Heather’s Story

9 July 2014, 06:00



The stories of Bill Gothard’s harassment of and abuse of power over young women continue to be told. Yesterday, July 8, 2014, the Redemption Pictures blog published a story by a young woman who was placed under Bill’s special care due to a troubled home life. We wanted to share a link with you so you could access it alongside the similar stories here.

Dear Mr. Gothard (Heather’s Story)

The following is a list of all currently published allegations (that we know of) of Bill Gothard’s behavior.

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.


  1. Brumby July 9, 2014 Reply

    Heather: I'm sorry. I'm incensed after learning of your experience. I believe every ounce of your statements.

    As a gifted writer, you've been able to describe in effective terms what you experienced, and invoke emotion from your reader. You've made a sizeable contribution to the efforts of RG and to revealing BG as a cult leader. I find myself finding brick walls when I try to explain and convince other people in my life that I was unwillingly part of a cult and that BG is a cult leader. Even one of my therapists checked with his "colleagues" after hearing my own story. At a follow up, he let me know that I wasn't part of cult, it wasn't "that bad," and his colleagues disagreed with my assertion. Generally speaking, outsiders really don't understand and therefore can't empathize nor believe.

    Thank you for communicating the psychological manipulation, damage, and abuse so vividly that readers can feel what you mean and experienced. You've done our community an enormous favor.

  2. Grateful Lurker July 9, 2014 Reply

    Wow. I am so sorry, Heather. Yet,thank you for writing it. Powerful stuff. I hope Gothardites are reading it. What you went through is so abusive and horrible. Again, I am sorry.

  3. rob war July 9, 2014 Reply

    Heather's story along with all the rest should be enough to make anyone sick to their stomach. All these horrible stories point to an obvious fact that this man is a real sick pervert. The reason he never married was not do to being too busy as stated in his seminars I attended but do to his own perversions. He ought to be put on a sex offenders list and locked away forever from all women younger than 30. The problem is that his own disbelief in psychology prevent himself from help for his own issues. I pray all these victims along with the many that haven't come forward get the help and healing they need.

  4. Myron Horst July 9, 2014 Reply

    There are likely many other young people that this type of thing has happened to them in recent years who do not have the ability to speak out. We must speak out for them.

    To contact the FBI child exploitation task force officer for Illinois:
    FBI Chicago
    2111 West Roosevelt Road Chicago, IL 60608-1128
    (312) 421-6700

    The FBI Violent Crimes Against Children website states:

    "The mission of our Violent Crimes Against Children program is threefold: first, to decrease the vulnerability of children to sexual exploitation; second, to develop a nationwide capacity to provide a rapid, effective, and measured investigative response to crimes against children; and third, to enhance the capabilities of state and local law enforcement investigators through programs, investigative assistance, and task force operations."

    "Our strategy involves using multi-disciplinary and multi-agency teams to investigate and prosecute crimes that cross legal, geographical, and jurisdictional boundaries; promoting and enhancing interagency sharing of intelligence, specialized skills, and services; and widely offering our victim/witness services. All for the express purpose of protecting our nation’s greatest asset—our children."

    The contact info for the Oak Brook Police Dept

    • Renea July 10, 2014 Reply

      I'm reading all these comments in descending order and I wrote about the need for criminal charges below. It's time. There seems to be an explosion of this sentiment now. It seems to me, that this is where we need to focus our prayers on. It's my belief, that these prevailing sentiments are God inspired. I've not seen, unless I've just missed it, any other comment section where these ideas are so widely held. Like I said, it's time.

    • Christy Bell July 20, 2014 Reply

      Myron, thank you SO MUCH for offering a badly needed tool to end this abuse of minors and sexual harassment and to bring about justice.

  5. DAVID PIGG July 9, 2014 Reply

    How can anyone who was taught kindness,compassion in the Christian faith,felt the savior's heart,not speak or want to with difficulty over these horrors?I am angry;angry over the symbiotic relationships Gothard has maintained with Christian celebreties,pastors well known leaders,who would ditch this story,because it doesn't fare too well with the intended end of bringing back ole Bill.And that goes with the Board.Yes can you believe it into the ministry.A by product of fallen,twisted,narcissistic ambition,ruthless aggrandizement of helpless trusting youth. To prey on such a vulnerable helpless lamb:In the words of Christ,"It would be better for a millstone to be hung about the neck and the offender to be thrown in the depths of the sea" than that he would have offended one of these little ones.I am also angry against trivializing this story against the so called "good Gothard has done,when right in the epicenter,from Indianapolis,Michigan,wherever else this poor girl went,radiates this story.Oh yes it should be in my heart to forgive BG,but could he ever be a brother in his non-repentance?Could he ever be a friend?I'm sure people will look the other way,but the only end these horrid evil means will ever justify is darkness.Thank you Heather for this horrible gut wrenching story,may you feel the heart of Christ's love.Gothard played us all like a low ranking card in a poker game.

    • Lisa July 9, 2014 Reply

      I appreciate your comment. I'm crying...Heather's story is one of the most disturbing things I've ever read. I'm outraged! Woe unto Bill Gothard. I've read accounts of mind control programs like MK Ultra that were so similar to this account that words fail me as to what to say. After reading this account of the warped depravity of Bill Gothard, how dare anyone even suggest that any part of his program is worth trying to salvage. It is anathema!!!

      I praise God for what he is accomplishing in Heather's life. It is marvelous and gives us all hope.

      • Renea July 10, 2014 Reply

        I also have read of the MK ultra mind control. Well said.

        • Lisa July 12, 2014

          I just want to clarify that when I say that Heather's account is one of the most disturbing things I've ever read I don't want to detract from Charlotte's experience or any of the others that shared there accounts of suffering at the hands of Bill Gothard. The way Heather described the physical and mental abuse she endured along with the sexual abuse and harassment was an added dimension that I hadn't comprehended. It was shockingly, methodically, diabolical. And when I use the word diabolical, it goes with diablos, or of the devil. Again, every effort should be made to completely destroy it.

    • Guy Cooksey July 11, 2014 Reply

      David: as I read your reply it struck me again of the serious nature of BG's offenses against "these little ones who believe in me." He is under a great delusion if he does not think that he will pay a terrible price for harming them (Matt. 18:6). How can I reach any other conclusion but that he is hell-bound for his great sins? How else can we interpret Jesus' statement of having a mill stone placed around your neck and be thrown into the sea? I even wonder if this man was ever saved (born again). He has all the "answers," but with these compelling accounts I am doubting whether he is even saved.

      • Sunflower July 12, 2014 Reply

        I think that his 'answers' are plagiarized and embellished to fit his agenda. Look at any other cult. Nothing new under the sun.

  6. 'Megan' July 9, 2014 Reply

    Barring Charlotte's story, this one is the worst I've read so far, if memory serves correctly. Most particularly striking to me is Gothard's barefooted/sock footed rubbing of her feet, calves, KNEES, etc.. under the table at events, when she was ELEVEN. In all technicality, because of her age at that time it would actually be pedophilic, I believe 12 and older is ephebiophilic, 12 and younger is pedo. I am not making a case for pedophilia persay, as I very much doubt Gothard liked kids at all. He liked teens.

    Either way, it's all extremely disturbing, from the beginning to the end. If I understand correctly, did her family live on Institute dole? Housing provided by the Institute etc? And how Gothard held that over her head.

    The shaming, forced confessions, which I've heard plenty of other people testify to, even my own older siblings who worked there have shared stories about that..

    The prayer room, the food deprivation.

    I don't even want to go on.. I'm so very happy for Heather that she was able to find God, the real one, and peace and grace through Jesus. God bless you!

    • Brumby July 9, 2014 Reply

      I personally can identify more with Heather's experience than any of the other victims that have spoken out so far. Not as a discredit to the other victims, but because the methods and repercussions of the abuse Heather experienced and so vividly described are the same that I also experienced in my own home. To be clear, I was not abused directly by BG, and I spent minimal time (a grand sum of about 4 months) at "training centers." My abuse was through my ATI parents and ATI churches. The psychological and emotional abuse that Heather was forced to process was exhorbitant. While I wish much healing upon Heather, I have to stop and mention that this is the first time that I have read an account by someone that I believe could believe and understand ME and what I went through. Thank you again Heather for providing that for me. :)

    • Guy Cooksey July 11, 2014 Reply

      Meagan, what can be done. I have read most of the accounts and am convinced that BG was and is a serial abuser and cult-leader. But how can justice (on earth) be served? This simply cries out for justice and exposure until even the IBLP Board is made aware ad changes all false doctrines and practices to insure that this never happens again. I have already written the Board, but they have put me off.

  7. Sad July 9, 2014 Reply

    Thanks to Heather and Micah for bringing forth yet another horrific story. I am aghast. Yet again.

    Any ATI / IBLP acolytes care to defend such treatment? Dare ya to.

    I think it is high time for a class action civil suit. There are enough victims. Take them to civil court and sue them, for major millions. There is forgiveness, sure, but the "system" needs to be dismantled. To the ground. And if there is no current ability to go after them criminally, then it must be civil. Hit them where they seem to only really care about - their bank accounts.

    So, so sad.

    • greg July 10, 2014 Reply

      I absolutely agree,,,,civil it needs to be. The only thing this guy understands is what will hit him financially. Ole bill needs to be investigated and go to jail for the rest of his life for the abuse of these young children. If my daughter would have been there and I would have walked in on that molesting going on, IF billy would have lived through it, he would have had to sip broth through a straw the rest of his life. This guy needs to be investigated by the Feds. This article almost makes me sick to my stomach. God bless you Heather

    • Julia Fetters July 10, 2014 Reply

      I just had a Facebook Friend put a defense blog on FB for me to read. I wish I knew where I could post it for all to see. It was ludicrous. I didn't even read all of it - the first sentence started with the berating accusations, et al... I had read enough. Yes, the defenders are still out there.
      Well, there IS a Jack Schaap fan page after all so what do we expect? Boggles the mind... We can be so blind.

    • Guy Cooksey July 11, 2014 Reply

      Sad, sadly, I think you are correct. Justice just has to come about from the Lord and from the courts.

  8. Lauren July 9, 2014 Reply

    This story is both horrifying and beautiful: horrifying in terms of all the wrong that should never have happened and beautiful in terms of the loving way the True Shepherd has revealed Himself to you. Thank you so very much for sharing, you brave, brave woman!

    • Editormum July 10, 2014 Reply

      I agree that it is beautiful to see my dear friend Heather being gently and lovingly brought back to her True Shepherd and healed of the horrible things that were done to her. The scars will, doubtless, remain, but the pain of the raw wound will, I hope, continue to recede.

      God does give beauty for ashes. But that doesn't make the fire-pit any less painful or devastating for the one being burned. I am reminded of the words of Jesus: "Temptations and offenses must come, but woe to the person through whom they come."

      As I told Heather elsewhere: for her, for me, and for the many others who were broken by life's circumstances and crushed by ATI and IBLP, the best revenge will be a life well-lived. A God well-served. A family well — and intentionally — crafted. The testimony of our lives is the strong wings spread wide as we rise from the ashes of the past into a joyful future grounded firmly in God's love and grace.

  9. Sharon July 9, 2014 Reply

    You are courage personified, Heather. I am so, so sorry for all you had to endure. Thank you for sharing your story and giving us the privilege of having our hearts break on your behalf.

  10. No Name For Now July 9, 2014 Reply

    Heather, your story breaks my heart and makes me furious at the same time. I'm personally so very sorry, and I wish beyond words that there was something I could do.

    I wish I had a poster of each victim and a protestor to represent each girl. I'd attend every upcoming wedding for the Duggar's and the Bates. I'd stand silently and represent the victims of Bill Gothard & ATI victims.

    The Diggars and the Bates claim they have a no touching rule for their daughters but for the daughters of other who were touched and molested by Bill Gothard they have no sympathy at all. Both families are still out there doing all they can to support Gothard/ATI.

    For shame.

    • Renea July 10, 2014 Reply

      They probably don't read RG because they would be listening to a bad report. We need to pray that their eyes are opened. Imagine how much good could come of that with the recognition they have. Their shows could go from advertising for BG, to encouraging others who also have been deceived. It could blow the whole cultic scandal wide open!

    • esbee July 10, 2014 Reply

      I have found that families like the Duggars live in their own little world and it is very hard to get in on the inside unless you talk, walk, look and act just like them. They think they are truly blessed because of how they follow God's will according to gothard and do not want to do anything to interfere with that and stunning them with the truth about their guru would certainly be that. If you ever got face to face with them and stated point blank what you wrote here you would probably get the deer in the headlight look and some Jesus jargonese.

      • esbee July 10, 2014 Reply

        If I may add- that even though Alfred doggedly defends BG, at least he is willing and open to dialog. Most BG families would put you off in a NY minute.

  11. Nicole July 9, 2014 Reply

    Stunning. Breathtaking. Horrifying. And yet. Jesus reaches out, which makes it a beautiful story. Undoubtedly one of the most damning pieces ever written about Mr. Gothard.

  12. Pam July 9, 2014 Reply

    This question is for RG. Can you comment on whether or not you know if there is any plans to file charges against BG? Have you looked into or had any lawyers look into whether or not BG can still be charged with any crimes, such as, abuse of minors, labor violations, or sexual harassment? To think he will get away with any of this legally is beyond sickening. And his board standing behind him should also have to face charges of conspiracy. People being held against their will, not being fed, and working 16 hour days and so on and so on is so outrageous. I'm so mad and sick. And are these practices still going on??? IBLP/ATI and the entire cult needs to be shut down ASAP!

    • Renea July 10, 2014 Reply

      Well said!

    • Guy Cooksey July 11, 2014 Reply

      Yes, Pam restitution needs to happen and fast. Where are the attorneys when you need them? This could be a huge case if they took it. I am generally against almost all law suits between believers but this just cries out for justice, and it would send a message out to the church that mid-control abusers will not be tolerated. Period!

  13. LynnCD July 9, 2014 Reply

    Heather, I have only been able to read through the abuse stories once, on account of not want to become furiously angry over and over again, which will do no one any good. But I can go back to the latter part of your story, and re-read it, and be awed at what God is teaching you. And see the beautiful picture of you and your family. You are an amazing woman, Heather, and I need to sit at your feet and read the latter part of your story again and again - it is a message we all need, even though most of us have gone through offenses from other believers or so-called believers that have been much less intense. We who want to follow Jesus, can, because we have your example and teaching.

    I am very sorry for only one thing - and that is the lack of repentance on the part of IBLP and Bill Gothard.

    I am a tad curious if you were the one the previous post from "When Apologies Make It Worse" referred to, but as that is none of my business, I'm not asking. And I don't want an answer - what I mean to convey is, everybody please take note of what Heather went through, and if the other person is Heather or went through similar things, it is PERFECTLY understandable why that person would respond to Bill the way she did. Yuck, yuck and triple yuck at having to repeat crap he's fully aware of and fully responsible for!!!

  14. eva July 9, 2014 Reply

    How was it possible for things like this to be going on and those of us who were going to his seminars not know? I'm not doubting for a minute that this is true but it just reminds me of how the holocaust happened. No one believed that there were such things as death camps. How could such a "godly" man do such things? Well, maybe he wasn't so godly after all. I recently read the book, "Escape from Auschwitz" and even when the escapees tried to tell the Hungarian Jews what was really going on, it was hard to believe. When I read about how the "interns" had to work it always reminds me of the sign at the entrance of Auschwitz --- "Arbeit Macht Frei"-- Work Makes Free. But oh the cost of the "freedom". So sad Heather.

    • Ileata July 12, 2014 Reply

      When you are "in," you do hear of some of this stuff, you just chalk it up to "bitter" people trying to destroy the "ministry." Mr. Gothard told us that God had told him that his ministry would never suffer from lack of money, but disgruntled former students/employees would make problems for him. People are pretty much brainwashed to take the stories as persecution.

  15. Elaj July 9, 2014 Reply

    Heather - as I read your account I cried empathetic tears, hot and angry tears, and tears of desperation. While I was not abused by BG or his organization directly, I did attend a church that supported BG and IBLP by encouraging attendance to his seminars. I did attend one seminar and his teachings were/are espoused by the church I grew up in. Your descriptions of your thoughts, feelings and emotions resound strongly within me. I have said some of thesame words, perhaps not as eloquently though. My reason for commenting though, is to say thank you. Thank you for letting me see that I'm not in a hopeless situation; there is a way to walk further along life's journey, even if it is with a limp.

  16. Flynn July 9, 2014 Reply


    I've read all the stories on RG; I've read the stories in the groups. Yours had me stunned. I didn't think I could get anymore angry than I already was at Mr. Gothard, but I did. Furious. Outraged. Heartbroken. I cannot believe I could get more angry, but I did. In my mind, Mr. Gothard is like a monster in a garden, trampling, destroying flowers lovingly created and cared for by a gardener; causing chaos and hurt, breaking frail growing things with no care at all.

    I am so glad that you found healing and rest in Jesus. Thank you for sharing your story with us.

  17. Rich Gall July 9, 2014 Reply

    As a man who grew up in ATI, was at HQ the same time as Heather (though girls existed merely as extensions on my phone at that point), and now as the father of daughters . . . The visceral anger and frustration at Bill, the people who implemented his madness (he wasn't there in Indy waiting for her to finish her timed showers - who went along with that?), and my own lack of awareness of the wickedness going on in those places makes me shudder with revulsion.

  18. dana harpole July 10, 2014 Reply

    It is time for a class action civil suit. Somebody needs to bring these horrible man to justice and all the people who helped him abuse these children. It is time.

    • Renea July 10, 2014 Reply


  19. Julia Fetters July 10, 2014 Reply

    Heather, thank you for courageously speaking out. So much of your story (the middle portion of your writing here) smacks of modern day slavery.

    Again, thank you so much for your courage. You are a gifted writer. God bless and lead you in the years ahead.

  20. nmgirl July 10, 2014 Reply

    Locking someone in a room against their will is kidnapping. what is the statute of limitations on this federal crime?

    Bless you Heather for telling your story. As another one who had never even heard of bg before last year, your clear and concise report is very valuable.

    • Marena July 13, 2014 Reply

      Having just read a book about the Cleveland Kidnappings ("Finding Me" by Michelle Knight), I marvel over the similarities in the entitled views of these men as to their right to interfere in the lives of their captors.

  21. Linda July 10, 2014 Reply

    God bless you, Heather, in the midst of all your brokenness and pain. Not the cruel and false god of BG, but the ever-loving God of Hagar Who sees and has kept all your tears in a bottle. My heart hurts for this precious abused little girl, while my spirit soars for the brave overcoming woman you have become. What BG did in manipulating you is no less than human trafficking.
    May the telling of this horror prompt a collective outrage and awakening among the willfully blind remnant that are still holding this man in high esteem despite such compelling evidence against him. Has anybody posted a link to Heather' s account in the comment section of IBLP? Not that they would allow it to be published, but to force it in their face to remind them that they answer to God. This nails the coffin shut on their complicity.

  22. Vanessa July 10, 2014 Reply

    We read of parents who lock their children in the basement and deny them food and water, and the media goes wild. Here's an institution that did the same thing! Where's the press? The treatment that Heather and other teens received for what - failing to get a memory verse right or wanting to phone home? - is unspeakable. IBLP and ATI are white-washed tombs, the brainchildren of a conscience-less man.

    • phyllis July 11, 2014 Reply

      True words Vanessa.

  23. Renea July 10, 2014 Reply

    This is one of the most horrible stories I have read. Why is the police, FBI or whatever not involved?? This man needs to be in jail. So what if he's in the 'ministry'! He's a criminal. There are people sitting in jail right now for these same offenses and yet somehow because 'religion' is involved , there is a difference??!! Call me judgemental and cruel and unchristian, I DONT CARE. He's a child molester , kidnapper, an evil man. He is a false teacher who preys on the people of God. Quit protecting this man. He's NOT a Christian. The bible says how to spot those who are false so this is not unrighteously judging. If we had In fact obeyed the scriptures to righteously judge all things, this man would have been stopped LONG AGO. We need to stop fearing 'not appearing to be nice' and do what is right. Jesus, was not always 'nice' but He was always GOOD. ENOUGH OF THIS NONSENCE!!!!

  24. David Pigg July 10, 2014 Reply

    Carefully note the contrived response the young men gave Heather when she came back from the Michigan Northwoods Retreat.When she was in intense emotional pain and the trauma of rejection,she faced the attitudes and ostracism of Gothard's young men,trained in more ways than one.Here lies the fruit the byproduct of Gothard's overt and subliminal indoctrination.Cruelty,shunning.Heather has to eat by haerself,because the boys have been crystallized to the cries of one who failed the "standard body of indoctination" Gothard so adoitly served up.She was even shunned by the girls,"all except one"How about it out there for the adults?They for sure knew what was going on and joined with the emotional rape,and bullying.Its now years since and though I don't know what went on in their lives,I can tell you what should have if there were any decency,any honesty.Repentance.Shame.Contrition,and this goes for anyone honest enough to see thruogh the mask of Gothard smuggery.Cruelty in the world has at times especially here been exceeded by cruely in the church.Go on with the maquerade but angels were watching.

  25. Nancy July 10, 2014 Reply

    As a point of reference, this is the definition given for human trafficking by the Meriam-webster.com:

    Definition of HUMAN TRAFFICKING

    : organized criminal activity in which human beings are treated as possessions to be controlled and exploited (as by being forced into prostitution or involuntary labor)

    How is what happened to Heather (and many others) not human trafficking?

    • Brumby July 11, 2014 Reply

      Amen, sister.

    • Guy Cooksey July 11, 2014 Reply

      Wow, that is so true. Marxist mind-control, human trafficking, kidnapping, sexual abuse, this simply cries out for justice. Where is a good lawyer when you need him/her?

  26. Rebekah Sullivan July 10, 2014 Reply

    Especially to Heather and any other victims of BG: remember that he
    is fascinated by all of this; part of his pathology is examining and revisiting every salacious moment. Not intended to quiet anyone, but rather, as Matthew 10:16, to be on guard:

    "Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves."

    Thank you for your courage. Don't forget the whole armor of God.

  27. Sunflower July 10, 2014 Reply

    Has anyone considered telling Dr. Phil about all this? Sometimes he can get the ball rolling in the right direction, as well as getting the facts out into the public.

    Is there nobody in more recent history coming forward?

    • rob war July 10, 2014 Reply

      Yes, it would be nice to see more recent stories but in all the stories so far published on the internet, all the women have had therapy and time to heal and get the courage to speak out concerning this. Sharing details like this just can't happen over night and nor should it. It takes time and even years and even an age factor. Someone who is still in their later years and maybe even still living or being supported by parents that may still be supportors of BG is another factor here. All of these stories by these women are now in their adult years and married. I have heard this is true for women that have suffered an abortions. It takes time and healing for them to come out publically and state what happen.

    • Renea July 10, 2014 Reply

      One of the problems with finding someone recent is that they would most likely be still under aged and under blind parental control.

    • Brumby July 11, 2014 Reply

      Sunflower: This has stumped me for years. I have contacted multiple talk show hosts, TV personalities, and news outlets/anchors since I left ATI in 2005. No one ever responded nor carried the issue or topic. This includes Dr. Phil, along with Anderson Cooper and a myriad of others that now I can't even recall, because I gave up several years ago. I don't understand how FDLS, polygamy, and amish are getting so much face time, but ATI doesn't count as interesting nor controversial???

      • Nancy July 11, 2014 Reply

        Maybe you could talk to Mother Jones. They interviewed Gothard, and you could appeal to their sense of justice for his victims. The truth is, no one in the mainstream media wants to be the first to break this story. They know there would be backlash about how the "liberal media" is persecuting good Christian people. I think the truly liberal media outlets are the best bet right now. And maybe the ACLU. Certainly the Gothard's victims were denied their civil liberties. Plus, timing is everything and the timing for this story may be better now than it was even a few years ago. Keep fighting the good fight, Brumby!

      • esbee July 11, 2014 Reply

        I got the same lack of results from the conservative talk show hosts when calling to make America aware of an an intrusive animal id program that would have required ALL animal owners to register with the govt, microchip and report all movements of those critters to the govt just so corporate ag can say the meat raised on factory farms is safe to eat (??????) The only way it got halted, at least for the time being, was that people refused to sign up. it is the battle you never heard about to keep our freedoms. I think it had to do that the news is already chosen for us. That program has so many similarities to gothardism, full of lies, deceptions, double talk and the big guys getting all the benefits on the backs of the little guys who stood to lose everything.

  28. Rick Brooker July 10, 2014 Reply

    I have read many of the stories of Bill Gothard’s victims at Recovering Grace over the past few months. I read your letter today and all I can say is WOW!!! The power of the pen. What a literary masterpiece. There were so many aspects of your letter that deserve commendation: the courage to confront your abuser; the boldness to expose his sins; the spiritual victory you are experiencing; but most of all the theology and spiritual wisdom you have demonstrated to your brothers and sisters in Christ. The way you expressed to Bill what he has done to you to leave you with a “life-long limp” while at the same time extending your willingness to forgive him for the pervert that he has been for many years is nothing short of miraculous. You told Bill the truth about the path of destruction he has left without spewing out the hate and venom he so justly deserves. If I were Bill Gothard and read your letter, I would advise my family to put me on suicide watch immediately.
    I am 63 years old. My family was a part of the first 100 families in the ATIA. I quickly learned what a fraud Bill Gothard is. Heather, be assured that Bill and his “yes men” not only intimidate and manipulate women; they perpetrate it on men as well. And guess what? It works. Bill and Gary Fraley tried their tactics on me in 1987 but things didn’t go as they planned. I called them out for the liars and religious hucksters they are and never looked back. Let me be clear about why little Billy boy has no inhibitions about molesting young girls: because some godly father has not been man enough to drive up to headquarters and stomp little Billy boy’s behind. When I think of all the women Bill has harmed, I truly want to have a “laying on of the hands” service.
    Heather, you say that all the abuse you suffered from your family and Bill has left you broken. I don’t believe a word of it. The wisdom, truth, grace and love with which you have spoken can only come from the heart and mind of one whom God has made whole.

    • Leslie July 10, 2014 Reply


    • Shannon Wehr July 12, 2014 Reply

      My experience with Gary Fraley was very different than yours, Rick. I'm guessing it came at a later time. Fraley had left IBLP over disagreement on teachings and had been invited to speak at ALERT. He and I spent an evening talking together over a book he wanted to write, but unfortunately never got to due to his wife's recurring cancer. He hoped to put in writing his reasons for disagreeing over teachings, specifically about courtship and why there was no 'one right way' to get to know and marry a future spouse. He wanted to present how damaging Gothard's teachings had were on the subject and the destruction they had caused. He wanted balance and moderation. It would have been a valuable book coming from a man who had been in such a high leadership position and I would have been honored to illustrate it as he asked me to.

      Just wanted to point out that even some of the top men had their eyes opened and wanted to expose the destructive teachings they had stood by in the past. I really admired Fraley after that. Of course most people never heard his side or probably that of many others because as soon as strong disagreement was voiced, they were shown the door and left with no platform to spread the message.

      • Sarah July 15, 2014 Reply

        So where is Gary Fraley now? Has he had anything to say about all this? I find it hard to believe that he has "no platform." I worked for him at ATI and had a great deal of respect for him. But how could he have not known? How could he have said nothing? I was there during this time period, too, and I never directly saw anything like in the stories, but I worked really hard at keeping myself on the outside and stayed away from BG as much as possible. This whole thing just makes me sick and sad and angry. I'm grateful that my experiences were pretty tame, but furious that these things were going on around me and I never saw it for what it was.

        • anonymous July 15, 2014

          I have heard that he did not "leave" but was asked to leave when mentioning that perhaps Mr. G shouldn't be so "close" to female students at HQ...but I am not sure that was the announcement. He also counseled a friend of mine not to send daughters to HQ.

  29. Ryan July 11, 2014 Reply

    And the board finds no criminal activity....However, the review showed that Mr. Gothard has acted in an inappropriate manner, and the Board realizes the seriousness of his lack of discretion and failure to follow Christ’s example of being blameless and above reproach....

    Why would we even give the board the time of day? Can they possibly be as deceitful as they seem????

    Looks like Bill's reason for ministering to troubled youth was for his very perverted urges.

    I have an 11 yr old daughter. I'm sick.

    • Daniel July 11, 2014 Reply

      My thoughts...

      Dear Drs. Paine and Levendusky,
      I was very troubled when the recent Board statement “A Time of Transition” came out.

      Setting aside other concerns, it appears to be misleading, if not completely dishonest in the assertion that “outside legal counsel” conducted the review. While this may be technically correct, the clear implication is that the review was valid because it was independent. David Gibbs, Jr. is a close friend and conference speaker for the IBLP ministry. It appears that he specializes in limiting the legal impact of scandals within Christian organizations. In this sense, he was working for IBLP, not as an independent third party as is implied. Why not mention the name(s) of this “outside legal counsel?”

      From the Christian Law Association website under CLA Services, one the organizations’ foci is “ Legal seminars for ministries to help prevent lawsuits.” http://www.christianlaw.org/cla/index.php/what-we-do/ There is no mention of victim advocacy. To portray Mr. Gibbs’ defensive efforts of IBLP assets and reputation as the independent review desired by so many former staff and students is disingenuous.
      In the statement, you say that the review was “thorough.” How can you even say that in good faith? Many, many people were not contacted. Many people did not want to share personal details of sexual harassment with an IBLP. I am personally aware a family member who experienced this treatment from Gothard that was not contacted. In what way did you attempt to make sure that all parties were contacted? In what way did you ensure that the parties that have been wronged felt safe in sharing their stories? I’m sure that the process was time intensive, tiring, etc., but thorough it was not. That is what I would call a lie. Do you really want to know the truth? Please keep reading.

      Also, the statement says, “no criminal activity was discovered.” This nuanced wording intentionally avoids the fact that most sexual harassment cases are handled by civil actions and entail serious liability if the allegations are true. Apparently a significant number are true, but you seem only concerned with the impact to the ministry and Mr. Gothard. You give no contact information for the “reconciliation process”. No resources are devoted to setting up a third party hotline that could accept calls from aggrieved parties. There is no help or apology offered to a generation of people who had their entire educational resume besmirched and damaged.

      Few, if any of the allegations described criminal actions. Only a fringe element in the host of concerned parties have mentioned jail, etc. The overwhelming desire is for Mr. Gothard and the IBLP Board to call sin “sin” and not sweep it under the rug as a shortcoming or indiscretion. Remember how David repented in Psalm 51? The hyperbole in Matthew 18 envisions drowning an offender of “little ones” with a millstone around his neck. It’s a big deal, not an indiscretion. We are not talking about someone who had their elbows on the table during a meal or wore white shoes after September.

      Even after hearing about the allegations against Mr. Gothard, I was convinced that the IBLP Board would do the right thing. I believed that faithful men would step up and make hard choices. The Board’s statement was shockingly self-preserving and flies in the face of everything that I spent the “best years of my life” learning and teaching through the IBLP programs. Right now, the narrative in the wide world is that all the teachings of IBLP are bathwater and there is no baby to retain. Please let us know if you are willing to practice what is taught about integrity, honesty, repentance, etc.

      Please move beyond the defensive posturing promoted by David Gibbs. You know what to do. You taught it to us. Look us in the eye and tell the truth, even if it is painful. Reach out to all of us that grew up in the program. It’s time for real healing to begin. We are ashamed and hurting.


      • Ryan July 11, 2014 Reply

        Thorough, fantastic and brilliant. Seems so simple, right?

        Like I've always said, it's proving that the students lived and practice the principles while the leadership was merely a fraud. Yes IBLP Board and Bill Gothard, you are frauds.

        That's all I want to tell them.

      • kevin July 11, 2014 Reply

        " It appears that he specializes in limiting the legal impact of scandals within Christian organizations"

        I don't believe that it is an accident that Bill Gothard became good friends with this man decades ago. I'm willing to bet that this is not the first time that Gibbs had to rescue Gothard from the trouble he created for himself.

        It has been reported that IBLP pays their speakers handsomely. How many fat checks has Gibbs collected for speaking at IBLP functions? Paying large sums to individuals to speak has long been used by politicians as a way to give the cover of legitimacy to large payments, that would otherwise raise eyebrows. It would be interesting to see if anyone has information how much IBLP has paid to Gibbs for his oratory skills over the years.

      • Stephanie July 12, 2014 Reply

        Excellent letter, Daniel. I'd sign my name to something along those lines.

        • Daniel July 13, 2014

          Thanks Stephanie. I was saddened when I heard about Gothard's actions. I didn't get angry until I saw the Board's dishonest and manipulative statement. Clearly they think that their current crop of families are naive and trusting.

          The statement reads like something out of Washington rather than the men of integrity supposedly running the show at IBLP.

    • Guy Cooksey July 11, 2014 Reply

      Ryan, this needs to go beyond the Board and into the criminal justice system. This man needs to go before a real court of Law and face his accusers (via a class action lawsuit) and if the IBLP Board is in any way complicit this ministry needs to be shut down NOW. I say that as a pastor of 26 years with 8 kids and a loving wife and who has gleaned some good out of IBLP. However, with that said, I am just horrified at this Marxist mind-control and abuse. Justice must be served NOW.

      • Ryan July 11, 2014 Reply

        Completely agree on all points.

        • Ryan July 11, 2014

          I modify my comment in that some accusers may not want to face him and that's ok also.

  30. LynnCD July 11, 2014 Reply

    I keep thinking about mj/recovering grace and freedom arguing against the appropriateness of Ron Henzel's article (on the Lord's anointed) on this site. Shortly after that discussion Alfred implied some on RG were being like those who rejoiced over Saul's death, and we're punished by David, on account of Saul being the Lord's anointed. Alfred's point of comparison was, of course, those who were expressing agreement, happiness, or relief that Gothard had at last been made to resign were like those who rejoiced over Saul's downfall.

    Of course Bill was never the Lord's anointed in the way Saul was. He was not an elder in a church, nor was there any accountability that I'm aware of between Gothard and his home church. Not that leadership in a church is like the theocracy of Israel -- it is not. But my point is that Gothard's authority is no authority, because he is a usurper. He taught on parental authority but defied his own teaching when youth were at the TCs. He stole control of domains he never had rights and responsibilities over. He has attempted to destroy the men who sought to bring him to account. He has admitted to behaving in a perverse manner with young women. He has persistently refused correction for his teaching. The sum total of this is many damaged lives, some requiring extensive counseling and support on account of the emotional and psychological abuse.

    Now, we have an inward glimpse into how Heather felt all along, as she suffered in silence and was abused directly by Bill Gothard, for years and years. And we are expected to not be glad that all this is finally out in the open? I am very glad for what Is happening. First of all think of the help this is to those who have suffered so long. Secondly, remember that none of this ever had to go public. Bill could have repented a long time ago, but he didn't. And to forestall any more abuse all this really did need to be exposed.

    So, no, Bill is not the Lord's anointed. The scriptural comparison that comes to my mind now is the time Jesus spoke of an alternate use for millstones . . .not that the Lord was advocating execution or suicide, only that He was saying THAT would be better than causing a young one who believes in Him to stumble.

  31. Sunflower July 11, 2014 Reply

    Years ago I was telling someone why we wore dresses all the time: modesty. She asked her husband if men like women to wear dresses and he said, "Of course. Easy access." That footsie playing wouldn't work nearly as well in long pants now, would it? It would seem that everything was part of the 'plan'.

    • eva July 11, 2014 Reply

      WOW! Now that is not something I would have thought of, but it does sound as if that may have very well been the reason BG wanted women to wear dresses/skirts. And here we thought it was for modesty.

    • Brumby July 11, 2014 Reply

      Sunflower: Again, this has confused me also. I was told that I would not be raped if I wore long dresses. That seemed like a pretty strong statement, and I never understood the laws and logic behind it. Once out of ATI and dating, I also heard about "easy access."

      • esbee July 11, 2014 Reply

        Confucius say "woman with dress up can run faster than man with pants down."

        but I have always felt more modest in pants because they covered everything....and in a dress or skirt a good wind can blow any sense of modesty.

      • Nancy2 July 11, 2014 Reply

        And I was taught to wear very tight blue jeans because they were too hard to remove. Plus the fabric is very strong and doesn't easily rip in case someone unwanted tried to pull at them. Gives the woman a little more time to hopefully stop an attack or draw attention and escape unharmed.

    • Renea July 11, 2014 Reply

      I have always believed this to be the case. Not only that but long dresses are burdensome and this makes subjection to men easier. All these teachings that this is how women are to dress and that men wear pants is unscriptural. Remember that long ago BOTH men and women wore long robes (dresses) . It was considered risqué for men when they started to wear pants because it showed the male physique. Once again a cultural tradition made into a religious law. Men would reverse it so quickly if forced to wear burdensome clothes.

    • Ryan July 11, 2014 Reply

      Conspiracy theory.
      Love it.

  32. The Quiet One July 11, 2014 Reply

    It is so encouraging to read of the peace and strength that Heather and others with similar stories have found in the Jesus Christ. They will find the help they need in Him.

    However, I know there are some supporters of IBLP who might argue that the suffering inflicted on these young girls did benefit them in the end - invoking that Principle of Suffering, as I believe Gothard did when some of these girls asked him for help. To those who would justify Gothard's actions on such grounds, I would point out that God holds those who make His children suffer accountable. The verse about the millstone has been quoted by others, I would use an Old Testament example. God used the Babylonians to discipline Israel; but He then proceeded to wipe out the Babylonian empire for all time, because of their cruelty to the Israelites. I pity Gothard if he continues to be stubborn in denying his sin. To use a Proverb, "He who is often rebuked, and hardens his neck,
    Will suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy." (29:1)

    • LynnCD July 11, 2014 Reply

      The Quiet One, I was reminded of the "God Meant it for Good" teaching as well when reading the latter part of Heather's story. And like you, I can picture some fool trying to defend Bill on account of what Heather said. Such a person needs to be reminded that Heather also clearly implied Bill has not repented of his sin, and has not sought forgiveness from her, although she said she forgave him.

      • LynnCD July 11, 2014 Reply

        Oh, and btw, I am not calling any real person a fool. BUT, of you do try make the argument that Gothard had a ministry I Heather's life along these lines, you will be sorely tempting me in my thought life!

  33. kevin July 11, 2014 Reply

    Thank you so much for sharing your story. You are such a gifted writer and your story is so incredibly powerful. I find myself experiencing a range of emotions as I read it.
    It infuriates me the way he treated you. But, at the same time what a beautiful statement it is of our Savior's true grace and healing powers! With the dozens and dozens of victims, I am sure that many of them are not in a good place right now. I'm sure some have not even begun the recovery process or are just beginning. You must be such an encouragement to them all. For their sake, again, thank you for sharing your story of pain and healing, of our wonderful Lord who can take the things that men meant for evil and make good.

    All of what Gothard did was so disturbing, but what really gets me, when I read your story and Charlotte's, is that he seeks after the most vulnerable and uses their circumstances to take advantage of them.

    Your family came to him in their time of extreme need- a family in need, who also happened to have a pretty daughter whom he fancied. So, this man, who had vast resources at his fingertips, how does he help this family when they need support the most? He uses his position to exploit their vulnerability and your vulnerability, to make you into his personal servant and hold you hostage to your family's desperate situation. I ask, what Christian would treat people this way? He sees weakness in others as nothing more than an opportunity to fulfill his sick desires. This man is so evil!

    He started touching you at 11 and he continued his abuse throughout your precious formative years! I have teenage daughters and your story touches me especially deeply, as I try to imagine if this had happened to one of them. It's unbearable. I think he would not be safe if I were to learn of such things being committed on one of them. In fact, it's remarkable that no dad took matters into their own hands. He chose his victims very carefully. He not only groomed the victims, but their families and the people all around them at HQ.

    When I read your story, it makes me all the more determined that this organization must not be allowed to just continue on their merry way as if nothing happened. They need to honestly confront what has happened. They are in complete denial. The organization is poisoned with false teachings, many of which directly enable abuse.

    I'm so glad that you found Jesus' unconditional love and grace when you were at your lowest point. What a powerful testimony!

  34. Melody July 11, 2014 Reply

    Any sane person still affiliated with this "ministry" -- if they honestly consider all the evidence & are not still in denial -- must conclude that Gothard is & has been for decades a hypocritical lying child abuser, protected by his "board" who seemsto be clueless.

    • P.L. July 11, 2014 Reply

      I can no longer see the IBLP board as simply clueless...co-conspirators seems more accurate based on what is now known. They should be very worried. Board members have serious legal responsibilities, and can be held liable for not executing them.

  35. Lee July 12, 2014 Reply

    Dear Heather.. I am so sorry. Please contact www.letgoletpeacecomein.org This Foundation started by Peter Pellulo with men like Sugar Ray Leonard on the Board of Directors has a vision and a purpose to promote healing for people abused as children. Please consider being an honorary member and join forces with those abused as children who are trying to stop the abuse by getting the adults to share their stories. Peter Pelullo has recruited John Hopkins School of Public Health to do research and promote change and healing for people like you. Recovering Grace has done a wonderful job of providing a safe place to share the abuse stories but now the women need a more public platform so that ATI and people like Chris Hogan will stop lying to the families of ATI by saying that Bill Gothard is innocent and the women's stories are lies. The Foundation has many wonderful survivors in their Board including the counselor Michael Gillum who helped Aaron Fisher, the victim of Jerry Sandusky. Aaron, his mother Dawn and Michael Gillum wrote "Silent No More: Victim 1's Fight For Justice Against Jerry Sandusky". Your story is in the scale of Aaron Fishers story. I highly recommend this book. Your story must go global and needs a broader audience so that others can hear it and start the healing process. Please get a larger audience. Please help others. Peter Pelullo will guide you. God will direct your path. Bill Gothard is to Christian homeschooled girls as Jerry Sandusky was to trusting little boys who hoped to play football and attend Penn State.

  36. Lee July 12, 2014 Reply

    One more suggestion: Child Abuse Attorneys of O'Donnell Clark and Crew LLP 503-306-0224. Goggle them and read about the cases they have won against the Mormon and Catholic Churches, the Boy Scouts of America, and other organizations that children and families trusted. ATI still has money and they should be sued. Even if the victims don't want the money, or chose to give the restitution money to child advocacy groups, a lawsuit pursued by these exceptional lawyers will be the strongest way to hold Bill Gothard and ATI accountable for their abuse and negligence.

  37. Wolf hunter July 13, 2014 Reply

    What an amazing story and beautiful family. It is so hard for me to see your beautiful children and think that you were denied the joy that it is evident that they are experiencing. It is really great to see the redemptive work that God did through you for your own sake and also for your children.

    It sickens me to think that someone like BG might look at that picture, think the same thoughts and then want to rise up and take credit for providing the needed circumstances when you were young so that God was better able to develop your character. I even wonder if he believes that your children are better off for the difficulty he helped inflict on you.

    Your story more than any other really expands the range of delusion that he seems to operate with. It is extremely disturbing. I am sick of hearing about the claims of "how much good this ministry has done for so many". If I discovered a church that I supported were running a human trafficking ring, using extortion methods to maintain slave labor, mentally abusing children, physically abusing children, spiritually abusing children and sexually abusing children, violating child labor laws, violating federal wage laws, incarcerating children victims against their will, etc...no amount of "good for the masses" would offset this type blight.

    It is incomprehensible that people will defend this man. But I guess they are the same ones that think a single bachelor should tell you how to run your home, treat your kids, engage in sex, etc.

    This guy is a charlatan. You think that while he was receiving all these authoritative "rhema" words from the throne that God might have had the common courtesy to tell him to quit touching little girls.

  38. Guy Cooksey July 15, 2014 Reply

    The very first clue that BG could not be trusted with any young woman was the fact THAT HE DID NOT MAKE A COMMITMENT LIKE BILLY GRAHAM DID TO NOT BE ALONE WITH ANOTHER YOUNG WOMAN!!!!!This shou dhave raised red flags year ago. What a tragedy to have a man that was totally unaccountable with other young women. I am still trying to sift through the false teaching, but this one thing, for sure, led to his downfall. What a contrast Billy Graham was and is.

    • Joel Horst July 15, 2014 Reply

      Thing was, I thought Billy Gothard DIDN'T spend time alone with women. I understood that his sister was his secretary and he had male assistants. If only I had known 15 years ago what I know today.

    • MatthewS July 16, 2014 Reply

      This can be a controversial subject. I have one foot in the counseling world, and one in the pastoral world. Most of the pastors I know wouldn't think of being alone with a female, while most of the counselors are routinely alone with someone of the opposite sex as a normal part of their work. But those who counsel are bound by strict ethics. Their schedule is not a secret, they don't meet alone in off-hours, they don't develop dual relationships that are exploitative - the responsibility for the counselee's safety is on the shoulders of the counselor.

      My point being, I can imagine an alternative reality where Bill did spend time alone with people in counseling, but did it in an honest, above-board, ethical manner. However, in that alternate reality, I think he would have needed a whole different set of training and skills in order to truly be helpful.

      Aside from that, I certainly agree that there ended up being a huge contrast between integrity of Billy Graham and the integrity of Bill Gothard.

      • MatthewS July 16, 2014 Reply

        Just to clarify, there is no alternative reality where Bill playing footsie with girls and having them sit close to him in the car and in the van on trips, etc. would ever be OK. That stuff was crooked through and through. I saw how he sat next to the girls on the boats that we lived on in Moscow: squashed in thigh-to-thigh on both sides, big grin on his face. It bothered me, but when you are "in" you simply don't put words to the reality that you are seeing. You brush it aside. There was no excuse for that stuff.

  39. Martha July 16, 2014 Reply

    Bill Gothard IS a pedophile. Oh how I pray to God that the the FBI gets a hold of him and locks him up till he dies. I can't believe IBLP is still in operation. Oh God have mercy on the victims that BG tortured and abused!!

  40. Vanessa July 16, 2014 Reply

    In their comments regarding the "investigation" of BG, the board stated the following: "We want to encourage reconciliation within families and are very supportive of efforts toward reconciliation with Mr. Gothard or with IBLP. The Board is asking that Mr. Gothard submit to and cooperate with a team of Christian leaders who will direct his reconciliation process."

    I read a blog post by Amy Laura Hall that included this insightful comment: "I have heard the term “reconciliation” used to elide the ramifications of injustice. The word is often used more for opacity than truth. Camera operators apply a thin layer of petroleum jelly to the lens before an actor’s close-up – to make the image more “forgiving.” “Reconciliation” has been used like petroleum jelly in some circles– to blur the truth. Spokesmen have told people who have suffered injustice to focus their spiritual energy right back onto their former relationship to an individual or a group that has wronged them, and then used the blurring power of “reconciliation” to smooth over the fractures of that wrong."

    Thoughts? Comments?

    • LynnCD July 16, 2014 Reply

      People who work with money use the term "forced reconciliation." Although somewhat different from the example of the petroleum jelly on the lens, the concept is the same. A forced reconciliation is not a reconciliation in the true sense of the word.

  41. Sunflower July 16, 2014 Reply

    Why would any of these girls want a 'reconciliation'? That sounds like, "Hey, we were buddies once, let's get together again." They were never 'friends' and certainly should not now become friends. Even if BG would totally completely repent, if I was one of them I wouldn't want anything to do with him, ever again. That would just trigger them. Shouldn't they just want justice?

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