Bill Gothard has always had an interest in and love for the “juvenile delinquent”, young people that have been consumed in sin and rebellion, seeing them brought to Jesus and their lives reclaimed. His early ministry was focused on the gangs he encountered in Chicago and resulted in the “Basic Youth Conflicts” seminar.
With a view to this IBLP began accepting court remanded youth in Indianapolis in the early 2000’s to see them redeemed and turned into radiant, godly young people. Such a ministry is inherently fraught with danger as rebels are usually quite skilled at lying and taking advantage of others to further their agenda. Additionally, such settings require great patience and skill on the part of the staff, there always being the risk of over-reaction to some of the intense stresses those settings can create. While many were won and became shining examples of God’s grace (including a member of our staff), others rejected those efforts and turned on the Institute.
Allegations of abuse in the program were being made back in 2001-2002 timeframe. In 2001 a young woman calling herself “Rachel” posted her story at Rachel’s Story claiming to have been being locked up for two months, finally performing a daring escape to get free, at that time in hiding. Don Veinot picked up the story and featured it in “A Matter of Basic Principles”, pages 206-210. When we starting checking into it in 2005, the website was already gone . . . with a specific exclusion made by the owner to keep it from being archived. During that time – and at the recommendation of Mr. Veinot – our staff joined the Metochoi anti-Gothard forum for the initial purpose of gaining more insights into this story. We were told by forum staff that she was a member. We specifically asked for any accounts from anyone that related to abuse at the ITC . . . and received not a single story, this again on a very violently negative Gothard and IBLP forum.
“Rachel’s” roommate Kendra posted her version of Rachel’s time at ITC on her own website . . . which is still up after all these years: Kendra’s Response It says in part:
“Now what shall I believe about you? I read your web site and scratch my head. “Held…as a prisoner”? I remember walks around our city parking lot, trips to church twice a week, holidays of picnics and sports in the country, shopping, the $600 music course you were scholarshiped through, a trip to hear the Indianapolis Symphony. “Treated…worse than a criminal”? Memories of birthday parties, tutoring sessions with Megan, welcomes with confetti and blue painted faces, cake decorating class, laughs we had over the antics of others around us, songs we wrote and sang together flood my mind.”
Around that time a 10 year old girl who was part of the program alleged she was locked in a prayer room for days with no food, spanked repeatedly, held down by staff. Indianapolis WISH-TV did a multipart expose on the ITC, highlighting her and a number of other plaintiffs, which resulted in a full investigation by the Indiana Family and Social Services.
At the end of it – May 22, 2002 – WISH posted the conclusion of the investigation (WISH-TV Report on Conclusion of ITC Investigation):
“During the investigation, Marion County courts stopped sending children to ITC and the center changed policy and stopped spanking the children. But again, the state says the training center is in the clear and all allegations are unsubstantiated. ”
Even though there was no substance found, that effectively spelled the end of that program. Other efforts continued over the years at sites such as Eagle Mountain in Arkansas and Eagle Springs in Oklahoma.
Since several came to our Questions area to lodge complaints of abuse we decided to highlight the matter here. At this time, and in light of a number of interviews we have done, we believe that there was no abuse perpetrated that rises to the level of a valid legal complaint. We do believe that an occasional staff member may have been deliberately excessive on occasion, but, again, the situations there were tough even with the most skilled and godly in charge. Sometimes there is also a good explanation as to why a young person’s account of their time there may differ negatively from that provided by others, even State officials that placed them there to start.
For our part, we will allow the discussion to unfold and will check into any situation that we have the ability to do so. One of our staff members was one of the early court appointed young people, going through the entire program, then observing it later on while on staff. We trust we have the objectivity to get to the truth.
We were provided a copy of the resolution passed by the full city council of Indianapolis, Indiana on April 14, 2003, formally accepting the results of the investigation into the IBLP Indianapolis Training Center, apologizing to the Institute for the unjust damage done, and encouraging all pertinent authorities to continue sending young people to the facility. As a public body making a public policy statement it should be clear that the ITC passed its formal challenge from disgruntled former participants as executed through a skeptical media eager to damage and discredit a perceived “right wing” Christian ministry with flying colors.