I’ve been reading through the testimonials on the website Recovering Grace. If you aren’t aware, the main testimonials on the website deal with the reports of inappropriate behavior on the part of Bill Gothard, founder of ATI. The most harrowing thing about these stories is that the girls in question often had no baseline, no knowledge of what was appropriate and what was inappropriate. Story after story has situations in which the environment was already being controlled as a way to set the stage for predatory behaviours.
These situations were already troubling, but most of the girls had NO idea because of their sheltered lives. Worst of all, I could see EXACTLY how they felt. I too had a very sheltered life up until college, and if someone had tried to take advantage of me in this way, I wouldn’t have known what was wrong until it was too late. In fact, someone did take advantage of me once and assault me, but because the person held little to no power in my environment, the situation was not repeated.
I decided to compile a simple checklist of problematic behaviours (known as “grooming”) that should be noticed and addressed with peers and parents if they occur to you.
- Long looks that make you uncomfortable
- Asking to spend time with you away from others (under the guise of special tutelage, prayer, instruction or to listen to your problems and counsel you)
- Very sympathetic, asks questions no-one else does, wants to know your deepest desires.
- Constantly asks how you are doing, what is your mood, not satisfied with superficial answers.
- Tells you to smile more.
- Accidental touching all the time (leaning, legs touching while sitting close to you, footsie, small of the back when hugging or passing by)
- Insisting that there is a special bond between you, that others wouldn’t understand.
- Telling you how much they rely on you, no-one else understands them like you do
- Special privileges, food, money, or ability to contact them at any time when others wouldn’t be allowed to.
- Irrational anger or overreaction if they don’t know where you are for a while, or if plans are changed without notifying them. Also overreaction if you spend time with someone other than them one on one.
- Reassurances that you would never turn on them, along with telling stories of people who did turn on them. Repeated insistence that they “trust you completely” or that you are the only one they can trust.
- Encounters between you become longer, more frequent and more exclusive (prayer sessions, counseling, lunch periods etc)
- Mentioning your appearance, complimenting you on a certain way of styling hair, style of clothes, way of walking, way of laughing.
- Asking you not to wear or style yourself a certain way, specifically for their benefit.
- Changing plans on you so that group outings become one-on-one situations.
- Calling at odd hours, needing favors that they don’t ask of anyone else.
- Asking you to keep the relationship details to yourself, because others would misinterpret the situation.
- Becoming very offended if questioned on intentions or moral ideals.
- When forced by circumstances to go on trips away from you, contacting you throughout the trip, or making a big deal of how much they missed you when they get back.
- Asking what your experience level with the opposite sex is (are you a virgin, have you kissed anyone, have you seen anyone naked)
- Gaslighting, aka, telling you something that you were present for didn’t happen, or didn’t occur the way you thought it did.
If you have any more of these warning signs to contribute, please add to it in the comments.