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Along his journey to becoming a convicted felon, pedophile, and sexual predator, I was one of my older brother Michael’s earliest victims in life. He began “grooming” me when I was six; “Grooming” is a term I have since learned that is clinically used to refer to the deliberate preparation of an intended victim for abuse on the part of the abuser. The actual abuse did not begin for about another year after the initial grooming began.
My mother did not become aware of the abuse until I was ten years old. She immediately put an end to it, but blamed me for it in the process, demanding with overtones of disgust that I spend the rest of the day in my room, and that while I was there, I was to “BEG God to forgive [me] for what [I had] done!” From that moment on, I believed to my very core that God hated me, and that He was utterly repulsed by my very existence. I was never taken to counseling. No one ever told me that the hopeless feelings of hurt and betrayal, shame and worthlessness that plagued me relentlessly were anything other than a deserved reward for my actions, in having allowed these things to happen to me by not telling someone of them immediately, the very first time anything had happened. This was a “principle” my parents had learned in their many attendances of Bill Gothard’s seminars… that the guilt of an attack falls to the young lady who does not “cry out” when assailed. I had failed to cry out. But for years, Michael had only molested me when we were left home by ourselves. As the years went by, he got more and more brazen, and would mistreat me with my mother sitting just around the corner. I was perpetually silenced with shame, fear, and confusion. None of that changed when my mother got involved… only the abuse itself stopped temporarily. Hardly another word was spoken of it. It was as though the whole thing never really happened, and it was all just swept under the rug. In fact, according to my dad in recent years, my mom never even told him the details of what happened… just a vague, “Something happened between Michael and Elisabeth, but I took care of it.”
Emotionally, I was scarred beyond measure. I needed help desperately, but not wanting to be “rebellious” by going “out from underneath my umbrella of protection” (another ‘principle’ that was horribly twisted by Gothard’s teachings), I remained paralyzed by fear and painfully silent on the matter for years. After all, I had been carefully indoctrinated not to be the “fool” who brings grief to their mother by dishonoring the authority God has placed over them! Meanwhile, unbeknownst to us all, my own pastor… my hero… my father… was engaged in a lifetime of a different kind of sexually abusive activity of his own, all while holding up a higher and higher bar of Bill Gothard’s standards of righteousness for the rest of us to attain. His behavior did not come to light until years later, when the judicial system got involved.
When we found ourselves faced with all this at once, our family was shaken to the core. Even worse, when we contacted Bill Gothard, in an endeavor to be completely under authority and to let him know of the devastating valley through which we suddenly found ourselves traveling, instead of finding compassion or support of any kind for our deeply hurting family, or accountability for my father, we found ourselves cast out of the home-school program and excommunicated instantly! Bill Gothard and our Family Coordinator never spoke to us again. Their response only served to reinforce my childhood perception that I was utterly worthless and that God hated me. My father continued to struggle for years, before finding freedom and victory–far away from the camp of condemnation we had come from. As far as I know, he has now been free from his sexually abusive behaviors for well over a decade, unlike Michael, who sadly continues to live in bondage.
Following Michael’s abuse and my mother’s response, I lived with the constant torment of overwhelming guilt and shame, but was incredibly relieved to be free of his abuse at last, and was so happy to be beyond that indescribable nightmare once and for all! Or so I thought. Several years later, the abuse suddenly began again. Michael was now 18; I was 15. It was well known in our home that I was an extremely heavy sleeper. Unbeknownst to me, Michael had begun to come into my room and do things to me while I was sleeping. One night, I barely came to consciousness as he was fondling me. With horror, I realized he was mistreating me! I was extremely alarmed, and afraid of what he would do if he knew I were awake, so I merely shifted my body position (as though I were sleeping) to protect myself from further attack. The very next day, I tried to get help, but I had zero self-image whatsoever, and didn’t know how to approach my parents about it directly. I just knew it was going to be my fault again! The days drug by. I was utterly TERRIFIED! I repeatedly tried to get my mom to make Michael stop coming in my room after I fell asleep, but she either didn’t understand, or wasn’t listening to my pleas for help, because his inappropriate physical violations continued getting worse for about six months. During that time, I trained myself to sleep defensively as my only source of protection. One day after having yet another request for my mother to ban Michael from my room at night blown off, I blurted out in total desperation that she wasn’t listening, and that I NEEDED HELP!!! Finally she said something to my dad, who apparently threatened to kill my brother if he “messed with [me] again.” After that Michael didn’t come in my room like that again, but he continued to be extremely “handsy”… so much so that my parents had to re-assign our dinner table seating arrangement a couple of years later when I was 17, so that he was no longer sitting next to me during dinner. He just would not keep his hands to himself… even in front of my parents!
The years went by. He got married. I moved out. I thought he ‘outgrew’ it. I had no earthly clue that he was continuing to perpetuate that behavior towards other girls–particularly my sweet little niece, his own daughter! Then I got the call…
Michael called me out of the blue one night, sounding frantic. He said he was “on the run” but “wasn’t at liberty to talk about why.” Upon pressing him further, he admitted to me that he had been molesting his daughter. (He later told my dad that he started molesting her when she was SIX! She was 11 at the time.) Fearing that the authorities were about to close in, he said that he planned to leave the country and eventually send for his family. At that time he and his wife had eight of their now ten children. All eight were immediately removed from their custody and put into foster care. Sadly, the two that have been born since remained in the custody of their mother until just this past Fall, when the state finally removed them, for unexplained burn marks. This was the same mother who deliberately lied to the courts about the sexual abuse of my niece to try to cover for Michael, and who fought to keep her sexually abused child out of counseling so the state would be none-the-wiser!
Unfortunately, it turned out that law enforcement did not have enough evidence to press charges against Michael, as he and his wife had managed to get their daughter to recant her story and claim that the abuse never really happened, and that she had just had a “bad dream.” No victim, no crime. I, however, began to make sure that anyone and everyone connected with the case whatsoever was fully aware of his abusive history, and begged them to do what they could to protect others. For years, the investigators’ hands were tied. Then my niece went to counseling. She became angry about what really had happened. She began to talk, and the case re-opened. But because she had initially lied so vehemently and for so long, she discredited herself, to a certain extent, as a witness. Because of this, I was called by the state to testify in court, along with some others who were also past victims of Michael.
I was frightened. My life was very pointedly threatened by another family member attempting to keep me from testifying. But I knew what I had to do. I love Michael, and I have forgiven Michael; but I could NOT allow him to destroy the lives of others. He was not, and is not safe. I do not ever see that changing. His behavior has been going on for over 30 years. Yes, I believe that God can change him, but he has to WANT to change. If you were to ask him, he doesn’t even have a problem! He denied everything and claimed that everyone was just out to “ruin an innocent man’s life!” An ironic claim as he was facing charges which held the potential for multiple life sentences. In reality, the “life ruining” was quite the other way around! I made a decision I will never regret: I flew across the country to testify at his court case. It was one of the hardest things I ever did.
In an interesting turn of events, it never went to trial. When Michael found out that I would be testifying against him, and that I was actually en route, along with some of the other witnesses whom he had violated, he began to scramble to make a plea bargain.
To give you an idea of how twisted Michael has gotten, he was actually whistling loudly as he approached in chains that day. I could hear him quite a ways off from the courtroom where I was awaiting the court proceedings with the other women whose lives he had scarred. What was he whistling? “The Robin and the Mouse” song by Al Smith–A song about being obedient, avoiding temptation, making right choices, and doing the right thing. It was the same song we had learned at the annual ATI (Advanced Training Institute) home-school conferences we faithfully attended where we were ingrained with Bill Gothard’s endless, legalistic twisting of Scripture to suit his own interpretations. (These were the very interpretations and twisted teachings that shaped my mother’s misguided thinking and devastating response to her discovery of Michael’s abuse which had held me in bondage for so long!) The song Michael was whistling was the one he used to sing and play on the harmonica throughout our childhood and teen years. Come to find out, this was same song he used to sing to one of the other witnesses every time after he would violate her, telling her that God had told him to do it! During the entire court case, Michael kept staring at me with such a sinister glare. Even the investigator, who has seen just about everything in her 17 years in this field, said that it was the first time she had seen him in person and that, “He just radiated evil.”
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