Five former members of the Institute of Basic Life Principles, a fundamentalist organization with well-documented ties to the Duggar family, have filed charges against both the organization and its board of directors, claiming they “enabled and covered up sexual abuse and harassment of interns, employees, and other participants in its programs,” according to The Washington Post.
From the Post:
Each of the plaintiffs — Gretchen Wilkinson, Charis Barker, Rachel Frost, Rachel Lees and a Jane Doe — seeks $50,000 in damages, alleging that the organization and its board acted negligently, with willful and wanton disregard for them, and engaged in a civil conspiracy to conceal the wrongdoing.
This comes a year after the Institute (or IBLP) founder and former President Bill Gothard, who existed as a Christ-like figure to his followers, was forced to step down after 34 women came forward with claims of sexual harassment against the 80-year-old life-long bachelor. As no one has ever pressed formal charges against Gothard himself, this would mark the first time the Institute or its representatives faced potential legal recourse for any sort of sexual abuse claim. Though since Gothard is no longer formally connected with the organization, he is not directly named in the lawsuit.
The lawsuit, which was filed this past Tuesday in DuPage County Circuit Court in Illinois, alleges that IBLP:
- Failed to adequately train and/or supervise their staff, including management/supervisory staff and/or have appropriate policies and procedures in place to prevent and/or deter sexual abuse, harassment, or inappropriate/unauthorized touching of young female interns, employees, and participants in IBLP programs;
- Despite defendant IBLP’s prior knowledge of allegations of sexual abuse and sexual harassment being committed against its participants, interns, and employees, many of whom were under eighteen years of age at the times of the sexual abuse, sexual harassment, and inappropriate/unauthorized touching, IBLP failed to report these allegations to law enforcement authorities… and said wrongful conduct was allowed to continue;
- Despite decades of on-going sexual abuse, sexual harassment and inappropriate/unauthorized touching and credible reports thereof, Defendant IBLP failed to conduct a reasonable investigation into the allegations, and said wrongful conduct was allowed to continue;
- When an investigation was finally conducted, IBLP conducted a sham investigation regarding the allegations of sexual abuse and harassment;
- IBLP concealed allegations of sexual abuse and sexual harassment from scrutiny by law enforcement agencies and the Illinois Department of Children & Family Services;
- IBLP conducted an unreasonable investigation into the allegations of sexual abuse and harassment; and
- IBLP was otherwise careless or negligent supervision of its staff, directors, agents, and employees during the relevant times herein.
Apparently, the women only decided to pursue legal action after multiple ignored attempts to address the issue with the IBLP board of directors themselves, with attorney David Gibbs telling the Post that the board “rather stubbornly and in my opinion rather arrogantly basically challenged the girls to bring the case.”
Despite IBLP conducting its own internal investigation right after Gothard resigned in 2014 and finding “no criminal activity,” Gibbs claims it was little more than a sham, telling The Washington Post:
[The] plaintiffs say the internal investigation amounted to sweeping a pattern of abuse and possible criminal activity under the rug. The victims, said the younger Gibbs, were as young as 13 or 14 years old, and often had been subjected at home to physical, sexual and other abuse or neglect. The “pattern” common among the plaintiffs, he said, was that the girl would “act out” as a result of the abuse at home; her parents would then send her to IBLP for counseling.
We have reached out to both IBLP and Bill Gothard for comment and will update if and when we hear back.