Bettina – From 1993 to 2000

June 7, 2015

To Whom It May Concern,

My name is Bettina, I am 36, have been mar­ried to my hus­band Adam, for 8 years, am a stay at home moth­er of 3, whom I home­school, and a step­moth­er to an 11 year old. I cur­rent­ly am not in­volved in any part of IBLP’s min­istries and haven’t been for over 15 years, how­ev­er, dur­ing a pe­ri­od of my teen years, Bill Gothard was my le­gal guardian. I want­ed to write this let­ter in re­sponse to the ac­cu­sa­tions made to­ward Bill Gothard.

Over the last cou­ple of years, I have re­con­nect­ed with some peo­ple that I once knew dur­ing my time with the min­istry and one of the first ques­tions I am asked is if I am one of the in­di­vid­u­als whom anony­mous­ly ac­cused Bill Gothard, through an­oth­er web­site, of which I am not, but this caused me to look far­ther in­to the mat­ter. After much read­ing and a cou­ple of con­ver­sa­tions with friends I had dur­ing my time at the min­istry, I de­cid­ed to call Mr. Gothard to dis­cuss the ac­cu­sa­tions, be­cause though we had spo­ken sev­er­al times dur­ing the process, he had nev­er men­tioned them. During that con­ver­sa­tion he asked me if I had ever felt that he had been sex­u­al­ly in­ap­pro­pri­ate with me, to which I said then and say now, not in any way, and I re­al­ized dur­ing that call, that I would be do­ing a great in­jus­tice by not shar­ing my per­spec­tive, be­cause as Mr. Gothard said to me on the phone, “Over the years, Bettina, I have prob­a­bly spent more one on one time with you than any oth­er young woman you would know,” and I feel he is right. I would know now, and would have known then, if he were a sex­u­al preda­tor or even sex­u­al­ly in­ap­pro­pri­ate.

I am not in­tend­ing to call any­one a “liar”, we all have our own sto­ries, per­cep­tions and per­spec­tives, and I can on­ly tell what I know and my own per­spec­tive. Bill Gothard was my le­gal guardian, one of 3 peo­ple that I was able to turn to for fa­ther­ly ad­vice. I gain noth­ing for writ­ing this and I do not write this out of blind ado­ra­tion for Bill Gothard. I want to write this be­cause it sim­ply is the right thing to do and as I con­tin­ue this let­ter, I would like to give a brief back­ground of my­self and what led me to IBLP, share some thoughts of my time with IBLP, hope­ful­ly de­bunk some of the ac­cu­sa­tions made against Bill Gothard and last­ly, shed light at why I think he is of­ten mis­un­der­stood and tak­en out of con­text.

I was raised in a non-​ATI fam­i­ly by my grand­moth­er main­ly, though my moth­er was present, she was a young moth­er and not ex­treme­ly at­ten­tive and my fa­ther aban­doned me. At age 13 my grand­moth­er died and my new­ly mar­ried moth­er did not want the re­spon­si­bil­i­ty of be­ing a par­ent. I was left to fend for my­self, as she did not work but al­so rarely left her bed­room. I took care of my­self, pre­pared and took my­self to school and made all of my own meals, with the ex­cep­tion of when I ate lunch at school. As things be­came worse, she pur­chased a re­frig­er­a­tor and mi­crowave for her bed­room which she kept stocked with so­da and mi­crowave­able foods. However, she left the main re­frig­er­a­tor al­most bare. We had lit­tle con­tact, she made no at­tempt to be con­cerned for my school­ing or if I had ap­pro­pri­ate clothes or ac­ces­sories. I was de­clin­ing in all ar­eas and es­sen­tial­ly go­ing hun­gry. When I con­front­ed her as to why she was iso­lat­ed and eat­ing what, at the time, I would have con­sid­ered a feast while I was al­so iso­lat­ed, eat­ing rice with ketchup, she be­came irate. As this par­tic­u­lar sit­u­a­tion es­ca­lat­ed, she be­came abu­sive and af­ter some time, to her shock, I de­fend­ed my­self, to which she im­me­di­ate­ly called the po­lice, hav­ing me ar­rest­ed for as­sault.

After the above in­ci­dent I was tak­en to a ju­ve­nile jus­tice com­plex and giv­en a court date, at which my moth­er de­clared she want­ed lit­tle to do with me and even­tu­al­ly re­lin­quished her parental rights. Judge James Payne be­came the judge that over­saw my sit­u­a­tion and I be­lieve he felt em­pa­thy for me, tak­ing in­ter­est in my case and per­son­al wel­fare. During this same time, though I was com­plete­ly un­aware that Bill Gothard and IBLP had re­cent­ly pur­chased a ho­tel in Indianapolis, and was in­vit­ed by the city to help trou­ble youth.

While I was at the ju­ve­nile jus­tice com­plex, I met with a cou­ple who worked at the Indianapolis Training Center, and then lat­er I met with Bill Gothard him­self. He ex­plained how he want­ed to help me and how he want­ed to be­come my le­gal guardian. I was one of the first of what would lat­er be called “Leaders in Training,” to ar­rive at the Indianapolis Training Center, in fact sev­er­al times, I was told I was the guinea pig for the whole pro­gram. During my time at ITC I grew quite close to the cou­ple that ran the fa­cil­i­ty, but al­so to Mr. Gothard and though he spent a sig­nif­i­cant amount of time in Oakbrook, he called me reg­u­lar­ly and blocked out time to vis­it with me when he was in Indianapolis. Sadly, my moth­er was not hap­py with my new sit­u­a­tion, claim­ing she would have nev­er re­lin­quished her parental rights had she known that they would be giv­en to a re­li­gious or­ga­ni­za­tion. She even con­tact­ed the news­pa­pers in town with her re­ac­tion.

During the ages of 13 to 19, I spent big blocks of time at ITC, spent a year at Headquarters, trav­eled to Moscow, spent sev­er­al months in the Northwoods and it was dur­ing these times, I spent much time with Mr. Gothard. The times we spent to­geth­er dif­fered. Sometimes it was min­istry re­lat­ed, oth­er times were not. There were times when I was sim­ply sad and he would send oth­ers out so we could talk. There were oth­er times when we would be talk­ing or I would be help­ing him open mail and we both would de­cide that we want­ed pie or frozen yo­gurt and then make a trip to Baker’s Square or TCBY. There were times at Headquarters when I could not sleep and would see Mr. Gothard’s of­fice lights on. I would make my way over in sweat­pants, t-​shirt and pony­tail on­ly to have him of­fer me a so­da and can­dy, while we chat­ted. I have sat next to him on planes, trav­eled with him in his van, I have fall­en asleep on the couch in his of­fice and spent time with him while vis­it­ing his moth­er. I have spent hol­i­days with him in Moscow, the Northwoods, Indianapolis and Headquarters, with min­i­mal staff and usu­al­ly to­geth­er un­til he had to make an­nounce­ments or give di­rec­tion to oth­ers that were there, and since leav­ing the min­istry, I have gone back to vis­it him on some Easters and Thanksgivings.

Some of these times we were ac­com­pa­nied by a male as­sis­tant when I saw Bill Gothard have fun and en­joy time with. Like the time the 3 of us were trav­el­ing in the van and it was de­cid­ed to watch a VCR tape of bull rid­ing. Other times Mr. Gothard and I spent time alone. We talked about the min­istry, my fam­i­ly, his fam­i­ly, the fu­ture, the past, one time on a plane while I was watch­ing “It’s a Wonderful Life”, he asked me to ex­plain it to him.

There was nev­er a time, not once, where I felt that Mr. Gothard was be­ing in­ap­pro­pri­ate in any way to­ward me. He told me many times that my eyes were beau­ti­ful and that they were win­dows to my soul, but I took that as a very kind com­pli­ment and I heard Mr. Gothard al­so tell a gen­tle­men that he had kind eyes and how he could gath­er much in­sights from them.

I cared about and val­ued Bill Gothard as the per­son and still do, not as the man that start­ed and ran the Institute in Basic Life Principles. It seems to me that oth­ers val­ued him be­cause he was the head of a min­istry that they or their par­ents held dear. There were peo­ple that would line up at sem­i­nars to get his au­to­graph as if he were their city’s quar­ter­back and I think many peo­ple put him on a pedestal putting too much weight on his opin­ions, which was not some­thing he sought out. I think many peo­ple don’t un­der­stand that he just doesn’t live in this world, he sees right through it and has made this life a pref­ace to the next and in do­ing so has made him­self very vul­ner­a­ble to be­ing tak­en out of con­text or seen in­ap­pro­pri­ate­ly. I can see how a young woman, away from home, be­ing around a man who her par­ents prob­a­bly hold dear and in a cer­tain cir­cle is/​was as “fa­mous” as Jay Cutler, could hear or take a com­ment about her hair or dress or eyes mis­tak­en­ly. Many of the young men and women he asked to see on a reg­u­lar ba­sis were those that he saw po­ten­tial in. I re­mem­ber him telling me on sev­er­al oc­ca­sions about so and so and why he thought they had po­ten­tial. It wasn’t sex­u­al, it wasn’t about any­thing oth­er than help­ing them achieve their best so in re­turn they could help the Lord’s king­dom.

Bill Gothard is many things but sex­u­al­ly in­ap­pro­pri­ate is not one of them! Beyond the co­pi­ous amounts of time I spent with him, I val­ued and trust­ed fa­nat­i­cal­ly the 3 male as­sis­tants that Mr. Gothard had while I was in­volved in the min­istry. I know with cer­tain­ty that they would not have seen any im­pro­pri­ety and that they were in fact with Mr. Gothard too much to not them­selves have stepped for­ward.

Bill Gothard is fal­li­ble, as we all are. Being a Christian or the head of a min­istry does not ab­solve him from the im­per­fec­tion we all suf­fer. Being as close as he and I were once and know­ing my fam­i­ly sit­u­a­tion, it hurt a great deal when I de­cid­ed to leave Headquarters, that I al­most be­came out of sight, out of mind. I say “al­most” be­cause we did keep in touch a few times a year, some­times vis­it­ing on hol­i­days but it was as if he knew I could take care of my­self and let me go. Coming back to the idea that he doesn’t see this world, he on­ly sees the im­pli­ca­tions of this world on the next, re­la­tion­ships just aren’t to him what they are to most. I of­ten think of the ex­am­ple C.S Lewis gives in The Four Loves, about how, while in heav­en, we will be so caught up in the per­fect love that God has for us, that our dear­est loved ones on earth will mere­ly be a face in a crowd, that is how Bill Gothard sees this world and the re­la­tion­ships in it, in my opin­ion. That is not a view that sits well with this world’s view but it is the view of a man whose goal is to get as many in­to God’s king­dom as pos­si­ble.

I know that Mr. Gothard’s le­gal­is­tic views are of­ten brought up in con­junc­tion with these mat­ters and I have to leave that ar­gu­ment for those that are far wis­er than me but I do know that many of the things that he was and is judged for are de­ci­sions that weren’t even made by him. For in­stance the idea of the young women wear­ing skirts, was in fact, a board de­ci­sion. It seems to me that many of the in­di­vid­u­als that are com­plain­ing about their time with the min­istry seem to hold bit­ter­ness to­ward their par­ents and Bill Gothard for some­thing they feel they missed out on in their ado­les­cence or for feel­ing the pres­sure of not meet­ing Mr. Gothard’s ex­pec­ta­tions, when in fact, many of the “ex­pec­ta­tions” weren’t com­ing from him at all.

I com­plete­ly agree that there was some pres­sure to fit a cer­tain stan­dard with­in the min­istry but I be­lieve much of the pres­sure was wrong­ly put up­on the young men and women by se­nior staff mem­bers, who were try­ing to make Mr. Gothard hap­py based on a per­ceived or vo­cal­ized pref­er­ence, not an ac­tu­al de­mand. Most in­di­vid­u­als would con­cur that Mr. Gothard prefers the look of women to in­clude long curls and though he had pref­er­ences to­ward men’s looks as well, as the ques­tion is about his in­ap­pro­pri­ate be­hav­ior with women, let’s fo­cus there. I be­lieve it was a look he pre­ferred be­cause vis­it­ing in­ter­na­tion­al lead­ers told him how much they re­spect­ed the Headquarter’s girls with longer hair. That be­came part of the uni­form that he want­ed his min­istry to show to the world, much in the way President Reagan want­ed the United States to be the shin­ing city for the world. I be­lieve Mr. Gothard wants the min­istry to be that shin­ing bea­con to the world and that in­clud­ed the bright eyes, flow­ing hair, crisp pressed suits and so on. Once dur­ing my time at head­quar­ters, to be de­fi­ant, I chopped my hair off to ear length and when Mr. Gothard saw it, he on­ly chuck­led, asked if every­thing was al­right and I nev­er heard an­oth­er thing about it.

I was a child in need with no par­ents to give any re­ports to and yet I was not ex­ploit­ed or sex­u­al­ly dam­aged by Mr. Gothard and I firm­ly be­lieve that if any in­ap­pro­pri­ate­ness or im­pro­pri­ety were to take place, I would have been the prime can­di­date as I had no par­ents, fam­i­ly or in­di­vid­ual out­side of the min­istry check­ing on my wel­fare, and though we haven’t al­ways seen eye to eye on cer­tain things, I can say that he has al­ways want­ed the best for me, for those who were en­trust­ed to him, those who chose to serve with IBLP and those he want­ed to serve. I don’t be­gin to know what im­pact this let­ter will make but I do hope that when all is done, more light is shed on such a dark is­sue.