Shorter Bill Gothard: Playing Footsie Isn’t Sexual!

Yesterday Bill Gothard released a statement. Just as notable as what he refused to admit to is what he did admit to. Here is the relevant paragraph:

This emphasis on outward appearance was also manifested by bringing selected young people to serve at the Headquarters and causing others to feel rejected and offended by my favoritism. My actions of holding of hands, hugs, and touching of feet or hair with young ladies crossed the boundaries of discretion and were wrong. They demonstrated a double-standard and violated a trust. Because of the claims about me I do want to state that I have never kissed a girl nor have I touched a girl immorally or with sexual intent.

Several women have gone on record saying that Gothard kissed them or fingered them while they were working at Headquarters as teens. But the most consistent accusation across the testimony of at least several dozen women is that Gothard played footsie with them, spent long periods of time holding their hands, and touched their hair—all of which Gothard has now publicly admitted to. And if you ask me, that Gothard would feel so backed against the wall as to admit to these things rather than continuing to deny them rather confirms the the reliability of these women’s stories in general.

But why, you ask, would I assume that Gothard isn’t being honest here? Could it not be possible that the women who have accused Gothard of kissing or fingering them were making that part up to sensationalize their stories? My regular readers are unlikely to believe Gothard’s denial for the same reasons I am—Gothard has been finding ways to get away with his predatory behavior for over three decades, and that makes him therefore more than a little bit untrustworthy. But some in Gothard’s camp may be predisposed to believe that he is now being truthful.

Except.

Does Gothard honestly expect anyone to believe that a 50 or 60-year-old man could play footsie with a 16-year-old girl, hold and stroke her hands for long periods of time, caress her hair, etc., all without any “sexual intent”? Especially a 50 or 60-year-old man who leads a religious empire and teaches his followers that couples should not touch or have physical contact before marriage? Why in the world, if not with “sexual intent,” would Gothard touch these girls like this, violating not only his own rules but also the girls’ consent and their parents’ trust?

Honestly, Gothard’s claim that he never “touched a girl . . . with sexual intent” sounds rather like Clinton’s wrangling about the definition of “sexual relations.” He’s lawyering, and transparently so. He’s not being completely honest, complete transparent. He’s still making excuses and trying to wheedle out of what he did. He’s still trying to find the least offensive crime to confess to so that he can get out of responsibility for the whole that happened.

Those who claimed—and yes, I read their comments—that this whole scandal was manufactured and that Gothard was innocent and the women were making up their stories can cut their excuses, because that ship has sailed.

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.


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