How Could This Happen Here?

15 April 2014, 08:42



Recovering Grace will observe Sexual Assault Awareness Month for the remainder of April.


gracenotelargeIn April 2012 and 2013, we published some very difficult stories of sexual abuse in ATI [Advanced Training Institute] families. Some critics objected that these families were extreme outliers within the program, and that ATI and IBLP have never condoned sexual abuse. We agree that the organization does not intentionally endorse sexual abuse, assault, or harassment. This month, however, we will explore how ATI subculture does create an environment in which abusers are often protected by hierarchy status and Institute family culture, while targets and victims are encouraged to remain silent and even submit to abuse. Although the subculture may not be willfully designed to facilitate abuse, its teachings and practices are so conducive to dismissal and concealment of abuse that it attracts those who are predatory.


On the surface, ATI and IBLP publications and guidelines prescribe a very strict code of sexual conduct, forbidding not only extramarital sexual activity but also flirting, romance, or physical affection of any kind between young single people who are not formally “courting.” Only very limited romance and physical touch is permitted for those who are courting or engaged, with outings usually chaperoned by family members whose presence ensures little to no physical contact between the couple. It is common for the weddings of ATI couples to include an announcement that the couple has never before kissed, and perhaps not even held hands.


There is some awareness in ATI subculture of the danger of sexual harassment and assault, but this awareness is focused almost exclusively outward, toward strangers and potential colleagues. Young women are discouraged from attending college or holding jobs outside the home because of the dangers of illicit romance, of compromising personal standards, and of being propositioned or assaulted by classmates or coworkers. At young women’s conferences, attendees are regaled with anecdotes of women attacked and raped by strangers, and are admonished to cry out to God as the method to combat such attacks. Women are often discouraged from walking or traveling alone, even within their own neighborhoods, because of the risk of catcalling or assault from strangers. (A notable exception to this concern for sexual safety seems to be young women working for and traveling with the Institute.) The possibility of a male victim of sexual abuse or assault seems almost unthinkable.


With sexual warnings thus focused on the moral dangers of premarital romance and the physical dangers posed by strangers, current and former ATI students faced with sexually predatory behavior from family members or trusted authority figures often find themselves in a no-man’s-land of confusion and trained submission, without the tools to identify or object to the behavior. They know all about fending off flirtations from other single young people, but not about facing sexual advances from authority figures. They know to scream if attacked by a stranger on the street, but not what to do if molested by a trusted family member, nor how to process or report such an assault after the fact. For those who do report such advances or assaults to others within the subculture, they are as likely to be dismissed or blamed as to be believed and assisted.


It is on these stories, and the teachings that have created this subculture, that we focus this April. It seems unbelievable that a subculture that so emphasizes sexual propriety, denial, and protection would conceal so much sexual misconduct and abuse, but passive facilitation of abuse is endemic to the system. Sexual abusers are attracted to and protected by the system.


Below are links to and excerpts from narratives previously published on Recovering Grace, plus two externally linked stories. Warning: Much of the linked and quoted content is of a troubling and sensitive nature.


Choosing Both Forgiveness and Prosecution. A former ATI student describes how she was shamed for her own childhood sexual abuse, and Bill Gothard’s later response to the family when they reported sexual abuse to him.


My mother did not become aware of the abuse until I was ten years old. She immediately put an end to it, but blamed me for it in the process, demanding with overtones of disgust that I spend the rest of the day in my room, and that while I was there, I was to “BEG God to forgive [me] for what [I had] done!” From that moment on, I believed to my very core that God hated me, and that He was utterly repulsed by my very existence. I was never taken to counseling. No one ever told me that the hopeless feelings of hurt and betrayal, shame and worthlessness that plagued me relentlessly were anything other than a deserved reward for my actions, in having allowed these things to happen to me by not telling someone of them immediately, the very first time anything had happened. This was a “principle” my parents had learned in their many attendances of Bill Gothard’s seminars… that the guilt of an attack falls to the young lady who does not “cry out” when assailed. I had failed to cry out. But for years, Michael had only molested me when we were left home by ourselves. As the years went by, he got more and more brazen, and would mistreat me with my mother sitting just around the corner. I was perpetually silenced with shame, fear, and confusion. None of that changed when my mother got involved… only the abuse itself stopped temporarily. Hardly another word was spoken of it. It was as though the whole thing never really happened, and it was all just swept under the rug. In fact, according to my dad in recent years, my mom never even told him the details of what happened… just a vague, “Something happened between Michael and Elisabeth, but I took care of it.”


…Meanwhile, unbeknownst to us all, my own pastor… my hero… my father… was engaged in a lifetime of a different kind of sexually abusive activity of his own, all while holding up a higher and higher bar of Bill Gothard’s standards of righteousness for the rest of us to attain. His behavior did not come to light until years later, when the judicial system got involved.


When we found ourselves faced with all this at once, our family was shaken to the core. Even worse, when we contacted Bill Gothard, in an endeavor to be completely under authority and to let him know of the devastating valley through which we suddenly found ourselves traveling, instead of finding compassion or support of any kind for our deeply hurting family, or accountability for my father, we found ourselves cast out of the home-school program and excommunicated instantly!  Bill Gothard and our Family Coordinator never spoke to us again. Their response only served to reinforce my childhood perception that I was utterly worthless and that God hated me.


Without An Umbrella In a Broken System. A member of a second year ATI family describes how her stepfather was able to continue to molest, even though he was a known sexual abuser.


I have to admit that another thing that never made sense to me in ATI was the whole umbrella deal. How on God’s amazing earth was my step dad, who sexually abused me several nights a week, supposed to be God’s Best for me? I knew my God did not think sexual abuse of a child was the right or good thing. I could not accept that. I could not accept what I was taught–that because he was my father figure, my one authority figure, what he said, did, and wanted was God’s Will. There was just no way. But I tried to look past that. I figured I was the only ATI student who was sexually abused anyway, and therefore this teaching wasn’t bad… it was just bad in my home, right? I know now how wrong I was about that. I’ve been horrified to learn how rampant sexual abuse was in other ATI families. Many with much more harrowing stories than mine.


And so the abuse continued. Always at night, after bedtime. Always when I was asleep. I tried different tactics to keep him away from me. Sometimes they worked, but usually they didn’t. At the age of 16 I couldn’t take it anymore. I knew at this point it had to stop. I knew I did not have it in me to talk about it. I knew I could never bring it up and tell someone what was still happening to me. I was so scared and so ashamed. Ashamed because I was being sexually abused, sexually used, and ashamed because I was not a young child anymore–I was 16 years old! 16 years of age is plenty old enough to stop it myself! But I just couldn’t. I felt sick inside. I got to the point where I figured I would just scream and wake everyone up. I thought about bringing a knife into my bed with me and stabbing him to make him stop. I prayed and prayed. I clearly remember one afternoon praying; stopping only to eat and use the bathroom. It had to stop. I could not go on anymore. I could not take anymore. That night my mom caught him in the act. That night was the last night I was sexually abused by my former step-father. God had saved me when I could not find the strength to save myself.


I remember being called downstairs by my mother. I clearly remember her telling him, “APOLOGIZE!” and then she walked out of the room. I will never forget what he said to me next: “I’m not sorry for what I did, but I am sorry I got caught. You’re still a virgin, you know.” As if somehow I should feel grateful to him for that. I just sat there and said nothing until my mom came back and told me to go to bed.


It’s All My Fault. A former ATI student describes her molestation in the ATI training center where her family lived, and where her abuser—her adoptive father—was a counselor on staff with ATI/IBLP.


I messed everything up again when I was eleven. I still had no idea what sex was. I was hitting puberty and having all these “feelings” with no one to talk to. So I experimented again. Of course now I know how wrong it was. I’ve been told that most children experiment in one way or another, especially if they’re not told anything about what is happening with their bodies. It’s how they learn. Yet I was bent over the bed and given 100 swats.


I was placed in a room all alone. I ate alone. I played alone. I only left that room to go to my bedroom to sleep. I had EXTREMELY limited contact with my siblings. I was never allowed to hold my youngest sister when she was an infant. I thought that she would think that I didn’t love her, so I remember sneaking in to see her and crying in guilt as I said over and over that I was sorry.


It was during this time that my dad began molesting me. Just a few years ago I asked him why he did it. He told me that it was because I molested his children. I didn’t even know what sex was! How could I be a child molester?


…He forced me to pray with him each night about his sins. He would look deep into my eyes and say, “I was wrong for what I just did. Let’s pray together.” He would ask for my forgiveness, so I would “grant” it. I thought if I granted him forgiveness he would stop! But he only used my forgiveness each night as an excuse to continue his evil. I don’t think he ever intended to stop. He only wanted my forgiveness so he would be “cleansed” until the next offense.


A Difficult Journey. A former ATI student recounts what happened when her adoptive mother discovered sexual abuse within the family, and how Bill Gothard advised the family.


The abuse began shortly after I was adopted at age two and happened as often as once a week to several times a day. When I was about 5 or 6 years old, my mother found my then 17- to 18-year-old brother undressed and on top of me. She told him to go downstairs, and then told me I wasn’t allowed to be alone with him anymore. I remember very clearly the look on my mother’s face and the way she told me that we couldn’t be alone together. It felt like she was blaming me and thought I was responsible for it. I remember feeling very confused and hurt that she didn’t even ask if I was alright, or give me a hug and tell me that everything would be okay. Instead I remember being scared and wondering how my dad would react when he got home, and if I’d be in trouble. But nothing was ever said. It was never even talked about.


…I had matured early, and that night, at 11 years of age, was the first time I remember worrying about getting pregnant. The next morning I went to church with them. After the sermon, the pastor opened it up to an altar call while the worship team played. My brother went up to the altar and returned in tears, asking me to go up there with him to the pastor. My brother and I knelt down at the altar and he began praying and asking God to forgive him for what he had done. The pastor was very close by the whole time and prayed over us. I remember thinking, “If the pastor knows my brother is in his 20′s and I’m only 11, won’t he contact my parents or get the law involved?” But evidently he didn’t. My brother hugged me and asked me to forgive him for what had happened between us and promised it would never happen again.


Less than a week later it happened again.


…The first words out of Mr. Gothard’s mouth was, “Young lady, do you listen to rock music? I can tell because you have a dark countenance.” He went on to tell me that by listening to rock music I was not under my father’s umbrella of protection and was wide open for the devil to take ground. He asked me why I was being rebellious, so I told him exactly why I was being “rebellious”–I was being sexually abused by my older brother. He paused for a minute, and then he asked if perhaps I had given ground to Satan through my bitterness…


Mr. Gothard advised my parents to send me to the Eagle Springs log cabin program in Oklahoma, which was an extension of the LIT program (Leaders In Training program for court-appointed troubled youth at the Indianapolis Training Center). Mr. Gothard then told them them that taking legal action against my adult brother wouldn’t do him any good–in fact, they would probably lose him for good. I was flabbergasted at what he said! At the end, he told me to pray for my brother. He said he hoped I would make a change, but he really thought it would take a miracle.


He Was Supposed to Protect Us. A former ATI student recalls how her step father’s increasingly strident modesty standards correlated to his increasingly sexual attentions toward her.


He wanted me to sit on his lap. I remember a strange feeling in the pit of my stomach, but complied with his request anyway, because after all, he was my daddy. He ran his fingers along the row of buttons that fastened my skirt and came to a place where one was missing. “Uh oh! That’s not good… you don’t want any men to see your leg!” But while he said this, his fingers slipped under the fabric and he massaged my thigh. This was very upsetting and confusing. I remember swatting his hand away, trying to appear playful and innocent, when I actually felt dirty and ashamed. And betrayed. I never wore that skirt again.


…The man who was supposed to protect me from evil was the one introducing it into my life.  Through this period of time, his requirements for our modesty standards became more and more extreme with each day that passed, and would often change without notice. For several years, I couldn’t wear anything made out of knit fabric or flowing, rayon fabric because the item of clothing might cling to my figure and be alluring to men. Button up skirts had to be sewn shut, lest anyone see my leg in between buttons. All buttons on a blouse had to be buttoned, up to the neck. Necklines could not show even a hint of collarbone. T-shirts were not allowed–all shirts must have a collar. Socks must be worn with all shoes, even sandals in the summer. Nylons were not allowed because they were too much like skin, and the sight of skin was sure to cause men to lust, so only opaque tights were okay. Makeup was forbidden, as was curling or perming my hair, because curls were sensual. For a few years, we were not even allowed to wear anything made of denim, because blue jeans were something that the (rebellious) hippies wore. There was much more, and it changed all the time. What I’ve figured out is that he made a rule against whatever his current inward struggle was at the moment.


…I don’t care to ever see or speak to him again. He never apologized to me, or to my mom or siblings about the way he treated us. To this day, he thinks that we are simply rebelling and misguided, and prays that we will one day return to him, repentant.


The Ravages of Guilt. A former ATI student recalls processing his pre-ATI abuse in the context of ATI teaching.


…My sexual abuse was not related to the Advanced Training Institute (ATI) in any way. It would have happened regardless. But the words that evil, wicked woman spoke were the beginning of years of brainwashing that convinced me that everything was my fault. I must have done something wrong. I must have invited the abuse somehow. Maybe I was just a bad, evil child. Maybe I deserved it. It wasn’t just the threats that my abuser heaped on me that kept me from telling my parents what was going on. It was also the fact that I knew, deep down, that even if I turned to my parents, even if my abuser was prevented from carrying out her threat, my parents would also blame me for what was happening.

By the time my abuse came to an end, we had joined ATI. And the teachings in the Basic Seminar answered all of my questions! I must have been out from under my parents’ umbrella of protection! My abuse must have been because I liked to sneak evil music tapes into my Walkman when my parents weren’t looking! I was consumed by guilt. Guilt because not only was my abuse my fault, but also, while I was being abused, I acted out that abuse with someone else, someone who was also being abused by her father. We were only kids. It was all we knew.

So I decided to get under my parents’ umbrella and stay there. I was the model son. I went to all of the Basic Seminars and worked in all of the Children’s Institutes I could. And then came my year of working at the Indianapolis Training Center (ITC), doing the godly work of Bill Gothard. It was while I was in Indianapolis that my eyes began to open.


Set Free By Grace. A former ATI student tells how the extreme submissiveness ATI cultivated made her more vulnerable to a spiritually and sexually abusive counselor later in life.


…My teen years were calm and peaceful. I never rebelled. It never even crossed my mind to think differently from my parents. If an authority wanted me to be a certain way, then that was God’s best for me. By this time, I was completely unable to think independently, or (God forbid) ever say “no” to an authority. If my authority’s wishes were truly God’s will for my life, why should I ever say no?


…I did not learn to think for myself overnight. While I soaked up my counselors’ love and acceptance, trying hard to believe that God really loved me that way, I also became very codependent on them. I was trained to be dependent on others my entire life, and one solitary act of independence could not immediately change that.


As it turned out, my counselor took full advantage of my trained submissiveness and began grooming me for sex. As my counselor, he controlled me emotionally, molding me to the place where I believed I could not survive without him. Over three long years he used my body again and again. I would ask him to stop, but he said God was okay with it, and that when the time came it would stop naturally.


A Life Defined By Externals. A former ATI student learns that her step father’s private repentance for sexually abusing her had not marked the end his sexual abuse of another sibling.


…My stepdad had been sexually abusing my little sister and me for a year before we joined ATI. When I was 13, we attended our first Basic Seminar. I sat through the whole thing with my parents. Afterward my stepdad brought me into a side room, apologized, and promised me it would never happen again. He kept his promise; I was never abused by him again. When my Mom found out about it, she forgave him.


…After a few years of marriage, while my husband was in Army Basic Training, I was visiting with my best friend one evening. I had never told her about my abuse or about my sister’s abuse. She mentioned to me that she had been praying for my sister and me for years because she could see the signs of sexual abuse.


…That was when I felt an urgent need to talk to my little sister. We went to lunch and I started telling her what my friend had said. She then opened up and told me that she had been abused by our stepdad for over ten years! Her entire childhood was filled with abuse while within the ATI system.


Thank You, Dad [external link]. A former ATI student writes an open letter to her father about his anger and abuse, and what it taught her as a child.


Dad, you took us to church three times a week and we sang about God’s love, salvation, the joy of the Christian walk. We sat eight in a row in the pew, all the arrows in your quiver lined up so quiet and well behaved, the perfect family. We were shaking in our boots, afraid of you. You abused us emotionally, psychologically, physically and sexually…


Dad, you taught me that God is angry, vindictive and cruel. You taught me that God doesn’t care about my emotions, and that he thinks I’m worthless too, aside from the mass salvation he provides to those who fear him enough to accept it.


Dad, you taught me hate myself. You taught me and my sisters how to submit to men without asking questions. You taught me that any kind of chastisement or punishment at the hands of a man was really God’s divine strengthening of my character, or a punishment for my sins. That either way I should accept this treatment with open arms, praising God for his generous discipline. You taught me that I was worthless and always would be, and that I could look forward to a lifetime of further abuse and loving punishment from God, praise the name of the Father and his Almighty Son, amen.


When Asking Why Does Not Bring Answers. A former ATI student and training center staff family member recounts how she tried to use ATI teachings to understand and cope with her past sexual abuse.


For many years after this incident I stuffed this memory; I couldn’t bear the guilt I shouldered since I was convinced I had caused what happened. Even though I buried the memory, I took the guilt out on my body, hating it. I blamed anything remotely attractive about myself as something that had tempted my grandfather and cause a good Christian man — the closest thing I had to a father — to sin.


A year later, I attended an ATI girls’ counseling seminar. After one of the sessions, a girl who had experienced something similar to what I had experienced asked Mr. Gothard during the Question and Answer time why God might have let that happen to her. His answer was that the abuse was to teach her to value her spiritual soul above her physical body and make her “mighty in spirit.” This only added more fuel to the hatred I felt for my own body. I spent so many years wishing I was built like a boy, hiding under turtlenecks and jumpers, wishing I wasn’t someone who was remotely attractive because the abuse was my fault. When I ended up moving to the Indianapolis Training Center a few years later, all my body-hating reached new levels as I was regularly told by the leadership that I was probably immoral due to my father’s affair, and that they were there to “help” me.

Looking back, I see that my grandfather was a classic groomer: He made me keep secrets from my mother, and he pushed physical boundaries way before he actually outright crossed them. And the reasons I was so convinced that God had “let it happen”? I now realize that this just fed into my need as a victim (and the needs of those in authority) to find a reason — any reason — why it had been my fault so I could keep it from happening again.


Sins of the Preacher: How Chad Curtis Went From Hero to Convict for Sexual Misconduct [external link, some explicit description of criminal sexual abuse]. Neither Chad Curtis nor any other individuals in this story have any ATI or IBLP connections that Recovering Grace is aware of, nor do we wish to cast the story in false light by suggesting any organizational connection. This link is included because it so vividly illustrates a grooming and damage control process many sexually predatory authority figures use to bypass or eliminate resistance in young targets. The abuser cultivates an image of impeccable moral rectitude, leverages the trust placed in him by both the young person and the community, normalizes sexual behavior as part of otherwise “professional” interactions, speaks to and portrays the underage target as a culpable and equal participant in romantic and sexual activity, attempts to shame the young victim into retracting reports of abuse, and pressures the victim to reconcile with the abuser.


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. Linn April 15, 2014 Reply

    ATI, the Catholic Church, Sovereign Grace, any other secretive organization with a shame-based culture, are all open to incidents of sexual abuse. I attended a church 30 years ago where there were issues with staff sexual impropriety and child sexual abuse on the part of a teacher in the church. It was not to be mentioned (which left to my leaving fairly quickly). I know people will sin, but I want to be part of healthy organizations that face the truth and foster discipline and forgiveness for the sinner and restoration for the sinned-against. My personal experience and reading/hearing about such incidents leads me to believe that organizations similar to ATI need to be totally restructured (i.e. brand-new, not-affiliated with the past leadership) or shut down. They never seem to get better without throwing out all the "old leaven."

  2. 'Megan' April 15, 2014 Reply

    With these types of stories, particularly detailing Bill's responses, it's amazing to me the people who still cry his 'innocence', or that he was just being fatherly, or some such garbage.

    • kevin April 15, 2014 Reply

      "With these types of stories, particularly detailing Bill's responses, it's amazing to me the people who still cry his 'innocence', or that he was just being fatherly, or some such garbage."

      I don't think that there are too many who still cry for his innocence, but they are out there for sure. When he had clearly lost his marbles, about 11% of Jim Jones' followers still followed him to Guyana and eventually drank cyanide laced Kook Aid. As with any cult leader, you are going to get probably about that many who will continue to follow no matter what. Interesting to note that 11% of the population still think Elvis is alive. I'm not sure that this is just coincidence. I'm going to call it the 11% rule.

      • kevin April 15, 2014 Reply

        "Kool Aid"

        • dreamer April 15, 2014

          Best typo ever. :)

        • Kevin April 15, 2014

          Once you add the cyanide, it pretty much does become Kook Aid lol

  3. Greg April 15, 2014 Reply

    As a father of 4 and a g'father of 11(so far), this just both infuriates me and makes me physically sick. Just more undeniable proof that billy is nothing more than a sexual predator. The man needs to repent of his arrogance and sin and unbiblical counsel and be put away from society for good......

  4. Sad April 15, 2014 Reply

    My mind reels reading all of these accounts. Horrifying stuff, and I thank each and every victim for having been brave enough to step forward and share their ordeals.

    Along with the Chad Curtis story, I would recommend people read the book "Pilgrim's Wilderness" by Tom Kizzia. It is a horrifying read about a family that practiced to extremes the teachings of hierarchy, grooming, exclusion of the outside world, etc, resulting in an incredibly abusive family, led by an all powerful and infallible patriarch. Though there is no mention of ATI in the book, readers will readily recognize certain patterns that the family practiced.

  5. Daniel April 15, 2014 Reply

    Dear Dr. Levendusky and Staff,

    It has now been over a month since we heard the sad news about Mr. Gothard's resignation.

    I'm sure it is a daunting task to sort through all the allegations, disagreements with doctrinal issues, disappointment, confusion, etc. Some of the allegations are very personal in nature, so it is clear that much work needs to be done in a private setting. On the other hand, for all of those who were brought up in the ATI/ IBLP program, there is a significant desire to understand what is being done and what happened. I would venture to say, for the vast majority of us, there is not a voyeuristic desire for tawdry details, but a sincere wish to be valued and informed during the resolution process.
    As students in the ATI program, a huge amount of our beliefs, dreams, character, life experiences, relationships, legacy, education, and thought patterns were formed in and through the program. Where I live, what I do for a living, where I go to church, how I vote, the type of entertainment I enjoy, is all impacted by my formative years within the program. We, the students, gave the "best years of our lives" in many cases, on staff at Training Centers with the understanding that what we were doing was a stepping stone to success in life. Now, it is quickly becoming a humiliating experience to be associated with the Institute rather than an honor. We are tempted to say "I worked for a 'non-profit' when I got out of high school," or leave a huge gap in our resume.
    This is not meant to place the burden of disappointment on your shoulders. Thousands of us are significant stakeholders in the resolution of this. My desire would be to informed and asked for valued input. Families in the program currently are not the only ones who need to be updated.

    It is obvious that the Institute has significant resources, including close to $80 million in real estate assets according to recent 990 filings. These facilities seemed significantly underused when the program had five times the number of families/students. Now it seems even more inappropriate for a ministry to hoard these types of assets. For those of us who gave much and are impacted greatly, it would seem appropriate to liquidate certain of those assets to appropriately deal with this situation. This could including significant investment in staff who could give timely communication with thousands of students who have graduated from the program, establishing a hotline for abuse reporting, and seeking to rectify and replace unbiblical information. I would also request that other under used assets be given or transferred to ministries that could better use them.
    Very respectfully,

    Daniel - An ATI student for six years and a staff member for four years.

    • esbee April 15, 2014 Reply

      great letter- did you send it to him?
      I would think the fair thing to do with all that money is divide it up among the families, especially the poorest and none to those who are well off (oh, well, still waiting for that perfect world!)

      • Daniel April 15, 2014 Reply


        I have not sent it yet. Was hoping to get some feedback and input. I don't necessecarily agree with giving funds to poor families, but how about establishing endowments at 20 regional Christian colleges to allow former students the opportunity to get a decent education?

        My basic points:

        1. The former students are the largest set of stakeholders. Communicate with them.

        2. OUR shining faces brought in the dollars and property donations. Involve US in the disposition of assets going forward. Do something worthwhile with those assets.

        3. Fix this thing right. I know it won't resolve all the problems, but you at least have some opportunity to put some lipstick on that pig.

        • greg r April 15, 2014

          Great letter, but I would fall out of my chair, howling hysterically, if there were any 'dispersement of assets'. that just does not happen, except in bankruptcy proceedings. I do like your letter, though.

        • Dee April 15, 2014

          Thank you for sharing your well-written letter. Please consider adding your 3-point summary to the close of your letter and then mail it.


        • Stephanie April 15, 2014

          This is an excellent letter. I love the scholarship fund idea, especially for those who are trying to figure out how to support a growing family with only a GED as one's highest educational attainment.

    • Gracie April 15, 2014 Reply

      This ministry's finances and business affairs have also historically been mismanaged, so while they might have that much in assets, I imagine their liabilities would shock and awe us. I doubt they could break even if/when the organization was dissolved or liquidated. They have a ton of badly-maintained, basically useless properties in sketch neighborhoods that no one would want, or at least not at the institute's (what I'm assuming would be hilariously ridiculous) asking price.
      Your letter is very kind, though, and I hope it strikes a nerve with someone reading it still involved in IBLP...even if it's just the little drone who screens emails for the boss men.

      • Daniel April 15, 2014 Reply

        Gracie, while there are several junk properties (Little Rock, Nashville, and to a lesser extent, OKC, Dallas, etc), several are actually worth quite a bit. ITC went for roughly 13 million. The Eli Lilly foundation forked over 22.9 million for purchase and renovation of the building- donating it to Ivy Tech.

        HQ is worth a LOT. I'd guess that it could fetch $20-40 million based on location alone. Northwoods could easily go for $10-20 million to the right party. On IRS form 990, assets are listed at book value. That basically means what the basis was when they were purchased. It does not list the Fair Market Value currently. IBLP has audited financials, so their actual liabilities are fairly accurate (not considering legal liabilities).
        Remember, this ministry had huge resources over the years and believed on operating with cash. All liabilities are very short term in nature.

        • Gracie April 15, 2014

          Remember, though, that their membership (thus, dues) has/have decreased drastically over the past several years while their expenses have not. And they might not believe in borrowing money, but "operating with cash" and paying bills demands a cashflow. I'd bet the farm they come out to a wash at best, especially if there are any civil suits et c. that come out of this horror show. But hey, I hope for them and their bankers that you're right.
          Heck, I'd give anything to see these books. No telling how many payoffs have happened over the years.

        • Daniel April 16, 2014

          Gracie, you are right, they are funding operations for the last few years with the funds from the sale of property. This is all available from their 990 filings. Unfortunately, 2011 is the last filing that I can find. They had 10.5 mil in expense and 6.2 M in income for a loss of over 4 million. That brought their assets down from 92 mil to the mid 80's. I'm assuming it is much worse now. Another reason to downsize operations to a sustainable level. There is no need to try to hang on to these vast, expensive properties.

        • kevin April 16, 2014

          Just to clarify one thing on the losses; about 2 million of the loss shown on form 990 was from depreciation. This is s loss on paper, and for tax purposes, but is not a loss operationally that needs to be funded. So, the 4 million loss is closer to 2 million in actually loss for the year.
          The book value of the properties represents the acquisition cost, less depreciation. They do no reflect the fact that real estate values have gone up substantially in most parts of the country. The value of the assets may be well about the 80-90 million reported, despite the appearance of incredible mismanagement and deferred maintenance.

      • kevin April 16, 2014 Reply

        " well 'above' the 80-90 million" need to start proof reading my posts, lol

        • Daniel April 16, 2014

          Kevin, I agree with you there. Good points about the depreciaton.
          IBLP loves to give the impression that they can't pay staff, all the while holding on to insanely valuable properties. Any excess funds were plowed into real estate, while staff went without basic healthcare. HQ, Northwoods Conference Center, and Big Sandy would probably be worth 80 million together.

          Not trying to steal from the topic of sexual abuse.
          Part of the issue here is that they would say, "we don't have the resources to adequately address XY or Z issue." Not true.

        • Gracie April 16, 2014

          Well, here's hoping that whatever $$ they do wind up with goes to victims and kids who were hoodwinked into forking over their best years to a sick cult.

        • kevin April 17, 2014

          Daniel and Gracie,
          I agree that the organization's assets should be sold off and compensation given to those hurt. IBLP directly caused thousands of kids to not pursue a college degree, so setting up a college scholarship fund is a great idea. And, there should be compensation and counseling for victims of sexual abuse as well. A fund to help facilitate adoptions would also be appropriate, given that thousands of families were discouraged from adopting children. All that being said, I'm not holding my breath. Power and money are not things that I expect IBLP to willingly part with anytime soon.
          Lawsuits could force the liquidation, whether they want to or not.
          I'm actually surprised that no one has tried to organize a class action lawsuit for back wages, given all the reports of the long hours of work without overtime pay. That could be a huge figure when you account for how long this has gone on.

    • horse April 15, 2014 Reply

      "establishing a hotline for abuse reporting

      Great letter. I would take this part out, though, because I wouldn't trust any hotline they establish.

    • Sally April 17, 2014 Reply


      Your letter is very well written.

      My husband has been a board member of our church, on and off, for many years. Board members legally have responsibilities and can be liable for things "under their watch". My husband has been very careful to be part of a board that is only behaving properly because, from the legal seminars he went to on behalf of the church, was told that the liability pertains to ones personal property as well as the churches.

      There is a WHOLE lot of shaking that will take place. I am sure RG would not post nor make allegations that could not be backed up with proof.

      It may take time but my husband confidently said he does not see how this thing can continue without falling in. For the sake of all past, present, and future families I do hope so!!

    • Ryan Sapp April 17, 2014 Reply

      Well written letter Daniel. I think you should send it.

      With this latest article bringing to light so many grevious violations of children along with Bills response I think we should all write letters to Mr. Levendusky.

      [moderator note: email addresses redacted]

  6. Betty April 15, 2014 Reply

    So totally agree with you, Daniel. As an ATI mom of 11 years, twice through the Wisdom Booklets with our 4 children, many years of devoted family volunteerism to training centers, of bowing to bg whims while distancing ourselves as family to our extended family, and the same with church families that didn't coinside, much heartache is bulging to burst--waiting for a decision from you.

    And that does not say anything in regards to the trauma of anyone in my family; that only covers...ME!

    Many hearts are breaking. We need to know if there will be justice found by you, or if it will be found down the road via other avenues God will use--in His time.

    We are praying. Do justly. Love mercy. Walk humbly.

  7. A former student April 15, 2014 Reply

    This is all terrible but unfortunately not unexpected to me since one of my siblings was molested at one of the training centers by children of other staffers. No action was taken other than we were told to forgive and forget. And my parents effectively laid the blame on my older sister and I by telling us to do a better job watching my young siblings, while they continued doing their " important work". As far as I know, all staff higher up knew about the crime and did nothing. If this happened to us, it happened at other training centers too. It was just too organized and efficient job of sweeping it under the rug to be a one time occurance. I would like to see Recovering Grace find out if this happened more than us.

    • Sally April 17, 2014 Reply

      I do hope your report is given to RG. While time has past, it is no less a crime on so many levels.

      • A former student April 17, 2014 Reply

        Thank you for your response Sally. I can't tell you how much it means to me. I pray the RG staff looks into whether that kind of abuse happened at other Training Centers because while not diminishing the terror and immobility felt in a sexual harassment situation ( I've been there, both in the workplace and at the hands of an ATI father/ family friend), adults and authority figures not protecting those with literally no voice in their situation ( my sibling was a barely talking 3 year old, we only found out because one of the perps invited another staffer's child to join them in the abuse and that child felt guilty and told his parents) seems to be criminal on another level. From all the stories I've read on RG it seems that mandatory reporting of abuse of minor is routinely ignored by the authorities at Headquarters. And in the case of Charlotte, her abuse at home was exploited by Mr. Gothard.

  8. Anonymous for a reason April 15, 2014 Reply

    It is hard to say whether the suppressive culture of ATI was particularly attractive to those who leaned toward sexual perversion or whether it actually somehow caused such perversion by the strange prohibitions and rules. In either case, it seems fair to say that the ATI community suffered more than a proportional share of these problems. I know about 20 ATI families very closely and, among them, I know of at least three where sexual molestation happened. We have to be careful about making assumptions, but there were others I suspected. None of these has been related on this site.

  9. BeautyforAshes April 15, 2014 Reply

    Wonderful letter, Daniel, it should be sent - along with your 3 basic points. And yes, this empire was built from OUR shining countenances and slave labor at TC's!!!
    May I suggest that we ALL send actual letters to Mr. Levendusky?
    Coming from individuals and not just lumped together on this site might have a great impact.

    • Sally April 17, 2014 Reply

      Good point.

  10. Heidi April 16, 2014 Reply

    Such a needed article. Have yet to hear back from any person working at IBLP/ATI regarding their current policy on handling child abuse. That is an issue that needs to be addressed immediately.

  11. Mary April 16, 2014 Reply

    All of this is so sad! I have also been following another blog on how to spot red flags of child abuse, and she also offers help and healing to those affected.

  12. Rick Brooker April 16, 2014 Reply

    I want to express my appreciation to "Recovering Grace" for having the zeal, courage and love to confront one of the most dangerous religious hucksters of our time. Revelation 12:8 reminds us that even Satan himself has "his angels" that will defend and follow him to the death..."And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels," Despite Bill's followers and defenders please know that you have done the country and the world a great favor by turning the spotlight of truth on the life and ministry of Bill Gothard.

    My story is not dissimilar from many who have posted. I attended my first seminar in 1974. I was 23 years old and newly married. To discover that God has "steps of action" to solve every problem of life was the "lie" that brought me into Bill's web. Fast forward a few years and my wife and I were selected in the first 100 families of ATI. My personal contact with Bill through the ATI experiences brought me to the realization that Bill is a fraud. He and Gary Fraley called me one day in 1986 and tried to use their non-optional "principle of chain of command" on me. They had called a former pastor of mine and gotten a bad report on me from him. I guess they have used that tactic so often on their "followers" with such success they tried it on me. I told Bill that I had done a little fact checking myself on him from his pastor at the Lagrange Bible Church. His pastor said Bill is not under his authority and rarely shows up for church. Therefore, I told Bill to terminate me from ATI effectively immediately. In the words of Charles Wesley's immortal hymn "And Can it Be"...I woke, the dungeon flamed with light;My chains fell off, my heart was free,I rose, went forth, and followed Thee." I have never forgotten my brothers and sisters in Christ who are still in bondage to the teachings of Bill. I have spent the last 28 years trying to unlock cell doors for them so they could escape; few have walked free. Even though Bill is small in stature physically, he is an imposing figure when it comes to spiritually manipulating, intimidating and enslaving people. Maybe that is the reason God put Psalm 118:8 right in the middle of the Bible... It is better to trust in the LORD than to put confidence in man.

    My story did not end with just escaping the religious bondage of Bill Gothard and I lived happily ever after. Recovering grace is truly an accurate description of what God has been doing in my life post Bill Gothard. I invite you to read about it on my I particularly invite you to read my posts---Blind by Omission and Look into My Telescope. May you too truly "recover grace".

  13. Alfred Corduan April 16, 2014 Reply

    I need to take exception to this particular piece. Sexual predators will use whatever means they have available to enable their activities. Those existing in a strong authority structure they will use that to their advantage . . . fathers, policemen . . . bosses. But that is simply no more true there than for much weaker authority situations. The fact that it is a trusted relative . . . or even the general respect of children to adults is manipulated to further the activity. No “umbrella of protection” teaching necessary.

    There is a strong prejudice playing out here – because the teaching on authority is felt to be so onerous, it simply must be responsible for the tragedies presented. Yet the same problems have happened in every culture imaginable for millennia. The abuse of childhood respect for adults and the desire by adults to cover things up is so very much not an ATI specific thing.

    It is easy to load blame on people and institutions that you despise. I do have a respect for RG in general . . . although I disagree with many of the conclusions and take exception with some of the activities I accept the need to address real concerns. But . . . this approaches a low point. I have had the privilege of getting to know a large number of ATI families, rubbing shoulders with them in this culture for 20 years. I do not know of a single case of child molestation of ANY kind within the circles I move, first, second hand accounts. Please don’t tell me it is because things are covered up so well. Eventually kids grow up . . . and they talk . . . and you hear things. ATI is not the culture of abuse that is presented here – far from it.

    • Gracie April 16, 2014 Reply

      Not even going to touch this. Amazing.

      • 'Megan' April 16, 2014 Reply

        Yeah, I just remember this part in the article,

        'We sat eight in a row in the pew, all the arrows in your quiver lined up so quiet and well behaved, the perfect family. We were shaking in our boots, afraid of you. You abused us emotionally, psychologically, physically and sexually…'

        And I think of all the other articles and comments where, 'no-one would have ever guessed this went on in my family.' ATI mask, etc..

      • greg r April 16, 2014 Reply

        @Gracie: you are SO much wiser than I...

    • greg r April 16, 2014 Reply

      Other than your usual anecdotal testimony, Alfred, why should I believe you when you say that the authority structure (weak or stron) does not matter ?? Is there NO correlation (I did not say causation) between the two ?
      Are you also saying that the umbrella teaching has nothing to do with the coverup of the crime ?? you can't see the problems with this ??

    • grateful April 16, 2014 Reply

      Alfred, I tend to agree with your assessment about a strong prejudice, however, a patriarchal environment does lend itself nicely to a predator, one must admit.

    • BeautyforAshes April 16, 2014 Reply

      Do you agree with Mr. Gothard's advice to the victims in this piece?
      Do you agree with Mr. Gothard's responses to the families in which the abuse occurred?

    • eva April 16, 2014 Reply

      Alfred, your last sentence gives it all away....."eventually kids grow up...and they talk...and you hear things. ATI is not the culture of abuse that is presented here - far from it." The kids have grown up and they are talking here but you won't accept that they are telling the truth. And so you make an erroneous conclusion that ATI is not an abusive culture. If somehow you could bring yourself to believe what these grown up kids have to say you would change your conclusion but then you would have to admit that you were wrong all along and yes that Bill Gothard is a pervert. And some of the abusive perverts were other authority figures....even relatives...Yes even ATI couldn't weed them out because it was structured by a pervert so as to make it harder for them to be found.

      • 'Megan' April 16, 2014 Reply

        And sometimes it still takes years for adult children to talk. I've only recently come to the point where I can even address these issues with my own parents, I do NOT feel comfortable exposing my family's dirty laundry to the general public (hence the 'Megan').. I don't doubt that there are folks who know my family who flat out wouldn't believe the things that happened behind closed doors. On the outside, we still look like a pretty normal, 'godly' family..

        I don't wish to be rude, but given Alfred's general disbelief/attitude towards many things on this website, he's probably the last person any adult 'child' from an ATI home would ever confide in as to abuse, and it's likely he wouldn't see the signs for what they are anyway. Also, it's quite likely that a good portion of the families he knows really are great folks who don't have these issues.
        That doesn't silence the hundreds, if not thousands of others who do testify to abusive homes and the heaviness of the system that helped produce and/or cloak the abuse.

    • Mosessister April 16, 2014 Reply

      @Alfred, does IBLP/ATI follow Mandatory Reporting laws? Are ATI families and children encouraged to report abuse?

      I am curious about what, if any, Child Protection policies are in place now within IBLP/ATI. Are all leaders/volunteers screened? Are background checks performed?Are there rules now about adult leaders not ever being alone with a minor? Are all leaders/volunteers trained in Child Protection Good Practices?

      • Michelle April 16, 2014 Reply

        I can't speak to current policy but I do remember this being discussed at a training session for a Children's Institute almost 20 years ago. I can't remember what prompted the discussion but I remember Dr. Guthrie telling us that if a case of abuse was reported at a CI then they would pass on the report to the family's pastor. He said that he saw this as an appropriate way to fulfill the mandatory reporting laws since the pastor was an authority over the family and he could take it from there. Even at age eighteen I remember thinking that I wasn't so sure the court system would agree with him and considering what we know now about some of the "ATI" churches, telling the pastor could have actually made the situation worse. I never heard of a report being given at a CI so I don't know if this policy ever had to be implemented.

        • A former student April 16, 2014

          It's interesting that Dr. Guthrie would say that because it certainly wasn't followed in my family's case and we were a core family at aTraining center. I know for certain if my pastor had been notified he would have advised us to leave the training center and press charges immediately. My guess is they left it up to the fathers to deal with as they wanted. But maybe "encouraged" them in a certain direction? I don't know. All I know is I asked if all the authorities directly above us (all the way to Gothard himself) knew what happened and I was told they did. And nothing happened to the offenders or their families. One family eventually left and went home. The other family was promoted and sent to another Training center with lots of children.

        • Michelle April 16, 2014

          It sounded like it was the policy followed by the travelling Children's Institute staff so I'm not sure it would have affected the training centers or other parts of IBLP. I think because the teams travelled from city to city and were there for such a short time they felt it best for the local pastors to take the responsibility to report it if they felt the report was credible so that they could follow up with it rather than a "drive by" ministry trying to handle it from a distance.

    • Alfred Corduan April 16, 2014 Reply

      Grateful/BeautyForAshes: There are cults . . . that teach that sex is part of worship. I am being bizarre to make a point. Obviously a kid who is taught that they exist for the gratification of adults by some God-given command would try to accept such abuse. Think Elizabeth Smart. Is THAT what you hear ATI teaching?

      We read that “on the surface” ATI is very strict on sexual contact . . . what does ATI do under the surface? What an insinuation . . . I am sorry . . . it gets offensive at some point. If some random parent took their own twisted perspectives and piggybacked off of a teaching about strong authority - and you have to admit the Bible has a lot to say about obeying authority – what blame do we place on ATI for that? You may know that Bill parted company with Vision Forum years ago because of the imbalance in the Patriarchy teaching. And if you have been listening to Gothard as I have for 40 years you know there is a major emphasis on screaming (“crying out”) when attacked, about telling others about abuse. One of his commandments to teach children: “If someone swears you to secrecy, you tell me as soon as possible”. This is based on an obscure OT precept that gives the father the authority to release a child or unmarried daughter from any vow or promise as long as he does so on the day he first hears it. The fact that fault has been found with Bill because he believes victims have a God-commanded responsibility to do so sort of says a lot. The public schools tell kids they are “powerful”, able to scream, able to run, able to go tell an adult when molestation is attempted . . . sounds like a fair amount of personal responsibility being promoted.

      Eva: On publically calling Bill a pervert, is RG OK with this? I read in Jude that Michael the archangel would not even allow himself to revile the devil because of basic respect, just saying, “The Lord rebuke you”. (Jude 1:9) I dunno . . . God is judge . . . I would think we might have some fear, especially when we may be somewhat removed from the actual facts.

      Mosessister: I cannot tell you what the HQ policies on counseling are. They know the law. What abuse should ATI families report? That is more geared to outside providers, like pastors, teachers and the like. Obviously if a family reports themselves . . . hmmm . . . can’t say what the responsibilities are. As I said, I am not aware of a single case of abuse that happened to families I know. As far as Child Protection policies . . . I know they do have policies. I think their track record is stellar in that regard. I am personally not aware of any minors being abused under IBLP jurisdiction, this after running thousands of kids through a lot of programs . . . are you?

      • Helen April 17, 2014 Reply

        Alfred, you say that at HQ they know the law? So are they aware they are mandated reporters who have broken the law time and time again by not reporting this stuff when it came out?

        It is NOT geared to outside providers, but because ATI is a homeschool program the staff are mandated to report child abuse to Child Protection services. And yet they don't. Yes, I know personal stories regarding this. Things staff found out and did not report and many abuses of minors in programs also.

        But with your attitude no one wants to disclose to you, sir.

        Sigh. If they know the law they are doubly culpable cause they sure don't follow it!!!!!!

      • Mosessister April 17, 2014 Reply

        @Alfred, my younger brother and our parents got involved with IBLP after I was an adult, so I've had little exposure to ATI families. I have zero personal knowledge of sexual abuse within the organization, my issues with my family have to do with spiritual abuse. However, I do have personal knowledge of sexual abuse within similar patriarchal, authoritarian IFBs (Hyles/Anderson, Northland). From my admittedly anecdotal experience, there is definitely a pattern of such abuse in organizations where women and children are oppressed by denial of authority commensurate with responsibility.

        Your response is telling.

        I have requested a copy of IBLP's Child Protection Policy, we'll see how they respond.

      • Eva April 17, 2014 Reply

        Alfred: You made an assumption that I was talking about a SEXUAL pervert in my reference to Bill Gothard. Here are some definitions of pervert -

        Full Definition of PERVERT
        a : to cause to turn aside or away from what is good or true or morally right : corrupt
        b : to cause to turn aside or away from what is generally done or accepted : misdirect
        a : to divert to a wrong end or purpose : misuse
        b : to twist the meaning or sense of : misinterpret

        Bill Gothard perverted the Scripture in many ways. That's just one of the ways he is a pervert. And I experienced his perversion of Scripture myself. Remember how he said that a woman's menstrual period should remind her husband of the blood of Christ? That is definitely not Scriptural. That was a perversion. So I would think that RG should be ok with this use of pervert.

        • 'Megan' April 17, 2014

          Even Michael the archangel wouldn't rebuke the devil.. so I guess Alfred is insinuating that Bill is the devil? :) Calling someone a pervert isn't even close to the Michael/devil situation.. So far all of Alfred's points have been straw men.

      • horse April 17, 2014 Reply

        "One of his commandments to teach children: “If someone swears you to secrecy, you tell me as soon as possible”."

        They were supposed to tell BG if someone swore them to secrecy? The same BG who kept a secret lifestyle of sexually harassing young women and teens? Who were they supposed to cry out to?

        This is it right here. This is the catch-22. This is the culture we're talking about.

        • Alfred Corduan April 17, 2014

          I have instructed them to tell "me", their father (or mother). That was the point . . . :-) Point being that a child coerced into a promise does not to keep that promise, not for all the principles of truthfulness and keeping your word.

          I got in a world of hurt a year or two ago because I suggested in one comments on one of the early "stories" that the first thing the young lady should have done if something bothered her . . . was to tell her father. I still remember the day after driving down to Arkansas, when one of the dear brothers here (not a friend of ATI) reached out to me privately by email to ask if I "needed a friend". He was looking at the explosion of angry responses . . . that I had not seen. So I got to eat humble pie.

          But . . . when it comes to "what responsibility do I have" . . . we are accountable to bring the things done in darkness out to the light. And no-one - NO-ONE - may swear my children to secrecy.

        • horse April 17, 2014

          OK, thank you for the clarification.

          But don't you see the irony of the fact that your children can come to you but they would not have been safe going to BG?

    • Mary April 16, 2014 Reply

      Alfred. You have no idea what goes on behind closed doors. No one, and I mean no one, ever guessed at what was happening behind the closed doors of my husband's childhood home. To this day, he has never told his mother because he is quite certain that his mother would deny it. And then minimize his pain.

      You say that kids grow up and eventually talk. No, they do not always talk and if they do, they tend not to broadcast such news.

      And I do know an ATI family where the father sexually molested his daughter. They were longtime ATI families. I once saw their photo on an ATI publication.

    • Alfred Corduan April 16, 2014 Reply

      I have lived long enough to know what goes on behind closed doors. Please. In fact, some near and dear have walked that . . . just happens to not be ATI. My point, again, is not to minimize the evil of child abuse or to disbelieve that people do it or that children have a hard time confronting it. Rather, I have a big problem trying to lay this at ATI's feet in any specific way. The fact that a disturbing number of Baptist kids (picking a denomination out of the air) get hooked on drugs has nothing to do with Baptist doctrine. I can see how extra shocking it is to have it happen in ATI, so dedicated to separation from the world. But I allege that, compared to the average Christian, ATI fairs much better statistically on the whole.

      To be fair, I do see a problem with isolating a family from all contact with others as worthy as the intent may be. Some home schooling families - ATI included - have ended up with sibling sexual abuse, incest. I have known of families where this happened . . . all I can think is that the monastery approach is dangerous. God intends for us to live in the world and touch many others for him. That is all I can think of when hearing of such things, self focused families. Maybe that is my prejudice, for I have no hard data to consult.

      That problem is far from just an ATI problem. Such things happen with neighbor kids too, so perhaps one problem is traded for another. We are all a bunch of sinners in desperate need of Jesus' Grace, both in our own lives and those of the children we love so much. A program, no matter how nobly intentioned and constructed, cannot preserve us from the ravages of sin. But I prefer my chances with ATI over life without it.

      • greg r April 17, 2014 Reply

        @Alfred: I'm guessing you have no real 'statistic' here other than what is anecdotally in your head... am I just fishing here ?? you wrote:

        But I allege that, compared to the average Christian, ATI fairs much better statistically on the whole.

      • Ryan Sapp April 17, 2014 Reply

        How you can say anything but I'm sorry to the precious souls represented in this article is sad. May you and the Tin Man find what you are looking for.

        I did some research as to where you were coming from and this is all I could find.

      • horse April 17, 2014 Reply

        Yes, you have to clean up each institution one by one. No one gets a pass because "others do it too" or "others are worse." We're not talking about others right now. We're talking about this organization.

    • Suzi April 16, 2014 Reply

      Mr. Corduan,

      with all due respect, ATI is not exempt from sexual abuse within the family. No organization is. I have also rubbed shoulders for over 20 years with many ATI families...many are some of the nicest people you may ever know, but many DO have sexual abuse within the family. I personally know of 32 cases of sexual abuse within ATI families I have worked with, so it is first hand knowledge. Just because you haven't seen it, doesn't mean it doesn't exist. And some of those families were in the foreground and involved at all levels and perceived as "impeccable" examples. I will not attempt to blame ATI for that but I do know what their advice/recommendations were to those families, and it was usually horrible advice, and sometimes just being kicked out. And there was plenty of cover-up of such stories. The damage of blaming the person who was abused is extreme, cruel, and foolish and unwise. It certainly doesn't lend itself to healing,, and is in my estimation, inexcusable. How anyone could blame a young girl for her father or brother doing deplorable things to her is beyond comprehension.

      • Helen April 17, 2014 Reply


        Were any of these incidents reported by IBLP/ATI staff?

        The problem I keep hearing about is that massive amounts of abuse was allowed to continue because it was never reported.

        • Sally April 17, 2014


          From what I gather from my readings is that when an incident was reported it was stopped dead it its tracks and went no further.

        • Suzi April 17, 2014

          I cannot say for sure, but I knew of no reports filed by them. At that point in time I was dealing with the damage caused by counsel given which blamed the person who was violated.

    • dreamer April 17, 2014 Reply

      So, because you have never heard of it, Alfred, it doesn't happen? Your anecdotal evidence is fact, but the first-hand experiences of others are just...anecdotes?

  14. Daniel April 16, 2014 Reply

    Interesting breaking news that actually relates to this thread in a couple of ways. Doug Phillips is being sued by his former employee/nanny with a suit filed on 4/15/2014 for sexual abuse. Guess who the lawyer is that filed the suit on her behalf? David Gibbs. The same guy/ organization that is supposed to be investigating Bill Gothard. What a small world we live in.

    Intention is not to discuss Doug Phillips here. There are other sites for that. I just thought it was interesting that it is the same dude on both issues.

    • Shane Boone April 16, 2014 Reply

      That is interesting. I worked for Doug for 4 years (11 years ago). Never bought into the Calvinism or the Patriarchy and left because it was too large a part of the envoirnment. Like BG, DP was a great salesman and good at manipulation through emotions. Thank you for sharing the information.

    • Michelle April 16, 2014 Reply

      I, too, found it interesting and relevant that Gibbs was handling the case. He seems to be a busy man these days.

      • Daniel April 16, 2014 Reply

        It gave me a little hope for this situation, since it looks like he is being pretty aggressive against DP on behalf of the plaintiff.

  15. Elizabeth April 16, 2014 Reply

    David Gibbs Jr. is supposed to be investigating Gothard.

    David Gibbs III is the attorney of record in the filing against Phillips.

    III is the son of Jr., so not the same person. There is gossip that Jr and III had a "falling out". I have not seen confirmation one way or the other.

    • Daniel April 17, 2014 Reply

      Good info. Was not aware of the father/son.

  16. Foo Quuxman April 16, 2014 Reply

    I would like to inquire about the disappearance of at least two articles from this site, the names are:

    Failed Protectors Part One
    Failed Protectors Part Two

    The Waybac Machine still has them, but there is no mention of them here except for a pingback or two. Were these lost somehow? Or deliberately taken down? And if so may I ask why if it isn't a problem?

  17. Mary Olive April 16, 2014 Reply

    Dear folks,

    Sexual harassment and abuse have occurred for as long as there've been males and females. It occurs everywhere. It's perhaps more appalling in Christian circles, because males are supposed to "know better", but they don't, really. Historically, females have almost always been subjugated. It's only been recently (in the past 40 years) that females as a whole have made some progress toward demanding male accountability.

    Do you remember what it was like before? I do. It had nothing to do with intelligence or capability. It had to do with the male need to be dominant. Mr. Gothard is 79 years old. He was raised in a patriarchal society and home. Should he have been able to overcome that programming? It would have been nice if he'd practiced what he preached, but from what I read here, apparently he did not. He and many others succumbed to temptation and addiction, and in my opinion there is no excuse.

    Yes, females should scream when they are sexually abused, but they've been programmed to be silent and not to resist, and not just by this organization. When females do speak up, often they are shamed and disregarded; even shunned.

    All males who take advantage of their superior strength and position to dominate anyone, whether by force or by enticement, need to be held accountable.

    And, I will add, all females who take advantage of their superior strength and position, whether by force or enticement, need also to be held accountable. Thanks.

    • P.L. April 17, 2014 Reply

      I think it should also be pointed out that it seems the 'crying out' advice was directed toward a situation of violent sexual assault. These girls were given no training to recognize, understand, or deal with more subtle but just as perverted forms of abuse, like the mentor and boss who 'accidentally' brushes your breast while checking your work, the coworker who makes inappropriate remarks about your figure and appearance, or the older man who plays footsie with you in a dark car.

      • horse April 17, 2014 Reply

        Absolutely. And the person who brought the "crying out" rule into these otherwise New Testament times was in fact a person who himself engaged in grooming. You can't say, "Hey, BG taught against sexual abuse and taught the victims what to do," and then say, "It's just footsie and fatherly attention" when he himself engages in grooming. Grooming takes away that "cry out" moment. If someone doesn't understand that, they don't understand grooming. BG can't be a safe one and a groomer at the same time.

        • horse April 17, 2014

          BG can't be the safe one and a groomer at the same time."

          Just to be clear, what I mean is that by creating the "cry out" rule for modern times, he created an environment where grooming could flourish. This was no coincidence.

          And regardless of what the circumstances were for the rule in OT times, Bill used it for very selfish and harmful reasons today.

      • Shane April 17, 2014 Reply

        Could someone please tell me what "crying out" even means. Was there ever instructions about reporting abuse? Was it ever communicated to wives that a husband's headship is not about power and control, and should NEVER be a hiding place for abuse? That submission (in Biblical terms) means loving someone enough to say no? Were parents taught that their children's obedience was not to their whims or ideas of peace or comfort? That obey your parent did not mean parents get to control manipulate or abuse?

        My view is the problem exposed in this article (and is present in soooo much of Christianity) is that we live behind the veil of language and image. The phrase "cry out" means nothing in the real concrete sh*t of people's lives. It's "god speak" that veils rather than brings to light unless it is applied to the real sin that exists even in healthy families all the way down the spectrum into this awful evil.

        Gothard's legalistic approach to life absolutely creates a culture of evaluating the "good" Christians on a whole host of external conformities and a shared tribal language and dress. And then the real spiritual maturity of the organization shows in how it has apparently not stepped up in dealing with abuses when reported. There's a strong urge to protect the external righteousness of people and organization. Nevermind throwing a few victims under the bus along the way by shaming them, requiring forgiveness as if it's a magic switch to be flipped, allowing perps off because of some show of repentance as if it's some magic switch to be flipped, not accounting for real mental illness (perps who are narcissists, BLPD, bipolar, etc.and know how to mimic the lingo and external forms of righteousness to navigate and manipulate the church- not saying all with these mental illnesses are abusers).

        I could be wrong here, but when I see "crying out" I see language that bring confusion rather than clarity. I believe this is a problem in Church culture that allows for abuse to hide. But I only attended a few seminars so I don't know if "crying out" was ever understood as meaning concrete ways of dealing with concrete evil.

        BTW the Chad Curtis article was very insightful in helping see how people hide by taking on the trappings of the Christian ghetto.

        • greg r April 17, 2014

          Sad that where so many swallowed Bill's "solid biblical approach", they should have been seeing and saying "that (stuff) does not work, proof text 3 or 4 verses on STILL does not work"
          I can see at least two areas where image really was the tail wagging the dog:
          1)the biblese, the lingo that gave things the patina, the illusion , of being really representative of the mind and heart of GOD; so much so that the attitude became "we are really more biblical , or more faithfully biblical than...."
          2)everything to protect the image , the reputation, of the IBLP , or ATI, organization over and against the importance of real flesh and blood men and women, boys and girls. It's died down, but I wish I had a dollar for every poster here on RG whose loudest, strongest plea was to preserve the reputation of Bill and affiliated ministry. Image, image, image....

        • Brumby April 17, 2014

          @Shane: I can only clarify "crying out" according to my own experience, but I'll share with you what crying out meant in my home. "Crying out" was a confusing and unnerving concept once introduced to my family while in ATI. Of course my folks caught wind of this new, insightful, life-changing idea through BG, and then incorporated it into our family life. There was some notion that literally raising one's voice (i.e. screaming, shouting, yelling) either coherently or not, God would take note of the obedience and humility of the crier-outer and would most assuredly address his or her request/needs. If one was humble and sincere enough to cry out directly to God, then God would theoretically reward that. This was traumatic in my home, since my rebellion was worth "crying out" over. It's hard to listen to your parents shout out to God in the same or next room to change you. BG has some book - The Power of Crying Out - or such - I don't recall if he wrote it himself or if it was a joint effort, or he just recommends it... Women could avoid being raped if they would only cry out loud enough to warrant a response from God for intervention. Once I left my family and ATI, I was informed by my folks that I would most definitely be raped because I wore jeans in addition to no longer being under their "umbrella." Just another little factoid.

        • Shane April 17, 2014

          "There was some notion that literally raising one's voice (i.e. screaming, shouting, yelling) either coherently or not, God would take note of the obedience and humility of the crier-outer and would most assuredly address his or her request/needs."

          Weird! This fits with the whole strange generational teaching and talisman view of Christianity in Gothardism. This confirms my suspicions; at least in your case.

          'It's hard to listen to your parents shout out to God in the same or next room to change you." I'm sorry this was done by your parents! Reading it makes my heart hurt. It also confirms the culture created by the teaching was at best wrong and confusing.

        • 'Megan' April 17, 2014

          Crying out was a thing in my home too, but for a very short time. I think my dad felt too awkward (because it wasn't sincere, it was just done because that was the new thing to do, although I don't doubt dad was sincere in what he was praying.) I remember the anecdotes and stories.

          Well I was robbed at gunpoint once, and cried out to God, and still got robbed. The bad guys didn't get spooked, or change their mind based on my 'crying out', in fact, given the adrenaline rush they must have been experiencing, it's doubtful if they really heard or understood what I was yelling.

          I suppose I could say that my crying out might have saved my life, except that even in that moment, I knew those burglars weren't out for blood, or to otherwise harm or kill me unless it became necessary, so I can't claim that.

          I do NOT doubt that crying out to God for help has absolutely saved lives, situations, etc.. but like everything else, this teaching was whack.

  18. Ryan Sapp April 17, 2014 Reply

    Heart breaking article. Thank you RG for giving so many a voice. Very touching.

    A program who taught you to not give your heart away actually created a platform for predators to take something so much more precious from children and women.

  19. LynnCD April 17, 2014 Reply

    Alfred mentioned above that Bill Gothard and Doug Phillips parted company years ago, because of the imbalance in teaching of Patriarchy on the part of Vision Forum.

    I wanted to comment on that remark, because that is not what I heard from a former ATI student and OBCL graduate, who now practices law. He explained to me Gothard parted ways with Phillips, not vice versa, on account of Phillips encouraging early marriage of young adults.

    It seems fairly obvious to me why Gothard would not care for that, as such a teaching would diminish his labor force at the TCs.

    • eva April 18, 2014 Reply

      And they both had the Duggars as close friends. If I was going to part company with someone I would not try to have close friends in common with that person.

  20. Guy Cooksey April 22, 2014 Reply

    This all reminds me of "Peyton Place." Maybe it is best for churches to remain small-average in size and with true accountability. Also, I am suspect of "home church" because, once again, an authority figure takes over and is not held accountable (Doug Phillips). The early church had a definite authority structure that held its leaders accountable. Yes, they met in homes, but we not "home churches." Also,these men and women (apostles included) gave their lives to preach the Gospel. I think we need to get back to that and quit the "Gothardizing" of the Bible.

  21. Ned April 24, 2014 Reply

    I am shocked that "Christians" who attended this institute or worked there want to "CASH IN" on this enterprise. It does appear, even though there is no direct evidence as of yet that some of these leaders were living a double standard. If and when there us evidence of this, THOSE are the people that should be fired and shamed but for former students and employees to DEMAND some kind of FINANCIAL REWARD because of their association with this organization doesn't speak well of THEIR character.


    [10] For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.

    I have attended these seminars. They are from a conservative viewpoint. Despite the alleged failings of some of the leaders the organization they have had a positive impact on many people. I don’t expect perfection from any mere mortal. I do expect leaders to set a good example and to inspire others. If that is not the case, then the person or people should be questioned and asked to resign if they have been living a double life. Furthermore if they have broken secular laws, I want them punished. I see no reason to tear the entire organization down because of some wayward people. It is unwise to throw the baby out with the bathwater. If these allegations are true, it is time for a house cleaning.

    I am also shocked that “parents” would not see through concerns by THEIR kids working there. I speak from personal experience about a situation that happened to us at a church. To be a Christian, doesn’t give you a license to be an imbecile! To make a long story short, we temporarily attended a church to see what they were like and to learn more about their Christian school. An older “respected gentleman” and his disabled wife in a wheelchair were very friendly to me and my daughter. My husband was doing allot of traveling at the time so it was just the two of us going there. She went to Sunday school and I went to church. Thank goodness we personally KNEW her Sunday school teachers and parents signed their preschoolers IN and OUT of the class. Later this "gentleman" tried to remove her from her class! Since this couple didn’t know us, it would appear that I was a “single mom” or divorced. I am happily married but they didn’t know that nor that hubby was out of the country on business.

    The “gentleman” was very friendly and wanted to chat but I had to get going to pick my daughter up from Sunday school. He asked me how OLD was she and without thinking anything sinister, I told him and then excused myself to get her. Well the next week he literally ignored his disabled wife and really turned on the charm. I felt uncomfortable. Something wasn’t right. I could go on and on but I LISTENED to that voice inside of me and discussed this with hubby and agreed that this man was up to no good.

    THREE police reports later, a notorized letter on attorney letterhead stationary with signed delivery telling him NOT to come near our home finally stopped him. It had to be worded carefully to avoid a slander charge. He was literally harassing is to allow him to “baby sit” along with threatening phone calls and cruising our neighborhood looking for her when he lived about 15 miles away.

    When I confronted the church about him, they DEFENDED him. They KNEW he had major issues with kids. Guess what his job was – a janitor in an elementary school. I demanded that they get him psychological help and I would refrain from taking further action and they did get him that. Over the years I have since met other parents that had the SAME problem with this guy. to be honest there really wasn't more that we could do except use our daughter as bait and there is NO WAY we'd do that. I could have allowed someone to rationalize this away but I didn't. BTW it was NOT a Catholic Church. It was a Baptist Church. We are of the Baptist denomination. It was amusing that the detective automatically thought it was a Catholic church.

    Since it wasn’t the church we normally attend, we moved on and I pulled my daughter out of their school. I was terrified that he’d snatch our daughter when she was playing out back and knowing they were “protecting” him terrified that he’d walk off with her during recess or some other activity at their Christian school. He’d openly chase her with a camera in the parking lot after church and at this time I as AVOIDING him, grab her and put her on his knee and magically have kid toys and sweets in his truck …how many men in their 50’s are equipped with that in their pick up trucks? Or behave that way? My point is this, STOP blaming OTHERS when something is clearly not right and you KNOW it.

    Don’t put your trust in MAN. You will be disappointed. I chose to listen to that inside voice telling me there is danger here. It didn’t matter to me what OTHERS might say if they knew or those that defended him. I pulled her out of their Christian school and never went near that church again! As Jesus stated:


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

    After we returned to our church, I don't know what else happened to him. I know the harassing phone calls stopped, the stalking stopped and he did get the help of a Christian counselor.

    So folks, maybe it's time to forgive these "leaders"? Let other leaders step up and clean up the mess. Instead of looking to make MONEY OFF THEIR FAILINGS, why not offer POSITIVE change there? I'm sure there are some good people there. Your reaction is so wrong and NOT better than THEIR moral failings. Yes, if the allegations are true, you were betrayed but honestly looking to PROFIT FROM them makes you no better than they are with THEIR MORAL FAILINGS.

    • Beth April 24, 2014 Reply

      What in the world are you talking about?

      • Ned April 24, 2014 Reply

        Read the replies here. You will then understand my disappointment in some of the "Christians". Being rude to me doesn't diminish my point.

        Yes, Mr. Gothard thoroughly enjoyed working with youth. He worked with inner city YOUTH. I am not surprised that young girls could be infatuated with him. Allot of young girls go through this. Older men will be smoother than young guys just starting out that are their age. However the infatuation appears to be one sided. He stated he NEVER kissed a girl or ever touched a young girl inappropriately with sexual intent.

        I have not seen claims of sexual impropriety. What I have read is one sided young girl infatuation. Later when moved on and married, I get the impression they felt spurned because they affection was not reciprocated by Mr. Gothard. If he had wanted to get married, he could have. Paul made it clear that marriage is perfectly acceptable but Mr. Gothard chose not to marry. Perhaps he should have been more cognizant of how a young girl could misinterpret him. He should have been less trusting ... Billy Graham was NEVER alone with a young girl or a grown woman so that there could not be any misinterpretations or scandalous talk.

        Of course Mr. Gothard had his favorites! I'm quite sure there are people you'd prefer to have working for you over others. He is no different than anyone else in that regard. That appeared to be another complaint about him. In the minds of others they may have been jealous of someone else working more closely with him. This is unfortunate but it is human nature.

        I know for a fact, this man has done allot of good and had a positive impact on more people than either you or I. It's sad to see fellow Christians tearing him down.

        Goodness! Isn't it clear by now that Christianity is slowly being erased within our culture and of course the pious are helping that happen. For example, you're not supposed to say Merry Christmas or Happy Easter for fear of offending someone. Since when has Christianity become "offensive"? You're not supposed to pray at a meeting or a football game. One church put out their usual voting guide on where politicians stood on issues was audited by the IRS and they even asked the people, "what do you pray for..."? What the church did was perfectly legal.

        I could go on and on and on giving you examples of how our Freedom of Religion and Freedom of Speech is going away - a politically correct silent coupe with out a shot being fired. It should be interesting to see if a pastor in a church can turn down a homosexual marriage taking place in a Christian church. Will our Freedom of Religion allow us to decline this or will discrimination against what is wrong not be allowed?

        Yet, when a good man, who may or may not be guilty of anything or perhaps just NOT understanding that young girls are easily infatuated, finally realizes this, our response is to tar and feather him and destroy his organization. Yes, the godless love this reaction by other Christians.

        We really do need to move away from the holier than thou stance. We are all fallible. Christ is the only One that is perfect. Mere mortals make mistakes. Our faith should always be in Christ and NOT mere mortals. When a mere mortal fails, is genuine in remorse, we should forgive him or her not react like the godless do. I have no doubt that he will seek forgiveness for whatever the offended perceived as unacceptable. This was one of the lessons in a seminar.

        • Shane April 24, 2014

          Ned- I think what you read as rudeness is actually incredulity and bewilderment at your first post.

          I think your description of Gothard's ignorance and foolishness regarding women is reason enough he should not be in a position of leadership contra Billy Graham.

          You seem to doubt Gothard's own admission to improper behavior, thin though it is.

          Christianity will be just fine. Jesus is King after all.

        • Ryan April 25, 2014

          The young girls were just infatuated....I hadn't thought of that before, maybe that's how all this happened. I knew it must be their fault. Thank you.

      • Gracie April 24, 2014 Reply

        Beth, I love you.

    • Shane April 24, 2014 Reply

      "So folks, maybe it's time to forgive these "leaders"? Let other leaders step up and clean up the mess. "

      Forget that! I'm in this for the money.

      • Ned April 24, 2014 Reply


        "Forget that! I'm in this for the money."

        Thank you for making my point.

        Maybe you could explain yourself to Beth.

        Till then I will hope you are being sarcastic.

        • Shane April 24, 2014

          I was hoping you could explain how to make the money, but if it's a pyramid scheme, I'm out. Oh, and I will NOT sell Sonic Bloom.

        • Beverly April 25, 2014

          ROFL, Shane!

        • Shane April 25, 2014


        • Nancy2 April 25, 2014

          I'm trying to figure out why the trees in the woods are so tall. Woodpeckers definitely peck trees with a back beat. Proof Sonic Bloom needs more research. Speaking of Sonic I think I'll stop there on my way home.

  22. […] are older publications, but they illuminate much about the response of some ATI families to sexual abuse. So many hurdles must be cleared before the government authorities can be called in to address […]

  23. […] Over the past two weeks and previous two Aprils, Recovering Grace has focused on personal narratives by former Advanced Training Institute (ATI) alumni who endured sexual assault, abuse, or harassment in the Institute in Basic Life Principles (IBLP) subculture, sometimes within a context of broader physical abuse, and almost always within a context of spiritual and emotional abuse. We also explored portions of ATI and IBLP literature that placed much guilt and responsibility for abuse and its aftermath on survivors and their advocates, who were issued a complex system of competing demands that made it extremely difficult to expose abuse without being implicated as complicit in it. Today, we close our Sexual Assault Awareness month series. […]

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