Religious Right Leader Sued For Sexual Battery, Treating Young Follower Like A 'Personal Sex Object'

Warning: this post includes sexually graphic language.

In a bombshell lawsuit that exposes the shocking ways women are treated in the Quiverfull movement — the patriarchal program popularized by the Duggar family and its TLC reality show 19 Kids and Counting — attorneys representing Lourdes Torres have revealed details of the abuse she received from Doug Phillips of Vision Forum.

The lawsuit [PDF], which includes counts of sexual battery and assault, details the “inappropriate, unwanted, and immoral sexual acts committed by Douglas Phillips against Ms. Torres,” noting that Phillips “methodically groomed Ms. Torres” since she was 15 years old “so that she would eventually participate in illicit sexual rendezvous with him promising that she could one day marry him” and “repeatedly told Torres that this was possible because his wife, Beall Phillips, was going to die soon.”

Phillips, one of the most prominent leaders of the Quiverfull movement, last year admitted to having “a lengthy, inappropriate relationship with a woman.” Phillips is extremely close to the Duggar family. In 2010, Torres was featured at the end of a video message at Phillips’ “Baby Conference” thanking Michelle Duggar, to whom Phillips had presented a “Mother of the Year” award.

Torres also briefly appears in a video posted by Phillips, “72 Hours in the Terminal,” where she is shown seated with Phillips’ family. She also has roles in the Vision Forum films “Alone But Not Alone” and “Return of the Daughters,” an anti-feminist documentary. In a 2003 blog post, Phillips wrote of attending Torres’ graduation, commending her parents for “bringing their daughter into mature Christian womanhood.”

The lawsuit contends that Phillips worked to “indoctrinate [Torres] with the patriarchal mindset” and “subtly began to manipulate Ms. Torres, so that he could use her for his sexual gratification. This calculated, planned, and methodical grooming process went on for many years.”

“Douglas Phillips used Ms. Torres—against her wishes and over her objections—as a personal sex object. Douglas Phillips repeatedly groped, rubbed, and touched Ms. Torres’s crotch, breasts, and other areas of her body; rubbed his penis on her; masturbated on her; forced her to watch him masturbate on her; and ejaculated upon her. This perverse and offensive conduct repeatedly took place over the course of several years,” the lawsuit reads.

While Ms. Torres would have felt compelled to submit to Douglas Phillips, the purity culture would have meant at the same time, her submission made her ‘damaged goods’ in her eyes, the eyes of her family, and her community—raising the cost for her to come forward to call him to account. She was, in fact, in a ‘no-win’ situation.”

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Douglas Phillips entered Ms. Torres’s bedroom and without her consent began touching her breasts, stomach, back, neck, and waist. Phillips then began to masturbate and ejaculated on her. Ms. Torres asked Phillips to stop and broke down crying. Despite Ms. Torres’s repeated requests for Phillips to stop masturbating and ejaculating on her, Phillips proceeded to return and repeat this perverse and offensive conduct. Each night that Phillips returned, Ms. Torres requested that he stop. Defendant blatantly disregarded her requests but continued to masturbate and ejaculate on her each night.

Douglas Phillips, on the evenings he visited Ms. Torres, persuaded her that he was not doing anything wrong, that he intended to marry Ms. Torres, and that his wife would die shortly and enable him to marry Ms. Torres. He further repeatedly told Ms. Torres that he loved her, that he would take care of her, and that what they were doing was not wrong. He also stated that if it was wrong, it was completely her fault.

Torres’ lawyers write that even after Vision Forum’s board was informed of Phillips’ alleged actions, “the board of Vision Forum Ministries decided to keep Phillips in the company’s highest position of leadership. This move is consistent with the ideals and beliefs of the patriarchal movement: that women exist solely for the control and pleasure of the men.” The board only took action when it became “apparent that Phillips’s behavior toward Ms. Torres could no longer remain confidential.”

The lawsuit also goes into detail on the ways the Quiverfull movement manipulates and shames women, imposing “absolute control of women” while cutting them off from “access to outside intervention and support.” It alleges that Phillips’ wife sent Torres a threatening email in an attempt to silence her. 

Read excerpts of the lawsuit here [PDF], emphasis added:

There is a pervasive sense within Phillips’s tight circle of people that they are engaged in a cosmic war, and that they avoid contact with the government and other outside groups that might hold them accountable or ask questions. Phillips used his training as a lawyer to help foster an unregulated community that operated as a “total institution” where Ms. Torres would have limited access to outside support as she came to see her situation as abusive.



As one component of the “total institution,” Douglas Phillips’s community had its own church-court system. Disputes were brought before a board of all male elders in what resembled a legal proceeding without any of the rights of the accused in secular courts. For Ms. Torres, this system would force her to go up against Phillips—the most powerful man in the extended community—who is a trained attorney known for his skills at argument and intimidation. If Ms. Torres were to lose, she likely would be excommunicated from her church and all other churches that are legitimate in the eyes of her community. Seeking advice from others would have been labeled as gossip and treated as a very serious sin. One could be excommunicated for this, a practice that very much protects the men in power. Ms. Torres had watched others be abused under this one-sided dispute resolution process.

Douglas Phillips held a high position of trust in Ms. Torres’s life, personal family circles, social circles, and her religious circle. Phillips carefully, intentionally, and effectively closed off all access to outside intervention and support necessary for her to challenge him.

As described herein, Douglas Phillips used Ms. Torres—against her wishes and over her objections—as a personal sex object. Douglas Phillips repeatedly groped, rubbed, and touched Ms. Torres’s crotch, breasts, and other areas of her body; rubbed his penis on her; masturbated on her; forced her to watch him masturbate on her; and ejaculated upon her. This perverse and offensive conduct repeatedly took place over the course of several years.



Phillips was the dominant authority figure in Ms. Torres’s life and family. He made himself her spiritual father. He was her authority figure with regard to where she lived, where she worked, where and how she worshipped, her education, her interpersonal relationships, her time and schedule, and even acted as her counselor. In other words, Phillips was the pastor of her church, her boss, her landlord, and the controller of all aspects of her life—obedience to Phillips was as obedience to God in this total institution.



Phillips’s patriarchal movement teaches that men are, and should be, in the absolute control of women. Patriarchy considers women to primarily exist for the purposes of producing children, caring for the men, and rearing the children. Females in the patriarchal movement are discouraged from attaining higher education of any kind and are told that their sole purpose is to marry a man within the movement to meet the purposes described above. In other words, women within this movement are perceived to exist only for the end-goals communicated by the male leaders that perceive themselves as the “patriarchs” of this world.



While Ms. Torres would have felt compelled to submit to Douglas Phillips, the purity culture would have meant at the same time, her submission made her “damaged goods” in her eyes, the eyes of her family, and her community—raising the cost for her to come forward to call him to account. She was, in fact, in a “no-win” situation.



Voddie Baucham, a leader in the patriarchal and quiverful movement, explains the patriarchal men’s desire to be revered by younger women: “A lot of men are leaving their wives for younger women because they yearn for attention from younger women. And God gave them a daughter who can give them that.” The attitudes that produce these ideas are what leads to physical, mental, verbal, spiritual, and sexual abuse of both women and daughters within the patriarchal movement.



Females within the movement are manipulated by the male leaders. The males control and manipulate them into believing that the world revolves around the male “patriarchs.” Women, as scapegoats, are blamed for the inappropriate conduct of the men, thus preserving the men’s self-perceived collective self-image is preserved and concomitantly lowering the women’s self-esteem, so that women will fall into deeper submission under the men’s patriarchal authority. Women within this movement are instructed to do anything to please the male leaders.

As a result of the manipulation of this movement, Ms. Torres’s thinking was altered. As described herein, Douglas Phillips—standing in a position of influence and prominence within patriarchy—methodically groomed Ms. Torres so that she would eventually participate in illicit sexual rendezvous with him promising that she could one day marry him. This grooming began when Ms. Torres was a fifteen-year-old child. Due to the years of continued conditioning and indoctrination by Phillips and the patriarchal leaders, Ms. Torres was incapable of giving consent to Phillips’s sexual advances.

Phillips promised Ms. Torres that he would marry her and that she would be the person who would have the great privilege of being his wife. In Ms. Torres’s eyes he was the primary leader of this movement and the most powerful male figure in her universe. Phillips repeatedly told Torres that this was possible because his wife, Beall Phillips, was going to die soon.



As a non-profit entity, Vision Forum Ministries is controlled by a board of directors. Douglas Phillips was the President of the organization. Vision Forum Ministries’ board was made aware of Phillips’s illicit sexual behavior in early 2013. Despite the fact of having this knowledge, the board of Vision Forum Ministries decided to keep Phillips in the company’s highest position of leadership. This move is consistent with the ideals and beliefs of the patriarchal movement: that women exist solely for the control and pleasure of the men. When it was apparent that Phillips’s behavior toward Ms. Torres could no longer remain confidential, it was only then that the board of directors of Vision Forum Ministries decided to remove Phillips from leadership. At this point, Phillips issued carefully worded public statements about his sexual improprieties, and the Vision Forum ministries board began to strategize as to how it could bring Phillips to a place where he could make a “comeback” and regain the public leadership of the ministry.



Douglas Phillips entered Ms. Torres’s bedroom and without her consent began touching her breasts, stomach, back, neck, and waist. Phillips then began to masturbate and ejaculated on her. Ms. Torres asked Phillips to stop and broke down crying. Despite Ms. Torres’s repeated requests for Phillips to stop masturbating and ejaculating on her, Phillips proceeded to return and repeat this perverse and offensive conduct. Each night that Phillips returned, Ms. Torres requested that he stop. Defendant blatantly disregarded her requests but continued to masturbate and ejaculate on her each night.

Douglas Phillips, on the evenings he visited Ms. Torres, persuaded her that he was not doing anything wrong, that he intended to marry Ms. Torres, and that his wife would die shortly and enable him to marry Ms. Torres. He further repeatedly told Ms. Torres that he loved her, that he would take care of her, and that what they were doing was not wrong. He also stated that if it was wrong, it was completely her fault.



While Ms. Torres was helping Douglas Phillips with his business endeavors, he repeatedly used any time alone with her to gratify his sexual desires. He would place his hand under her shirt, rub her legs, stomach, and neck, kiss her face and body, rub his penis on her, masturbate in front of her and on her, and ejaculate on her—all while assuring Ms. Torres that she would soon be his wife, praising her for her chastity and loyalty.

Ms. Torres was unable to consent to the sexual contact and repeatedly asked Defendant Douglas Phillips to stop. However, Ms. Torres did not tell anyone about Defendant’s conduct because he manipulated her into believing that it would ruin his reputation, destroy his ministry, and get her in trouble with the church.



On October 3, 2013, Ms. Torres received an e-mail from Beall Phillips threatening her if she did not keep silent about what happened to her, i.e., her abuse:

During the last ten weeks, and ultimately for the last nine months, you have been lighting bombs all across the country. Right now, you may have a perception of peace, but what you don't know is that these bombs are about to explode in a manner that will change all of our lives forever. It will affect your life, your marriage prospects . . . your parents . . . and thousands of other people. It is far worse than you imagine. The VFM board has encouraged me to let you know about these and to work with you to give you an opportunity to stop impending destruction.



He intentionally used his position within the patriarchal movement to manipulate Ms. Torres to gratify his own sexual desires, and any time Ms. Torres resisted or requested that his advances stop, he would spend time talking to her about his plans for their future together—fully aware that based on his teachings, adopted and personalized by Ms. Torres, that a woman’s value and role in society depended on marriage. Ms. Torres did in fact rely on Defendant’s statements. She did not at all times refuse Defendant’s sexual advances, but submitted to them based on the fraudulent statements Defendant had made to her.



Phillips carefully, intentionally, and effectively closed off all access to outside intervention and support necessary for her to challenge him. He had been her mentor, counselor, pastor, elder, employer, and friend since she was fifteen-years-old. She had been at his home serving in his family several days a week between 2000–2007, at his urging she had forgone opportunities to attain higher education, and she had accepted his teachings that the woman’s role was to serve men in the home, and believed Phillips when he stated that she was “part of his family” and he would take care of her.



Ms. Torres has constant anxiety that Defendant Douglas Phillips will attempt to contact her again. Ms. Torres is prone to outbursts of anger, physical trembling, and crying when she contemplates the previous years of abuse, has trouble sleeping at night due to fear, often experiences a lack of appetite and nausea, and has actually been forced to leave home and many friends behind due to their connections to Defendant Douglas Phillips. She has sought professional counseling and is being counseled through her trauma.

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