Gothard’s Process: Invite, Idealize, Isolate, Transgress, Rewrite

18 February 2014, 07:00

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75

Editor’s note: Over the past two years Recovering Grace has posted interrelated stories of seven different women’s experiences working with Bill Gothard at IBLP Headquarters, and the overlapping relationships among these stories can be complex. The following is a summary of  Bill Gothard’s patterns of behavior in the seven women’s narratives: those of Ruth, “Annette,” “Charlotte,” “Meg,Rachel, “Lizzie,” and “Grace,” and the four related narratives of Larne (part of Ruth’s story), Dixie, Ryan, and Marcus. It is not a complete history of Gothard’s conduct with these women. In the case of several of these individuals, the Rewrite History phase is still in progress. Please see also the chronology of these women’s stories.

 

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All articles on this site reflect the views of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of other Recovering Grace contributors or the leadership of the site. Students who have survived Gothardism tend to end up at a wide variety of places on the spiritual and theological spectrum, thus the diversity of opinions expressed on this website reflects that. For our official statement of beliefs, click here.

75 Comments

  1. TiaraLi February 18, 2014 Reply

    This is very interesting. It shows a clear pattern linking all the stories, and shows that Charlotte does, in fact, have a great deal in common with the other girls' stories.

  2. Julia Fetters February 18, 2014 Reply

    Very insightful and well thought out. Thank you for doing this work. Do detectives or Police Agencies do the same as they map out the practices of accused predators?

    • Heidi February 18, 2014 Reply

      They sure map out the MOs of those they profile in order to catch them.

      NICELY DONE RG!

  3. Amanda February 18, 2014 Reply

    I agree that all the women's stories have extremely clear commonalities.
    One thing I would like to point out is at the very end of Grace's story and may place her in a couple more categories. She writes "I am now happily married to the man of my dreams and we have a little girl. The desire to protect her is very strong, and now I’m able to see what happened to me in a new light. What if my daughter were invited to work for the head of a Christian organization? What if she were required to wear certain clothing, keep her hair in a certain style, and apply her make-up with a specific look? What if the leader were to specify the color of her nylons and nail polish, and then invite her to spend time alone with him in his office? What if he were to take her on overnight trips and touch her in ways that made her feel uncomfortable. How would I react? How should I react?"

    The fact that she was asked to keep her hair in a certain style, wear makeup for a specific " look", and wear a certain color nylons and nail polish all seem to fit with the category : Instruct target to alter hair and epidermal features".
    Also, Grace is saying that Gothard did "Trangress boundaries of employer/ employee, possibly in several categories. This was not very detailed in her narrative but is stated as I quoted above at the end of her narrative of abuse.

    Thank you for the work you have done. God bless and keep the survivors of Gothard, every one of them, and those who love them.

  4. Brandon February 18, 2014 Reply

    Wow. Such clear patterns.

    Most people that abuse find something that works and stick with it.

    Thank you for opening this up so the patterns of abuse detailed above do not continue.

  5. esbee February 18, 2014 Reply

    How ironic this looks just like a page out of ATI teaching materials.

    • Lisa Joy February 18, 2014 Reply

      I was just about to comment about the same thing! Except for the fact that Mr. Gothard doesn't publish checkmarked charts like this, everything else looks like it came out of a Basic or Advanced Seminar textbook! LOL

      Sadly the content isn't "LOL" material. It really does show the consistency of his grooming methods.

    • Jeff Gill February 18, 2014 Reply

      It needs a headline across the top that says, 'Giving the world a NEW approach to lechery' or 'What steps can an old man take to achieve gratification from young women?' Also, the chart needs some ripped-out-of-context-vaguely-related bible verse.

      • KevinW February 18, 2014 Reply

        It's not out of context, but comparing these check boxes to the account of Amnon and Tamar in 2 Samuel 13 reveals some interesting parallels.

      • greg February 19, 2014 Reply

        Ahhahhaahaa,,, excellent.

    • davidauge February 18, 2014 Reply

      Bleah...I noticed the exact same thing.

    • Rainey February 18, 2014 Reply

      The colors and font definitely make me think of Wisdom Booklets and the like...

      • Michael February 18, 2014 Reply

        I could not agree more with this statement.

    • Beth June 14, 2014 Reply

      Horribly, tellingly, ironic.

  6. Toni February 18, 2014 Reply

    This is both brilliant and damning. Thanks for so clearly exposing the systematic nature of BG's abuse.

    • Lori February 18, 2014 Reply

      Ditto!

  7. Grace February 18, 2014 Reply

    My list does not reflect those requirements because they were part of the dress guidelines that were in place at the time-not things BG asked me specifically to change.

  8. Amanda February 18, 2014 Reply

    Grace, thank you. I did not know this, not ever having been aware of ILBP or ATI until recently.
    I'm sorry I didn't know this.

    My prayers and blessings for you and your family.

    Amanda

  9. Lauren February 18, 2014 Reply

    It's sad and disturbing to see the commonalities here and to recognize patterns that occurred with friends who are not part of this group of 7 women. Thank you for establishing the patterns so clearly!

  10. Denise February 18, 2014 Reply

    I'm sorry, but what were the parents of these girls thinking, sending their precious daughtets off to an unvisited location with people they didn't personally know?
    Christ-followers are Biblicaly admonished to be wise, all througout the Bible, and develop a discerning spirit. How many of these girls were "bragging rights" for the parent's level of spirituality?!

    • kevin February 18, 2014 Reply

      Keep in mind also, these families are taught to be extremely protective of their kids in every way. One of the ATI families we know does not even let their kids go to birthday parties, let alone spend the night away from the protection of mom and dad. And, yet, somehow it was okay to send 14, 15 and 16 year olds away for months, as long as they were under the authority of Gothard. I think it speaks to the level of control that he exercises over his followers.

      • Lori February 18, 2014 Reply

        Excellent observation, Kevin. This shows beyond a shadow of a doubt the mind control that pervades Gothard's relationship with his followers.

        • Lori February 18, 2014

          Not to say that everyone is brain-washed but that Bill Gothard is a master of deceit and has found ways to gain people's trust through very clever manipulative tactics and persuasive techniques.

    • Brumby February 18, 2014 Reply

      It's difficult to believe that parents can be duped just like young minors. Many people that join extreme groups and cults are educated, law-abiding citizens that are somehow the perfect prey. I pray that I never do my children a disservice as my parents did for me - and all in the name of "living by a higher standard," and doing "God's will."

      • Headless Unicorn Guy February 20, 2014 Reply

        Pedos don't just groom their victims.

        Successful ones also groom adult third parties to create allies. Further isolating the victims, as they then have NO ONE to turn to for help; everyone they could have already become friends/supporters/allies of the abuser.

        • Sleepy December 22, 2015

          This comment is the most concise summary yet! Well said. BG did all of these things, especially in Charlotte's case. I would also imagine that parents would have more easily entrusted their child to the care of BG & ATI because he was the one preaching the moral standards & seminars. In a time where information could be covered up easier, these victims didn't have a hope. As one who was a child victim of another predator, I can only warn parents to be cautious with the choice of Anyone they allow to be around their child. Be prayerful about that always. We can all easily be fooled! God bless & be wise.

    • Lizzie February 18, 2014 Reply

      Hi, Denise!

      My parents and I did visit HQ together before I went up there to work. Bill himself showed up at the airport to pick us up, and he told us all the right things all weekend. If my parents had had different priorities, he would have told them whatever would have satisfied those priorities. He was doing the hard sell.

      There was also a young woman who had been on staff at HQ for a while, but whom I had only met a couple of times, whom my parents invited to our home for a weekend so that she could feel more free to speak frankly. My parents weren't trying to "get dirt" on HQ, and didn't yet know there was dirt to be gotten; they just wanted to create a situation wherein any reservation about working at HQ could be shared confidentially without risk to the staffer. If she had advised that HQ was a bad place for young women to be working, or that Bill's assurances on the job I would be doing couldn't be trusted, I wouldn't have gone. I still hold this woman in very high regard, and don't know whether she had not yet been around Bill's invasive and deceptive behavior, didn't yet know how to talk about the behavior, didn't feel free to talk about it, or didn't see a problem with it. I just know that my parents went far above and beyond the usual in trying to vet the situation, and the truth was still not discovered.

      • Lori February 18, 2014 Reply

        Yes, Lizzie, it sounds like your parents were being very cautious. It just shows how devious Bill Gothard is. They were innocent victims of his hypocrisy and deceit just as you were.

      • Heidi February 18, 2014 Reply

        Lizzie, and Grace,

        Thanks for the explanations. Bill sure knows how to spin things.

        Late 80s or early 90s we did host a young man who had been featured in the ATI newsletter. He cautiously tried to warn my parents about headquarters mostly stating that after being there and "seeing" things he really questioned everything. We wanted to hold him on a pedestal along with IBLP so we didn't let it sink in at that time.

    • Jessica February 18, 2014 Reply

      Denise,

      I understand why you would say that but it's a bit misguided and blaming the victim. These parents, whatever their intentions, obviously did not believe their daughters would be harmed. As much as the ATI culture encouraged shutting out the world and isolating families, the parents trusted the organization that they believed was godly. And why shouldn't they? Living in a spirit of fear wasn't what they wanted and many of them believed that HQ would be an even more godly setting for their children. As for their discerning spirit, no matter what they did, within the system of ATI the ultimate at discerning, the teacher of everything, was Bill Gothard. If the parents discerned differently about sending their daughters (and a few of the stories do show that some of the parents had their reservations) they would be going against the teaching of the man they considered such a godly leader.

      When we start asking what was wrong with the people that let their children get in this situation or why didn't the girls tell someone/leave, we are grasping for straws. Victim blaming is a defense mechanism to convince ourselves it couldn't happen to us. Which is a lie too many want to believe because the alternative is facing the reality that we can not completely control our own lives or what happens to us. It is easier to fault the one it happened to than to admit that there is absolutely no way we can be fully protected. Be it the parents we blame or the actual victim, it is missing the point of where the full responsibility lies: on the perpetrator.

      Parents should not have to fear sending their children (male or female) to recognized institutions to grow, learn, and gain new experiences they aren't capable of offering on their own. Should something happen our focus should be entirely on the ones that violated that trust and acted inhumanely.

      • Don Owens February 19, 2014 Reply

        Very well stated, Jessica. As a homeschool father who was in ATI for 6-7 years, and had one son at hdgtrs for a while, the comments re parents being stupid, careless or worse by allowing their children to be part of the "movement" is very hurtful, and I appreciate your clear explanation. It is very easy to tout ourselves as "monday morning quarterbacks" if we hadn't been walking in those parents shoes. I am glad we dropped out when we did in '91, and gradually pulled away. But it was very difficult for my late wife, who didn't object as I did to some aspects of the 'movement', and was very disappointed when I insisted that I couldn't continue in the program. In spite of all that, these revelations have been very painfully difficult for me...I am still having a hard time processing it all. Especially, how could I as someone who thinks of myself as perceptive, and not a follower of the crowd (in fact, always out of step with every group I have ever been in), how could I have been misled. Looking back, there were many signs, but I never put them all together. Thank you, Jessica for stating it so well.

        • anonymous February 25, 2014

          to Mr. Don Owens,
          I am always so glad when I read comments from parents of ATI families, as most of the feedback here is from former students and children such as myself who were effected by growing up under the strange sub-culture of IBLP. I haven't yet reached a point of being able to confront or address my father about the ways his acceptance of these teachings have damaged our family, because I can only see an unpleasant situation of defensiveness and denial coming out of it. And yet, what I really want to say to him is "I understand, dad!" But how can I explain to him that I know he isn't a bad guy, I know how much he has tried to be a good father, I know that he has given his very best, while still explaining and addressing the very real damage and hurt that has been caused? How do you go to someone who is wise, good, and truly cares for their family and explain to them that the main ideals they have build their faith and decisions around for years are hurtful and wrong? I don't know how to explain to him that both my pain and his good intentions are equally valid.

  11. Samuel Lundmark February 18, 2014 Reply

    To quote Bill Gothard, "If only half of the storied I've heard are true...", I'll finish with my own ending...IBLP should close entirely.

    • Samuel Lundmark February 18, 2014 Reply

      stories...not storied :)

    • John February 19, 2014 Reply

      I agree IBLP should close entirely

  12. Lana February 18, 2014 Reply

    Wow. Thank you for putting this together.

  13. mitchell chapman February 18, 2014 Reply

    Loyola Medicine stritch school of medicine psychiatry and behavioral neurosciences would be a good place to take all this data and info and also for individuals go if they need help. This website is just a starting point on the road for recovering ATI students and parents.

  14. Brumby February 18, 2014 Reply

    By the mercy of the Lord, I was thankfully NOT CHOSEN by Bill in 1999/2000. I was 14 or 15 at a all-female "Counseling Seminar" and my parent tried desperately to arrange a private session for me with him, because I was angry and "rebellious." I was so reluctant and very disinterested in meeting with him. I hated ATI, him, homeschooling, and the dark world that I was being raised in. Thankfully, I hid out and remained as obscure as is modestly possible, remaining inherently unavailable throughout the seminar that week: our private session never happened. At the end of the week, my mom had managed to snag him for a second and officially introduced Bill to her wayward daughter: he clasped my hand in both of his, looked deep into my eyes, then remained holding and caressing my hands for a minute [insert disgusted shudder here] while my mother reminded him again of the specifics of my rebellion. He turned back to me, and let me know that while he didn't have time to have a session with me, that he prayed the Lord would bless me so richly, blah blah blah. I was glad that he didn't "have time" to talk to me!

    The next year (or was it the year after that...? The years in ATI all run together for me), I attended the seminar AGAIN, and lo and behold, my "team" was "chosen" to dine with Bill himself during lunch. Boy, what an honor. Bill did his typical, "So, young ladies, you are all so marvelously beautiful, I can see Christ's light on all your countenances. Please, let's just go around the table and share with me to what service God has called each of you to..." While the honey was still drooling out the corner of his mouth, he locked eyes with mine. I could see he was trying to place me, but was struggling. He paused, looked down at his plate, then lifted his head up again and locked eyes with me again. Then, I could see that he dismissed trying to recollect why my face rang a bell, and he proceeded to invite a young lady to start answering his question about God's calling in her life. The first few ladies shared, then when it was my turn, he deliberately skipped me (to my delight) and directed the girl on the other side of me to speak. He avoided looking at me the rest of lunch, and that was fine by me! It is better that I didn't answer his question anyways, since he would have likely been "offended" by my reply: at that time, my goal in life, combined with what I believed at the time could be my only way "out," was to attend Oak Brook College of Law, and then begin burning the midnight oil as I put together case after case against Bill and his cult. ATI destroyed my family, and I'm very resentful of that. Thankfully, attending his law school was not my only way out, and I enjoy life very much now.

    • 'Megan' February 18, 2014 Reply

      I feel your pain my friend. Bill probably 'dismissed' you because he recognized he'd never get away with anything with you. So much the better for you. ATI tore my family up quite a bit as well. It is the divine mercy of God that I and the rest of my siblings are not only still in church, but want to have a real relationship with God, not Bill's rules.

  15. fiddlrts February 18, 2014 Reply

    That's a pretty good layout of the pattern of abuse. Specifically, it matches both workplace sexual harassment and clergy sexual abuse. It also has a lot in common with the patterns of abuse in general. Isolation, control, flattery, brainwashing. (I see this in the elder abuse that I see in my law practice too...)

    Brumby is right that for many of us, OBCL was the way out. I don't think BG expected that "his" law school would produce so many eager to stop him from doing further damage, but that is the risk when you encourage people to think like lawyers.

    • Brenda February 18, 2014 Reply

      I wonder if you or anyone have thought about bringing legal action? I have read many pages and this question nags in the back of my mind. I am aware he has lawyers etc... but it just seems that this has got to be exposed.

      • Brumby February 19, 2014 Reply

        I've written countless TV shows and media outlets and have received zero responses. Nobody cares.

        • Lori February 19, 2014

          Perhaps we need to find journalists who have a special interest in sexual harassment and/or abusive cult leaders. That said, perhaps the only thing that will get results is for young women to come forward who've been victimized by Bill recently enough for his crimes to have been committed within the statute of limitations.

        • Lori February 19, 2014

          If he's prosecuted, I imagine there will be much more interest - especially if there are multiple plaintiffs in the case!

        • fiddlrts February 19, 2014

          One of the problems with media in our modern age is that they don't really like to do investigative journalism anymore. It's easier to wait until someone says something provocative and report that than to actually interview witnesses.

          (Hence the focus on Duck Dynasty rather than Gothard or Phillips.)

          I don't practice in this area of law or in the state of Illinois, and I'm not sure if any of the victims intend legal action. I would recommend in the general sense that anyone who has gone through this consult a lawyer in the appropriate state and area of practice if they have any questions.

        • Brumby February 19, 2014

          TLC is doing the reality series "Breaking the Faith" - regarding young adults who choose to remove themselves from the FDLS (Fundementalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints). They've also recently featured a show "Breaking Amish," both shows that I would put in the same genre as a type of show or documentary about ATI students leaving Bill's teachings, if there was a show. Until there is room on the market for more information/entertainment about victims of cults and former members of cults, I don't think ATI will be in the headlines for a while. I escaped because someone reached out to me and talked some sense into me, building me up mentally and emotionally until I was strong enough to leave on my own of my own freewill in a safe way. I consider myself very fortunate.

          On September 11th, 2001, I was inevitably introduced to Anderson Cooper via CNN, since I was allowed to watch TV at a neighbor's house that day. That day was my first viable exposure to reality and the world outside my own home. I tried to interest Cooper in developing a story, but could never get a response. I was disappointed! It seems FDLS, Amish, and Sister Wives are hogging the air time right now.

  16. John February 18, 2014 Reply

    you know Bill Gothard could have written a doppelganger of Aldous Huxley's Brave New world, Instead of writing of a permissive society he could have created a restrictive society...... oh wait he did! Except it doesn't apply to him.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy February 19, 2014 Reply

      Rank Hath Its Privileges.

  17. greg February 19, 2014 Reply

    You know,, there are girls being "groomed and stalked" by bill at iblp headquarters right now as we read this,,, if only some of the parents would read this and wake up and report to the authorities, then maybe this could come to a stop...

    • Lori February 19, 2014 Reply

      What if the girls are being threatened in some way? What if Bill (and maybe people in his inner circle) are pulling out all the stops to silence them?

      • WendyA February 19, 2014 Reply

        While I wouldn't put some sort of attempt at "silencing" past anyone these days, I suspect that the more recently victimized girls fall into one of three subsets:
        1. They haven't yet realized that what made them uncomfortable was, actually, harassment. Remember that for many of those who have come forward, it was years before they really understood what had been going on.
        2. The wounds are still too painful to expose to public scrutiny. There are aspects of the abuse I suffered in, and after, my days at IBLP HQ that I still simply do not revisit. Psychologically, I'm not ready. God brings healing in His time, and to push someone before they are ready only causes more hurt.
        3. They do not have enough of a support network independent of the IBLP organization to feel comfortable telling their stories. I would never have had the courage to tell what I have shared if I had not had friends and family who were unfailingly encouraging and supportive. If these girls still live in ATI families and go to ATI-influenced churches, they may be too isolated to come forward.

        What we can do is pray for them. All of them. For healing, wisdom, courage, and strength.

        • David Pigg February 20, 2014

          awesome

    • Brumby February 19, 2014 Reply

      I'm concerned also. A safe, structured, and serious way of reaching out to current ATI students is long overdue.

  18. kevin February 19, 2014 Reply

    Just read the update on the RG Facebook page about the law school. It looks like they're trying to keep it from going down with the ship. Gothard resigned as chancellor and all IBLP board members have resigned from the law school board. Expect similar resignations in the other affiliated programs.

    • kevin February 19, 2014 Reply

      Not sure if the board members found their spine, or if this is just an attempt to preserve whatever they can of the empire. Time will tell.

      • Lori February 19, 2014 Reply

        Good news, either way!

        • kevin February 19, 2014

          Yes, good news indeed. They are hearing the voices.

    • Allen February 19, 2014 Reply

      This may be insulation, or nothing more than a first step to filing lawsuits. Maybe they don't want to be associated with their law school.

    • David February 19, 2014 Reply

      I'm always skeptical when it comes to BIll Gothard doing these kinds of things. They are always in HIS best interests. Is he appeasing some people? Distancing parts of the organization from himself to save it? Or is there a reason to break off legal ties to the law school so that lawsuits can be filed? I don't know. I'm just asking. It is possible that this has nothing to do with the RG revelations. I'm taking a wait and see approach. If Gothard would actually resign from IBLP and confess moral failures -- that would only be the start. He would still need to confess all of his false teachings. That is simply never going to happen.

      • Lori February 20, 2014 Reply

        Prosecution. Multiple plaintiffs. Convictions. That might be the only way he'll go down.

        • greg r February 20, 2014

          I'm wondering if labor law violations might be his undoing. Much easier to build a case, and easier to get witnesses to step forward, perhaps. Alfred and friends, I'm not dancing on BG's "grave", but the machine needs to come down, sooner rather than later.

  19. Beth February 20, 2014 Reply

    Great chart! But I think you could even add one step at the beginning. You could call it "Instruct" or more realistically "Infiltrate." Before the invitation ever happened, there was a lot of "group grooming" through his seminars and ATI materials/involvement to get a girl and her family to the point where they would get excited about and accept BG's invitation. In my opinion, all the aberrant teachings we've been talking about---over-emphasis on authority, this is the one right way, etc---could definitely be considered grooming as BG's way of thinking infiltrates families and gets into the minds of sheltered young girls.
    After reading a lot of these stories and watching how the history of IBYC/ATI has unfolded, doesn't it seem more than a little coincidental that ATI was started shortly after the scandals of the early '80's? Call me cynical, but ATI really is a perfect system to grow and pre-groom a steady supply of fresh beauties who had been reared all their lives to adore King Bill and obey his every command. A twisted kind of grow-op.
    Just makes me nauseous to remember that my family was in ATI from 1985-87 when I was 10-12 yrs old. It was way too intrusive into our family life--I remember my mom having to fill out detailed charts of all the discipline problems that week and how each one was dealt with. Yuck! "You know all of this behavior is going to have to be reported to Headquarters!" was my parents' threat during those years.
    They eventually left ATI after those years but kept homeschooling. A lot of BG's teachings still linger in my parents, though, and they (the teachings) have wreaked havoc on our family, and his mindset about their being only one "best way," one "biblical way" have been so poisonous. All three of us kids love the Lord and are living for Him, but my parents find it very difficult to not constantly interfere in our lives when we aren't doing things "biblically"---meaning their particular applications of Scripture.
    Thanks, RG, for all you're doing to set us all free with the truth. Stay strong!

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  25. "Gloria" March 6, 2014 Reply

    Yes, absolutely pay attention to the child and adult labor laws that were broken. That is a very important point as both girls and boys and adults were grossly misused in that way, not to mention the LIT's heavy work load. Also workplace safety OSHA type things, chemicals at too high levels in the print shop. Investigate that too. So many illegal behaviors running consecutively... a crying shame.

  26. greg f March 7, 2014 Reply

    @Gloria: "as both girls a n d boys and adults were grossly misused in that way..

    I ran my own business for a few tears and I would NEVER let anyone (except me) work more than a FEW min. Over and not get paid. So we agree on this one..thanks

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  31. Luke December 20, 2014 Reply

    This is very disturbing: a clear pattern, a clear progression.

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