The leader of one of the Duggar family’s most prominent religious organizations is finally facing a sex abuse lawsuit that was a long time coming.
Bill Gothard, the creator and former head of the Institute in Basic Life Principles (IBLP) seminars and the Advanced Training Institute (ATI) homeschool program — both touted by the Duggars as major parts of their evangelical lifestyle — is facing serious charges of sexual abuse, harassment and cover-up by 10 different women in a new lawsuit.
One woman claims that Gothard — who kept tight control over his flock, including dictating what clothing they could wear and what music they could listen to — and another of the ministry’s “biblical counselors” raped her. She is just one of more than 30 women who have come forward through the years to accuse the leader of molestation and sexual harassment, including some minors.
The suit was originally filed against the IBLP in October, accusing the group of failing to report abuse claims to the proper authorities, but was amended this week to include more alleged victims and add Gothard as a defendant.
When contacted by The Washington Post for comment, Gothard denied any wrongdoing and claimed he had not even seen the lawsuit. “Oh no. Never, never. Oh! That’s horrible,” he said. “Never in my life have I touched a girl sexually. I’m shocked to even hear that.
“That really is not true,” he added. “I’d rather hold off to comment until I see what’s in the lawsuit.”
However, a letter included in court documents to bolster the women’s case casts doubt onto his denial and comes across as a clear admission of guilt — if not to rape, then certainly to sexual harassment and abuse.
“I was very wrong in holding hands, giving hugs, and touching their hair and feet. I was also wrong in making statements that caused emotional turmoil and confusion,” his undated letter sent to his accusers reads.
Gothard resigned from the organization in 2014 after the allegations became public. “Many of these allegations concern conduct that allegedly occurred as early as the 1990s, and, as claimed, primarily involved Mr. Gothard,” says a statement from the IBLP. “Since March 2014, Mr. Gothard is no longer associated with the Institute.”
The Duggar family has long promoted the IBLP and ATI as cornerstones of their family’s lifestyle and beliefs. Josh Duggar was sent to an IBLP training center by Jim Bob and Michelle as a teen after he was caught molesting multiple underage girls, including several of his own sisters.