Ruthy Heiler: Where is the IFB Survivor Now?

In Investigation Discovery’s ‘Let Us Prey: A Ministry of Scandals,’ the viewers are introduced to a variety of cases involving faith and the crimes that were committed by using it as a cover. This includes the horrific happenings that happened under the umbrella of Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB). Ruthy Heiler, one of the many individuals who suffered unfairly under the yoke of the organization, decided to speak up and share her story with the world. As such, people are pretty curious about what she has been up to since then.

Who is Ruthy Heiler?

Ruthy Heiler’s childhood was far from an easy one. Her mother, having allegedly suffered much physical abuse from Ruthy’s father, tried to report his crimes to the police. As a result, many of the members of the church with which Ruthy’s mother was initially affiliated turned their backs on her. Trying to gain a fresh start after purportedly being shunned from the IFB church in Indiana, Ruthy and her mother ended up moving to Gaylord, Michigan.

Having been a part of the IFB church from a very young age, Ruthy’s admission to Grace Baptist Christian School was not a surprise. It is there that she met Aaron Willand, a teacher and volleyball coach who apparently took Ruthy under his wing, though the intentions behind the same were seemingly far from innocent. Though she had been allegedly indoctrinated with the idea of obedience to her church superiors, it did not stop Ruthy from being severely traumatized by the things that followed.

Willand had become good friends with Ruthy’s mother and arranged for the young girl to act as a babysitter for his children. However, he allegedly began to take advantage of Ruthy not much later, who was unsure of exactly what was going on, having never been taught sex education. She apparently had not even known about the basic differences between the anatomy of men and women and was highly confused and scared.

Aaron Willand

Apparently, due to his inappropriate actions with another minor, Willand was transferred to Washington to act as a teacher in one of the schools there. Trusting him, Ruthy’s mother allowed her to go to Washington to help Willand take care of his children during the moving process. When she was under Willand’s roof in Washington, the man allegedly raped the then 14-year-old on numerous occasions.

Terrified of everything that had happened to her, Ruthy shared everything with her mother, who decided to stick to the IFB protocol by trying to find a solution with a pastor called Jon Jenkins. The man then shared about Willand’s involvement in similar cases in the past, though, in 2019, he claimed that he had reported two teachers to the Michigan State Police and the Sherrif’s Department in Otsego County, Michigan, and one of the men he had apparently accused was Willand.

Ruthy Heiler is Now Happily Married

Following everything that her daughter had told her and the minimal help from the church, Ruthy Heiler’s mother apparently went to the local police herself and reported the crimes he had committed against her daughter. Aaron Willand was a teacher at the Grace Baptist Christian School from August 2001 to June 2003. Two of his former students from the intuitive, including Ruthy, reported his crimes to the Michigan State Police in December 2018.

Image Credit: Ruthy Heiler/Facebook

While based in Arlington, Washington, Willand apparently surrendered himself to the police in 2019 in order to stand trial for his crimes. Ultimately, on October 14, 2022, he was sentenced for multiple counts of crimes, including an act of first-degree criminal sexual conduct that gained his a sentence of 135 months to 40 years in prison. He was also punished for acts of second, third, and fourth degrees of criminal sexual conduct.

Ruthy herself has continued to speak against everything that she had to suffer as a child while being a part of the IFB church. While she does not seem to have a specific grudge against the institute itself, she has spoken out against the church’s tendency to turn a blind eye toward acts of sexual misconduct. Additionally, she has reached out to many other survivors of similar situations in order to help others heal better while working on her own recovery. Now happily married, she is affiliated with Blind Eye Movement, an organization dedicated to helping abuse victims. She also appeared in the 267th episode of the ‘Preacher Boys’ podcast to talk about the reasons behind making her story public.

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