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Sexual Predation: Same Story, Different Ministry

Stunning allegations are emerging about Bill Gothard, who is a big deal in conservative Protestant homeschooling circles. Here is a new allegation from a woman, “Charlotte” (she’s pictured), who says she was raped by her conservative pastor father at age eight, and later, at 16, sent to work at Gothard’s headquarters at Gothard’s request. Excerpt:

He wanted all the details of my past sexual experiences. He asked me a lot about how much I had let my boyfriend touch me, how we kissed— it went on and on. He seemed to get pleasure from pulling every detail out of me. We would then kneel at the couch and pray. I remember how my knees would hurt after a while. He made me confess, often holding my hand. He liked to make me cry over it. Bill told me that God had a better plan for me.

He knew what my father had done to me, but he called me into repentance for my own sins without confronting my father or addressing his sin. I was a temptation to men; Bill Gothard told me that I had tempted my own father.

I craved Bill’s attention but felt guilty about the increasing touches he gave me. I wanted a relationship with a man that was like a relationship with a father. Bill Gothard gave me that feeling of being worth something.


There were rumors going around about Bill and me. My brother started hearing things and asked me about it. Of course I denied everything. Bill had sworn me to silence with both guilt and fear. I was the one who was at fault because I was tempting him. If I told anyone, the future of the entire ministry could be compromised. Why would I want to hinder God’s work? He told me that this was our little secret, just between us. If I told anyone, he said he would kick my family out of ATI.

There was enough of a stir about how much time I was spending alone with Bill that my brother went to a higher-up in January and had him try to get Bill to send me home. As I understand it, the IBLP Board called Bill on the carpet for spending so much time alone with a young girl, and I was sent home in January. I believe my brother saved me.

When Bill knew I was being sent home, he called me into his office. He took me in his arms and ran his fingers through my hair. Hugging me tight, he told me never to cut my hair, that I was his inspiration. He then kissed me deeply on the lips and told me never to forget him. Then I was picked up and put on a plane, and I have never heard from him since.

My parents blackballed me and thought I was the devil because I was sent home from Headquarters. I was a shame to the family for being sent home. I really went on a tailspin after that. I tried to take my life a number of times. I turned to sex and men to make me feel better about myself. I thought that sex was all I was worth.

The site that posted this (and many other accounts) says that it confirmed some details of Charlotte’s story with two others who were Gothard staffers when Charlotte worked there, and who knew here. They allowed their photos to be published too.

The site making public all these allegations — and that’s what they are at this point; as far as I can tell, Gothard has not responded to them, nor have any facts been determined it court — is called Recovering Grace. It has been going for several years, and is run by people who were brought up within the culture of Gothardism, and who want to expose what they see is its destructive power.

Again, we do not know if Bill Gothard did what all the people on the Recovering Grace site allege him to have done. But the tales they tell will be familiar to anybody who has spent time looking into how corrupt religious figures from all faiths and churches pervert the faith to perpetuate sexual abuse, and keep it all a secret.

about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. He has written and edited for the New York Post, The Dallas Morning News, National Review, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, the Washington Times, and the Baton Rouge Advocate. Rod’s commentary has been published in The Wall Street Journal, Commentary, the Weekly Standard, Beliefnet, and Real Simple, among other publications, and he has appeared on NPR, ABC News, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, and the BBC. He lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, with his wife Julie and their three children. He has also written four books, The Little Way of Ruthie Leming, Crunchy Cons, How Dante Can Save Your Life, and The Benedict Option.

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