Survivors of sexual abuse - allegedly doled out by the pastor closely associated with the Arkansas-based Duggar reality TV family on TLC's "19 Kids and Counting" - detailed in exclusive interviews on Friday with the New York Daily News how that same conservative Christian preacher, Bill Gothard Jr., recruited them from their parents and preyed upon rape victims who came to him asking for recovery help.
The survivors spoke publicly for the first time, and are two of eight new plaintiffs who joined a lawsuit filed in DuPage County Court in Illinois against Gothard and his evangelical empire. A Texas law firm first filed the lawsuit last October with five women, and now the suit has grown to include 18 alleged victims, both men and women.
Gothard, 81, who founded in 1961 and previously operated the Institute in Basic Life Principles, is currently the subject of a lawsuit filed in Illinois by eight women against board members of the IBLP and Gothard, reports Raw Story. The lawsuit reflects troubled young people being forced to work, being denied typical school education and being raped and sexually assaulted in the "cult-like organization."
IBLP is a non-denominational, Christian organization in Oak Brook, Ill., that serves as an umbrella organization for several ministries. It was an IBLP center to which Josh Duggar reportedly was sent for treatment after he was caught molesting his sisters.
Joy Simmons, 40, and Jennifer Spurlock, 38, stated to the New York Daily News they were abused by Gothard after they were shipped off to stay with him following sexual assaults by other men affiliated with his ministry.
Gothard retired in 2014 as president from the IBLP when sexual assault allegations first came to light. He never married.
"To have your education ripped from you and to have your childhood ripped from you, it's extremely difficult. It's just evil," said Spurlock, who was 15 when she said she began working for and traveling with Gothard, who kept her from attending school for three years.
Spurlock told the Daily News she was sent to an IBLP training center in Indianapolis by her family after she was sexually assaulted by a man receiving counseling at a Christian center. It was there that Gothard first noticed her. "Mr. Gothard was just staring right at me, so much so, that other girls would say 'you're so lucky, he couldn't take his eyes off of you,'" Spurlock explained, before adding how the abuse from the pastor began.
"It started sitting on the sofa hip-to-hip, spreading his legs and touching my knees and smelling my hair," Spurlock said, adding that Gothard then began "rubbing her thighs and in my vaginal area" over her clothes.
Spurlock was forced to work long hours in the training center's kitchen and locked in her living quarters at night, she said.
In Bill Cosby story-like fashion, many of the other women's allegations are the same, some of which were published on a whistle-blowing site created for the victims called Recoveringgrace.org.
Simmons told the Daily News Gothard touched her while they prayed together, and would try to get her to reveal intimate details of her sexual assault during their counseling sessions. "He would also tell me that it was my fault that I was assaulted and he would ask God to cleanse me," Simmons said.
Simmons stated she and the other teen victims, who came to be known as the "Gothard girls," were kept isolated, stating: "No friends, no way out, no education. We were pretty stuck."
Another of the new plaintiffs, reports the Daily News, is a man named Daniel Dorsett, who stated he witnessed Gothard sexually abuse more than 150 girls between 1994 and 1996 when he worked as a personal driver for him.
Gothard, who was a friend of politicians and the Green family who owns the Hobby Lobby stores, denied the sexual assault allegations against him.
IBLP board members also are listed as defendants in the lawsuit, according to the Daily News, due to their role in covering up the abuse, the more than 200-page complaint reads.
The lawsuit seeks to get compensation of $50,000 for each plaintiff from IBLP and Gothard for unpaid labor, as well as to pay for counseling for the victims. Preliminary hearings for the lawsuit are expected in April.