How Bill Gothard shows that we still do not understand sexual offense

"Power and Sexual Harassment" (cartoon by nakedpastor David Hayward)
“Power and Sexual Harassment” (cartoon by nakedpastor David Hayward)

Sexual offenders don’t get it. And apparently neither do many of us.

This is about Bill Gothard’s response to the charges and the outcome.

First, some background:

A review board has concluded that Bill Gothard is innocent of the charges that he sexually harassed teen girls, but instead only acted in an “inappropriate manner”. Gothard has resigned as president. But there is no indication that he won’t be able to return in the near future. Actually, in the 1980’s his brother resigned as administrative director because of a major sex scandal, and Bill Gothard resigned because he knew about the improprieties without responding to them. He returned as president just three weeks later. In fact, he presently plans on continuing his work on a personal basis with young people he was already mentoring.

The disturbing issue is Gothard’s attitude. He proves that he doesn’t understand what he has been accused of doing. This is typical of those in power! When asked if he sexually harassed young women, he responded:

“Sexual harassment is to a large extent intent, and my intent was never to harass them.”

When will we learn that this isn’t the point? In fact, the legal understanding of sexual harassment includes the possibility that…

“…the perpetrator may be completely unaware that his or her behavior is offensive or constitutes sexual harassment or may be completely unaware that his or her actions could be unlawful.” (wikipedia)

This reminds me of the recent story of the statutory rapist who’s article was posted by Christianity Today’s Leadership Journal in which we became painfully aware that the perpetrator was completely unaware of his guilt or the ramifications of what he had done. After a tide of complaints, CT finally pulled the post and issued an apology.

I have friends who are victims of Gothard’s “inappropriate” behavior. Gothard promises to go to everyone and personally apologize. My friends aren’t interested because they detect that Gothard is still under the impression that they desire to be in his presence and receive is charms and will get hurt again.

Why are we not getting this? With the CT rapist, he felt it was consensual. He still thinks his victim wanted it as much as he did. I believe Gothard lives under the same illusion that his victims wanted it and that it was consensual.

This is the deceit those in power often live under… that they can have whatever they want and their subjects are willing and even longing to provide it.

(Are you a victim of this or something like it? Come join others who are too and understand at The Lasting Supper.)


5 Replies to “How Bill Gothard shows that we still do not understand sexual offense”

  1. A first situation: To semi-quote someone (without betraying confidences) , in the 1980’s: ‘A male that sexually touched a young woman, was confronted by her the next day, and he burst into tears… instantly realizing how wrong he was. He apologized, and did not approach that woman for many years.’

    A second situation: I believed I was sexually harassed at the work place in 2006 by a subordinate male. I met with legal advisors, who explained to me that I was not ‘sexually’ harassed (based on their review of the evidences)… rather it was workplace harassment, and therefore also prohibited by law. (If the actor is equally harassing all genders based on non-sexual ‘I think all managers are stupid’ statements, it is not sexual harassment.) I took up my case with my supervisor, and I was terminated a few days later. As a Christian woman, I believed I should drop the case and did so.

    A third situation during 2011/2012: I took food for over a year to the men hidden in the woods that lived in tents. About one-third had been convicted of sexual crimes (rape, incest, statutory rape, soliciting sex from a minor, child porn, etc.). Over time, many became my friends… and I got to learn their ‘side of the story’.

    On the basis of my experiences, and my reading in the subject area, I offer the following:
    1 – The first person owning what was done is key.
    2 – The first person realizing the damage done – that the act violated and degraded the other person is key.
    3 – The first person ceasing the actions is key.
    4 – The culture needs to reexamine the cultural desire to move too quickly in order to forget, sweep away both persons, and ‘move on’ is key.
    5 – Both persons and the culture rebuilding is key.

    I read many of the links provided (and links that linked to more…).

    Given that our legal system may have ‘blurred’ and ‘hidden’ Bill’s depth of apology, perhaps my items 1, 2, and 3 have been addressed…. or may not have been.

    My concern is therefore my items 4, and 5.

    – That is, is the Christian sub-culture forgetting to reexamine more than just the accusation from a legal perspective (that is, simply preforming ‘damage control’). Are they moving too quickly? Are they not reexamining the belief system that perpetuates a ‘woman is there for man’ or ‘woman inferior’ approach?

    – Has the rebuilding of lives been given over to just the individuals? That may be best (the Christian sub-cultures may not always rebuild people very well). Will Bill be entering counseling for his own rebuilding? Will the institution offer to pay/partially pay for the professional counseling needed by the receivers of his actions? Will the institution hire counselors to help it rebuild its approach, training programs, mindset, and business reputation?

    Actors need to own, realize, and cease.
    Cultures need to reexamine.
    All need to rebuild.

    Sincerely; Caryn

  2. Colleague of mine, a pastor who is expecting a child, had a male pastor come up to her at a conference and ask to lay hands on her belly and bless her unborn child. She told him that she welcomed the prayer, but his touching her would make her feel uncomfortable. HE DID IT ANYWAY. We have a long way to go.

  3. @Caryn LeMur: Situation in 1970s
    At the workplace a man walks up behind a woman and puts his hand up her skirt, the woman turns an punches the man in face.
    The women then stormes into the most public area and declares the man a disgusting bastard.

    What has changed? In 2014, there is a good chance that the woman would be arrested for hitting the man. People might even assume she ‘misunderstood’ his intentions.

    Back then, we did not have words for harrassment and mugging. We just knew that women get to decide who touches them and where, and we were willing to enforce these rules.

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