In the wake of former “19 Kids and Counting” star Josh Duggar’s child pornography arrest, former members of the ultra-religious sect claim the church organization they were raised in enables abusers by blaming the victims.
Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar belong to the Institute of Basic Life Principles (IBLP), a sect of fundamentalist Christianity, and homeschooled their children with a faith-based program created by IBLP founder Bill Gothard called Advanced Training Institute (ATI).
Former member Lara Smith, who was sent to ATI centers around the country to “serve” as a teenager, said she was sexually assaulted by a staff member when she was seventeen. “A lot of abuse occurred” because of the group’s teachings,” Smith said. “With [abusers like] Josh, the whole environment set him up for success in his disgustingness.”
She said IBLP’s teachings discourage victims from reporting abuse to authorities or anyone outside of their families. “We were taught our bodies don’t belong to us. They belong to God. And so in that realm, anything that happens, God wants it to happen.”
She remembered that girls would attend “wisdom searches” at the training centers, where they were encouraged to reveal their sins, which included being sexually assaulted. “If we had been assaulted, we had to confess what we did that brought the assault on us,” she remarked.
“There’s absolutely no personal responsibility for the boys,” Smith asserts, going on to say that in Bible study she was taught, “You need to be very careful what you do, what you say, what you wear, how you act because at any moment, you could trigger a boy, basically.”
Smith was repeatedly assaulted by a maintenance worker with a master key to her room while she was staying at a center. Once she returned home, she received a call from Gothard, who “wanted the dirty details. He started asking the creepiest questions, he was like, ‘What time did he kiss you?’ and ‘What time did he put his hands here?’ and ‘Did he do this to you?,’” she recalled.
Gothard, who counseled teenage Josh Duggar after he admitted to abusing four underage girls, including two of his sisters, stepped down from the organization in 2014, when he was accused of sexual harassment.