Sacred Grooming, Part One: A Secretary’s Account of Life With Bill Gothard

20 January 2014, 06:00




So, today I get brave. For the first time in my life.

A long time ago, when I was very young and naïve, I worked for Bill Gothard as his secretary at the Oak Brook, IL Headquarters of ATI [the Advanced Training Institute] and IBLP [the Institute in Basic Life Principles]. For years I have looked back upon that time as a golden time in my personal history, a year full of adventures and challenges and travel and spiritual growth.

I became close to my boss, a man who became my mentor, my confidant, my counselor — someone I called "my own familiar friend." Someone I trusted. Someone who had my unquestioned loyalty. A friend whom I protected, with secrets that I thought I would take to my grave.

And then I began to hear the rumors — spreading to my ears even from halfway across the world. “Did you know Bill Gothard wanted to marry you?” I heard this not once, but several times. I always dismissed it as vicious jealousy and completely untrue. Until someone wrote to me two years ago asking me if the sexual harassment stories on the Recovering Grace website were true.

Recovering Grace? I had never heard of it.

I logged on, and I read. And my whole life was changed. Reading those accounts was like reading my own history. Everything I had built my beliefs and friendships and trusts and memories on was swept away in one small, yet gigantic, 800 words or so.

For the next year I sought to get to the truth. In my search, I sought the help and advice of a professional counselor to walk me through the processing I would need to do to unravel my history, making sense of it and coming to terms with it. During this time, a former IBLP Board Member confirmed to me that it was indeed true that Bill Gothard had thought about marrying me. He was 59 and I was 20, barely 21 when I left. But that, in itself, did not shock me. If anything, it made me feel pity for him, a sadness for my old friend.

The passing of time, of growing up, forced me to reflect on many things that happened then, on the behavior, on my responses. To ask whether this had been a healthy relationship. The secrets — my secrets — were being shouted from the rooftops, and it wasn't me doing the shouting. 

I am the last person in the world who wants to judge another fellow human being. Who am I to do that, when I will be throwing my own self before God and begging for His mercy?

Read my story and see for yourself.

— “Meg”

 [Editor’s Note: The young woman referred to only as “she” and “her” in the following account is Meg herself, but she has written it in the third person. The author was twenty years old at the beginning of the events. The following is a true story.]

Tress with Ice Crystals in SunlightA Beginning

The snowy streets of suburban Chicago were icy and bitterly cold. She was standing on the edge of the road waiting for him. The wide bare trees above her head cracked and snapped in the frozen air. She had on a long navy skirt and a blouse under her white sweater. Last night the girls in the house had celebrated Christmas by having a Christmas sweater party. A pretty vintage picture had been ironed onto the front of this sweater, and she was wearing it now as she stood at the end of the snowy driveway, her bare hands rolled up in the sleeves to keep them from getting too cold. 

A car turned into the street and pulled up beside her. She got in and immediately relaxed in the warmth. Her boss said good morning to her and smiled at her as she pulled on her seat belt. She looked cold, he said. Did she have any gloves? 

No, she said, she didn’t bring any.            

Bill pulled the car over to the side of the road on the short drive to the office. He had brown leather gloves on his large hands and he took them off and gave them to her. Here, he wanted her to have these.

“Are you sure,” she asked, as she thanked him.

I have plenty more,” he said. “I don’t want you to get cold.”

She warmed to him. As she slipped the gloves over her cold fingers, she looked over at him, watching him as he turned the wheel of the car back out onto the road. He was so kind. So thoughtful.

Taking Care of Her

She sat in a chair in his office, waiting. She had on her favorite brown dress. It was full length with tiny pink flowers scattered all over the fine linen. It tucked in nicely at her narrow waist and the large collar with its v-neck made her neck look long and narrow. Her vanity loved the way it draped over her legs as she folded them. The back office door opened and he came in. She stood up. “Hello,” she said, extending her hand.

“Well. Here you are.” He shook her hand and waved for her to take her seat again. He sat down in his large office desk chair and leaned back. His desk was wood grain and very wide. It didn’t have much on it except for a phone, a computer, and a small pile of neatly stacked papers. There wasn’t a pen in sight.

He began talking. He said he brought her up here to see him, as he wanted to make sure that she had everything she needed. He asked whether there was anything he could get or do for her.

She hesitated at first, and squirmed in her chair a little. “Well… well…” she looked up at him. “I am running out of money,” she said suddenly and quietly. “I’m needing to get a few winter things.”

He leaned down and opened up a drawer, taking out a wad of cash. He handed the bills across the desk to her. “Here,” he said, “take this and go and get whatever you need.” He said one of the girls would take her, and if she needed more just to come and ask; he didn’t want her to feel that she couldn’t ask. “I’m here to look after you,” he said.

She smiled at him. “Thank you so much. I am so grateful to you.”

He appreciated her honesty, he said. It was refreshing.

She felt she had a tiny glimpse of the man behind the public persona. A man used to being fawned over and pandered to and waited on. A man who wanted for nothing. A man who had crowds and crowds of people seeking just a moment, just a glimpse, just a small piece of who he is and what he represents. A man, she thought, who could quite easily lose his authentic self. She looked up at him with new eyes, understanding eyes.

Settling In

The first night she spent at Headquarters, the hypnotic sound of singing monks had drifted into her bedroom. Over and over, the same low tuneless singing filled her ears. She turned in her bed and looked over at the little travel clock on the dresser beside her. 2:17 a.m. Chicago time. She pulled her pillow over her head and pressed it against her ears, but she knew it wouldn’t block out the sound. What was with these girls and their obsession over this awful — she couldn’t call it singing — chanting that they insisted on playing all night long.

When she had first stepped into the house that evening, after the ride from the airport, she found that her new bedroom was small but comfortable: a single bed with a pretty floral duvet and a small bedside table. The wardrobe was massive. She was quite sure it would swallow up her meager supply of clothes.

The girls had all been in the kitchen, busy making something that smelled good. One of the girls did a quick run around the room naming all of them, which left her head spinning. They seemed friendly. They smiled a lot. She had forgotten their names already.

The room was large and bright, with wooden paneling on the cabinets and a tiled floor, but what stood out the most were the bright red apples. There were prints of bright red apples everywhere: the rug on the floor, the tea towels, the picture hanging over the sink, the glasses, and even the little stack of coasters on the island. One of the girls saw her looking at the coasters. “Our roommate did that,” the girl said. There was laughter and one of them giggled. Two months was good, she said; the roommate had changed it up frequently. They’d had apples, corn, Raggedy Ann, Precious Moments, cowboy themes, and roses.

She looked around them all as they shared the joke. It struck her that they were all so young. And very pretty. And very thin. There wasn’t an ugly one among them, and nobody was even the slightest bit on the plump side.

She thought about this as she now tossed on the bed, keeping the pillow pressed around her ears, the dreary chanting of the monks still humming in her ears. That’s when her fingers found the leather bracelet around her wrist, and suddenly she forgot the monks, Chicago, and this new job, and she thought of him. The boy. What was he doing right now, while she lay here? What was he doing all the way back there in her own familiar city? Would he be thinking of her? She was thinking of him.

The Letter

“What are you writing?” he asked.

She looked up from her office desk and saw Bill standing before her. It was late afternoon and the light outside was dimming. In the quiet lull around her, she had switched on her lamp and pulled out some writing paper. “Just a letter to a friend back home,” she answered. She covered the paper with her arm as she reached to put the pen back in the holder.

His curiosity was awakened. He came around the side of the desk and leaned over her. He asked to whom she was writing, tapping his finger on the writing paper.

She stammered. “Oh. Um. Just an old friend. A boy.” The boy she’d told him about. They’d broke up just before she came to Headquarters, but he was still her good friend. He’d always be a good friend, she said.

He nodded slowly and took her hand. “Come over here,” he said, “I want to talk to you about this.”

They sat down on the pale couch he kept near his desk. He used that couch a lot for counseling. For the people that came through this office seeking his advice, his words of wisdom, his insight into their personal tragedies, this couch became their confessional, their altar before God, their laying down of worldly cares in the search for something higher, more pure, more worthy.

He spoke softly, his hands reaching out again for hers. He held them both in his, squeezing them, reassuring her. She felt safe.

“If you and I are to be one in spirit, we need to be open with each other.” He said he didn’t want her getting distracted by old relationships while she was there. He said they had a goal to reach, a God to serve. “Why don’t you tell me about this boy,” he said. “Let’s talk about it together.”

She looked up at him. He looked so kind. So sympathetic. So understanding.

She found herself pouring out her story to him; her sad little love story about a girl who loved a boy, about friendship and companionship, about teenage love. She told him about growing up and realizing that the boy didn’t need her anymore, that he doesn’t love her anymore, that he doesn’t want her anymore; that heartbreak can be cruel and that it won’t go away, even if you go to the remotest place on earth. She told him that she would still lie awake every night thinking of the boy, that she would try to forget him and find she couldn’t, that her heart was tied to the boy’s.


She was busy working on some of Bill’s documents at the computer when the girl came in. The girl didn’t knock at the door, just walked straight in and stood beside her and breathed out a slippery “Hi there!”

She looked up from her work, took off her reading glasses, and stood up to greet the girl. She had been in this office for a week now, and this was the first girl who had come over to say hello. It felt nice to be acknowledged, nice to think there was someone who wanted to be friendly.

“Hi,” she replied, shyly.

The girl said that she worked over in the other office, that she was a secretary too, that she just thought she’d come and say hello. The girl worked for the ministry’s second-in-command. She was clutching some books to her chest, but managed to find a free hand to wave in the direction across the hallway to her office; the girl said she’d worked here for four years now.

Wow, she replied, the girl must be really familiar with the place now. She was still finding her way, adjusting to a new city. She liked her work, though. It was interesting.

The girl nodded slowly and her smile faded as she asked, “Have you been a secretary before?”

No, she replied, this was her first job as a secretary.

“Well, I just wondered because this is one of the top jobs around here,” the girl said, “and I wouldn’t have minded this job myself.” The girl continued that there were quite a few girls who had been here for even longer who wanted this job. “I just thought that you must be extra-experienced or something to have gotten it. You know?” she cocked her head on the side, as though in a challenge.

This took her aback. The girl’s smile had gone and she was sure she detected the tiniest hint of hostility in the girl’s blue eyes looking into hers. She shrugged. Oh well, she replied, Mr. Gothard had asked her to do this job, and it seemed the right thing for her at the time.

The other nodded slowly, raised her eyebrows and looked down at the floor quickly. The message was clear. “Sure,” the girl said. “Well, if you need help with anything, let me know, I’m just across the hallway.” The girl’s voice was breezy now, artificially bright and over-friendly.

But she felt the frostiness in it, and the sting of realizing that this girl wasn’t here to be friendly. The girl was on the attack, with veiled hostility at this interloper who had stepped over her, and all the other girls, she supposed, to land a big job. She felt disappointment. She knew she looked vulnerable, fragile, innocent, but mean girls were nothing to her. What mattered was the work. The ministry. Helping him.

Finding Favor

“Why did you choose me?” she asked him.

They were driving back to Chicago. They had been down to Indianapolis for the day and she had been required to work as they traveled, taking down his dictation. She loved this part of her job, the challenge of writing quickly using her limited knowledge of shorthand. She had borrowed a book from the library and had been trying to teach herself in the quiet moments, which were becoming scarce these days as he put more and more demands on her time. 

It was dark in the car with only a small overhead light shining between them. She laid the pad and pen down beside her and looked up. He was sitting next to her, and in the front sat two of her colleagues. One was driving. One was asleep, his head rolling uncomfortably between the car door and the seat.

Bill turned and looked quizzically at her. Why did she ask that, he wanted to know.

Well, she said, she just wondered. He didn’t know anything about her when he asked her to come and work for him, and from what she could gather there were a lot of girls here who would love her job. She felt kind of bad that she was here, with him, and they were not.

He laughed softly. First of all, he said, if he had wanted those girls, he would have asked them. He said he needed someone special to be his secretary, and when he first met her he somehow knew that he and she would work well together. “I think God brought you to me,” he said. He said that she had a heart for missions, and wasn’t just there to find a husband. He smiled at that part. 

She could understand that, she replied, she just hated to think that she was the cause of envy among his staff.

They probably are envious, he replied, but he knew that she could handle that, and handle this position that was highly sought after. “Because you are close to me, it does cause envy,” he said, and that he knew that this could sometimes be lonely, and would be lonely for her. He said to beware of those girls who may befriend her just because they wanted to know him better, or may not be friendly simply because of her position and closeness to him. “It can be very lonely, he said. Was she prepared for that?

Of course she was, she said, she was not here to make friends. “I’m here to serve you, to serve God through you,” she said. She wanted him to know that she really meant that, that she had dedicated her life to God.

He reached down and squeezed her hand.

“You have no idea how happy that makes me to hear you say that,” he said. “I’ve never had someone like you work for me, someone prepared to lay their life down. It means a lot to me. God bless you for that.” His voice was soft and seemed full of meaning. He spoke quietly, close to her ear, almost whispering. She could feel his breath on her face.

She didn’t mind his impulsive squeeze of her hand. She felt that he was beginning to rely on her, to confide in her, and that she brought him comfort, friendship, and confidentiality. His soul seemed to her to crave companionship. Her soul craved being needed.

Her days soon grew busier.


[Click here to read Part Two; here to read Part Three, here to read Part Four, here to read Part Five, and here to read Part Six.]

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

Meg’s family was in ATI for more than ten years. After leaving Bill Gothard's office, Meg continued to work for IBLP for several years before she met and married her wonderful, non-ATI, Mr. Right. She is now busy raising their family and enjoying a happy and ATI-standard-free life.

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. 'Megan' January 20, 2014 Reply

    “I’ve never had someone like you work for me, someone prepared to lay their life down. It means a lot to me. God bless you for that.” His voice was soft and seemed full of meaning. He spoke quietly, close to her ear, almost whispering. She could feel his breath on her face."

    Is there any other young lady out there that he has said something similar to? Is there anyone who has ever told Bill something similar to this: “I’m here to serve you, to serve God through you,”? She wanted him to know that she really meant that, that she had dedicated her life to God. Is there anyone who has told Bill they had dedicated their life to God?

    I'd like to know how many other young ladies he said the same kind of thing to.

    The thing that makes me the most squeamish is when he told her, 'If we are to be one in spirit.' I'm not sure I can even wrap my mind around that? This is a marital thing, and as something between a boss and employee (esp considering the age gap), it is highly inappropriate, controlling, and manipulative. Think about it.
    They were not in a romantic relationship of any kind, at least not to her knowledge or CONSENT. She wasn't there for that, especially not with him. He assumes ownership of her mind, emotions, as if in his mind, she belongs to him, in the way a husband would view his wife. He never had this right to her to begin with. It seems more and more sick to me by the minute. She never knew that he was pursuing her with the intent of marriage, even long after the fact, and YET, here he was, manipulating her emotions, treating her the way a man would treat his intended beloved, which should not have been the case between a boss and employee. Given what Bill teaches about defrauding, and emotional propriety for young people, he is beyond a mere hypocrite, and to my mind, is actually dangerous.

    Tell me I'm not the only one who sees this?

    • BeverlyB January 20, 2014 Reply

      No, you're not the only one seeing it. That is HIGHLY inappropriate of any boss/employee relationship---and *especially* in a Christian ministry setting, when he's acting as her spiritual mentor and counselor. That's crossing so many lines, I can't even begin to count them... especially when you consider the legalistic standards he placed on others who worked for him, when they weren't allowed to "whisper sweet nothings" in others' ears, let alone hold hands or exchange innocent smiles.

      And then there's the nearly 40-year age difference, between a man who is experienced in the ways of the world and an innocent young girl who has been raised in a sheltered home. Creepy doesn't even begin to describe this!

    • 'Megan' January 20, 2014 Reply

      Btw, I am not the Meg of this story, in case anyone wanted to know.

      • carol February 9, 2014 Reply

        Maybe Bill's dysfunction goes back much further than his ministry. Family history tends to repeat past transgressions. The only way to stop it is to prosecute him and then get counseling for yourself. Could it be his family history is tainted with hidden sexual abuse? The power he was given by his family and followers is like sending him to a candy store. It is hard for me to believe that I have never seen anyone look in to his family life apart from not being married. Is he "Christian" or forgiving to some of his own family? Does the family he approves of live on the Oakbrook property and work for him? I hope all of you who have been hurt by Bill Gothard seek justice and I am very sorry for what has happened to you.

    • Karen Jensen January 27, 2014 Reply

      You are not the only one who sees this. You are right on. He is a master manipulator, deceiver, seducer. Yes Seducer!

    • abbey waterman January 28, 2014 Reply

      1. As a parent, why would you pay thousands of dollars to send your sweet darling treasure away to headquarters to work for an undisclosed amount of time, to work diligently at undetermined very flexible tasks??????????

      2. I agree that Gothard should be held accountable for his behavior which was unspeakable in especially in the world of ATI, any realm. That kind of emotional rape and physical boundary crossing is illegal, 2 Tim 3 For among them are those who creep into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions, 7 always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth.

      3. When will one of these exposures shed light on the ill-motivated parents? How many parents have we met at conferences where the mom will lean in to you proclaiming their daughter is working at headquarters. Excuse me, but Im from the hood and I don't know Gothard like dat'!!! I was uncomfortable with that practice and spoke out against it.

      4. Under no terms certain or uncertain would I send my daughters to work in those conditions; alone, uncovered, vulnerable, impressionable. After 25 years of parenting, 19 years of using ATI and 8 kids, I just achieved a level of comfort with sending my 19 year old to Calvin with her cousin. Calvin is still under my scalpel awaiting our approval! Shame on those who parents for sent their kids off to be fixed, gain them notoriety, and abandoned their children. Parents who were ignorant, I pity them. My urban street advice; if I don't know, my kid don't go! No matter the circumstance this breaks my heart. Gothard was treated like the God, Moloch, receiving child sacrifices, sickening.

      5. I use the ATI curriculum but if I used Abeka would I send my kid to them along with a few thousand hoping God would make a change in their lives without me? NO. I have not been tempted to say bad words in years.....

      6. I am deeply sorry for your pain. I know God will heal you and the other sisters that have been hurt. We as a body have got to be one to protect our families from such horror. We have got to be free enough and confident in the Holy Spirit's voice to say we smell smoke when there really is an evil flame. God is not finished with this yet. He wants healing, even for Gothard (if he will accept it).

    • Michelle February 6, 2014 Reply

      It is narcissistic. He demanded this kind of devotion. He tried to enter into this kind of relationship with me but I'd been around the block a few times and didn't put up with his ridiculous demands. I left the ministry because he demanded I agree with him on every issue and said I wasn't loyal to him. I told him that I was loyal to Christ and that there wasn't a man on this earth who I agree with everything they say. He had asked me to be a "dean of women" at HQ. a position that didn't exist. He asked me to write my own job description. I thought it would be a great opportunity to disciple girls at HQ, get them in the word and teach them how to think and to stand up for themselves. He saw I was "dangerous" too early on. After I left he called a couple of times inviting me to go overseas with him or come to HQ in some capacity. I reminded him that I still didn't agree with him and that I wouldn't be coming back. I wish I had known these horrible things were going on and could have protected these girls. It makes me so angry with him and anyone who takes advantage of children.
      Remember all who read this and who were involved in the program: the God BG portrays does not exist. It is an idol. The God of the Bible is the one to whom we can completely trust, adore and worship with our whole hearts. I think one of the major catastrophes and fallout created by BG and institute heresy is all the people who have turned away from the institute 'god' thinking they were turning away from the One true God. It's heartbreaking.

  2. Larne G. January 20, 2014 Reply


    Thank you for the courage to write this story. The story is all too familiar with my late wife Ruth’s experiences as Bill’s secretary in the 70s and myself. I just wished she could have read it. She sounds very much like you, someone who loved God and wanted to serve him through Bill’s ministry. My prayers are with you and your family that God will continue to give you the grace and protection during this publication process. I will particularly pray for your husband who never had to the opportunity to experience Bill’s oppression.

    Larne G

  3. Elizabeth January 20, 2014 Reply

    You're not the only one that sees this. I see it now, although when he did similar things to me, I was simply flattered. It did make me uncomfortable enough that I removed myself from the situation, but I didn't recognize it for what it was (is?) until years later when I finally understood a little more about sex and sexual nature.

  4. LJ January 20, 2014 Reply

    What a sad and sickening account to read! How this precious young woman was being groomed by a much older man who knew what he was doing. I am so glad she became free of that abuse. It is a shame that many parents are still sending their daughters to the IBLP headquarters with the thought that it will be a great spiritual time and instead it could be something like this.

  5. Danielle January 20, 2014 Reply

    You brave girl. ((HUG))

  6. esbee January 20, 2014 Reply

    the part where Bill looked over your letter and got involved (letters are supposed to be private) it has finally dawned on me...the man needs to GET A LIFE!

    • BeverlyB January 20, 2014 Reply

      But why should he get one, when he owns everyone else's? ;-)

  7. Tammy January 20, 2014 Reply

    Thank you for having the courage to share your story. Bill is a sicko!!

  8. Heidi January 20, 2014 Reply

    I had noticed the inappropriateness before, but this is the first time I picked up on the carefully crafted isolation.

    "they probably are envious. . ."

    And “It can be very lonely,” he said. Was she prepared for that?

    This is a common tactic, perpetrators isolate their victims.

    • 'Megan' January 20, 2014 Reply

      That reminds me of Jaycee Dugard, the girl that was kidnapped at 11 and not found for something like 20 years? I watched her story once, she said before the evil beast who kidnapped her ever touched her inappropriately (aside from forcing her to strip naked), he left her alone and isolated (also vulnerable) in that little shed for so long that by the time he came in to do the abominable things he did to her, she was desperate for human contact, companionship etc. He also told her that she ought to be grateful that he was doing these things to her, because now, he wouldn't have to do these things to other little girls, he would be satisfied with her. The mind game worked on her.

      Now I am NOT comparing Bill's deeds to that wicked man's deeds, however it is worthy of noticing that the same line of thinking is present in Meg's story, albeit on a much milder scale. It is about control, and power, not so much about sex, although the sexuality comes into play because we are inherently sexual beings. And I think Bill is possibly more dangerous because he is playing his game out in the open, comparatively. Because of the teachings he has pushed, such as 'not giving a bad report', and the authority teachings, he knows how his followers, and even his victims, will give him every last benefit of the doubt, because they could never believe such a 'godly' man could ever do something wrong.. And so he continues playing his game.

  9. Julia Fetters January 20, 2014 Reply

    Thank you for sharing. I have found that honestly recounting these past situations has helped so very much in seeing them clearly and eventually getting past them. We were in ATI for 11 years.
    I have a super candid question for Mr. Gothard - What on earth was he doing asking girls into his office privately, picking this young woman up alone in a car ... RED FLAGS from a Momma's heart here!
    As I read your this article ( and this is not the only young lady with whom he was alone) I remembered the warnings at the Knoxville conference concerning having friends or people in need - specifically men - stay in your home for any length of time. I agree to a real extent with that but to have the same person teaching this alone with young women at his every beck and call. Heavy sigh. That is how I know this is a cult. Many of us did things and defended a man we never would have otherwise. Blinders were on us, and this all under the guise of serving God. I am SO sorry for each of us who have been so duped. AS for me, I took my eyes off Jesus and look what happened. And yet he forgives and leads.
    Thank you, again, for the courage you have shown in sharing this.

    • 'Megan' January 20, 2014 Reply

      Thank you Julia, I'm so glad you saw the light! It's encouraging to hear such things!

  10. Dan January 21, 2014 Reply

    Very disturbing! He is still doing this to young girls today. i know a girl who went to one of his things last summer it was composed of young girls between 13 and 18 i believe. they were cut off from there homes and familys couldnt call there parents unless it was an emergency! they were each teken into a private meeting with bill gothard alone where they were asked all kinds of questions as,he took down notes. The man makes me sick and the worst part is my sister inlaw sees nothing wrong with his behavoir and attacked me when i shared this story with her

    • Karen Jensen January 27, 2014 Reply

      This is like the Roman Catholic Confessional. And this is how the Roman Catholic priests, "fathers" seduced their young parishioners. There was a book about Father Chinoquoy in Canada, who revealed these things. Bill Gothard knows exactly what he is doing to get away with it.

  11. Shelly January 21, 2014 Reply

    This story is just so creepy. I shudder to think of how I viewed Mr. Gothard in similar ways although I never worked closely with him. The one time he complimented me on my "expressive eyes" I was on cloud nine. What a CREEP to prey on innocent, naive young girls who sincerely desired to please God and were deceived into thinking he was a godly man!

    Looking back, I see he had a way about him, a powerful, magnetic almost hypnotic personality that would draw out the innermost thoughts from girls. He would flatter them and then when they were completely disarmed, he would try to get them to commit to whatever he wanted.

    Once, when I was serving at a CI, he took a fancy to me and had his staff call me after the sessions to talk with him. I was his "type": young, blonde, petite, happy personality. He took me aside and sat down close to me in a secluded area. He acted so interested in my life, asking me all sorts of personal questions. Then he tried to talk me into coming to work for a new branch of his ministry that was just getting started. He began to paint a glorious picture of how God could use me in a capacity that had NOTHING to do with what my interests or gifts were.

    He gave me his personal business card and wrote his direct number on it as if it were something very precious. He told me to call anytime. And if I remember correctly, he handed me some money too (to try to persuade me?). I was SO honored and flattered but also felt so conflicted because this "man of God" was saying that God's will for my life was something so very different from what I sensed God's will was for me.

    I went home and talked to my parents about our conversation. They were excited that this man of God had taken such a particular interest in their daughter, but at the same time they were not convinced that this new opportunity was right for me.

    Bill Gothard was sure and he made a personal call to our house and asked to speak to my Dad to try to persuade him to let me come. I praise God to this day that my Dad did not give in to him and explained why he did not feel it was a good fit for me. Afterwards, my Dad said something like, "It's so hard to say 'No' to Bill Gothard".

    Wow. Just writing all that out is crazy. This article really triggered memories. I appreciate Meg's courage in writing her story and pray more and more girls will do the same. This man is a disgrace to the cause of Christ.

    • Jeri January 21, 2014 Reply

      He did that with my roommate when we worked at the Detroit C.I. (1994, I think). I thought it so strange that he wanted her to come to his hotel room for a chat (late at night after the sessions--it must have been nearly 11pm!). I was 18, but she was younger. In the van another day he asked her about her summer job as a lifeguard, if she got a nice tan. Then he talked about the old women he met in Arizona whose skin was all leathery because they spent too much time in the sun.

    • Shari January 22, 2014 Reply

      Shelly, please write your story for RG (if you haven't already). :)

    • "Hannah" January 22, 2014 Reply

      Money? What, a bribe? Just weird... Here's some money for being pretty and blonde, keep up the good work!

  12. Travis January 21, 2014 Reply

    Hmm... Gothard should watch "Dazed and Confused" this account brings to a mind something another.. Crap I can't remember the word that describes men who like high school girls. (It's a -Phile word but not pedophile) anyways the quote goes "That's what I like about high school girls; I keep getting older, they stay the same age."

    Stay classy Bill. :P

    • 'Megan' January 21, 2014 Reply

      Ephebiophile? or something like that? Probably spelling it wrong.

  13. AH January 21, 2014 Reply

    I am so sorry you (and so many others) experienced such deceit and manipulation. You were grossly taken advantage of.

    I worked at the IBLP Headquarters office for four years (a while ago). Over the past few years, I've heard from several friends what happened to them while we were all there. Words cannot express the hurt I have for my friends . . . and the surprise that there have been so many. :( It's grievous, to say the least.

    It's only fitting and right that the light be shone on all this. I applaud the courage of those who have shared.

    So much sadness and pain at that place . . . behind the "ministry" smiles.

  14. Nancy January 21, 2014 Reply

    You all have heard it said that absolute power corrupts absolutely. I disagree. The misunderstanding of absolute power corrupts absolutely.

    There is only one Almighty Power. He is holy. He sees. He loves His children.

    Men that use their power as if it were absolute and prey on others are being watched. The Almighty will not be mocked. Nor will He turn His back on justice.

    Those who misuse power will have a day of trembling.

  15. […] [Editor’s Note: The young woman referred to only as “she” and “her” in the following account is the author herself, "Meg," but she has written it in the third person. The author was twenty years old during the events in this post. The following is a true story. Click here for Part One of Meg's story.] […]

  16. Dave January 22, 2014 Reply

    "I am the last person in the world who wants to judge another fellow human being. Who am I to do that, when I will be throwing my own self before God and begging for His mercy?"

    Meg,may I gently say that the judgment you fear has already been dealt with by Jesus on your behalf? In that day, you will stand in relationship with Jesus and He will be your righteousness. He will stand with you before the Father and say that you belong to Him.

    Please release your fear of being judged and found wanting. None of us is good enough to deserve God's love. He gives it freely because we can't earn it. The lie of legalism, which Gothard and so many others use to manipulate and abuse, keeps us afraid. The love of Jesus sets us free.

    Thank you for sharing your story. I pray that you will find the peace and love of Jesus deep in your heart. No more fear.


  17. Paul Robinson January 23, 2014 Reply

    So true, Dave, and so well said. The message of God's unearned grace is so important to every Christian and expecially those who have been wounded by the works-oriented teachings of IBLP and ATI. I'm going to hang up here and check out your website -- looks interesting.

  18. […] The author was twenty years old during the events in this post. The following is a true story. Click here for Part One of Meg's story, and here for Part […]

  19. […] The author was twenty years old during the events in this post. The following is a true story. Click here for Part One of Meg's story, here for Part Two, and here for Part […]

  20. Cindy January 27, 2014 Reply

    You go girl! Thank you!

  21. MJ January 28, 2014 Reply

    What creeps me out about this is knowing that my little sister (who was only about fifteen at the time) was one of the "chosen ones" handpicked by Mr. Gothard to work on his staff. I wonder what kind of brainwashing he did to her? Makes my skin crawl.

  22. Jessica January 28, 2014 Reply

    Thanks 'Meg' for telling your story. I know it takes a lot of guts and courage to come forward and 'tell your story'. I just started telling my story about being abused in an adopted home. I was scared to start blogging about it, I didn't think people would believe me, I was afraid that I would be judged and have people point fingers at me. But, I have been wrong. Telling my story has allowed me so much freedom and healing just in the few months I've started writing about it.
    I believe if anyone thinks they have a story, they should tell it. Not only will they find peace and healing like they've never known but they will inspire so many to come forward and tell their story. The mission of my blog is to inspire others to tell their story and make a difference. I know that if I tell my story, someone else will find the courage to come forward and tell theirs. You never know who else has gone through what you have until you say something, until you step forward and be the voice for the ones who don't have one.
    Your story is going to touch so many people, it already has, including myself. Please keep writing it. For those here who have commented or who are just reading this, wondering if you can tell your story, tell it! Be the voice for those who don't have one and you won't ever regret it!
    Be blessed everyone and inspire to make a difference!
    ~Jess aka 'The Adopted Child'

  23. […] The author was twenty-one years old during the events in this post. The following is a true story. Click here for Part One of Meg's story, here for Part Two, here for Part Three, and here for Part […]

  24. […] The author was twenty-one years old during the events in this post. The following is a true story. Click here for Part One of Meg's story, here for Part Two, here for Part Three,  here for Part Four, and here for part Five. Today's post […]

  25. Renee Cortez Grazer February 1, 2014 Reply

    I had a really hard time seeing this posted, so I left the group.

    I don't find it very God honoring to reveal someone's personal mistakes and wrong doings. It's a form of gossip; even if it's coming from an involved party.

    If forgiveness, repentance and grace took place, it should be left in the past and not made public for all to know. It was written like a glorified Fifty Shades of Grey.

    I feel as followers of Christ, we should keep wrong doings private. If you feel the need to spread gossip, Jerry Springer will gladly air your dirty laundry.

    I was in the ATI program for 7 years.

    • Brandon February 5, 2014 Reply

      This is not the type of thing for Jerry Springer. It is the type of thing for NBC Dateline - where they have successfully brought other sexual predators to Justice. Too bad BG only preys on those whom are so young, impressionable and in captive locations.

    • Margaret Wallis February 6, 2014 Reply

      Renee - are you under the impression that "forgiveness, repentance and grace took place"? I did not get that message from the "Recovering Grace" website. In fact, quite the opposite.

      I would also like to address the notion of privacy vs. gossip. When people share their personal experience, it raises awareness, adds context, and validates the experiences of other people who have been abused. Abuse, by its nature, is private and shameful. When no one talks about it, the shame stays with the victim -- and the world covers it up. Shame thrives in secrecy.

      Whether he repents or not, I think it is exceptionally healthy to invite people to share their story. It brings life because it a) relieves them of the shame and b) stands as a light in the darkness that brings clarity and healing to others with the same story. Can you imagine what a tremendous relief it might be to hear someone else had the same experience you had -- especially if you were uncomfortable and grappling with whether you were justified in feeling uncomfortable.

      I am sorry it makes you uncomfortable. I hope it makes all of us uncomfortable. And, that we can see repentance and healing.

    • Appalled February 9, 2014 Reply

      Because keeping quiet about abuse and never warning people is better, kinder, loving and more Christian? Why have a justice system at all, because accusing someone would just be gossip?

      Ma'am, this reads nothing at all like the "Fifty Shades" trilogy. NOTHING at all.


    • "Hannah" April 6, 2014 Reply

      Comments like this make me wonder if the person has even read the subtitle of the website. (Subtitle? What's the word I'm looking for?)

      • "Emee" April 7, 2014 Reply


      • Nancy2 April 7, 2014 Reply

        You are right.

        sub·ti·tle [suhb-tahyt-l] Show IPA
        a secondary or subordinate title of a literary work, usually of explanatory character.
        a repetition of the leading words in the full title of a book at the head of the first page of text.
        Movies, Television.
        the text of dialogue, speeches, operas, etc., translated into another language and projected on the lower part of the screen.
        (in silent motion pictures) a title or caption.

  26. […] few weeks later, we published Annette’s story; a year later, Grace’s. Over the past two weeks, Meg has shared with us her very painful personal journey. And, later this week, we will share yet another […]

  27. […] demonstrates Bill Gothard’s long-standing tendency to avoid answering direct questions. Meg, the young lady who recently shared her story on Recovering Grace, also experienced this kind of deflection in August 2013, when she emailed Bill to ask if he had […]

  28. […] student and Institute in Basic Life Principles (IBLP) Headquarters staffer. While Bill Gothard’s former secretary “Meg” was a well-known ATI student and IBLP staff member years ago, and was recognized and contacted by […]

  29. […] weeks later, we published Annette’s story; a year later, Grace’s. Over the past two weeks, Meg has shared with us her very painful personal journey. And, later this week, we will share yet another […]

  30. […] weeks later, we published Annette’s story; a year later, Grace’s. Over the past two weeks, Meg has shared with us her very painful personal journey. And, later this week, we will share yet another […]

  31. […] February Shoshannah went out hunting with Anson soon after 5am. I was awake so lay in bed reading an article written by a friend about her experiences when she was a secretary to Bill Gothard. An extremely well written true […]

  32. […] man played some wild games of footsies after convincing his teenage entourage in a van to take their shoes off to get more comfortable […]

  33. […] Meg’s Story […]

  34. Fleur March 9, 2014 Reply

    I think it takes a huge amount of courage to share that story and it is very well written. I am grateful for it. In my teens, I desperately wanted to be in ATI and had dreams of doing the Telos course. My Father said no. I am grateful for Gods protection of me, through him, as I think I could have easily found myself in Meg's shoes. In the Bible, 2 Samuel, when Tamar was sinned against, she went out wailing and in ashes. It is a picture that we arent always meant to walk out of these situations quietly. There is so much sin that gets covered over in people not willing to 'wear the ashes'.. and thank God, He makes beauty of of those ashes.

  35. […] Meg’s Story […]

  36. Cyndi March 12, 2014 Reply

    Maybe this has been mentioned but this Dept. of Justice site says that the 2003 Protect Act eliminated Statue of Limitations for child abuse.

  37. […] […]

  38. rowesbud April 2, 2014 Reply

    Why is this written in the third person? Is this an attempt at a romance novel? I think this is the wrong site for that.

    None of these "Sexual Misconduct" files involve anything sexual. Has anyone noticed that? It's like starting a tab for animal cruelty when all I did was throw out a stuffed animal.

    • "Emee" April 5, 2014 Reply

      @rowesbud, if you read the editor's note at the very beginning of the story, you would know the answer to your first question. Although the things done in this story might not have been explicitly sexual, they were evil and Gothard has unfortunately not repented for any of it.

      In response to your 2nd comment, I find it deeply disturbing that you find nothing wrong with any of the "sexual misconduct" files. To cite just one example, in what way is this (from Charlotte's story) NOT sexual? "he [Bill] put his hand between my legs and felt me all the way up." Please take the time to read all the accounts before flinging empty accusations at people who are brave enough to share what they endured.

      @Meg, thank you for being willing to share so deeply and vulnerably about what happened to you. I can't even imagine how much courage that took! May God continue to bless you and your husband as you walk free in Christ.

    • horse April 6, 2014 Reply


      Even without Charlotte's account, but only the others, if you don't understand the sexual nature of the interactions described in these stories, I am concerned for your judgment, and a little concerned about your experience in life. It's not OK for people in positions of power and authority to make people under their control feel "romanced" in any way. The footsie alone is absolutely unacceptable. If a boss of mine had taken off his shoes and touched my foot, ankle, or calf with his foot, that absolutely would have been sexual, inappropriate, and actually wrong. If he had fired me when I resisted his advances, that would have been illegal.

      If you don't understand the atmosphere that footsie created, then again I am concerned about your own experience and judgment.

      Now add in the unbelievably strict atmosphere BG created for everyone else where perfect conduct = salvation and that perfect conduct included complete obedience to authority. Then consider that BG was the highest human authority in the organization, and this becomes spiritual abuse as well.

      • "Emee" April 6, 2014 Reply

        @ horse, thanks for verbalizing the issues so well--I agree completely with you.

    • esbee April 6, 2014 Reply

      "It's like starting a tab for animal cruelty when all I did was throw out a stuffed animal."

      I think you inadvertently hit the nail on the head....BG may think it is ok to do what he does because he thinks of his targets as no more, and with no more feelings, than a stuffed animal.

    • Vivian April 6, 2014 Reply

      "When all *I* did"??

      rowesbud, are you personally involved in this? That pronoun is a bit disturbing/ revealing.

  39. Jeanne April 8, 2014 Reply

    Very brave & healing for this woman to share her story. So many of us out here have gone through similar things and not believing that we were dealing with a sexual predator. So many of us remain silent about what happened to us. So many keep the blame for themselves. So many live ruined lives as a result.

  40. […] Meg’s Story […]

  41. […] that Gothard had been systematically abusing young ladies since the late 60’s. I recognized both Meg and Charlotte from my time at HQ. I remember seeing Charlotte working out on the grounds and being […]

  42. Rhonda August 26, 2015 Reply

    All I have is bless you Meg! Also Renée Cortez, had in the past years things like this were not brought out in the open and treated as the wrongs and SINS they are I for one would have not been rescued. The followers of Gothard that also practiced his teaching's in the homes are also dangerous.

  43. Kedra January 8, 2016 Reply

    That story sounds like a fiction story written for an erotic magazine. You just can't believe all this stuff. She was in her 20's and he was 50's and now THIRTY years later something like this comes out? Boy the DEVIL is trying to destroy anyone that has something to do with GOD. I wonder if she writes erotica too. I'm sorry, I just can't believe it. GOD will judge. God HATES a liar and those that bear FALSE witness. It happened in Jesus's time and it still goes on.

    I should write a story too and see how many people can believe it.

    • Larne Gabriel January 9, 2016 Reply

      While your at it why don't you check out Lizzie's Story, Annette's Story, Grace's Story, Charlotte's Story, Rachel's Story, Robin's Story, the rest of Meg's Story and Ruth's Story. When your done see if you see a pattern here? Remember where there is smoke there is fire.

    • rob war January 9, 2016 Reply

      Did it even occur to you that maybe Gothard isn't of God and that he is suffering due to his own actions.

    • LynnCD January 9, 2016 Reply

      Bill himself said that his actions of playing with hair, holding hands, his admission of touching their feet was wrong. There isn't anything in this story that goes beyond what Gothard has confessed to doing. So why do you think the author of this article is lying?

  44. Anna E November 13, 2022 Reply

    This story is horrifying and sickening.
    I am not sure this is where to ask, but my mom also speaks about abuse from the IBLP Chicago Headquarters. I am trying to locate any other women who may have been there, working with her, at the same time. Her name was, at the time, Christina Kiffmeyer. If you have any info or used to work with her, please reply here or send me a message: [email protected]

    Thank you!

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