarters with him.
Then, slowly, he tests boundaries. And keeps crossing them. Because the teens were raised sheltered and not given sex education, they often don’t realize that what he was doing to them constituted sexual harassment. They just knew it was uncomfortable and weird. And because they’re taught to be soft-spoken, easy-going, and to obey authority unquestioningly, they don’t speak up.
He likes to call the teens into his office after hours for extra work. Hold their hands. Have them divulge any spare bit of info about their past love life. Play footsie, even when the teens try to hide her feet. Rub his feet up her legs. Put his hand on her thighs. Give long, long hugs.
Some, he kissed. Others, he told her to buy push-up bras and liked to feel her breasts. At least one person he touched sexually according to the comments on that article.
All the while, he tells them that they have been chosen specially by God to fulfill His (erm, Gothard’s) tasks on the earth, which just compounds the grooming pattern. It makes the teens feel like if they say “no” or speak up about it, they’d be speaking up against God.
All of the above AND the comments from others on the very same articles show a sexual predatory pattern of grooming.
If the teen’s parents were good, they came up to Oak Park immediately to take them home. Sadly, because Bill Gothard is held in such high esteem by the fundamentalist community, it’s more likely their parents will minimize it, or declare the teen a temptress.
With all of these allegations spanning about 40 years, I’m surprised there haven’t been any investigations. It’s time. I don’t care that he’s 80 years old–he’s clearly still at it. But don’t take my word for it. Let the Oak Brook police investigate.
Actually, the FBI needs to get involved. So many of the teens have crossed state lines to go work for him, and have been taken on seminar road trips to other states, and were subjected to sexual predation.
Sadly the statutes of limitation may have expired in many of these stories, but there are many recent cases that could be prosecuted, if the women are willing to speak up. (Sadly, it is incredibly hard to speak up about abuse even when one isn’t raised to be docile–look at this article by my fellow writer, Wendy.)
Kudos to Recovering Grace for being a supportive community for those who have suffered at the hands of Gothard, and who are still suffering from ATI and IBLP programs. Without that community, it would have been hard for them to take the lead in investigating and publishing these stories, and for helping other survivors of Gothard get help.
I just hope that more investigations will also shine light on this dark section of Oak Brook.
Filed under: Abuse