In exclusive interviews with the New York Daily News, survivors of sexual abuse at the hands of a Duggar family pastor detail how the Christian leader recruited them from their parents and preyed upon rape victims who came to him seeking help.
Bill Gothard, 81, who previously ran the Institute in Basic Life Principles which heavily influenced the lifestyle of the Christian reality show Duggar family, is currently the subject of a lawsuit filed in Illinois by eight women against board members of the IBLP and Gothard. It was an IBLP center that Josh Duggar was sent to for treatment after he was caught molesting his sisters.
According to Joy Simmons and Jennifer Spurlock, they were abused by Gothard after they were shipped off to stay with him following sexual assaults by other men affiliated with his ministry.
“To have your education ripped from you and to have your childhood ripped from you, it’s extremely difficult. It’s just evil,” said Spurlock, who was 15 when she began working for and traveling with Gothard, who kept her from attending school.
Spurlock said she was sent to an IBLP training center in Indianapolis by her family after she was sexually assaulted by a man receiving counseling at a Christian center. It was there that she caught Gothard’s eye.
“Mr. Gothard was just staring right at me, so much so that other girls would say ‘you’re so lucky, he couldn’t take his eyes off of you,’” Spurlock explained, before adding how the abuse from the pastor began.
“It started sitting on the sofa hip-to-hip, spreading his legs and touching my knees and smelling my hair,” Spurlock said, adding that Gothard then began “rubbing her thighs and in my vaginal area” over her clothes.
According to Simmons, Gothard touched her while they prayed together and would probe her to reveal intimate details of her sexual assault during their counseling sessions.
“He would also tell me that it was my fault that I was assaulted and he would ask God to cleanse me,” Simmons said, adding that the Christian leader told her, “since I didn’t cry out, I was just as guilty as the guy who assaulted me.”
Simmons stated that the girls — who came to be known as “Gothard girls” — were kept isolated, stating: “No friends, no way out, no education. We were pretty stuck.”
Gothard, a friend to politicians and the Green family who own the Hobby Lobby stores, stepped down from IBLP in 2014 after the allegations became public.