[image-1]Of the many revelations in yesterday’s report about alleged sexual abuse at Bob Jones University, two stood out to me as particularly shocking. In the case of the first, the report notes that some members of BJU staff simply did not believe that sexual abuse could take place in Christian homes. In the second, a staffer at the Greenville school apparently didn’t understand that male-on-male sexual assault was a crime. (The report details BJU’s handling of cases of alleged sexual abuse both on-campus and off-campus with those who were allegedly abused by BJU staff or students, their families, and the general population.)

In part, the report, which was investigated by an outside Christian firm named GRACE, attributes these two apparent admissions to a certain naivety among the Bob Jones community. GRACE investigators note that the BJU faithful adhere to a “showcase” culture, where students and staff are expected to be happy and content and outwardly perfect at all times. It is also a world with a “no griping” policy — meaning, you keep your mouth shut about your troubles — and anyone who is not happy and content and outwardly perfect might feel ostracized. The reports also notes that counselors at school often encouraged alleged sexual assault victims to forgive their alleged abusers and to confess whether or not they felt physical pleasure while being assaulted. All of these things, the report notes, may have contributed to a culture that seemingly looked the other way when allegations of sexual abuse surfaced and placed blame for the assaults on the victim. 

You can read this depressing report here, but I’ve included some excerpts from the alleged victims below.

1. “I was abused from the ages of 6-14 by my grandfather. When I went for counseling, I was told, ‘Did you repent for your part of the abuse? Did your body respond favorably? If it did, then you need to repent. You’re bitter and care more about your pain than the salvation of your family. You should have never gone to the police because it tore your family apart and that’s your fault. You love yourself more than you love God and that’s why you are struggling.'”

2. “[A] woman who was raped or sexually abused somehow brought it on herself. That it is not acceptable to talk about sexual abuse. The cause of Christ will somehow suffer if news of abuse gets out to ‘the world.'”

3. “I received a slip in my P.O. [box] to report to the stage following a specific chapel service. At the time Drs. Bob Jr. and III told me that they were sorry such a thing happened but that I now had the choice to honor God by my response and not be selfish in sharing the experience with others and gaining inappropriate attention for the school.”

4. “A person in the administration who knew that I was assaulted by one of their preacher boys stated that I knew I would destroy this godly man’s education and future if I reported his crime.”

The report also notes that BJU repeatedly failed to report allegations of sexual assault to the police. Here are some examples:

1. “Several witnesses and supporting documentation indicated that a BJU student engaged in possible criminal behavior with minor boys who were attending the Bob Jones Academy in the mid-2000s. When the allegations surfaced, the junior high principal interviewed approximately nine minor boys about the reports he received involving a BJU student. A number of the boys expressed concern that the BJU student was ‘perverted’ and wanted ‘nothing more to do with him.’

The reports indicated the adult BJU student’s range of suspicious and/or potentially criminal activity with minors [included]: requesting the minors pose for nude photographs, taking minors off campus, asking repeatedly for a minor to measure his sexual organ, requesting to masturbate and/or watch others masturbate, and making specific statements about engaging in sexual activity … After BJU officials concluded their own investigation, the alleged perpetrator was required to withdraw at the request of the administration for a period of one year and did not return to BJU to complete his university education. There is no indication that BJU reported any of the alleged criminal activities of this student to any outside law enforcement agency.”

2. “A victim told GRACE that she was molested by a BJU student in the late 1990s while they attended school together. The victim, who was an adult at the time of the alleged offense, explained that the touching to her private parts happened without her consent while they were alone together on several occasions. She said, ‘It was a big secret for many months. It happened many times over the course of several months.’ She told GRACE that after she finally told her family, her family confronted the BJU student. She and her family stated that he apologized at the time for ‘molesting her….’

The accused student, who was removed from a position of authority in the residence hall and given a new staff position on campus in a less visible role, eventually graduated and is now in church leadership.”

3. In 2012, a prospective student visiting BJU’s campus allegedly sexually assaulted a male BJU student in the dormitory. According to BJU witnesses, the victim told his Resident Assistant who notified the Resident Supervisor of the incident, and the alleged perpetrator was sent home with his sponsoring pastor in the middle of the night. Much to the dismay of the Chief of Public Safety, campus officials did not notify the Department of Public Safety of this alleged sexual crime until after the alleged perpetrator had been removed from campus. The Chief stated, ‘They [BJU personnel] didn’t call Public Safety. Had they [the alleged perpetrator] would not have been allowed to leave and we would have gotten the police to respond right away and dealt with it immediately.’ The Chief added, ‘We did the best we could after the fact to get the police involved. They contacted the folks up there. I don’t think it ended up going anywhere….’

The BJU Chief acknowledged, ‘I think for so long the team in student life views things in various degrees of appropriateness or inappropriateness maybe is a better word as opposed to what constitutes a crime.’ He explained, ‘I was talking with the Dean of Women and she said that she didn’t know that was a crime. I said, ‘You didn’t know that was a crime?… I said, ‘If a male came into your women’s residence hall and started groping one of the females, would you report it that to the police?’ She said, ‘Well yeah.’ I said, ‘There’s no difference….’

Another top administrator acknowledged that the fact that the victim was older than the alleged perpetrator caused them confusion about how to handle the reported offense and attributed their error to ‘inexperience.'”

4. “During Witness No. 1’s senior year, she was playing piano in the practice studios on campus when the former student ‘opened the door and started coming at me and I immediately thought he could not be there.’ Although the alleged perpetrator was no longer a student at the time, she reported that he entered the room, brandished a knife, and subsequently sexually assaulted her. After the assault, the victim stated that the alleged perpetrator attempted to kidnap her, but the victim escaped into a nearby campus building to hide as the alleged perpetrator drove away. 

After the rape, the victim wrote a letter to her boyfriend disclosing the incident. The boyfriend turned over Witness No. 1’s [the victim’s] letter to the a BJU Public Safety Officer. The DPS officer then created an Incident Memo designating the event as a criminal incident, and notified the Dean of Women and the Resident Assistant Supervisor, and delivered the Public Safety Incident Memo as well as Witness No. 1’s letter to university officials. The victim stated that no one from Bob Jones University DPS or from any law enforcement agency ever contacted her about this criminal incident.”

5. “GRACE received a report that a BJU student and summer staffer ‘… was fired for fondling [sic] boys while they were asleep’ at BJU’s summer music camp in the mid-1990s. According to information provided, three boys disclosed to a BJU counselor that the alleged perpetrator entered their room … in the middle of the night and touched them on the back, head, side, and buttocks. One of the minor boys also indicated that the alleged perpetrator had touched him ‘briefly in the groin area.’ The counselor reported the disclosures to a supervisor who contacted and consulted with the university Provost and Dr. Wood, the executive vice president.

The Dean of Men interviewed the alleged perpetrator and stated, ‘he did not think he touched any sexual parts of these boys, though he admits to touching the back hip and maybe moving toward the crouch [sic] area of one of the boys. He said he did find himself sexually excited when focusing on these young men’s heads.’ The Dean of Men concluded, ‘It appears this is a safe substitute for immoral involvement and that he would get some sexual thrill of it.’ BJU terminated the alleged perpetrator as a summer staff counselor and did not permit him to return to school the following semester.

The Dean of Men and the Executive Vice President, Dr. Wood, also ‘counseled with [the alleged perpetrator] in an effort to help him’ and found a place for him to live at a rescue mission….

GRACE found no evidence that BJU officials ever reported to law enforcement any of these allegations….”