Duggar organization’s family linked to activated sexual abuse, former members say

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Former “19 Kids and Counting” star Josh Duggar was arrested last month for alleged possession of child pornography.

This is just the latest dark episode from the ex-reality TV personality TLC. Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar’s son has also been charged with assaulting four of his sisters and another girl as a teenager, cheating on his wife and being addicted to porn.

These allegations are shocking, especially in light of the Duggar’s ultrareligious education. But people familiar with the particular sect of fundamentalist Christianity in the family, the Institute for Basic Principles of Life (IBLP), say it played a role in allowing abuse from Duggar and others. .

The conservative family is linked to the IBLP, an organization that produces religious seminars. Michelle and Jim Bob we were waiting to talk at an IBLP conference before their son’s arrest. The many Duggar children were homeschooled using a faith-based program called the Advanced Training Institute (ATI), created by IBLP founder Bill Gothard. Gothard even ran the facility which counseled teenage Josh when he admitted to abusing his sisters. Although Gothard left the IBLP in 2014 after being accused of sexual harassment himself, he continued to work with families, including the Duggars. Gothard has denied the allegations of sexual harassment against him.

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“A lot of abuse has taken place,” because of the group’s teachings, Lara Smith, a former ATI member, told The Post. “With [abusers like] Josh, the whole environment allowed him to be successful in his loathing. “

Josh Duggar was arrested last month for allegedly receiving and possessing child pornography.
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Josh Duggar was arrested last month for allegedly receiving and possessing child pornography.
(Kris Connor / Getty Images)

Growing up outside of Houston, Smith’s Southern Baptist parents began using ATI and attending IBLP seminars at the age of 12. Soon she was traveling to “serve” at training centers in Oklahoma, Indianapolis and Michigan. Later, at the age of 17, she claims to have been sexually assaulted by a staff member at one of the centers.

IBLP and ATI did not respond to requests for comment.

After his arrest in April, Duggar pleaded not guilty to both counts. “In this country, no one can stop prosecutors from charging a felony. But when you’re charged, you can fight back in the courtroom – and that’s exactly what Josh intends to do,” his attorneys, who did not respond to The Post’s request for comment, said in a statement at the time.

“We have been taught that our bodies do not belong to us. They belong to God. And so in this area, whatever happens, God wants to happen,” Smith, 35, said of the lessons he did. she learned through the ATI and the IBLP. .

Although Heather Heath was not abused, she heard from colleagues who had been. As a teenager, she traveled from Connecticut to Oklahoma after her parents started using ATI at age 9, though she was still home-schooled.

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Heath and Smith consider ATI and IBLP to be a cult. ATI combines traditional school subjects like math and science with Christianity and indoctrinates students with the fundamentals of IBLP.

At the training centers, according to Smith and Heath, the girls attended “wisdom searches,” a form of Bible study. In addition to discussing verses and ideas they had from God, they also revealed their sins, including sexual assault. “If we had been assaulted, we would have to confess what we did that led to the assault,” Heath said.

She recalled when a teenage girl confessed during one of these sessions that her older brother had abused her. It was such a common experience that Heath, now a doctor, said she was told she “wouldn’t understand” because she didn’t have an older brother she could “try”.

“She said, ‘No Christian man will marry me because I’m not a virgin,'” remembers Heath, now 33. “I was like, ‘No, it’s not your fault that someone else is hurting you.’ And then I locked myself in my room to pray about it, because I was wrong. ”

Many teachings from the IBLP can discourage victims from reporting their abuse outside their families due to the group’s ideological hierarchy known as the “umbrella of protection”. God is first of all, then pastors, then fathers, then mothers, then children. “As long as you are under [your] umbrella, rain “- sin and temptation of the devil -” cannot touch you, “said Heath.

The philosophy has profound consequences: disobeying your parents, your husband, or your pastor can harm you for life. “Every decision that we come across in life was basically a decision from heaven or hell,” Smith said.

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Surprisingly, the organization had a protocol for counseling when it came to sexual abuse: a graphic published in 2013 by Recovering Grace, a resource for former IBLP and ATI followers, which, according to the site, has been distributed at ITA counseling seminars for over a decade.

Josh Duggar's wife Anna is currently pregnant with their seventh child.

Josh Duggar’s wife Anna is currently pregnant with their seventh child.
(Kris Connor / Getty Images)

He explains how group leaders should help those who have been sexually assaulted: the responsibility for the attack lies with the victim for “defrauding” the abuser. “Shameless attire, indecent exposure, being out of the protection of our parents,” are all the reasons God “let this happen,” one reads.

A guide to marriage for women even includes a section on what to do if your husband is “sexually looking after your children,” wrote author Debi Pearl, a pastor whose books have been sold by the IBLP. , in “Created To Be His Help Meet”.

Although wives should testify and pray that their husbands “get 20 years in prison”, they should also “visit him there, be an encouragement to him … let him see the children three to four times a year.”

In the girls’ Bible study, Smith said he was told, “You have to be very careful what you do, what you say, what you wear, how you act, because any time you can trigger a boy, basically. ”

“There is absolutely no personal responsibility for the boys,” she said.

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It was because of these teachings that Smith did not speak up when a staff member at an IBLP training center sexually assaulted her.

She was around 17 at the time and a 21-year-old housekeeper got into bed in the middle of the night.

“I was asleep, and suddenly he’s in my bed kissing,” she recalls. It became a model: the man came to his room every evening, because he had a master key for his maintenance work.

“We didn’t have sex, but we did everything else,” Smith said. “I didn’t have the capacity to say, ‘Hey, I don’t like that.’ ”

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When she returned home from the center, she and her father surprisingly received a call from Gothard, who is “basically God,” Smith said. She assumes that her friend had informed one of the leaders of the incidents.

Josh Duggar was released by a federal judge on May 6.

Josh Duggar was released by a federal judge on May 6.
(Washington Co. Sheriff’s Office)

Even though she expected to be reprimanded, instead, “[Gothard] wanted the dirty details. He started asking the scariest questions, he thought to himself, ‘What time did he kiss you? “” And “What time did he put his hands here?” and “Did he do this to you?” Smith remembers, calling him “disgusting”.

Gothard, now 86, did not respond to the Post’s requests for comment.

She and her parents never spoke about the assault again, and her abuser never received any form of punishment.

Smith and Heath both left IBLP in early adulthood. Smith’s parents are also gone, as is Heath’s mother, although his father is still following the teachings. But as long as they are no longer part of the group, they still feel the effects on their adult lives.

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“I dated a guy for four years because I didn’t think I had the right to say, ‘No, I don’t want to date you,’” Heath said. Now a mother of 5-year-old twins, she plans to publish a book about her experience with ATI called “Lovingly Abused” this summer and is looking for a publisher.

“My sense of bodily autonomy is still really disturbed,” Smith said. She and Heath have amassed many followers on TikTok and Instagram, where they use their platform to connect with other IBLP survivors and tell their stories about the organization.

“To this day, there are people like me who are not totally convinced that we have been mistreated. But we have been.



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