The Institute in Basic Life Principles — an Illinois-based Christian “training” institution connected to the famously antigay 19 Kids and Counting family, the Duggars — is the target of a lawsuit by five women who claim the homeschooling organization and its board of directors covered up the sexual abuse and harassment of interns, employees, and children in its care, reports The Washington Post.
Gretchen Wilkinson, Charis Barker, Rachel Frost, Rachel Lees and a woman identified only as Jane Doe are seeking $50,000 in damages, reported the Post, alleging negligence as well as accusing the board of conspiring to keep the alleged abuse secret.
The suit claims employees and directors “frequently received reports” of “sexual abuse, sexual harassment and inappropriate/unauthorized touching” but never reported “these serious, potentially criminal allegations to law enforcement authorities or the Illinois Department of Children & Family Services,” as required by law, the Post reports. The suit was filed last week in DuPage County Circuit Court in Wheaton, Ill.
Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar, the parents of the 19 Kids and Counting family, have long been affiliated with the organization’s homeschooling arm, the Advanced Training Institute. Earlier this year it was reported that they sent eldest son Josh Duggar to an IBLP training center as a teenager after he admitted to sexually abusing four of his younger sisters and a family friend.
IBLP founder and former director Bill Gothard, who was placed on “indefinite administrative leave” last year after being accused of sexually harassing and abusing employees, was not named in the lawsuit as he is no longer with the institute, the Post reports.
However, David Gibbs III, attorney for the plaintiffs, told the Post that many women said Gothard had touched them inappropriately when they were teens in institute programs — some were as young as 13 or 14 at the time. Since filing the suit, Gibbs said, other families have contacted him with more tales of abuse.
While the Duggars’ reality program has been canceled, the institute remains in the public eye, as one of its directors, Gil Bates, has a reality show about his family, Bringing Up Bates. There are 19 children in the family, just as in the Duggar clan.