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

23 April 2012, 06:00



Editor’s Note: This is Part 2 of a two-part article documenting sexual harassment within the Institute. Please click here to read Part 1 first–“Exploited Innocence: Sexual Harassment at HQ.” After publishing this first testimony, we have continued to receive similar testimonies of sexual harassment by Gothard: Another Witness: Sexual Harassment at HQ; Third Witness: Sexual Harassment at HQ. In June 2013, Recovering Grace issued Gothard a formal call to repentance.

I know the story I recently shared may bring many questions to mind, chief among them, “Don’t you think you’re making too big an issue of this?”

The problems with Gothard’s conduct with his favorite young ladies are several and serious, and I’ll address them in Q&A format.

Why didn’t you just say “No” to the behavior, or confront Gothard?

At first I did not speak up because each individual incident seemed as if it could be explained away as an accident or social faux pas. Perhaps the hand-holding was a misread attempt at friendliness, perhaps playing “footsy” was an attempt to be casual, perhaps gazing intently into my eyes for long minutes was an attempt at spiritual communion, perhaps lingering alone with me in the bedroom was a mere lapse in etiquette. It was the staggering aggregate of several behaviors repeated dozens of times over days, then months, that I could no longer ignore and soon sought to evade. Incredible mental gymnastics were and are necessary to explain away the entire collection of events as accidental or minor. Nevertheless, I did not know how to confront such a master of rhetoric. I had many times witnessed Gothard turn conversations and correspondence against those who questioned his actions, and I did not have confidence that I could frame an objection or appeal that could lead to a different outcome. I was afraid that the consequences of doing so would be a disgraced dismissal from Headquarters or the compromise of my reputation. Other staff members had frequently been sent away under suggestion of misconduct after disagreeing with Gothard’s teachings or actions, and I did not wish to join their ranks.

From what I know of the girls whom Gothard treated this way when I was in his orbit, each was either (1) from a background wherein she was not allowed to set boundaries with authority figures, (2) from a background wherein she received inadequate fathering, and so craved the attention, or (3) was aware that the behavior was inappropriate, but decided that that she couldn’t risk harming the ministry or her own reputation over it. I was in this last category. When at the end of the San Jose trip I described earlier, I finally summoned the courage to discuss with my female traveling companion Gothard’s literally hands-on approach, she agreed that it was troubling and wrong, but said that many people looked up to Gothard and would be terribly let down to know he behaved in this way. At the time, I agreed with the logic that we should protect Gothard’s reputation at the cost of our own rights to our bodies and to not be habitually touched by this older man.

If the behavior was so serious, why didn’t you just leave?

I had set aside a year of my life to complete a project that Gothard had convinced me was God’s will for me to complete, and I later stayed because I still believed in the work of IBLP (the Institute in Basic Life Principles). At the same time I employed a variety of strategies to avoid Gothard’s personal company. In retrospect, I should have left months sooner, but I did not have the courage or wisdom to do so as a teenager.

Gothard plays a mind game with certain young women who may attempt to graciously and discreetly evade his physical affections and implied emotional intimacies. He wordlessly removes that option from the table while verbally assuring them of the importance of their continued presence in the ministry. He uses his position of spiritual and organizational authority to frame leaving his side as leaving God’s will and losing the most effective place for ministry.

If the behavior was so serious, why didn’t you report it?

The problem was with whom to approach with concerns. IBLP was, and still is, structured in such a way that Gothard has no accountability outside of his Board of Directors. During the events I previously described, the Board of Directors was approached with this concern among others, and in turn, approached Gothard with it. This concern was based on reports from students who had worked and traveled with Gothard, and had I known of the Board’s actions at the time, I would have contributed my testimony.

The Board was scattered across the country and convened infrequently. At Headquarters, there was no relevant authority figure to approach with such a report, as the personnel department was in no position to investigate or curtail Gothard’s conduct. I feared my objections would sound like absurd overreactions to other ATI (Advanced Training Institute) people aside from girls who had been in the same role I was in. I was eventually able to articulate my situation using the following sentence: “Mr. Gothard takes liberties with young ladies; liberties that have not been extended to him.” This took the focus off the violations of personal space and privacy that could individually be explained away as “misunderstandings” or “not serious,” and placed the focus on the unauthorized and unwanted nature of the contact.

Don’t you think you read far too much sexual intent into minor incidents?

No, I think that in my youthful naiveté and admiration for Gothard’s work I gave him every benefit of the doubt, until doubt gave way to sickened certainty. At the very least, it is nearly impossible to imagine that a person with Gothard’s decades of experience in counseling and youth work would not recognize my and other girls’ dismay at his incessant attempts at physical contact and moments of engineered emotional intimacy. I would see his hand reaching for mine and pull it away as I managed a tight smile. I would look away from extended gazes, blushing in embarrassment and discomfort. I would try to gracefully change the subject when he, apropos of nothing in the conversation, asked for the “secrets of my heart.”  After the first incident of “footsy,” I would contort into whatever position necessary to try to keep my feet my own. I do not know how much Gothard did or did not sexualize this contact, but I know that he pursued it relentlessly and with disregard to the boundaries or consent of the young women involved.

Imagine for a moment if Gothard were as physically free with teenage boys as he is with some young women; imagine he frequently held hands with them, stroked their hair, petted and rubbed their arms, brushed their thighs, played footsy with them, and commented on their bodies, and imagine that these incidents recurred scores of times with many different boys over two to four decades. Would that be seen as acceptable fatherly behavior? What if he conducted himself this way with married women of his own generation; would people assume that the contact was purely brotherly? What if the Governor of a state behaved this way with young interns? There is no reason that the specific combination of Bill Gothard and young girls should receive less scrutiny or be held to a lower standard–especially when there are under-aged girls as young as 14 in the scenario.

Where are all these other girls?

I could name other women whose experiences were similar to mine, but their stories are theirs to tell. I’ve limited my account to things I personally witnessed, but first-person reports of this behavior stretch from the earliest days of ATI to this past year. Even if the behavior had been limited to a very few girls, is there a maximum number of young women it would be acceptable to physically harass before the scale tipped against Gothard? Does his social status grant him an acceptable harassment quota?

Don’t you think a truly immoral person would have made overt advances?

I make no conjecture about the state of Gothard’s soul, only a report on the patterns of his conduct. Gothard’s behavior is condemned by his own clear standards for members of his organization. He does not conform to the code of conduct he so strictly enforces, and any IBLP student or staff member who behaves the way Gothard has with the opposite sex is disciplined and/or expelled as soon as the conduct is discovered. “What I did was not truly immoral” has never been an accepted excuse from an IBLP staff member, and should not be an accepted excuse for Gothard’s violation of his own rules for others.

What’s the problem, if no real crime has been committed?

Actually, Gothard’s conduct could be categorized as sexual harassment in the state of Illinois, but in my situation the statute of limitations has run out. Here are the relevant excerpts from The Illinois Human Rights Act of 1980, 775 ILCS 5/8-111.

The Act applies to all employers who employ 15 or more people within Illinois for at least 20 weeks during the year. 775 ILCS 5/2-101.  It also applies to all employers who are sued for discriminating on the basis of handicap or for sexual harassment, regardless of the number of people they employ.

 An employee’s civil rights are violated when he or she is subject to sexual harassment. 775 ILCS 5/2-102(d). The Human Rights Act defines sexual harassment as “any unwelcome sexual advances or requests for sexual favors or any conduct of a sexual nature.” 775 ILCS 5/2-101. The Act is violated when these sexual advances or requests become an explicit or implicit term or condition of employment, the basis of an employment decision, or has the purpose or effect of substantially interfering with an individual’s ability to perform a job or creates an “intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment.”

One can debate the definitions and specific applications of “implicit term or condition of employment, the basis of an employment decision,” and an “intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment.” The fact that these topics are even in play, and that some young women affected were younger than 18 years of age, should serve as a red flag to current and prospective associates of IBLP, especially parents thinking of placing their daughters in Bill Gothard’s care.

For young women who have been in or are currently in this situation:

You are not to blame for this older man’s behavior. You did not ask for it, you did not cause it, and you are most certainly not overreacting to it. If you are subject to unwanted physical contact or to alone time with Gothard that is more intimate than you wish or feel comfortable with, trust your inner sense of caution. You are not obligated to spend time with someone who disregards or violates your boundaries of intimacy, propriety, or bodily autonomy, and you are certainly not obligated to alter your boundaries to accommodate him.

If it is possible, voice your objection or leave the situation. If that is not possible because of risk or circumstance, know that you are not at fault and not alone. Document your experiences, even if only for yourself. Discuss your experiences with those you find trustworthy, including other young women in the same situation. Know that no indiscretion or shortcoming in your own life justifies your sexual harassment or spiritual abuse. Know that others have stood where you now stand, and that we’re cheering for you. Then turn around and walk out of there.

See how the experiences Ruth, Annette, Charlotte, Rachel, Meg, Lizzie, and Grace had with Bill Gothard fit together chronologically here, and behaviorally here.

Lizzie’s parents first attended the Basic Youth Conflicts Seminars in the 1970s, and her family was enrolled in the ATI program for most of the 1990s. Between 1994 and 1998 she spent several months at the Indianapolis and Dallas Training Centers, worked at IBLP seminars in five states, and served at the Moscow Training Center. She worked at IBLP Headquarters in Oak Brook, IL, 1997-98. Lizzie graduated from Moody Bible Institute and did graduate work at Wheaton College.

 If this sexual abuse series brings up any emotions that you would like to process with a professional counselor, please e-mail us at: [email protected]g. We would be happy to recommend some professional counselors who are associated with the Recovering Grace ministry and who are familiar with the fundamentalist background of ATI and IBLP.

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. [...] Click here for Part 2 of this article: “Sexual Harassment: Aren’t you making too big an ... Lizzie’s parents first attended the Basic Youth Conflicts Seminars in the 1970s, and her family was enrolled in the ATI program for most of the 1990s. Between 1994 and 1998 she spent several months at the Indianapolis and Dallas Training Centers, worked at IBLP seminars in five states, and served at the Moscow Training Center. She worked at IBLP Headquarters in Oak Brook, IL, 1997-98. Lizzie graduated from Moody Bible Institute and did graduate work at Wheaton College. [...]

  2. Will Hunsucker April 23, 2012 Reply

    Lizzie, this by itself hits home:

    "Imagine for a moment if Gothard were as physically free with teenage boys as he is with some young women; imagine he frequently held hands with them, stroked their hair, petted and rubbed their arms, brushed their thighs, played footsy with them, and commented on their bodies..."

    IMHO, there would NOT have been a long series of young men taken advantage of, no matter how shy, backwards or socially inept they were.

    I think any guy would say the same thing: "Mr.G did WHAT?...maaan, what a pervert - hey, I'm outta here, dude!" (or smthg along those lines.)

    It speaks volumes for how girls are taught to view themselves (and male authority figures) in ATI that only now are people like you speaking out together, publicly, about this.

    Once again, thank you for being willing to put your life out in public scrutiny. Gothard needs to be held accountable for many things, and if this is what is needed to get people's attention, then it's well worth it.

    • ford prefect April 24, 2012 Reply

      Comparing hetero advances to homo advances is not quite apples and oranges.

      • Grace April 26, 2012 Reply

        I don't really want to start something here but... I don't really see the difference in this context. Either one is inappropriate.

        • ford prefect April 26, 2012

          Well, it's very common for girls to react strongly to advances from men, and I imagine guys would also react (though I don't know how strongly) to advances from men.

          However, reactions by guys to women could be quite different. This assumes guys would even notice these advances, since in my experience, we are extremely dense and oblivious to subtlety. (Which also explains why we are quick to doubt accusations)

          In fact, the whole Catholic church fiasco recently exposed to the world shows that young men are easily taken advantage of, and perhaps, that their concerns are taken even less seriously by us.

  3. Jay Rowland April 23, 2012 Reply

    Lizzie, how many years does a person have to press charges in Illinois before the time limitation takes place?

    • Generally the statuate of limitation in Illinios for filing suit for sexual abuse is 10 years from the date of the abuse. When the abuse occurs to a minor it is 10 years after the 18th birthday.

  4. "Hannah" April 23, 2012 Reply

    Very well thought-out. Thank you, Lizzie.

  5. Elisa Morrison April 23, 2012 Reply

    You express yourself so well, Lizzie. Thanks for doing this. It may help other young women currently in the situation you were in, and it may prevent parents from supporting such inappropriate behavior in the future. I echo Will's comment above that it's sad there was such a double standard for behavior in how girls and guys were treated in ATI, and the bigger double standard Gothard has for his own behavior vs. that of others. I admire your courage in speaking out.

  6. Elizabeth April 23, 2012 Reply

    I wish charges could be pressed against this man! From my interactions with him (creepy) and the stories I heard from other girls (unbelievable), I had a suspicion that he wasn't as morally clean-cut as he makes himself out to be.

    I believe the statute of limitations at the time of the offense is the law that would have to go back to Illinois laws during the specific year(s) of the harrassment to find out if there would be any way to pursue prosecution.

  7. Maddy April 23, 2012 Reply

    Thank you Lizzie. I am so sorry for what you went through. I understand because although I am a middle age woman now, I remember a time when I too was once sexually harassed in the work place. Only back then it was long before there were sexual harassment laws and the term had not even been coined yet. But I do remember when the laws came into existence, and then realizing.................that's it! That is what I endured at work as a young woman!

    In the workforce as a young, innocent, and attractive woman of 20 years old, I encountered unsolicited male attention from my superiors, occasional small gifts, cute comments, and pressure to go to lunch with the boss and his associates. However, for me, it was the beginning of a solid career, with excellent income and benefits working for a large corporation. It was not the kind of job a person easily walked away from. There were NO laws, not even recognition of this type of problem. I was forced to live with it.  I remember the confusion, discomfort, and intimidation I experienced. My youth and inexperience were on the side of my male offenders.

     I say all of that to say Bill Gothard came from a similar generation bracket as myself. A time when when misogynistic behavior amongst males was acceptable. And "boys will be boys" was a plausible form of defense in explaining away inappropriate male behavior.  Please DO NOT think I am defending Gothard,  what I am saying is for the purpose of validating that he is from an era that ultimately was the very reason it was necessary to create sexual harassment laws. An era where an egotistical male could prey upon a young woman and it was not only acceptable, it was not even acknowledged. It was an era where sexual harassment and sexual predators were not kept under check. It would be the reason that so many laws and restrictions would be placed in effect as victims began to speak out and the offenders were exposed.

    Thank you for speaking out Lizzie. I commend and thank you for your courage. So just like in times past, it was not until the victims cried out that laws went into effect. Perhaps it is not until we cry out and make our voices heard that action will be taken. I have prayed about it and I am posting a link to this article on my Facebook page.  It is true that it humbles me and embarrasses me to acknowledge publicly on Facebook that I was ever a part of the cult-ATI and duped by Gothard. But the truth is that we can spread the word of these horrendous actions of Gothard through Facebook. If we ALL do this, the information is going to get out there. And true, like so many have expressed frustration over how to expose Gothard's inappropriate behavior, commenting on the isolation............BUT we can all be a part in exposing him collectively. I have pastors and active church members in many cities on my Facebook account. If we all take part and cry out collectively through social networking perhaps our voices will be heard? Would this not be a plausible way we could collectively expose him? Do we not have a stronger voice together and can reach more people together? 

    • Maddy April 23, 2012 Reply

      Oh and BTW, I just discovered yesterday that when my, at the time 16 year old, beautiful daughter was invited by Gothard to HQ, she TOO, endured prolonged hand holding and eye gazing. Although she was creeped out, she did not mention it to me at the time. However, she does remember it, and the fact that it creeped her out. SMH.........

  8. Ileata April 23, 2012 Reply

    If a girl were underage and BG was her "teacher" or the director of her school, would a statute of limitations apply? I know that in many states, when a minor is involved there is no statute of limitations. This stuff is so creepy and revolting; I really hope something can be done to stop him from preying on more young ladies.

  9. Dave April 23, 2012 Reply

    Many will question the intent of these actions. Just what did he mean by them? Were they sexually motivated?

    But consider how motive was ignored in the pleas of those who were dismissed from the program for inappropriate attention toward someone of the opposite gender when nothing had happened. And consider the judgments that would have been made toward anyone who touched and ogled in these ways. Then, work backward to the motive.

    In other words, BG would have quickly condemned anyone who did these things and he would have known clearly what the motive was.

    Matthew 7:2 (NKJV)
    2 For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.

  10. Heidi Sandoval April 23, 2012 Reply

    Everything from Bill not reporting sexual abuse in ATI families to the proper authorities, to his "unique" take on Tamar and Dinah, (Character Sketches or Sketchy Characters) where he places the blame on the victims, is beginning to make sense as this story unfolds.

    Even more disturbing are the many comments from those who either witnessed this behavior or experienced it first hand. There are so many!

    And the web of silence: anyone standing up to him got sent home in disgrace. A good name was held up as a standard in and of itself, and Bill could ruin it.

    So so proud of you Lizzie! I think you opened the floodgates.

  11. Heidi Sandoval April 23, 2012 Reply

    On the heels of my first comment, food for thought: Jesus did not have a good name.

    • Denise April 24, 2012 Reply

      That's only because he was truly righteous, lived out what he taught, was against the religious institution and their religious rules and regulation. I don't see Jesus belonging to IBLP or ATI with all of it's hypocrisies. ...nope can't see it!!!

    • Heather July 15, 2012 Reply

      Bill seems to be claiming that he is above reproach though, and as he's NOT God incarnate, it's a big stinky problem..

  12. Wendy April 23, 2012 Reply

    As per Maddy's comment I have also shared the link to this website on my FB status...about 260 people will see it. Great idea.

  13. Denise April 23, 2012 Reply

    My work put us through sexual harassment classes and his behavior is classic. Also, anyone who has ever been in this predicament knows the conflict of mind that exists. Hypocrisy and religious abuse are the worst type to encounter. The conflict of mind that we expirience is very difficult to muddle through. On one hand the perpetrator is holding every one to this high standard and then on other hand, they are kept above reproach. The rest of the authority alowed this to happen and protected him while not protecting these precious young people. It's bad enough if it had been one victim here or one there but to have so many be put in such conflicting situations is inforgivable. I'm angry at the protection he has been afored! I'm sorry Lizzie for your pain and the awful questioning you have been put and applaud you for your honesty. Blessing to you!

  14. SaraJ April 23, 2012 Reply

    Good article, very articulate. Thank you for posting this. Simply the fact that the rest of us -- staff and students alike -- had to watch our every conversation, our every BODY LANGUAGE, to make sure we weren't "defrauding" others, while he behaved this way regularly would be enough to disillusion me. If I weren't already disillusioned by his mistreatment of Scripture and damaging teachings.

  15. Danielle April 24, 2012 Reply

    Fabulous insight and articulation...thank you for writing and exposing this man.

  16. dreamer April 24, 2012 Reply

    I did some searching on Illinois law. Sexual harassment in Illinois is illegal under the IL Human Rights Act. But it usually involves adults being harassed or discriminated against in the workplace. I think what Gothard allegedly did (grooming/preying on young girls) would be in a different category entirely. I'm not sure exactly what law it violates, since it does not seem to be out and out sexual abuse the way molestation or rape would be. (I'm not trying to defend him; just trying to figure out how the law defines this type of behavior). I wonder if Gothard knew exactly where the line was legally and was careful not to cross it. The whole thing is creepy and wrong. If enough people bring it to light, I'll bet it would make a difference in the way people view him, even if no legal charges can be filed.

    • "Hannah" April 24, 2012 Reply

      Dreamer, sexual harrassment in the workplace should be the same, regardless of age.

      • dreamer April 24, 2012 Reply

        Actually, I think it should be WORSE when an adult is harassing a child! With that said, I wasn't trying to defend him or say it doesn't matter because they weren't adults. I'm simply saying I'm not sure how that kind of thing would be viewed in the eyes of the law. From what I can tell, the IL Human Rights Commission investigates discrimination and harassment in the workplace as more of a civil matter than a criminal one. I wonder if (and hope that) Gothard's actions could be prosecuted as a criminal matter, and actual criminal charges could be filed.

        • "Hannah" April 25, 2012

          Well, it could be both.

    • Denise April 24, 2012 Reply

      I think there should be some serious research and gathering of the different people's accounts and brought to a lawyer to see what could be done, if anything. We have dealt with this and worst, it doesn't stop with age (him getting older) like you might think. It just continues hurting more and more people. It's one form of religious abuse, that takes a toll on young people, confusing them and turning them away from their maker. There has to be something that can be shown to prove he uses religious intimidation, sexual harassment or even the use of underage laborers to build his empire. I mean we already know he has a disregard for God's word and his oun rules but there must be a way to bring him out of this capacity so as to stop him from hurting others. God hates hypocrisy and the shipwrecking of many people's faith.

      • Denise April 24, 2012 Reply

        Where are the Oak brook trained lawyers???

      • KW April 24, 2012 Reply

        YES, Denise.

      • I have an uncle who is a lawyer in Chicago. This isn't his specialty...but I'm sure he could make a referal.

        Anyone who is interested can e-mail me at jennriedy at ptd dot net

  17. Kathy April 24, 2012 Reply

    I have thought about your account and how I would have behaved in your situation, at your young age and I know I would have acted much like you did. I was an ATI parent for 13 years and I was under Bill Gothard's "spell", just through the seminars, the conferences and the newsletters. You are so right about the mind games. I too am posting this to my facebook but a tiny part of me doesn't want to....I'm guessing because that tiny part of me is still under his "spell". God bless you greatly for writing such an articulate account.

  18. ford prefect April 24, 2012 Reply

    From my own cursory research, not having any sexual harassment guidelines, training, or any way to complain at all is a huge legal oversight for an organization.

    Of course, the IBLP might have all sorts of loopholes they can exploit (volunteers, non-profit, etc) so that will complicate things.

  19. ***** April 24, 2012 Reply

    This comment has been deleted at the request of the author.

    • RyanR April 24, 2012 Reply

      Thanks for sharing, *****. I want really badly to respect your decision to stay in ATI. As a human you are deserving of that respect, even if I don't agree with your decision.

      But in light of everything you disclosed above, I can't help but ask, why? Why stay in a program that is lead by someone who clearly has issues and yet persists in presenting nearly everything he says as a special insight from God Himself?

      If he's not trustworthy with young women entrusted to his care, can we really expect him to be trustworthy with what he's teaching?

      But I really am trying to respect your decision and the fact that it is yours to make.

      • carlos February 8, 2014 Reply

        This is akin to someone asking why someone remained a Christian..... Just as this behavior isn't an example of all Christian ministers, it's not an example of everyone in the ATI program or alumni of IBLP. Most, it would seem, are completely unaware that this behavior has ever gone on, much less persisted for so long.

    • Elizabeth April 24, 2012 Reply

      I am very proud of you for standing up and refusing to let BG take advantage of you!!! Odd how he supposedly tells people to listen to authority, especially their parents, but then tries to convince you to LEAVE your mom's authority to live at HQ..... creepy. And to ADMIT that he lied to you just to get you to come to HQ????? Wow. This whole situation goes against so much of what he teaches in the Basic Seminar..... sad that he can't follow his own teachings.

      Must say that I don't see how life at HQ can help anyone heal from anything........ the STRESS alone would constantly aggravate your Crohn's. At least Indy is closed.... that place was mega-stress city, so I'm glad you'll never have to go there. At least at HQ you have a little more privacy, although if you're one of BG's favorites, that might not be the case!

      Like RyanR, I must ask WHY you are still committed to ATI after seeing this side of BG...... but pray that you & your mom will follow GOD'S will for your lives. I beg you, do NOT let BG convince you to follow HIS will for your life!!!! Don't even let us make you follow OUR will for your life. :) You need to follow GOD and GOD ALONE. At the conference next month, I challenge you to study the Scriptures for yourself. I know the conferences are exhausting, but after every session, while it's still fresh on your mind, look up EVERY Scripture reference IN CONTEXT and verify that what he's teaching is actually what's taught in the Bible. In my own journey, I've been impressed by how little of what he teaches is actually in the Bible. Most of it is either secular philosophy with Scripture tacked on, or simply his own opinion of verses he's twisted out of context.

      I'm sorry to hear about the abuse you've received from your dad. :( I recently escaped a marriage like that. (Warning: "courtship" doesn't let you get to know a guy well enough!!!! Then you're "stuck" because he's your "authority." PLEASE be EXTREMELY careful in who you marry! But if you end up stuck with a guy like your dad, there is NO SHAME in leaving an abuser!!!!!) I can't imagine what it's like to grow up with a dad like that. :( It was hard enough being married to an emotional abuser, but at least I was already an adult before I entered that situation. It must be horrible to have that as part of your childhood. I'm so sorry. :(

      I pray that you will find the clarity you need. The fact that you're reading articles on Recovering Grace is a good sign that you aren't blindly following a man, but that you're thinking and seeking God's answers! If God leads you to stay in ATI, that is your choice - I can't quite bring myself to *respect* your decision, but I respect that it is your choice to make. :) Thank you for sharing, and for giving a recent account confirming what's still happening.

      • ***** April 25, 2012 Reply

        This comment has been deleted at the request of the author.

    • annajoy April 24, 2012 Reply

      *****! You've done the right thing by talking about your experience and by standing firm with your mom against Bill's repeated advances. Don't let *anyone* tell you otherwise! Thank you for being courageous and willing to share your experience with the readers of Recovering Grace and with your mom.

      You have my email address and phone from other conversations (pretty sure you're the same *****)--I would love to talk with you and your mom more about my own experience in sorting through my (past) time in ATI/IBLP or answer questions, if you have them. I'm learning more of who God really is; how much He loves me; and how His grace is a gift to me for my salvation, my sanctification, and my *freedom* in Christ. I've had a busy semester since seeing you in January, but it's almost over, and I should have time to talk. :)

    • MatthewS April 24, 2012 Reply

      *****, my heart just sank when I read your story. I want to give your mom a hug for protecting you and I want to give Mr. Gothard a slug for not. I know you are going to do alright in life but I wish you'd check out some good Christian colleges. I say that as I would to a friend but I respect your decisions, not trying to impose my opinion.

      You know the moment when I decided to leave ATI for college? A friend of the family asked me what I thought was God's will for me in regard to my future (he asked knowing that I had a knack for computers and had pursued learning what I could about them in my free time). I started telling him all the evils of the "high places" of college and he stopped me. "I know, I know... but what do you think God's will for YOU is, in regard to your future?" I could not answer that. I had a five hour drive alone in the car after that conversation and somehow by the end of that drive I had become convinced that it would be right for me to pursue a formal education. It was a couple years before I was actually a college student but I earned my degree and I *love* the line of work that the Lord has opened up for me, where I benefit from my degree every day.

      My point is not that I know the Lord's will for you because I most certainly don't. I hope that you continue to sense his leading in your life and that you are blessed as you. I know it's not easy but you are up to the task!

      • Another Hannah May 27, 2012 Reply

        Very cool, Matthew! Good encouragement for me to get out there and pursue my life calling instead of being afraid of what my ATI parents will think of me.

      • Lana November 24, 2012 Reply

        Love that story, Matthew. Reminds me a lot of why i changed my major in college to the evil liberal arts and philosophy. I was majoring in music, but I didn't have a peace about it. Everyone thought I would be led astray, but it ended up being a huge time for me to come out of ignorance from a wisdom booklet only kind of world.

    • tangent October 18, 2012 Reply

      I am sorry that ***** has deleted all her comments. I wish I could have heard her story, it sounds very interesting. I'd like to hear how her mother defended her against the pressure to comply with the wishes of BG.

  20. Maddy April 24, 2012 Reply

    ***** you are a courageous young woman. Thank you for posting and confirming for us what others have also experienced.

    I did want to comment to the group that in the limited knowledge I have on the subject, isn't it a known fact that often pedophiles target victims who may be needy, or lonely in regard to one, or both parents? *****'s home situation with her father could certainly make her appear vulnerable to a predator seeking to fulfill that need for male attention. Kuddos to *****'s mom for protecting her. Way to go mom!! And ***** you are a wise young women! I commend you both for standing firm and following the Lord and ignoring a manipulative man!

    • ***** April 25, 2012 Reply

      This comment has been deleted at the request of the author.

  21. ***** April 25, 2012 Reply

    This comment has been deleted at the request of the author.

    • Ileata April 25, 2012 Reply


      I am so angry for you. I can't believe that BG would tell you that you don't need your family and that you should get away from them and let HQs become your family.

      You might want to look up the characteristics of a cult and see again if you still think he's not a cult leader.

    • SaraJ April 25, 2012 Reply


      On a forum, I recently brought up the "yielding expectations" thing, and how it didn't actually resolve any problems. You just articulated what I was trying to work through.

      You're observant and you're courageous. Thanks for posting.

    • Another Hannah May 27, 2012 Reply

      *****, thanks so much for sharing!! It's been a couple years since I was at headquarters, and in one way it's really hard for me to accept that the things you tell about could have happened just in this last year...and yet I so believe it too. I guess I was already beginning to get a little "creeped out" by Mr. Gothard by the time I was there two summers ago.

      I was on the opposite side of the story as you...Even though Mr. Gothard has known me and my family for many years, I was still never one of his "special girls". I remember while at Headquarters feeling left out, and wondering why certain other girls were his special favorites. And yet at the same time, I felt sorry for those girls, because once they became his special favorites, it seemed like they lost their other friends, or became shut up in their own worlds of themselves...and Mr. Gothard and visiting groups of officials, etc.

      And it did annoy me how he could never seem to remember my name. And even fell asleep while having a personal interview with me. Those personal interviews he has with girls, btw, do kinda creep me out.

      But even with all's still kinda shocking to think that Mr. Gothard would actually say those things about family being OT, you should leave, etc. Totally against his early teachings.

      I can see where you come from, as my family is still in ATI as well, and I, though not as into it as my parents, am not to the point of completely rejecting it either. Many good things have come from IBLP, but again, like you said, much of that seems to be from earlier years. IBLP is totally different from what it used to be. Also, Mr. Gothard is one person, but that doesn't mean that all the people who are currently involved in IBLP are like him. I know a lot of good came to me from growing up in ATI, but also there was a lot of bad (again, not all the bad or good was necessarily caused by IBLP).

      It's true though, that I am definitely experiencing now the side effects of growing up in a very cut-off-from-others ATI culture. And now entering the world, I find myself in many way to have no culture, and no identity. I am learning to find my identity in who I am in God's eyes. But it's a painful process. And there's still the fact that now I have to "develop" a culture and a an instant, and all on my own.

      Anyways. Enough to say, I am still in many ways, "In the IBLP circle", and yet at the same time I'm slowly distancing myself from it, and realizing that IBLP cannot forever be my identity, and unless I make some major changes, I'm going to be in for big trouble.

      I'm fine with IBLP continuing as a "side thing" in my life...I mean, I have many good friends who come from IBLP "circles"...but honestly, what is IBLP's future? It's not even practical and safe for me to depend on it any longer. And it's already taking a ton of time to change around some of the thought processes and "belief systems" that were the basis of my childhood education and life.

      Wow! I had better stop, as my comment is getting way too long. It would actually be really cool to meet you, Emily, as I feel your situation is very similar to mine (also with a weak father figure in the family, etc.)

      Thanks much...for sharing! :)

  22. ***** April 25, 2012 Reply

    This comment has been deleted at the request of the author.

  23. WendyA April 25, 2012 Reply

    *****, I want to quote something you said "for truth." Because I don't want anyone to miss this:

    ***** said, "The reason I couldn’t give my expectations to God was because they were GOD GIVEN. My list was primarily composed of natural God given responsibilties and expectations that are essential to all relationships. The biggest was love. I actually tried to give up the expectation that my dad should love me. ... in order to [give up those expectations] I would have to become completely emotionally dead, and have no concepts whatsoever of natural relationships. Doing so would also free my dad of his own God given responsibilities. And what if I carried it on to marriage and to my future husband? To be so lifeless as to say I will not expect ANYTHING of my husband. He can abuse me, cheat on me ... and I'm to take no offence because I have no expectations. Talk about crazy! Yet this was what I believed was to be "expected" of me from God! I have also learned since then that just simply living with past hurts is dangerous. They live in your heart and in your brain and simply fester like an open wound."

    Over and over, in talking to former ATI students and in my own life, I have seen this as truth. ATI students have no reference points for natural relationships. Many of them find that they are emotionally dead. And it is the emphasis on yielding expectations that has robbed them of these reference points, killing their emotions.

    And the emphasis on accepting and living with past hurts (while neglecting to deal with offenders and requiring restitution for wrongdoing) also kills the emotions and causes further damage to the soul. While God wants us to forgive, He does not intend that we should let people get away with heinous sin. We are to rebuke sin. We are to correct offenders. Forgiveness does not erase consequences.

    While I don't doubt that there can be some validity to releasing expectations and accepting past hurts, the extremes to which it is taken by those in leadership and counseling positions in Gothard's organization can --- and has --- led to serious emotional and mental damage.

    • Denise April 25, 2012 Reply

      This also applies to us parents who brought our children into this mess. Some of us grew up in very dysfunctional families without a proper "point of references for natural relationships" that you spoke of Wendy.
      *****, your mother is to be applauded for sticking to her guns and really listening to the Holy Spirit. I'm afraid that I might have faltered. She's a wise mom.
      One huge regret of mine is taking my girls and living in the ITC and OTC for 2 years. They struggled for years in dealing with false accusations. On the other hand, my daughters worked in the girls log cabin ministry and really loved it. It was a true ministry only because of the family in charge. Had its issues of course, but nothing is perfect.

    • "Hannah" April 25, 2012 Reply

      [Raising hand as one of the "emotionally dead" for years and still feeling that I have no clue on human relationships]

      • Butterfly's Memoirs April 27, 2012 Reply

        **also raises hand.

        I trained myself to be that way. Mindless auto-bot.

      • Another Hannah May 27, 2012 Reply

        "Hannah"- second that!

    • Maddy April 25, 2012 Reply

      Wendy, you say that this is behavior in ATI reference points etc. I am a parent and your words spoke to me as to what happened to me. Coming from a dysfunctional background with a domineering, alcoholic father, I succumbed easily to the command to submit to my husband. The problem there is that it's not full truth. The husband wife relationship, is a relationship. We are not robots that all fit into a certain mold. I had dreams and desires that were never expressed because I was doing what I was "supposed" to do, what was "expected" of me, what I was told the bible said and God wanted. My dreams, creativity, and self expression were stifled as a wife and mom, and I was not able to love my children as the person I REALLY was. I was living life trying to be who I was SUPPOSED to be. Every time I expressed concern,or sought counsel......I was told I was not submitting, I was not yielding expectations, it was always me, the wife who must be doing something wrong. My husband wanted to join ATI and I did yet again, I become some type of dummy and blindly followed because I had to submit. As my husband became empowered with the role he was given, that of a big umbrella with the need to cover, protect, and control everybody :-), I was isolated further. And this became the pattern, submitting to what my common sense would tell me was a disasterous step......because it was what I was being told that God wanted. My husband and I were BOTH decieved. I squashed my emotions trying to fit into a mold of legalism that was subtly placed upon me. Thing is, I didn't quite understand what happened to me and your post just gave me insight. I identify with the ATI students and what happened to them. I was victim and perpetrator I know. But I think it is not just the students. I do not know if there are other parents like me, but nevertheless here I am. I feel cheated, robbed, and deceived by everything the cult ATI has stolen from me. I cannot undo the damage I did to my children following this horrible cult. I am left picking up the pieces in my life from the effects that come from scripture being twisted and legalism being crammed down our throat. Our family had all the right ingredients for a loving, happy family. The ATI ministry with its legalism brought much destruction to us. While all of the students are left recovering from its effects, as a parent I am right there suffering through it with them.
      While this may not have been the proper format to reveal the desperation that I feel in the aftermath of our involvement in ATI, it is the only place where I feel I am understood. Amongst the prior students of ATI. Yes Wendy, I too became emotionally dead. This explains a lot concerning what happened to me. Thanks for your post and for listening.

      • Lovely Dove April 25, 2012 Reply

        My mom has expressed many of the same feelings you have. You are not alone! Consider joining the Facebook page for recovering parents?

        • Maddy April 25, 2012

          Thank you Lovely Dove, I am on it. But I still feel like what I stated in my post. I think I need to take time to read some of the books suggested today. I agree with Wendy......about the emotional and mental damage from this organization. I had thought I was alone in this for many years and couldn't figure out what was wrong with me/us/our family. So glad RG came about and their ministry.

      • Lissa April 26, 2012 Reply

        Just the fact that you are able to say as a mother that you were both victim and perpetrator is so healing for me as a student survivor. Of course, you were a victim - you are a woman. I think that is often still a really hard thing for many parents to admit they played any part in the harm that came to their families. I nearly collapsed the first time that I heard an ATI parent admit that they felt huge remorse for having put their family through this. I never thought that I would hear such a thing in my lifetime. You really have no idea what that means to me!!
        My mother raised me to have no dreams of my own - just to "look forward" to serve my husband's and I was well-informed that I was to give up any remaining dreams that I had on the day that I married.
        Hugs and healing to you on your journey!

        • Maddy April 26, 2012

          I appreciate so very much knowing that my statement has helped you. And the thing about squelching our dreams...........I remember well teaching my daughters the same messed up propaganda. Of course I was being brainwashed slowly through the wisdom books, but the  sad part is that one of those dreams WAS to be a good mom. I desperately wanted the best for my children or else why would I have jumped so high through the ATI hoops?  And as the hype I was being fed slowly convinced me that this was God's chosen path, I laid down my own hopes and dreams for other aspirations in the process also. In doing so, the byproduct was to fail to teach my children the strength I possessed to achieve them.  I failed to impart to them their own individuality, and the freedom to express themselves in joy. The fear tactics the Institute used were incredible. That actually is what first alerted me.

           The regular newsletter we received would relay a story of some poor family that lost their way by getting out of ATI, then they would realize the tragic error of their way as calamity befell them apart from life under the thumb of Billy Boy (please forgive my own personal name for him), the family would fly as quick as they could back to the waiting arms of Billy Boy/ATI. Once safe in the arms of the awaiting cult leader life would return to normal and everyone would be happy and dance off into the sunset. Really???? ................I mean every month we got these newsletters and I clearly saw the fear being fed to me.....that if I did not remain in ATI, my family would come to harm. That was really when I started getting suspicious. But the area where they duped me? This is the most painful. It was areas where they convinced me things were scriptural. They used my love of the Lord Jesus against me. They used the fact that I was a young Christian who desperately desired to serve God, who wanted with all her heart to please God. The daily doses of propaganda indoctrinated me into the club of self denial and legalism. I denied so much of my own past and lost the shared experiences I would have enjoyed so much with my own children. Music I at one time enjoyed was now viewed as evil, and I forgot the fun and warm memories that were a part of it. Once a strong and capable woman, I became some kind of dumbo that could not make a decision on her own and ran around under an umbrella!

          Anyway, sorry for my long tirade. I know you did not expect this response........I guess it is such a relief to find others who understand how bizarre this all is/was. There is no one who understands because they think you are crazy if you try to tell them. The majority here on RG understand the desperation of life in this cult and the struggle to exit and assimilate into current modern day America. I appreciate very much the work RG is doing. The healing and restoration taking place as a result is the work of the Lord Jesus. 

        • Tammy April 27, 2012

          For those of us who are Mom's recovering, I think it is safe to say that we are all experiencing most if not all of what you shared. I do hope more Mom's will come forward and share their stories so help not only with their healing process, but to help these young people who so desparately need to hear from a Mom that they were wrong and that they are so sorry. What I wouldn't give for do-overs. I like you Maddy, wish I could give back to my kids their childhood.

          There are so many things about my years in ATI that I have forgotten about until it is mentioned by someone either through their story or a comment made. I had totally forgotten about the newsletters. You are right about them. They really were scare tactics to keep us in the program. Not only did they talk about someone who had "rebelled" and got into trouble but they always painted a picture of these bright eyed students doing God's will and everything appeared to be just glorious. And what mother in her right mind wouldn't want the best for her children?? And now we are finding out that behind many of those beautiful faces was much heartache, abuse and pain. It's just all so sickening.

          I thank God for His hand in putting Recovering Grace together and for the leadership in their vision to see it through. Praying today for others to find freedom from Bill's cult and to be experience a new beginning. A new life free from all the bondage that legalism brought them and to experience the joy that comes when Jesus Christ is truly their focus.

      • Tangent June 21, 2013 Reply

        I can definately identify with what you said here. I was an ATI mother who suffered emotional abuse from my husband before joining ATI, and hoped that the good teachings of the basic seminar would change things. I was disappointed that the authority teachings only intensified the controlling behavior.

  24. Carolynn April 25, 2012 Reply


    I want to thank you for taking the time to read and respond to articles on this site. I also commend you and your mom for your courage to do what is right in the face of intense pressure and manipulation. I'm glad to hear that you're seeking to follow God's will and hear His voice directing in your life.

    I pray that you will continue to examine carefully as you spend time in ATI/IBLP, and that you will be able to determine what is good and biblical and what is not. If you're interested in reading more, I found this study (republished by Recovering Grace) to be helpful as I sorted through some of the teachings.

  25. Denise April 25, 2012 Reply

    May I say that for those of us who may feel, or have felt, that toppling IBLP/ATI or really exposing Mr. G. brings feelings of uneasiness or that there is still some good within that "ministry". Jesus went into the temple and turned over the tables, exposing the heart of those in leadership. I'm thinking that temple was doing some good and it wasn't completely bad. None the less, Jesus did the unpopular thing. Religious abuse is one thing that God speaks against over and over again in his Word. It should anger us and rally us up to unite in turning over the tables of IBLP/ATI!!!

  26. Wendy April 25, 2012 Reply

    After speaking with my psychologist husband I would like to share some of his thoughts. Perpetrators will seek to avoid conflict with males (fathers) because males are territorial, possessive, and more likely to be aggressive. A young person with a vigilant father has the best protection from a perpetrator. A male is more likely to physically confront or show aggression toward an abuser.

    Interestingly, mothers are not usually seen as a threat. While mothers do have ‘mama bear’ protective instincts, it is the male who is more likely to act out on those instincts

    An abuser looking for a young person to target will frequently spot children of single moms, particularly mothers who present/appear as submissive, meek, mild, and dependant…no threat there. As an aside, organizations (churches) that teach extensively for all women to be this way create fertile hunting grounds. Abusive or negligent fathers may or may not be seen as a threat. Older brothers can be perceived as a threat for the same reasons cited above.

    Abusers have an uncanny ability to spot children who are already abused.

    If an abuser/offender spots a child he wants and there is a father present, the challenge for the abuser becomes ‘how to neutralize the father so he will willingly give his children over.’

    An earlier commenter on a previous post mentioned the similarities of BG to Michael Jackson and that is correct. MJ went to great lengths to prepare his ‘territory’ and his ‘story’ so parents would send their children to him. BG has an eerily similar dynamic but his is religion based. One of MJ’s justifications was that he was ‘just a kid –at- heart’ (so let your kids play with me). Cult leaders frequently invoke some variation of ‘God told me’ or ‘it is God’s Will.’ I am chuckling because I don’t think BG anticipated Emily’s mother’s astuteness and resoluteness. It wouldn't have fit the pattern (women should not be so discerning or strong).

    An abuser seeks to isolate his victim…get the victim away from the parent(s) or other supports. Any deception is acceptable if it works. Threaten the victims to silence them. Tell the parents you are counseling the child (when did BG become a licensed counselor with adequate training)? Tell the parents the child is rebellious and cannot be trusted. Tell the young person they must ‘give a good report.’ Tell the young person they are rebellious, sinful, bitter, despicable, etc. Tell the innocent young person anything you want because they will believe you because you have positioned yourself as an ‘anointed demi-god’ in the eyes of their family and can do no wrong. (Please forgive the snark).

    Once the child has misled the parents by a ‘good report’ in place of a ‘true report’, they are now (unknowingly) part of the deceit and become less likely to admit to the abuse.

    Once an adult has been taken in by the abuser, their own pride keeps them from admitting their mistake and therefore their responsibility in the abuse. This is how scam artists keep from getting caught – their victims are ashamed and embarrassed. If the victim can provide plausible deniability they can ignore/overlook the signs/red flags. It is painful for an adult to admit they have been duped.

    All of the people who have come forwrd with their experiences have shown great courage. Thank you for your willingness to speak the truth.

    • Denise April 25, 2012 Reply

      Wendy, tell your husband thanks. Unfortunately, I learned the hard ways that everyone of these behaviors are common behaviors of a preditor. They also groom their victims,in this case, it seems most of the grooming was aimed at us parents.

    • Emily April 25, 2012 Reply

      "I am chuckling because I don’t think BG anticipated *****’s mother’s astuteness and resoluteness."

      Haha, though we have always joked that BG was the most strong willed and determined person we've ever met, he actually said the exact same thing about us!

    • Danielle April 27, 2012 Reply

      "An abuser seeks to isolate his victim…get the victim away from the parent(s) or other supports. Any deception is acceptable if it works. Threaten the victims to silence them. Tell the parents you are counseling the child (when did BG become a licensed counselor with adequate training)? Tell the parents the child is rebellious and cannot be trusted. Tell the young person they must ‘give a good report.’ Tell the young person they are rebellious, sinful, bitter, despicable, etc. Tell the innocent young person anything you want because they will believe you because you have positioned yourself as an ‘anointed demi-god’ in the eyes of their family and can do no wrong."

      ^^that is RIGHT ON and amazingly insightful. Thank you for taking the time to post Wendy.

      • Chris April 27, 2012 Reply

        Discredit the witness. Case closed. He did that ALL THE TIME when I was at HQ. A complaint may have been legit, but then BG would go into all the person's personal problems and show that they didn't have the bleach white perfect life to say anything against him. Happened all the time....

  27. *** April 25, 2012 Reply

    This comment has been deleted at the request of the author.

    • MatthewS April 25, 2012 Reply

      Thanks so much for sharing, friend. You have been through a lot. You are a strong, brave lady!

    • "Hannah" April 25, 2012 Reply

      Thank you for sharing, ***. I haven't gotten to read all the comments, but very sorry for all you have been through.

      And while we are sharing book titles, you might be interested in A Matter of Basic Principles by Veinot & Henzel. Very eye-opening for me. Or check out our section on "Twisted Scriptures", may be some interesting perspective, there, as well.

      All the best,

    • Maddy April 25, 2012 Reply

      ***, thank you for sharing with us. I appreciate it so much and you are a very wise woman. Thank you also for the book suggestions..........I have to add them to the list. I also agree with Denise, there is more going on than meets the eye. I think as the Lord continues to use RG to bring things to the light, I think like just as Denise claimed, there is going to be a mess revealed. I also believe God strengthened you to stand against Gothard for such a time as this. Your testimony has served to sharpen the focus on the multitude of claims of Gothard's moral failings.

    • MatthewS April 25, 2012 Reply

      I don't mean to overstep my bounds here, but:
      It was very hard for both of us, because BG had offered to disciple my husband and help him restore our family, but the condition was that we leave ***** there.

      That is not what a shepherd does - that is what a manipulator does. He used your concern for your family as leverage to try to force your decision. So much for umbrella of protection. I'm trying to be calm and respectful but internally this is very provoking.

      (Not to be rude, but don't worry, you didn't miss out on a thing. He does not know how to fix families. I can point to the ruins of homes he tried to fix to prove it.)

      If this was too much, tell me and I'll apologize. I don't mean to be rude, it's just so hard not to say something about that.

    • Daniel April 26, 2012 Reply


      Thanks for posting... something you said stuck with me: BG saved his physical affection for your daughter until they were out of your presence. That action alone reveals suspect motives. A grandfatherly touch doesn't have to be in secret. By hiding the conduct from you, he made clear that his motives were not grandfatherly.

      • Raquel April 26, 2012 Reply

        So true, Daniel!

    • Forrest May 1, 2012 Reply

      Thank you for sharing ***. I can't tell you how this confirms a decision my wife and I have made concerning our son, but from your post, I am encouraged to stand by it.

    • Another Hannah May 27, 2012 Reply

      flipping a coin! Seriously! But yeah, I can't say much about it since Mr. Gothard actually convinced my mom (he can easily convince her of anything) flip a coin to decide whether or not I would go on a trip or not... I didn't want to flip a coin, but Mom insisited...what could I say?

  28. Denise April 25, 2012 Reply

    The Lord is to be praised in keeping both of you focused on you goal. . Even your daughter didn't get overly flattered at his persistence, many have. Thanks for sharing a mom's perspective. You and many more parents joined this ministry to assist us in bringing up God honoring children.
    The question that nags at me is...why would he persist in getting your daughter to be there without you? To the point of lying to you! What was he thinking? Why go to so much effort to get her there? Why? Why? Why? I'm bothered by this. Did he just want to have pretty faced to look at? Was he rejected by the pretty blonds when he was young? Now he could have just about any pretty young blond he wanted to keep close, like eye candy. There is something very, very wrong here!!!

    • ***** April 25, 2012 Reply

      This comment has been deleted at the request of the author.

      • BeverlyB April 25, 2012 Reply

        "So why didn’t he just accept “no” from the beginning like all the other girls he asks every year?"
        Because Mr. Gothard doesn't accept the word "No" as an answer, even from his Board of Directors. :-( But I'm also guessing that not many girls will say "no" to him because of the honor of being asked and being assured by him that it is "God's will" for them to go to HQ. So I'm guessing that he doesn't run into very many girls who turn him down. But the ones who do turn him down, he pursues extra hard. I wonder if it has something to do with a thrill of pursuit and conquest for him, even if it's ultimately "harmless"?? But then he's also so strongly authoritarian, it could just be about his desire to control. Hard to tell there, but regardless, he's not exactly "Mr. Sensitivity" when it comes to relating to people in general. It's usually his way or the highway. :-(

      • Denise April 25, 2012 Reply

        Why? Why? Why? I'm not, beleive you me, questioning you or your mom! I'm not content in believing that he had very many young girl's welfare at heart or young men's or anyone's for that matter. Maybe in the beginning of his ministry or maybe not. I question all his motives now and won't rest untill there is some kind of answers. I've been through the pain of this with some beautiful young ladies and beleive me,when there are questions about someone's behavior this blantant you better get to the bottom of it before it's too late.
        I beleive there's more to this than we know yet and it's going to get dirty and messy. God is a just God and something is going to happen! It is now with all these precious young ladies bearing their soul. I think some of you Oak Brook trained lawyers need to rise up! I keep writing what I'm thinking and have been thinking for a while now. Another question...What do we think Jesus thinks about all of this? What would he do? ...nothing? He turned the tables over in a temple because of the miss use of it. This is a gross misuse of God's temple...His people!!!
        I'm finished rambling. Soo very bothered. God will hear and He will answer!!!

        • Maddy April 25, 2012

          Denise, you are correct in all of your assertions.

        • Wendy Blake April 25, 2012

          Denise, The words "creepy" and "needs-a-psychiatrist" come to my mind when I think of Gothard. We all have problems I suppose but he will definitely have a lot to answer to God for one day.

  29. anon April 25, 2012 Reply

    These two articles seem to explain a lot...

    Looking back I sure see how ATI never had a balanced view on women/girls. Everything seemed focused on what you shouldn't do and what would happen to you if you did something wrong rather than what you should focus on. I ended up with a huge mistrust of men in general - like I always had to question their motives and never be myself around them.

    Today I am no longer involved with the program. I've finally figured out how to act semi-normal around average men. Ironically enough this came about through working with "worldly" men who just respected me as an individual and as a woman. It's just basic manners and respect, not the overblown fear mentality that ATI taught.

    • Denise April 25, 2012 Reply


    • Maddy April 25, 2012 Reply

      Yes, isn't it funny how when we get out from under their thumb and the fear, that there is a wonderful world that God created and God loves............that it is just the opposite of what they tried to make us believe!

  30. Arlice Gallagher April 25, 2012 Reply

    Has anyone noticed any signs of dementia in Bill Gothard?

    • Denise April 25, 2012 Reply

      Last time I saw him was about twelve years ago when I shared that I was taking my daughter and leaving the training center to deal with a family crisis. His last conversations to me was basically that I must not of been spiritual enough or the crisis wouldn't have happened. Also there was nothing that we could do outside HIS ministry that was worth our time, according to him. I left very hurt by the whole expirience. I did, later want to ask him why he didn't know about the sin within ATI going on right under his nose humm...what about his spiritual insights???... Dementia or demented???

      • Wendy Blake April 25, 2012 Reply

        I would say, "selective knowledge."

      • Arlice Gallagher April 26, 2012 Reply

        Demented is probably a better word

  31. Wendy Blake April 25, 2012 Reply

    Wow!!! What a great ending! Legal facts, critics questions answered, and common sense laid out on the table!
    Thank you for such an accurate account and for putting your story out there for all to see. Very brave!!!
    It answers a lot of questions for me too. Like, why was I never "chosen" for specific things. I felt that I was just as loyal to BG as any. But even though I had blonde hair, It was very curly and uncontrollable and I didn't have the figure or the looks of the girls that were always chosen. I didn't think of that at the time but now that I look back, as an adult, it makes total sense.
    I think too that as a teenager, even when you think "something is wrong here" you have a hard time grasping that time is passing and you are just surviving and going with what you have been assigned. For me, I was 23 before I left home. Not because I wanted to but because I was brainwashed into where I was and I was simply surviving under a situation that I felt I was trapped in. Even though I knew that most kids left at 18. It was too much for me because of all the "training" that I had gone through to even think of escaping.
    When my mom told me leave (during an argument with my dad), I actually thanked her because it was like she was giving me permission to leave. And I left that day.
    I know that everyone's story will be different, but I also know that in the end there will be two people:
    1. those who have a story of gaining their freedom and independence from Gothard and the ternary that he preaches and
    2. those who remain and think it is normal to be underneath such oppressive standards.
    Thanks again!!!

  32. Tammy April 25, 2012 Reply

    Thanks Lizzie for sharing your experiences of sexual harrassment from Bill Gothard. God is already using it to help others as is evident by all of the comments and other testimonies of affimation. I'm another parent who for years was drinking the koolaid and was devastated when the blinders came off. Still recovering even after almost 10 years now. You can read my story under the tab "the best of RG" at the top of the page. It entitled, "A Parents Perspective- Sixteen years in bondage."

    For anyone still supporting Gothard in any way, I would have to urge you and plead with you to run. Run as fast as you can and as far away from any of Bill Gothards teachings, programs, materials, training centers, (the list goes on and on).

    I am grieved at those who still try to justify their staying or association with Bill Gothard's program or materials. His wisdoms books, character sketches, red books, etc. are filled with incorrect interpretations of scripture.

    Thank you RG once again for the work your are doing to get the word out to warn people about Bill Gothard.

  33. [...] the article here: Sexual Harassment Part 2: “Aren't you making too big an issue of … ← LankaWeb – Mosque Destruction in Dambulla [...]

  34. Chad Gleaves April 27, 2012 Reply

    I'm very sorry to hear your story and experience with Bill Gothard, I encourage you to check with a lawyer to see if anything can be brought against him. I'm sure there are MANY people here who would donate their life savings and their 3 best credit card balances to put a stop to the evils of Bill Gothard.

  35. Lauren April 28, 2012 Reply

    Lizzie ~ Thank you so much for taking the time to so articulately share your story. I think I remember you from Advanced EXCEL and have really grieved this week over not knowing what was going on and therefore not being able to help you at the time. Having worked in Bill's office for a short time myself (and a long involvement with IBLP), I observed some of his strange habits and experienced a great deal of frustration and confusion myself. Although he never acted toward me the way you have described, I have absolutely no doubt that this occurred as you have said. It makes me want to reach out to other AE grads who went on to work at HQ to see if there are others with similar experience. This really breaks my heart. I've had my own scars to work through but this week I have ached over yours. Thank you for your courage in coming forward with this. I hope that God uses it to protect and bring healing to other girls.

  36. Elizabeth April 29, 2012 Reply

    Bill Gothard sounds like a perverted cult leader. I am so glad my parents had the sense not to get involved with his cult, despite their friends' encouragement to do so. IMHO, any girl subjected to that kind of evil behavior should have walked out....who cares what that creep would have said? Thank you, Lizzie, for finally revealing the not surprising truth about BG.

  37. peggy April 30, 2012 Reply

    wow. my experience with Mr.G at HQ in the mid 90's is almost identical to yours! the touching, the gazing, the playing footsie, and more. very creepy.

  38. Lora April 30, 2012 Reply

    Elizabeth^^, everything around us, every*one* around us told us that he was a Godly Man (the top-of-the-totem-pole kind, as if there were such a thing). Hard to think of a man as a creep who shouldn't be doing what he's doing when you're constantly being told otherwise. It's one thing to deal w/ that inconsistency at 25 after having been out in the real world. But at 18, when it's your first job experience? Not so easy. I never worked w/ Gothard. I think I can count on one hand the times we were in the same room (not arena) at the same time. But the way the authority system was set up, I'm pretty sure that if I were in Lizzie's shoes, I'd do the same as she (and countless other girls) did.

  39. Forrest May 1, 2012 Reply

    I cannot remember from the first article if you said you told your father, I think you said you mentioned it to your parents...? That would be my biggest concern or question, what did your father say, or do? Or did you fall completely into #2 from this article "from a background wherein she received inadequate fathering,...". As someone who still confuses my "good works" for faith in Christ, it doesn't surprise me that Bill Gothard justifies his behavior. I am sad to hear of such mistreatment coming from fellow believers, and sorry you were subjected to it.

  40. [...] we verified with an eyewitness to this incident just this past week. And one of our other commenters stated that she was inappropriately touched as recently as this past Fall of 2011. This, and many other first-hand accounts, has established there is a pattern of inappropriate [...]

  41. Anonymous Please May 14, 2012 Reply

    Lizzy and all,
    This article made me happy that someone spoke up and sad that the problems still exist. We as Christians have spent more time covering up the appearance of evil rather than dealing with the issues.

    Is Bill Gothard the first man to exploit young women? Not at all. I saw this happen when I was about Lizzy's age by another Christian leader. This man even had the audacity and arrogance to flaunt his evil intents. He mis-used Scripture to justify his actions, then covered it with the same coaxing and manipulation as Bill does with "all is well" words. Interestingly, when you said, "I did not know how to confront such a master of rhetoric" I understood what you were saying as the man I speak of did the same thing. As a matter of fact both Bill and this man were very similar in their responses. Patterns, patterns, people have patterns!

    Fortunately, this man's ministry crashed and he and his wife were left to repair what was left of their marriage. The whole incident shook the foundation of my faith. I had to ask many tough questions, was my faith dependent on man? What were the indications that something was wrong? Why did I respond the way I did? Why did others respond the way they did? Were there patterns? Did this man know what he was doing? What can I learn from this to help others?

    Many more questions flooded my mind and I slowly started to find answers as the recovery process took place. 

    Christians need to start asking better questions, standing on truth not just claiming to follow it and loving people like Jesus demonstrated.

    We let people like Bill Gothard stay in the positions they have because of money, not wanting to "rock the boat", they have wonderful ministries, or for whatever reasons. In the Bible it clearly says someone should be proved first before having the office of a deacon and should be found blameless (1Tim 3:10).  Shouldn't the head of a ministry like IBLP be held to the same standards? Or do we Christians justify it by saying, "oh he's such a good minister", or "we should help him privately" while sacrificing the lives of others?

    Did Jesus not care enough for the pharisees when he called them hipocrites? Absolutely! But of course, Jesus did it in private so he didn't embarass the men. What a guy, Jesus cared so much about the ministries of the pharisees, even above the men themselves. Seriously?!

    I do not blame Lizzy for what happened or for how she handled it. She was learning to process what was happening and not quite understanding how a supposedly godly man would even do something she thought was wrong or uncomfortable.  I blame the board of directors who know this exists, the person who stood in the doorway clearly uncomfortable with what was happening (knowing this occurs, uncomfortable about it and not doing a thing). What about the people in the vans, the offices and the maintenance workers who knew and did nothing? Are the people who knew and old enough to know better the ones to blame? Absolutely. 

    Do you think it's an accident Bill surrounds himself with young people? Doubt it since young people are usually not sure how to handle new experiences. They're young!

    We need to stop excusing people or justifying their actions when its clearly NOT Biblical. Now, EVERYTHING Bill and IBLP has done gets called into question, and by allowing this to continue is hypocrisy.

    I am not about to throw the baby out with the bath water. Clearly IBLP has produced some great stuff. That is still not a Biblical reason to keep Bill in leadership.  

    Nor should we expect any man not to have temptations.  The catholic church tells priests not to marry so how do they handle their natural temptations? It plays itself out in unnatural ways because these men do NOT know what to do. They battle inside with the rules and then with their feelings. It's the rule that's first to be unbiblical.  Take that in light of Gothard who is not married. Does he pride himself on this? Just curious. It appears he still has temptations and battles that he does not know how to handle since he's not married. This may explain his behavior but certainly does not excuse it.

    Its interesting to me that I am continually seeing a pattern of adultry. As a leader in a worldwide ministry, I take very careful note of how people respond to what we have. Most people respond positively, some respond in a negative way, but it's those who have a particular aloof response that has bothered me. So far, 4 of the 5 men who have responded this way have been discovered as being in an adulterous relationship. The 5th one is in another country so I have not heard anything at this point. 

    Now, why say this? Early on in our ministry, someone in high leadership in IBLP contacted us about what we have. Their parting words on the phone were, "it all depends on the music." I happen to know the music we have fits fine into Gothard's genre. However, when brought before the leadership, there seemed like an aloof response by someone higher in the organization. Again, I simply took note, and now some things are more clear. 

    Normally, I wouldn't give one person's accussations too much of a look, as the Bible talks about any accussation of a leader needs to be established by the testimony of 2 or 3. Two things drew my attention. First, Lizzy did a fantastic job of clearly stating specific consistent actions that happened (hers and Bill's) without having the appearance of anger or blame. Then the comments by others gave credence that this was not a first time problem or accident.

    Friends, most people in the real world would call this a cult. I don't believe IBLP is a cult, but the actions of Bill are cult-like and have been how some cults have started. 

    One small thing to note. Lizzy you mentioned Bill is only accountable to the board. I question Bill's accountability to anyone including the the board and God. No man can hold another man accountable if he is NOT first accountable to God.  

    So now, questions remain. For those who have witnessed or experienced these actions by Bill, what are you going to do about it? Will you stand by and let the board do nothing or worse, give an excuse for Bill? For Lizzy, I encourage you to continue to isolate the patterns you saw that allowed this to happen (both with you and Bill), as you know others are going through what you did and need help.  Bravo for sharing. 

  42. R May 25, 2012 Reply

    i only met gothard a few times, and now i understand what a relief that was. i never felt comfortable around him, even when he virtually ignored me. glad i'm not his type.

  43. De Lee Bovie June 18, 2012 Reply

    My 14 year old grand-daughter is extremely ill with 6 diagnoses:
    bi-polar, aspergers, oppositional defiance disorder, depression,ocd and generalized anxiety disorder. She has been in psychiatric adolescent hospitals 6 times in 2 years and is there at this moment.

    Her wonderful parents are desperately trying to locate a residential
    treatment program for her. One of our leads was for Bill Gothard's Institute. I looked on the internet about this program and am stunned! I am horrified to think that this attractive young girl could possibly be victimized!

    I thank you for Lizzie's courageous testimony. This Recovering Grace site has saved my precious grandchild from more injury and additional diagnoses.

  44. Carol July 10, 2012 Reply

    "Raising the Standard" is what duped me into the beginning of performance based goals. On one hand by nature, I was a very relational mother.(probably, by the sheer goodness of God, what keeps my childrens' hearts. Though we have experienced the loss of two of their hearts, one has returned and we are reconciled, we are working on the relationship with other son.) On the other hand I felt tremendous pressure that if the name of God were to be honored, it ALL depended on me, my behavior, and that of my children. How many I could have, how much and how hard I could work and accomplish and don't forget their countenances and behavior. THIS was God's will for me and to fail was to fail HIM! While, I'm raising sons partly alone with a deployed military husband, trying to figure out why my son, who missed his dad was acting out, I just kept on the memorizing of Scripture and all of the applicable Character Qualities. Yes, that was what was going to fix the behavior. Much of this toward my children was really motivated by love for them, but I failed them in allowing the pressure of "raising the standard" to pressure me and make me, at times, uptight, overworked, lonely, pregnant, exhausted homeschooling mother. My husband is a truly wonderful man. Maddy, it wasn't he who discouraged me fulfilling my dreams but myself who saw enjoyment or pursuing of anything I liked as selfish. Now, after finally breaking free of this mindset, at the age of 48 I got a horse and am learning to ride. Silly, I know, but my husband loves it! I do it with my 3 little girls and all of the children delight in seeing mom have "fun." We actually left ATI 12 years ago after 7 years of enrollment. Unfortunately, we got caught up in the patriocentricity movement and are now, after an awful experience, learning to throw out the bath water and keep the baby. I am TRYING to enjoy the freedom, but that comes hard. We haven't pendulum swung, at least I don't think we have. I love my husband, I love being his helpmeet and under his headship.(I didn't say "umbrella of protection") BUT, it's relational, unifying and edifying. I know that isn't everyone's experience. I'm so sorry for that. I'm grateful for this ministry, among others.

    • MatthewS July 10, 2012 Reply

      "Keep raising the standard" was like a motto for a while in Moscow. We were a group of energetic young folks determined to do the right thing and it seemed important to ever "raise the standard". It wasn't until years after I had left the program I realized that was a complete and total misuse of Scripture.

      It's awesome that you are a relational family that has fun together!

  45. Carol July 10, 2012 Reply

    Thinking about it, it would be more accurate to say we got caught up in what would be more of the "family" movement, not so much the patriocentric stuff. Probably sounds semantic but there are distinctions.

    • Tangent July 16, 2012 Reply

      The Family Movement. I saw the brochure from our state's convention for homeschoolers, and the theme was something about "Returning to the Family". I've seen friends of ours who got into homeschooling and attended the state co;nvention change. They took their children our of Jr. church and have them sit with them in the service. When our children sat in church with us, they spent the time drawing pitures and making up stories, not listening or learning anything. When my husband quir attending church with us, I put them in the Jr. church ahere they are taught and asked questions. But somehow, it's more "spiritual" to have your children sit in church with you.

  46. Tangent July 16, 2012 Reply

    Sorry about all the typos in my last comment.

    • grateful July 17, 2012 Reply

      Does anyone know the origin of the "family integerated" service or the genesis of families thinking it more spiritual to have to all sit together in church? Is this a BG inspired psuedo-biblical mandate? Just curious - never saw the logic of having a 5 yr old be adistraction and or draw the entire service.

  47. [...] families, but some even involve Bill Gothard himself:Exploited Innocence: Sexual Harassment at HQSexual Harassment Part 2: “Aren’t you making too big an issue of this?”A Difficult JourneyIt’s All My FaultWithout an Umbrella in a Broken SystemChoosing Both [...]

  48. Dawn November 2, 2012 Reply

    I can't believe all the people who condemn Mr. Gothard based on a report that cannot be confirmed! This is backbiting, and not something any Christian should engage in! Anyone who has something against him should confront him personally and biblically, rather than spreading allegations for all the world to read.

    • "Hannah" November 5, 2012 Reply

      Dawn, it's about the sheer volume of such reports. FYI, do you have any idea how BG chews up and spits out anyone who personally confronts him, especially if he considers them an underling? This, I have personally experienced. I'm kinda done with that aspect of it. In my case, I know Libby personally, and I trust her. This, coupled with several experiences of my own along similar lines (no, I was never sexually harrassed... I wasn't pretty enough... But I and those closest to me experienced his abusiveness on several occasions), causes me to believe her story.

      BTW, Paul set a precedent for confronting false teachers publicly. It's not backbiting, in that instance. Or else Paul was a backbiter. Take your pick. But cults use the "backbiting" admonition as a form of information control. And we are looooooooong past being told to sit down and shut up.

    • Heather November 15, 2012 Reply

      I don't want to split hairs Dawn, but how do you know the report cannot be confirmed? Have you not read the comments and other stories of people who either witnessed these events, or were also victims of it? The Scripture says, 'In the mouth of two or three witnesses, let every word be established.' Well so far, my guesstimation is that we have a dozen or so witnesses PLUS other victims just now finding the courage to come forward.. These are not simply unfounded allegations.

      One of the commenters said that after she read this story, she e-mailed/called quite a few of her friends who had worked with Mr. Gothard, and she'd received about 6 similar stories in just two or three days, confirming that Gothard DOES engage in these behaviors.

  49. Untilmatebigone November 22, 2012 Reply

    My father passed away in January and my mother is continuing with the IbLP/ATI seminars and what not bc she wants to continue to carry out his desires and the way they decided to raise their children. I am no longer involved in either organization but my twin sisters just went to the journey to the Heart seminar and Gothard asked one of them, the slim prettier one to come back and work but ignored the other who is more "matronly and homely". I have talked to my mom and grid to dissuade her from sending the sister back and while no decision has been made I am fearful of the outcome. As a man and a brother if she goes, I will personally make a trip up there and explain to Gothard where things stand. I will not put up with that kind of behavior towards my sister from any man and so help me if my actions distance me from my mom and that sister, so be it. Brothers were given the role of protector of their sisters and over my dead body will I let her down whether she thinks it is a good idea or not. I have done some things in my life I am not proud of, I do not consider myself a hothead or antagonist but my eyes were opened in regards to this years ago, some of which have prepared me to deal with situations such as this and I will go to great lengths to protect my sisters. No decent person would stand by and allow such actions and I do not intend to. My family is my life and my sisters

    • Lana November 24, 2012 Reply

      glad you will stand up for her!! Share this with your mother.

    • MatthewS November 26, 2012 Reply

      Oh man, sorry to read this that your father passed away in January.

      This is the side that people don't see until their eyes are opened to it - just how terrible it is to take advantage of a young student with real needs and a trusting heart.

      I can imagine there would be a strong nostalgic component in this for your mom as she seeks to honor your father's memory - that can be a strong impulse for someone who has lost a spouse. I hope that by "great lengths" you are referring to the depth of your commitment to your family no matter what (as opposed to anything rash). Don't forget that your sisters need the freedom to make their own choices.

      I will pray for you and your family as you come to mind and as I see this comment here. May the Lord give peace and direction to your mother, and may your sisters find situations where they can truly flourish.

    • Nagerjaeger January 7, 2013 Reply


      I hope you can dissuade your sister(s). And I don't think you can get past BG's security. Even in the '70s and early '80's when I attended IBYC he had personal security.


  50. Lana November 24, 2012 Reply

    Lizzie, thank you for your story. Funny, even my dad has commented to me numerous times about the gothard profile for girls. He noticed just by those who picked out for his camps. ugh, makes me bad.

    I never knew Gothard on a personal level, but I can tell you that teenage girls and young girls are easy to take advantage of. Men have hit on me in similar ways both in the states in and in Asia. When I was younger, I had no clue what to do. Gothard is 100% responsible, and I do not blame the girls in anyway.

    Most girls have been sexually harassed in someway in this world. Its sad, but most men have a hatred towards women because they think we their playing ground.

  51. [...] and 2b (19,600 and 11,387 views): Exploited Innocence-Sexual Harassment at HQ, part one  and part two. Lizzie shares her account of how she was sexually harrassed by Bill Gothard while working for IBLP [...]

  52. chagrined January 5, 2013 Reply

    On the issue of boundaries ....

    Personal boundaries are usually not respected by fundamentist leaders and most view themselves as God's direct representatives who are backed with divine authority. In many of these leaders' eyes, people who put up healthy boundaries are asserting personal autonomy and engaging in the preservation of the self-life. Because this undermines their ability to gain control such, fundamentalist leaders often twist scripture and use all manner of religious rhetoric and emotional manipulation to bring into line those who don't "come under authority". At first they'll appeal "to love" and be very kind, but quickly turn authoritatirian if the you refuse to become their "sheeple" right quick. As far as I'm concerned these types are the worst kind of charlatans. Without fail, every fundamentalist Chriatian leader I've known who used these tactics turned out to a phony self-promoting scum bucket.

  53. [...] they often respond by minimizing the abuse, excusing the abuser and criticizing the victim. In Part 2, Aren’t you making too big an issue of this? Lizzie’s explains how she has dealt with such minimization and [...]

  54. David March 4, 2013 Reply

    Gothard's conduct is called, "grooming," among experts on sexual exploitation and abuse. He is exploring and seeing how far he can go. And of course, the very authority structure of Gothard's theology protects his conduct. You would think that what happened in the early 1980's with his brother ought to have alerted his followers. But religious robots never learn. Bill Gothard is a legalistic heretic. He is the very definition of it. The epistle to the Galatians could have been written directly to him -- and I am being kind. The damage his ministry has done cannot be calculated, and perhaps the greatest damage is among those who are happy in it.

    • BeverlyB March 4, 2013 Reply

      Actually if you pull all the old 1980's articles, you'll see that Gothard himself confessed and used similar language as his brother after being caught (using the words "defrauding" and "moral failure"), which caused him to be removed by the Board from his leadership of the organization. Then about a month later he seized power again and promptly changed the bylaws so he could no longer be removed by the Board. This is why there was such a great fall-out among his staff, and many of them walked away. A couple years after that, he started ATIA (the home school program) and convinced parents to send their young, impressionable youth (many under-aged) to work for him and staff his buildings--for FREE, of course, under the Apprenticeship program. The fact that he had admitted to the same indiscretions as his brother (while being careful not to name the *exact* sexual offense, but leave it vague), and then convinced parents a couple years later to send under-aged girls to work with him, is mind-boggling in itself. The only reason he got away with it is because, 1) people were absolutely convinced he was a man of God and worthy of trusting, 2) there was a strict "no-talk" policy among the staff about what had happened previously, and 3) everything happened before the Internet age. If it had happened 15 years later, I don't believe he would have remained in leadership and his organization would have survived. The fact that it DID survive, is not a testimony to God's blessing on it. It's a testimony to the deceitfulness of this man, and that he will stop at nothing to keep his empire running. He has ruined many lives, and his sexual grooming/manipulative behavior is still happening today, as many have come forward to testify. The fact that he is not preaching the Gospel is a very major concern, but the fact that he has not acknowledged or received help for his sexual issues, is a more immediate concern for those under-aged girls who are still working with and around him. Many of these girls have been led to believe that they are imagining his grooming behavior, that what he is doing to them is somehow their fault--or they feel shamed into silence, thinking no one will believe their word against his. In reality, they will be VERY much believed by those who have also experienced it. There are more testimonies than they would imagine.

      • Red May 21, 2013 Reply

        Can you please direct me to these articles you reference?

    • Heather March 20, 2013 Reply

      'and perhaps the greatest damage is among those who are happy in it.'

      This is SO true. :(

    • Heather March 20, 2013 Reply

      You know, the thing I've noticed about people who are in cults... they'd never believe they were in a cult until after they were out of it and able to look back with clear vision on what actually happened. Jim Jones' followers would never have believed it, look where it took them. :(

  55. Saddened March 20, 2013 Reply

    A class-action suit filed against IBYC, IBLP, ATI, and William Gothard, by former female workers, who were under age 18 at the time of the sexual harassment and/or sexual offense, will be gladly accepted by most Illinois state judges. Please don't underestimate your power under the law and how the Lord can and will work through it. There are Christians, who love the Lord very much, who will gladly underwrite your legal expenses.

    • Heather March 20, 2013 Reply

      If just ONE person could find the courage to do this, the floodgates will open, and others would find courage. And you would have hundreds of people who will be your moral support and back you up, in fact, I do believe I would travel and be in court for moral support if need be!

  56. Lynn March 21, 2013 Reply

    Saddened and Heather, I hope this idea comes about. I as a parent am disgusted and want to see it stopped. X-ATI parent that is.

  57. [...] at Headquarters. Click on these links to read the previous stories: Lizzie’s story Part 1 and Part 2, and Annette’s [...]

  58. [...] Story Part One, Part Two, as well as Annette's and Grace's stories. And read the comments. A couple of excellent points [...]

  59. Monica February 4, 2014 Reply

    If these questions were truly asked by individuals, then I have to say that while I appreciate their curiosity and interest, it contributes to a larger problem in general with sexual assault, rape, and generally unwelcome behavior and attention that young men and women receive all over the world and throughout history: blame shifting.

    When a young woman confesses discomfort with unwelcome behavior, it is often met with questions of disbelief and remarks that (although perhaps not intentionally) discredit. That is a devastating thing. It requires a great deal of courage to even recognize these behaviors for what they are (inappropriate) and confess it to oneself. But then to be met publicly with discrediting remarks is a pain that almost cuts more deeply and makes you question everything that you've just worked so hard to discover and realize.

    A young woman not vocally and forcibly fighting off the unwelcome advances of a professional superior does NOT excuse the advances. It is perfectly normal to feel confused, to minimize the incidents, to excuse away what is evident because you don't want it to be true. The reality still remains that those advances should have never happened in the first place. There is a reason that sexual harassment laws exist.

    I give a lot of credit to you for stepping up and telling this story. I know it's not easy to face those realities and to even further share them with everyone else.

  60. Wai Leng February 5, 2014 Reply

    Most courageous! THUMBS UP FOR LIZZY!!!

  61. Jay February 6, 2014 Reply

    In a day and age where we find 30 dead little boys under the home of one homosexual in Atlanta and another in Chicago, sodomized and dismembered and every kind of abuse imaginable in the political arena with our politicians still defending homosexuality, I'm going to have to have someone come up with more than just a little hand holding and footsy games before I declare Mr. Gothard to be immoral. Maybe there's more going on than just footsy and hand holding, but we need some hard evidence. Gothard was intelligent enough not to allow himself to be taken advantage of by the current domestic laws which control marriage and give all the rights to women while taking away all the rights of men. I think this whole thing has more to do with women who don't like it when the men are in control of relationships than it does sexual immorality. And we all know that women in a day and age of feminism want to be the ones that are in control by using their bodies to tempt men and then use that as a condition of furthering the relationship which the women have tempted men in to. Sexual harrassment codes don't seem to have anything to say about women harrassing men though because those codes are written by homosexuals who want women to dominate men and drive their husband away. Once the man is gone, the children are easy prey for the perverts who made those laws. One need look no further than the dresses of female reporters on Fox news to see the attempts women daily make to use their body to exercise control over men. In a day and age where serial monogamy is practiced, one husband or one wife at a time in between divorces, men are basically at the mercy of this corrupt legal system and those voices which influence their wives to divorce them. If a man truly wants to be assured of obeying God by avoiding divorce now days, all he can do is remain single or else give in to the tyrannical whims of the ever increasingly angry and disgruntled American woman. That effectively keeps the man from being the head of his household and makes the woman the head of the man, which God directly forbids. If she doesn't get her way, she simply threatens divorce as the current corrupt system allows.

    If Gothard is involved in sexual immorality, then he will be dealt with sooner or later, but I'm not going to judge that until I see some hard evidence of it. A nation of homosexual lawmakers that allows women to divorce their husband and that encourages homosexual marriage has no moral authority to discipline anybody or to issue a marriage license either for that matter.

    If you don't want your daughter around Gothard, then that's your decision to make. Go to the conference as a family and don't leave your daughter to fend for herself because that is what happens when women run things and men are not allowed to make these decisions as head of the household. Women these days are taught that they should be independent, but then when they are left alone to fend for themselves because their family and/or society would rather have a dominant matriarch than to have a man in charge it leaves young women vulnerable. Young men too for that matter. But we won't worry about young men because our society would rather concentrate on women and just forget that men are important or have needs at all. It's a disease that is killing our nation.

    Maybe Gothards standards for student conduct on the campus are not kept by him personally, but you can be sure that if he steps too far over the line it will be dealt with. In the mean time, don't complain to me about men dominating women until you are ready to stop women from taking advantage of men, only on a much larger scale. That's the height of hypocrisy.

    Or we could just go ahead and do what the homosexual feminists want and make it where only the women can initiate a relationship leading to a domestic civil union, licensed by the government and that can be dissolved on a whim while furthering the homosexual agenda of the United Nations. So from now on, if a girl or a woman wears suggestive clothing, gazes too sweetly into a mans eyes, tries to hold his hand or attempts to show flirtation, we should report her sexual harrassment. Yow, that's the ticket. Equality. Right? And let's put all the women in management so that they can't do these evil things to the men who are their subordinates while we're at it.

    • Travis February 7, 2014 Reply

      You're absolutely right! Straight men never commit crimes or have any form of aberrant behavior. Every straight man out there would cringe at the idea of ever hurting a woman or a child. In fact, most of the straight men in jail right now, convicted for rape and battery obviously were seduced into their crimes.

      Every evil thing done to the human race was the result of a woman or a homosexual. I can't believe how clear your thinking is. I must bask in the light of your wisdom.

      • Jay February 7, 2014 Reply

        Nope Travis. I didn't say anything such as you have accused. But it does seem that people on this board are good at accusing without having any evidence as you just proved. If someone has had sexual contact with Bill Gothard, bring em out and lets get witnesses. Until then, put up or shut up.

        • MatthewS February 7, 2014

          I see a comment like this and I think, DNFTT: Do not feed the trolls

        • Travis February 7, 2014

          Your entire diatribe up there insinuates that only homosexuals commit these crimes. As well that if someone rapes a woman, she seduced him to deflower her with vicious intent.

          Moreover - you minimize the actions of a man who is supposed to be a "moral pillar" of Christianity. Seriously, would you feel comfortable if your grandfather took his shoes off and started running them up your leg?

          Suddenly, because this individual has soft skin, breasts, and lacks the male appendage - all is permissible?

          And in addition that a 16 year old is a temptress simply because she is too naive to know any better? I have a 2.5 year old daughter who is quite fascinated with her anatomy at this time, if I should (god forbid) assault her in any form, shall I pass that off as "Well she seduced me!"

          Your argument, sir, is falacious and quite ridiculous. This man who was well past his 30s ought to know better than to take advantage of a 16 year old, extremely naive and sheltered girl. Playing footsie, massaging her body and blatantly making suggestions as to what underwear she purchases goes FAR beyond excusable.

          I don't care if he's a christian, a hindu, or an atheist, I don't care how much power or how downtrodden he may be. A man of his age, does NOT fiddle around with a young 16 year old girl and call it "innocent".

    • 'Megan' February 7, 2014 Reply

      Whatever you're smoking, I want none of it. Thanks for the entertainment though.

  62. Rachel February 7, 2014 Reply

    I met Gothard a few times when we were in ATI, and while I stood in awe of the man back then, looking back I believe there was a thread of unease there, a sort of "free candy van guy" vibe he had going on. I didn't realize it then, but I never liked being around him. Thankfully I'm not, nor was I ever, his type. It was like he looked right through me. Back then, I was offended that he couldn't remember my name, even though my brother worked at HQ and was well liked and well known (in a good way). Now, I'm so grateful I was a nobody.

    Lizzie, what happened to you and all the other girls is a terrible travesty, especially since the Board knew and did nothing about it. They, too, will have to face the consequences someday.

  63. carlos February 8, 2014 Reply

    Of the accounts I've read thus far, this Q and A session is by far the most articulate representation of why this is a big deal and not something "fatherly" or "innocent" that's being blown out of proportion. Thanks for this.

  64. […]… […]

  65. Luke Braly April 24, 2014 Reply

    Its still an open question in my mind why he never got married. Often wondered whether he had some sort of industrial accident that prevented it. I don't really think less of him because of these reported incidents (pattern of behavior, whatever), though was somewhat ambivalent about him to begin with. It confirms at least that he's decidedly heterosexual, which in a way makes it all the more amazing he never got married. And, in all these decades, if the worst he was ever accused of was being "hyper tactile" with the young ladies, seems to be a pretty good track record. I'm sure he rationalized it all in his own mind, e.g. "There's no chance I'd ever get legitimately sexually involved with these young ladies, so what's the harm." And incidentally, I'd like to know how the author thinks that sexual harassment statute she quoted applies to the "stroking of hair", "hand-holding", intense eye-gazing, etc" of Gothard, because the actual text of it she quoted does not make her application of it here clear at all. Incidentally, is the author claiming some sort of long-term psychological damage from Gothard because of these incidents? It seems a lot of religious megalomaniacs in Gothard's position would have had all sorts of actual sexual conquests after so many decades, and if all Gothard has done is get a little touchy-feely -- I'm still somewhat ambivalent about him. Don't think these incidents lessen the legitimacy of his ministry and his message, which may or may not be challengable on their own. I know that Recovering Grace says they're all based on unscriptural legalism, but the fact is, read Paul's epistles carefully, and he doesn't always seem to be all that clear, to me anyway, on the topic of grace himself (e.g. Galatians 5:19-21, or 2 Peter 1:5-10, for that matter). Wow, read the name "Gothard" the right way, and there's a rather ribald pun. I really need to work on my attitude, I guess.

    Finally, the author is genuinely excellent writer. Hope she's capitalized on that over the years.

    • Luke Braly April 24, 2014 Reply

      The above was only based on reading this first account, by Lizzie. Evidently though, Gothard has left scores of psychologically damaged young women in his wake. He is starting to seem like a bonafide and prototypical cult leader, but with a very odd twist. Haven't read his confession yet regarding all this though.

  66. Alison April 25, 2014 Reply

    Reading these brave women's stories triggered very emotional reactions for me from my own experiences of military sexual harassment.

    I can understand those feelings of feeling so isolated, feeling that there was nowhere to turn, that no one would stand up for you even if you did.

    Unlike the young women here I was much more worldly and had family outside the system, but even so I kept quiet and blamed myself and only many years later have been able to realise that what happened to me was wrong.

    As far as the level of what Bill Gothard did - even for a more worldly woman that uninvited touching and overly personal comments would be uncomfortable and disturbing. For these very sheltered young women it must have been devastating.

    I'm not a Christian, but I'm not anti-Christian. I know many Christian people who I feel live according to Christian beliefs, and I admire them.
    However Bill Gothard's actions just seem to me like the worst kind of hypocrisy and exploitation.

  67. […] to Gothard’s message, it was still a shock to me that he was alleged to be guilty of sexual harassment. My parents had spoken with me about some of the things that were “off” about […]

  68. nicole gardner October 24, 2014 Reply

    I`m finding it ironic that the very same advantage Gothard made for himself in wielding such influence is also the one that shows him up as having a double standard. He first micro-managed the behavior of his students, detailing every slightest move that typifies flirting as being wrong in all circumstances, especially between a dating couple. Once his students are made rigidly self-conscious and ultra-aware of their own propensity for evil in this area, he has then effectively isolated them from any flirting. He has simultaneously separated any and all confiding-level friendships between the genders. A collection of young females has thus been set apart, away from the very fathers, brothers, childhood connections that homeschooling is often done to strengthen ties with. [A godly motivation that Gothard has profited from in having so many homeschool families to market to]. He has spent decades conveying the ultra-awareness of every emotional nuance, associating various sexual innuendos of body language as corresponding with such evil in the heart that, once physically manifested, then defraud another's heart. Once he's done this to all his students, he has picked the women most attractive to him, isolating them and surrounding himself with them. Then, in his own territory, having eliminated all competition for their attention, no possible distractions, everything only on his terms, he goes and does all these things to them.

    So sick, because it`s so much more impactful, so much more inevitable, by his methods of doing so. This is not just a fella hitting on his Friday night date.
    Yet, what he did already also set his own standard of judgement as being that of double-standard.

    • J.B. October 24, 2014 Reply


      Thank you, thank you, thank you! Totally agree. If there's any comment I'd list as recommended reading for anyone who tries to downplay Gothard's behavior as simply a "mistake" or whatever, it's this one. I honestly believe that we live in a culture that's been so conditioned to think in terms of outward appearances and compartmentalization that we miss the subtle details and the connections that need to be made between various behaviors. This pretty much outlined all of Gothard's to a tee.

    • kevin October 24, 2014 Reply

      "Once he's done this to all his students, he has picked the women most attractive to him, isolating them and surrounding himself with them. Then, in his own territory, having eliminated all competition for their attention, no possible distractions, everything only on his terms, he goes and does all these things to them. "

      Yes, absolutely correct. His harsh treatment of any boy who spoke to one of his chosen victims is evidence that he was intent on removing all competition.
      So many of this teachings seem tied in to his obsession with young girls and wanting them all to himself.

  69. nicole gardner October 24, 2014 Reply

    That`s an even more overall summary of what I was trying to say: "We live in a culture that's been so conditioned to think in terms of outward appearances and compartmentalization that we miss the subtle details and the connections that need to be made between various behaviors."

    While appearing to address this very deficit, and in "helping" his students do this-(and when I say students, I also mean the parents of children who are nonetheless IBLP "alumni"), he imposed a ban both on conventional socialization and reflecting one's personality. Basic expressiveness that's not even sexual- like conversation between the genders, or a girl being able to CONFIDE in her daddy that she has a crush on a boy, are taboo. Instead kids are told that conversation between the genders are for no other purpose than eventual (if not immediate) sexual gratification. The girl and her parents have been told that any crush she has isn't a sign of developing according to God's design- rather it's the result of her sin nature and confession must weed those feelings out of her heart. Hence, any acceptance from her parents she ever had in confiding in them about these feelings is gone, replaced with condemnation. All IBLP kids were thus either removed-isolated or always kept isolated from their parents. Being in a state of condemnation was why they needed parental interaction. Double-dating in public places?? Oh, no! Conversation between genders simply for that purpose, so that kids won't have panic attacks at age 18 when they join the work force? Certainly not! In censoring these compartments of outward appearances, Gothard is legalistic like the Pharisees, yet he also sensitizes students to subtleties that he rightly identifies as being things to avoid. That he insists on acute self-consciousness, acute hyper-sensitivity of the subject to how others interact with them, and then monopolizes his subject is what's so double-tongued.

    I only had the overhead-projector version of IBLP. I only went to the first 6 to 10 hours of the 16-hour seminar, on 4 different occasions. (My work schedule prevented me from doing the whole thing any of the 4 times). I was already 17 the first time. I never experienced ATI, praise God. But even in IBLP, Gothard would say: "It's very important to your understanding of what I'm about to say next that you pay very close attention. Do not let yourself be distracted, even by taking notes. Especially for those seeing this on video, it's very important that you focus intently on face as I say these next words." (This is not a direct quote, but is an accurate paraphrase). He would then do the centurian story. I was surprised, since the quoting of whole scriptures was not something he did verbally, nor was there any quoting of the scriptures he offered as cross-references, that we were not to take our eyes of his face. I believe he even used that phrase "it's important to not take your eyes off my face as I speak these next words, lest understanding be lost." I defied his order and opened my Bible to the Scripture, anyway. Not that I felt allowed to read his references, anyway. I wondered why, in this intensity of self-conscientiousness, the Bible was marginalized. I felt dominated by another human being through-out those first hours of the seminar, even though it was through a screen. Even though he was apparently wielding his own authority over people, rather than pointing them to Scripture, it would have been non-conforming of me to rifle through my Bible while everyone around me sat still and stared at the screen.

    I can't imagine what it would be like to actually face Gothard in person. I'm so glad that so many who've been drug off and mauled by this wolf are experiencing the saving grace of the Good Shepherd (John 10:1-16). God bless your ministry there through which grace is recovering the sheep.

  70. nicole gardner October 24, 2014 Reply

    And I don't ONLY mean that Gothard "insists on acute self-consciousness, acute hyper-sensitivity of the subject (the student) to how others interact with them, and then monopolizes his subject is what's so double-tongued."
    Having already made clear, originally, that he's got a 7-stage method of preying on those most attractive to him, my last post is meant to be contextualized within that fact. [The fact that Gothard overtook females by one accost after another of invasive bodily contact techniques. The whole range of which was immediately following the barrage of means that positioned him to conquer the next victim he had lined up for himself.]

    Somebody should REALLY tip the cheater: "You know, Bill, it's not really winning the jackpot when you make up your own rules, rig the deck, and physically force those you've assigned to your table to un-breast their cards (even though you're the only one who's grabbing their hands)." After all, Bill, if playing cards games to win is below you, then you should be above cheating at the other kinda game you've been playing to win, too.

  71. Paulette May 20, 2015 Reply

    Lizzie, coming in late here, but I just want to tell you I think you are a good writer! This was a difficult task, writing about this experience, but you wrote it carefully and precisely, and still with grace and a bit of humor. Lovely! I hope you have a great writing career going on.

  72. Hanna February 2, 2021 Reply

    I know this is an old article, but thank you so much for sharing.

    I have been a victim of sexual harrassment as well. It was at work and not in a religious context, but the patterns are very much the same.
    I am all too familiar with the explaining-away of must-be-accidents.

    The questions you answer here are questions I have asked myself for months, before I was able to admit to myself that I was being harrassed and eventually quit my job. Am I just reading to much into this? Why didn't I just say no?

    People so often don't realize the power structures involved in sexual harrassment. How can you say no to a person who holds that much authority in the organisation you work for? That controls such a big part of your life? How to report behaviour that you yourself can explain away as a series of unfortunate accidents. No one will believe you. They will all say you are just trying to be important.
    I know all the mental gymnastics one does to justify this behaviour.
    And I am sorry you had to go through this.

    Having experienced something simliar, I do not wish it unto my worst enemy.

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