Worthwhile Reads: Bill Gothard, ATI, and Sexual Abuse

Recovering Grace has been doing a series on sexual abuse. Most of the stories involve ATI families, but some even involve Bill Gothard himself:

Exploited Innocence: Sexual Harassment at HQ

Sexual Harassment Part 2: “Aren’t you making too big an issue of this?”

A Difficult Journey

It’s All My Fault

Without an Umbrella in a Broken System

Choosing Both Forgiveness and Prosecution

Note: For those of you who may not know, Bill Gothard runs the Institute for Basic Life Principles (IBLP) which offers a homeschool program called the Advanced Training Institute (ATI). Gothard runs “ministries” and orphanages across the world. Gothard, who has never himself married, is one of the leaders of the Christian Patriarchy movement.

About Libby Anne

Libby Anne grew up in a large evangelical homeschool family highly involved in the Christian Right. College turned her world upside down, and she is today an atheist, a feminist, and a progressive. She blogs about leaving religion, her experience with the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements, the detrimental effects of the "purity culture," the contradictions of conservative politics, and the importance of feminism.

  • Meggie

    I have been reading each of these articles in Recovering Grace as they are published. The stories are very disturbing and leave me in tears, wishing I could hug the writer and take away all the hurt they have suffered.

    The most recent article, Sexual Harrassment at HQ is the article that worries me the most. Bill Gothard himself involved in sexually inappropriate behaviour? I wanted to doubt the writer. I wanted to believe she was just exaggerating what happened. Although I don’t agree with any of Gothard’s teachings, I didn’t want to believe he preys on young, pretty, blonde women. Comments on the article show that many people had similar experiences or saw it happen to others. Why is this allowed to continue? Why do religious leaders get raised up onto such a high pedestal that they can get away with things that would get a regular person arrested?

  • http://PathOfTheBeagle.com Larry Spencer

    Thank you for bringing this to our attention, Libby Anne. In response, I’ve written a blog post about Gothard’s “Umbrella of Protection” http://pathofthebeagle.com/2012/04/25/umbrella-of-protection/

  • Emily

    I think there’s such danger in spiritual institutions that implicitly or explicitly promise to protect young people. No institution can make good on that claim — horrible things happen to kids and people everywhere. For some reason spiritual people believe there’s an extra hedge of protection around kids in churches, at church camps, at Christian schools, when really, the belief that these places are especially safe makes them especially UNsafe. When young women are taught to comply with spiritual authorities, because these men are looking out for their best interests, they are even more vulnerable. Then, the need to “protect” the reputation of the spiritual figure or institution from shame shuts down appropriate avenues for reporting and protecting kids when abuse occurs. Plus, in purity culture, there is never public space for the “no means no” conversation, what constitutes abuse, what to do if it happens to you or a friend, etc. All this leaves so many opportunities for predators.

  • http://kagerato.net kagerato

    These accounts are horrifying, but they must be told. It’s truly sad that we can’t successfully prosecute some of these cases now because the statue of limitations has passed or challenged testimony is the only known evidence.

    I’ve never cared for the statue of limitations on violent crimes, but it’s especially relevant in cases of sexual assault and battery because often the crime itself does not come to light until years after the fact. As far as I’m aware, the only crime in the United States which is not time-limited is murder, though there may be variations since this is oddly codified at the state level.

    The procedures which weight testimony are also fairly questionable in these cases. There is a presumption of innocence in any criminal trial, but sexual abuse and rape cases are somewhat special in how the system plays out. In many other violent crimes, there will almost always be readily available external evidence of some kind that can be collected for the prosecution to use. However, these crimes in particular tend to leave no strong evidence, and especially no evidence that cannot be interfered with or otherwise disposed of by the assailant. Once you combine this with a general social attitude that condemns women for essentially any association with sex, even rape, the deck is pretty much stacked in favor of the defense. Many victims refuse to bring the case at all because they’ve internalized self-blame and self-shaming, or they’ve seen the explicit dismissals given by some police, attorneys, and even hospital staff firsthand. There are a shocking number of occurrences, for example, where either no rape kit was issued or any such kit filed was ultimately ignored.

    • http://kagerato.net kagerato

      +t to statue = statute

      Spell-check won’t catch that.

  • http://pslibrary.com/ MrPopularSentiment

    I’ve just finished reading these articles and it was a very painful experience. My son is sleeping in the next room and, as I read, I kept personalizing the stories as though they had happened to him and it breaks my heart – because these girls were every bit as innocent and sweet and vulnerable as my son, but the people who should have been protecting them so utterly failed them.

    How can anyone find a 5-6 year old being humped by a munch older naked boy and blame *her* for it? What perverted, disgusting, twisted idea of sexuality can tell a person that an 11 year old was clearly asking for it, or that what has happened to her is her fault in any way? I’m at a loss to account for how much evil there can be in this world.

    I’m glad that Recovering Grace is bringing attention to this. I don’t care what your opinion on religion is, but legalism leads to abuse. When you stop looking at people and start looking at rules, you are invariably setting up the conditions for abuse to grow – even if it isn’t creating abusers, it allows them to get away with what they are doing for far longer than would be tolerated in a more sensitive system of belief. How else can you explain a little girl hiding her abuse for fear that it will reflect poorly on *her* reputation??


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