A Cry For Justice

Awakening the Evangelical Church to Domestic Violence and Abuse in its Midst

Aren’t you making too big a deal of this?

At this blog, we generally keep our focus on domestic abuse, but other kinds of abuse have similar dynamics to domestic abuse.  In this post, I’m giving links to an account of sexual harassment by a para-church Leader. It is a two-part testimony by a woman named Lizzie, describing Bill Gothard’s sexual harassment of her while she was a teenager. Some of you may already have seen Lizzie’s account as it was published in April 2012.

Part 1, Exploited Innocence – Sexual Harassment at HQ is Lizzie’s account of the harassment.

When people hear stories of sexual harassment like this, they often respond by minimizing the abuse, excusing the abuser and criticizing the victim.

In Part 2, Aren’t you making too big an issue of this? Lizzie’s explains how she has dealt with such minimization and deflection.

Both Part 1 and Part 2 give valuable insight into the internal reflections that take place in a survivor’s mind –

  • as she is being groomed by the abuser
  • as she starts to come out of the fog
  • as she starts to re-calibrates her thinking so as to properly name what was done to her ( in this case, sexual harassment)
  • and as she learns to dismiss all the minimization and excuse-making, and to sheet the blame back onto the abuser where it belongs.

I think our readers here may find validation and good ideas from these two articles, especially Part 2 where she answers the question “Aren’t you making too big an issue of this?”


  1. Katy

    ok that story was creepy – but who is Bill Gothard? I was confused because I didn’t recognize any of the ministry lingo/titles in that piece … the “institute” – it sounds like something ripped from the pages of L Ron Hubbard’s Scientology.
    I think I’m just going to be grateful that I was never exposed to any over-the-top authoritarian “ministries”. Just dealing with the ignorance in the garden-variety Baptist church was enough for me. sheesh.

    • Who is Bill Gothard? If you really want to know and are not feeling too fragile, you could read the Wikipdeia article on Bill Gothard which is fairly neutral and factual, and then if you want to read a critique of Gothardism, there are many on the web but here are a few:

      Cindy Kunsman’s site Under Much Grace archive of articles on Gothard

      Recovering Grace a site by and for those recovering from Gothardism

      CRI’s article Christian families on the Edge [Internet Archive link]

    • I get that, Katy. Garden-variety ignorance in an ordinary Baptist church can produce really awful results for victims of abuse. I’m glad you didn’t have to deal with any worse kinds of church scenarios.

    • Barnabasintraining

      Bill Gothard was big in the 70s and 80s. He ran conferences, that were attended by tens of thousands, called Institutes in Basic Youth Conflicts. The name has since been changed to Institutes in Basic Life Principles. Beyond that was the Advanced Training Institute for hard core Gothardites. You could only get into it if you had been to one of his seminars/conferences AND were homeschooling using his materials. He is authoritarian to the core and has had a profound degree of control over people’s lives. His conferences no longer draw the crowds they used to. Now his views and materials are mostly found in the home school movement. Vision Forum is pretty tight with him. I believe the Duggars (19 Kids and Counting) are Gothardites.

      He is legalism on steroids with a lot of weird stuff thrown in for good measure. Google Gothard cabbage patch dolls to see how far out there he is.

      • Now Free

        Thanks BIT. I googled and found this link which mentions a book written about Gothard. It sounds like an interesting and informative read.
        Other Views: Bill Gothard [Internet Archive link]
        Thanks Barb for this post. I didn’t realize such a lunatical and sadistic individual was out there on the loose (besides my “husband”. lol)

      • Katy

        WOW! Cabbage Patch dolls are demons who will make little girls not want to have their own children some day. I feel awful for every little girl who was raised under that pervert’s “teachings”. I kinda despair for God’s reputation when I hear all these crazy stories – like who in their right mind would want to know Jesus after seeing the crap that his followers do.
        I have to cling to the truth that God does not need anyone to defend Him, and not one of His sheep can ever be lost.

      • Jodi

        I remember going to a Gothard seminar with my parents when I was a teenager. I poured over the book and everything-but I never lived by it. Tho Vision Forum figured very large in my homeschool group-so you can imagine the effect that had on me.

      • Katy

        apparently I was very lucky to attend public schools. I’m not sure what to be more afraid of – mass shooters or these creeps.
        Honestly my daughter would love to be homeschooled but if we ever get the opportunity to do it we won’t be joining the local quiverful group.
        Homeschooling has actually become quite mainstream here in the US – it’s not all religious people. Many many secular folk are now homeschooling for reasons that have nothing to do with “godliness”. You can choose which groups to associate with, and there is now a plethora of choices.

  2. Kathy seldon

    Soooo… Along the lines of making a big deal of things…how can a man sound so humbled and so ready to change, and so sorry, but still not actually listen to and respect you. If I didn’t have the huge community of survivors that I keep around me to remind me that he lies, it would be almost impossible to not get sucked in. His actions scream control and abuse, but his tone and his words on the phone convey a deep desire to fix our marriage. It’s maddening. He’s seeing counselors, says he understands I don’t want to talk to him and will wait for me, but is refusing to see an abuse counselor because he denies being abusive. He’s making me feel stubborn for digging my heels in and insisting that he admit to abuse and get help for it. Dealing with the monster I know he is and the man he’s trying to make me see is absolutely maddening. How do you deal with that?

    • Kathy, I think you keep doing what you’re doing (staying in close contact with other survivors), and you also read Lundy Bancroft’s book over and over, especially the parts about how to tell genuine change from phoney change.

      To my ex, sometimes I would just choose to hang up the phone or not reply to his messages, because non-reply seemed wiser and safer than making a reply. But on the occasions when I deemed it appropriate to say something to him, I’d often just be saying what I’d told him before.
      Since you ex is refusing to admit to abuse and get proper treatment for it, even after you’ve told him that you believe that is necessary, then you can just repeat, like a stuck record, things like “You’re not respecting my advice or my requests. So why should I listen to you? Why should I believe anything you say? Leave me alone!”

      There is also my article (which I adapted from Lundy’s work) called Checklist for Repentance – It will help you keep your head on straight in distinguishing phoney change in your abuser from genuine change.

      [The Checklist for Repentance link was corrected to reflect the new URL. Editors.]

      • MeganC

        That checklist is SO GOOD, Barb. I am posting it to FB tonight. Thank you.

      • All those resources I have on my [old] Not Under Bondage website [Internet Archive link] – I set that site up well before I joined A Cry For Justice.
        [The articles are now located only on the ACFJ blog. Editors]

        My articles on my [old] solo site are also listed on our Resources page here at this blog (see the top menu).

        I have good links on my [old] solo site too, many of which are not listed on our Resource page here.
        [The links noted above are no longer on Barb’s solo website. Editors.]

        I never know how may of our readers check out our blog’s Resources page, or my [New] Not Under Bondage site for that matter. So I just keep mentioning those things from time to time. I don’t want to seem pushy, but I do want to help or nudge readers who may not yet be aware of all those other resources.

    • Another think that might help you at this stage of the process, Kathy is my article Unhelpful Comments And How To Respond To them. It’s more for responding to bystanders than to your abuser, but some of the ideas in it might be useful for responding to your abuser too.

      [This link was corrected to reflect the new URL. Editors.]

      • Now Free

        Oooh, I am so glad to find your site again Barb!! Thank you! I had read it quite some time ago. Then decided to revisit. I have been looking for it for almost a week. 🙂

        I thought you night have folded up your tent. I’m so relieved!

      • Don’t worry I’m not folding up that tent. It costs a bit to keep paying for the domain name and the web-hosting fee, so one day in the future when God sends me a dozen admin assistants, I might move all the material on it to a lower cost site like WordPress. But as it is, I just leave it there. It’s way easier to just keep it going than to move it.

        You never need to spend time looking for it again: there are links to it on our Resources page here.

    • Memphis Rayne

      Ya Kathy you have to remember he is a MONSTER. I remember it being so hard to keep my balance of what was real. For me as with most, it was a long haul. But when the fog lifts you KNOW that this person does not mean well, and that they really do not care about you, only the control they wish to force on you. Its most likely good he is not going to abuse counseling, that way you do not feel hope that will just let you down later. My MIW toyed, and played with the counselors. They were disposable anyways to him. But he did find that saying he would go, or giving me the hope of him going was yet another tool for him to keep me thinking he was accepting some responsibility. But they really dont want to bother other than to look as if they are making change. Yes mine made me feel unforgiving and as if I were being stubborn towards him also. He may break down an admitt to abuse, but it wont change that he is an abuser. If ONLY he admitts to it, there will be change!!! I use to think that, but sadly they can admitt all they want, then retract it later once your back under control. JUST saying? My MIW spit the A word out, even put it in writing as an act of desperation, because he knew I wanted him to admitt to it. Therefore he KNEW if he said it he would get his way. They can say all they want as you know, but it means little.

      Other than that, chocolate helps. 🙂

      • Kathy seldon

        Ha! Chocolate, why didn’t I think of that! I’m off to the store.

    • Anonymous

      Well, well, well. I had to look twice, to make certain I did not write this!

      I think one option is to set boundaries. If he refuses to acknowledge that he has abused you, it makes no difference how nice he is now. He must acknowledge that, so until he does, just make a boundary that says, “don’t call until…” or I will speak to you on these issues, but nothing more; or you could just ask him every single time you speak to him, if he is ready to acknowledge and deal with the abuse with a professional counselor, and if not, politely end the conversation. You WILL get sucked into all of it, if you don’t protect yourself from it. I got sucked into the “nicety”, the whole entire time he was working behind the scenes with other people, to get me excommunicated from the church! Talk about deception! I kept “thinking the best” and “trusting him”, all the while, he was doing this behind my back and yet writing “prayers” to me and being “nice”. I, like you, was completely confused by what I was seeing. I knew he wasn’t this person and I knew it wasn’t real, but instead of listening to God, I listened to him and others in my life who were supposedly godly “leaders”. Ha! My advice to you — just remember that without confession and change, there is no repentance. If he refuses to admit abuse (each and every area of it!) then there is no way he can be repentant. Trust what God says, not what others say, including a pastor, elders, leadership or friends, unless what they say, matches what God says.

    • Memphis Rayne

      Katy I home school my kids, my oldest too. He is now doing his residency in the United States. My dauhgter however wants to go to high school, unfortunately she cannot right now. When I attended church, you were looked down upon if you did NOT homeschool, and as sickening as it is to think about, homeschooling while living with an abuser? whew? I started homeschool because my MIW would encourage it in front of church members so he looked supportive of it, then when I did he did an about face and complained I should be working more? Then when I try to put them in school when they were younger (honestly I had no preferrence either way, I wanted the kids to do what they wanted) he would lament to people at church how I just “shipped them off” into the secular world!!!! So they would do this = ( frowny face, all the looks and glares and stares over my secular children??? They couldnt spot the devil himself, yet public school was going to destroy their lives?

      Well my point is, and I actually may have one.lol I homeschool, I am REALLY bad at it, my kids are way smarter than me, I do not follow any christian curriculum, although when they were smaller I felt peer pressure to do what the other homeschoolers in church were doing, although that was unsuccesful because the MIW didnt want to pay for it. Im not a “christian homeschooler”” but all my kids are believers, saved by grace not by curriculum (hardest word EVER to spell) not saved either by fancy walls or clothes, or the words of men. I like having my kids with me all day thats my selfishness, they would prefer to not see me so much lol. However you look at it, when an abuser is involved YOUR parenting is always HIS problem even though abusers generally suck at being parents in any fashion. If I knew then what I know now, I would of been a much better parent, I would of focused more on my kids than trying to figure him out, I would have not worked myself into the ground trying to figure out what everybody else wanted me to be. Quite frankly the whole experience in church was so exhausting! No matter what I did I was the compromised parent? Because of his back talking, double talking or whatever you wanna call it, we suffered severe judgement by our church peers, I suspect though on some level according to their doctrine we would of been judged anyways.

  3. Julie Anne

    Bill Gothard has been around in Christian circles for a long time. His teachings have infiltrated average Christian churches, but later on, he appealed to homeschoolers and created a homeschool “curricula” (said very loosely). He has been giving seminars around the states (most are pre-recorded) for years – probably since the 70s. My family has attended them. There are different levels. The names of the seminars have changed over the years. It used to be called Basic Youth Conflicts, then was changed to Institute in Basic Life Principles. The advanced level is called Advanced Training Institute and is for homeschool families.

    I know many families currently connected with this group. While there is some good material, there is also bad. He has strong connections with people in the homeschool community who have ties with Reconstructionism (take over the world with Christian babies). It’s important to note the culture connected with this group: patriarchal, full-quiver, courtship, homeschool, pro-life. None of these are wrong in general, however, when combined, and under wrong teachers/teaching, you can find spiritual abuse, spousal abuse, child abuse, etc. Abuse can be found anywhere, but I make it my habit of studying spiritual abuse and the people who have ties with this group often come out of it harmed.

    Patriarchy can be dangerous. It can devalue women and subject women to abuse and the environment is such that she does not have a voice.

    One key thing Gothard is known for is “reversal babies.” This ties in with full-quiver and Reconstructionist/Dominionist belief that Christians should overtake the world. He has a way of convincing audiences that all children are a blessing from the Lord (that is true). He strongly encourages those who have had sterilizations to reverse them. At conferences, he asks for children to parade up front if they were babies conceived after reversals.

    This man has always been single, yet tells families how to raise their families, how husbands and wives should treat each other. I do not recommend Bill Gothard or his programs at all. I’ve seen and heard too much. There are many kids raised on ATI teachings who are now adults and now wondering what in the world their parents brought them through. They are not speaking out on blogs (BTW, if you are one reading this, I would love to share your story). Many of them have abandoned their faith and/or want nothing to do with the lifestyle in which they were raised. (BTW, the Duggar family, who is featured on TLC and has 20+ kids, uses ATI material. )

    Thanks, ACFJ, for exposing Gothard.

    • Katy

      Oh my word. I had no idea that’s who the Duggars follow. I always figured they were hardcore patriarchy. but a pervert sexually harassing/grooming young girls… and this guy actually has a following in this country. Some days I wish I could move to an island.

      • Well Australia is an island (a big one). But we have Gothard and Vision Forum followers here too, although perhaps not in such proportions as you have in the States.

      • Katy

        Barb I don’t think I’ve actually met any of his followers…there are two quiverful families in my church and I stay away from them because I don’t want to find out. In general over the last 15 years of attending churches all over this country, I can’t say that I’ve ever encountered anyone this bizarre. Although I have not been involved in the homeschool movement, and I gather that some of the crazier authoritative guys rule the homeschool arena…although mark Driscoll is probably an example of a “mainstream” nutjob in the church…
        I think most of the conservative churches that I’ve attended have been largely ignorant on the subject of abuse, and they also tended to be legalistic. If you really want to hear a hair-raising tale, we’ve got our own version of the Taliban operating in the western states, where they own entire towns. The FLDS Mormon sect (polygamy, child marriages, women are slaves basically) …they are trapped by the local police who all belong to the sect, and even though their prophet is in prison for child sexual abuse he still controls every aspect of their lives.
        I have a friend who moved to Australia and was able to stay because she got married. Otherwise it’s almost impossible to immigrate there, so I’ve heard.. 🙂

      • Yeah that’s right. To emigrate her permanently you need to marry an Aussie, or have lots of money or lots of skills that are in short supply here, like some of the medical specialisations. Unfortunately, unless you’re fleeing DV from somewhere like Pakistan (a country which gives no legal protection at all to victims of domestic violence) the Aussie immigration dept will not grant you refugee status on the ground of domestic violence. They assume that your own country has sufficient legal protection for you.
        Tell you what: I’ll find you an Aussie husband if you find me a Yankee husband! just kiddin. There are few good men and I don’t know one single Christian man in my own acquaintance who I could vouch for as safe. Not that I have a wide acquaintance . . .

      • I understand that some of our regular commenters on this blog have been influenced by Gothard or his cult-cousins, at some stage in their lives. So as for it being ‘bizarre’ I think you may find it more widespread than you’ve realised Katy. But I am sure that every one of the readers on this site who was led into Gothard’s teaching was sucked in by the good-sounding stuff on the surface. That’s how all cults work, isn’t it? They present the oh so plausible biblical sounding things first, and appeal to our desires to obey and glorify God, raise our children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, etc. All very healthy and righteous aspirations. Trouble is, under the sugar coating, there’s a load of toad poop.

  4. Katy

    Ha! You and me both! We had an Australian engineer come to visit my factory a few months ago, he is setting up some of our techonology at his plant in….Tasmania. an even smaller island off of Australia? ha ha He seemed very nice but of course we know that means nothing. !
    I have a friend who is still trying to get free from her abusive ex. She is struggling a lot…and she told me a local church was hosting a singles group and she wanted to know if I would go with her! I think I almost jumped back like a snake was trying to attack! lol I told her that I simply couldn’t go to one of those events – it’s literally beyond my capability. So I’m probably an even worse candidate for international dating LOL can u imagine the first date?

    “So….what are the domestic violence laws like in your country?“P

    • ROFLOL!

      • Memphis Rayne

        I know i should not say this but Im gonna……I think marriage for citizenship, espescially if it serves a need for both people involved, well I think it sounds good. I would do it in heartbeat. Just sayin, the risk of marriage in the legal realm is terrifiying, the risk of marriage in the state of the church today is equally terrifying. A piece of paper signed by me gave another person the legal right to destroy myself and family? In the church that same peice of paper served as a prison sentence proving to them that “marriage” is above the law, above God…..
        …My MIW took the till death do us part very literally, as in If I EVER left him, he would kill me and my kids, and then the church would say what? He was justified through our marriage vows? Again Im just thinking out loud, IF I could to be free of him, I would do not even give it a second thought.

  5. Finding Answers

    Recovering Grace was one of the websites referring to Gothardism I was led to by the Holy Spirit prior to the ACFJ website.

    I can understand the answers Lizzie provided to questions in the second part of the series. Had I been in her shoes, I could potentially followed the same path….I was equally naive, but fortunately Bill Gothard was never part of the picture.

    Naming something as sexual harassment requires knowledge of what sexual harassment is – and if one grows up in an environment where sexual harassment is an accepted behaviour, someone from “the outside” has to provide the eye-opening information.

    Sexual harassment laws are relatively “new”, and only more recently have they actually been enforced.

    Identifying the bait for the hook is the first step for people like Bill Gothard. Spin doctors use the same concept to make a living….

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