Barbra’s Story Part One: At Cookeville Christian School

Because Ted Anderson was a graduate student at Bob Jones University at the time he was allegedly abusing girls in the Christian school where he was the principal (his dissertation can be seen here) . . . because some of the alleged abuse allegedly took place on the BJU campus . . . because the church and school called on BJU for help in handling the situation with him when one of the girls spoke out about him . . . and because several of his alleged victims went on to attend Bob Jones University and receive counseling there, the particulars of the allegations against him are significant. Amie’s related post is here. Part two of Barbra’s account is hereKaren’s account is here.

Although the author of this post speaks for herself and tells her own story, BJUGrace, as her publishing platform, has sought to do due diligence, through documentation and written statements from several witnesses, to confirm to the best of our ability that her story is true and accurate.

CONTENT WARNING: Though graphic details may seem gratuitous to some, when the administrators of BJUGrace discussed this post, we determined that some details are necessary in order to help readers understand how abusers groom and abuse their victims. An environment of Christians who want to keep their minds unsullied by graphic details (in addition to being very trusting and very forgiving of those who present themselves well) is an environment in which abuse can flourish. However, if you are offended by graphic details, or if you believe you could be triggered by them, please consider yourself warned.

by Barbra Cuva, author of Chicks and a Chicken Hawk and Brood Clones University and When . . .

Barbra at age 14 with her piano teacher, Ted Anderson
Barbra at age 14 with her piano teacher, Ted Anderson


My first memory of Ted Anderson (Theodore Ellis Anderson) was shortly after he arrived at Cookeville Christian School in 1979 to become the new principal.

I was used to spending most of my time at CCS even before Ted came, since I lived only a block away, and the former principal’s daughter was my best friend. I was not allowed to associate with anyone outside of the church or school. We played at the church while her father worked. Even in the summer we were there. Of course we also attended Sunday school, Sunday morning church, Sunday evening church, Wednesday night prayer meeting and any other special revivals, BJU performances, missionary speakers, etc.

Calvary Baptist Church facility, from a 1982 brochure

This was Calvary Baptist Church in Cookeville, Tennessee, where in 1972 Jon Jones (grandson of the founder of Bob Jones University) and his wife Betty were two of the six adult charter members. When the new church building at 950 North Old Kentucky Road was dedicated, Bob Jones Jr was the speaker.

I didn’t have a strong father figure. My grandfather was a disabled WWII veteran. I loved him dearly, and he was a wonderful man who showed me nothing but kindness, but his mind was very child-like in a lot of ways. He attended church, at first regularly, sometimes reluctantly, at points not much at all. My mother ruled the house, and was an extremely strong authoritarian.

Cookeville Christian School building from a 1982 brochure; Ted Anderson’s white Volkswagen Rabbit is parked in front

When I started at CCS, I was the thirteenth student to be admitted to the school, which spanned kindergarten through twelfth grade. We used a program that had been developed for one-room schoolhouses like ours, ACE, Accelerated Christian Education, which meant we read a booklet on our own and then took a test on it, on our own. If we needed help, we put up our little flag, and the “monitor” was supposed to come help us.

At the time, I had no other world than life at church and school, and frankly it was a very small world. Even within our little school, we weren’t encouraged to socialize outside of school with those who didn’t go to Calvary Baptist Church.

Early relationship

I turned 14 the summer before Ted’s first year at CCS in 1979, when he was 32. I remember standing with “Mr. A” by the bookcase at the back of the one-room classroom inside our church. He was picking my first book to read. He chose Shakespeare’s King Lear. This was the first time I had read Shakespeare. I was proud of wading through it, as I was already a voracious reader but had not read anything of that caliber. I felt challenged. I remember I had to ask a lot of questions when I didn’t understand what the dialogue meant. I remember feeling uncomfortable with some of the incestuous subject matter, when I finally figured out what the book was saying.

But I felt comfortable with him. He was from the East Coast, as I was. He was nice. He was witty and sarcastic. He was educated and refined. He was an unbelievably talented musician. And he took an interest in me.

Anderson yearbook photo
Ted Anderson in the 1983 CCS yearbook [click to enlarge]
The pastor left the entire school in Ted’s hands, and only taught us chapel. Ted started to run the school with a tight grip. He was everywhere . . . classroom teacher, disciplinarian, soccer coach, Bible class instructor, yearbook director, choir director, piano and organ player at church, occasionally fill-in preacher, basketball coach, tutor. He was easily the most charismatic and popular figure in our little church and school.

But he was also described in our yearbook as “a strong disciplinarian.” Griping was not tolerated. At times he was bullying to other students. One of his favorite phrases was “get over it.”

Ted continued to mentor me, though, and I developed a schoolgirl crush. It was public knowledge, and a source of entertainment to the adults and kids, especially when two other girls also eventually developed schoolgirl crushes on him. We tried to emulate him in his likes and disdains. We vied for his attention, and even though the three of us were friends, we had a very competitive dynamic. I was always aware of what I or others wore, who had a piano lesson when, where everyone was, who was getting more personal attention from him, etc.

(It was only much later I found out that these other two were also victims of his, but at the time, none of us knew that the others had the same secret relationship with him.)

Description of molestation

I can’t remember the actual first time Ted molested me. I remember that it evolved slowly that first year. I remember it started innocently—at least it seemed innocent to me—with one arm over my shoulder. He spent more and more time with me. He said he would be the father I didn’t have.

Then he started hugging me closely face-to-face. He called me his baby. The hugs became longer. Eventually he started kissing me on the mouth.

[click to enlarge] Ted Anderson in the school’s front office. Behind him is the open doorway to his own small office, which has a gray wall and a textured window. His desk isn’t shown, but the folding chairs where students would sit in front of his desk are visible under his elbow. Sometimes some students, instead of sitting in those chairs, would sit against the wall on the other side of the filing cabinet, out of sight of the front office.
Ted’s office was a very small inner room in the main office located in the church. A secretary sat in the front room, when she was there, and he had a separate doorway into his small space. He had two chairs in front of his desk that could easily be seen from the main office, through the doorway.

But when I was called in, I was required to sit on the floor against the wall behind his desk, next to him and out of sight line of the doorway, while he sat up in his chair. I had to sit with my feet on the floor, knees up. He would then take a ruler to lift up my skirt to look. He really seemed to enjoy doing this when he could almost get caught. There would often be an adult right behind the wall, in the front near the filing cabinet.

He seemed to derive pleasure from touching me when others were present. For example, one time there were three or four of us older students sitting at a folding table in the nursery, reviewing some material for a class with him. He would slip off his moccasins and rub his foot against my leg while we were supposed to be concentrating on the material. He would often mouth the words “I love you,” to me in his office, when there was someone right there in the front office. When I would go to his office for a question and just stand next to his desk (with an adult right outside the doorway), he would take the time to feel my buttocks under my skirt, the back of my legs, and my genitals.

I started spending an inordinate amount of time with Ted outside school hours, supposedly for extra help in different subjects. My grandparents bought me a piano, and I started taking private piano lessons with Ted.

The official school-sanctioned paddlings, throughout my junior high and high school career, which were supposed to be witnessed by another staff member, began to turn into private paddlings, whenever my attitude was not what he wanted it to be or because I wasn’t trying hard enough in my schoolwork. Or, once I remember he found out I had talked back to my grandmother. Whatever his reason, many paddlings were private (always in his office), with my skirt lifted up. He would then rub my buttocks, hug and kiss me, sit me on his lap and tell me he loved me and that I was his baby. It was all for my own good, as he was my father.

Meanwhile, I was living a double life of a young, innocent girl. The pastor’s daughter became my best friend and we were inseparable. We weren’t mixing with the rest of “the world,” so in a lot of ways we perhaps acted younger than kids from the public schools. We were still climbing trees and eating pies on the roof of the local grocery store. We rode our bikes. We weren’t allowed to wear makeup until we were 16. We weren’t allowed to go to movies or to the roller skating rink where they played worldly music. We were separatists.

We were not allowed to sit next to boys in the cars, because we had a “six-inch” rule, so Ted’s car (a white VW Rabbit with a stick shift) would typically have two or three female students or two students and another adult. Sometimes we would squeeze three people in front, with someone sitting on top of the gear shift. On many, many car trips to/from out-of-town soccer or basketball games, I would be the one squeezed in next to him, and he would put his hand up my skirt, even when another teacher was in the car. It was always dark when this happened, usually on the drive home from events.

Ted was known to drive fast and get speeding tickets. He liked to scare me in the car by driving recklessly. The drive to his house was along a long, winding, unlit country road. He would turn off the headlights on this road, speed very fast, and then “bank” the car up a hillside on the curve.

Ted taught me to drive in his car so I could get my license, so we had many driving lessons. We would end up on remote roads, and he would park the car and we would “make out.” He told me he loved me. I told him I loved him.

I babysat his kids, and he would drive me home. My senior year I was school/church janitor, which meant I had even more reason to be at school late at night, and he would drive me home. Sometimes that one-block drive lasted 45 minutes, depending on when he was expected at home.

I don’t know what Ted has said when confronted by others, and of course, one does not usually discuss “things done in secret.” So, I will state here that the physical and sexual abuse that occurred included such things as severe paddling under the dress with the pantyhose pulled down that caused bruising, touching under and without clothing, kissing on the mouth, him laying on top of me and simulating the sex act through underwear, ejaculations, and oral sex. So, it was everything but full-blown intercourse. And it was almost daily.

When I got older, it felt like an affair, so he started to include me in his “guilt” over us. He said he couldn’t divorce his wife even though he loved me. (His wife was nothing but kind to me.) A few times, Ted would appear remorseful. I remember specifically once after I gave him oral sex, he made us pray in the car. He included me in his “spiritual torment.” There was another time when our genitals touched, and we came very close to actual intercourse. But to him, penetration was the only thing that crossed the line into adultery.

Ted took me on trips to tour Bob Jones University with him for Get Acquainted Days and to “help him with his thesis.” While I was “helping him with his thesis” in the campus library, he lifted my skirt and rubbed me underneath. Then when we left campus to go back to Tennessee, pulling out on Wade Hampton Boulevard he immediately put his hand all the way up under my skirt to touch me.

Dissertation 2 signatures
Title page of Ted Anderson’s master’s thesis, in the BJU Mack library [click to enlarge]
On our senior trip to Charleston, he was the only chaperone with the three seniors, who were all girls. He also used this opportunity for more of the same.

Ted Anderson in canoe on senior trip in Charleston; photo taken by Barb, the only other person in the canoe
Ted Anderson in canoe on senior trip in Charleston; photo taken by Barbra, the only other person in the canoe

I remember that at some point I supposedly had enough high school credits to graduate. So, my last days in school were spent primarily learning typing. I spent my days in a small room in the back of the church auditorium next to the baptismal pool for this class. Of course, Ted came back frequently to “check my progress.”

High school graduation

At Cookeville Christian School there was no emphasis on studying for pre-college testing, since our admittance to BJU was expected and considered a done deal.

CCS graduation
CCS 1983 graduation, from the 1983 yearbook [click to enlarge]
So I “graduated” CCS. I was awarded an 18-inch “Pester the Principal” trophy at my graduation ceremony, a statue of a hound dog that had a raccoon “treed.” This again was a cute nod to the “schoolgirl crush” everyone knew I had on Ted.

Read Part Two here.

Pester the Principal award
Barbra’s “Pester the Principal” trophy
Ted's signature in Barbra's yearbook
[click to enlarge] “Dear Barbra, To say that you are special to me is an understatement. Perhaps no one other than [redacted] is so closely identified with this place in my mind as you. I have so many memories of you that I’ll always hold dear: your ups, your downs, your ins and outs. I remember the countless disciplinary sessions (followed by innumerable headaches). Even more, however, will I cherish your many expressions of love and friendship. Next year, without my ‘number one puppy dog,’ life will be irrevocably different. Nonetheless, I feel richer for having known you. As you continue your training at Bob Jones University, I want to be constantly apprised and informed. In my heart, you’ll still be my ‘baby.’ Love, Mr. Anderson”

16 Comments on “Barbra’s Story Part One: At Cookeville Christian School

  1. I’m glad in a not-glad way that you know of others and they know of you in regards to having the same abuser. May justice grind him into the dust of the earth while he is yet living.
    And may others see and fear and repent of abuses they are committing and still others repent of covering up or not believing.

  2. Barbra is very brave for telling her story. Thank you, BJUGrace, for helping her words “fall out.” The healing is in the telling – for the victim and for others. Prevention is in the telling too. I hope this is a warning to people who sense that something in their church or school just isn’t right.

  3. Thank you for telling your story, Barbra. It was hard to read, but for you… even harder to live and re-live. I’m am so sorry this happened to you. May God bring you justice.

  4. I am so sorry this happened, Barbra! As you were relating what happened, I could still remember that little office and the many HOURS one could spend there getting help with schoolwork, and in your case, much more than that!! It’s unbelievable that he abused and hurt you and others and has “gotten away with it” for so many years! Thank you so much for being brave enough to come forward and tell your story!! I admire your strength and courage and pray that there will be a just resolution! I love you, Barbra, and look back with fond memories of all the good times we had as friends and it just hurts my heart to know that you were being so horrifically abused. I’m praying earnestly, dear friend!

  5. Barbra ~ I read your story with tears streaming down my face. No one should have had to go through what you faced. Your courage and strength are so great. My heart breaks for what you and the other girls were forced to do by what was supposed to be your spiritual leader. I am so sorry I didn’t see that wolf under his sheep’s clothing. I see now and am here to support you all in any way I can.

  6. I couldn’t help but notice that the parents put so much trust in him that he, a man, was the only chaperone for three young ladies in Charleston. I hope and pray that this is never the case anywhere ever any more.

  7. I’ve had to read this a little bit at a time, over the past few days. The warning at the top initially made me anxious, not because I’m easily offended, but because I’m just not easily able to read descriptions of abuse. But, it became very important to me to read all of it, even if only just a little bit at time, because the only gift I can give you is to listen to your story. You deserve to be heard.

    As I have worked my way through it, certain parts have made me ill. Circumstances I understand and remember… the danger of riding in a car in the dark with someone who desires to take advantage of you. The confusion behind why an abuser would seem to enjoy engaging in these behaviors in the presence of others. It’s been a chilling read, not only because it unearths what I desire to push away, but because I realize what an incredible feat it is to write all this out and publish. I can only marvel at your bravery.

    You have done a hard thing, putting this all here. I can only imagine the vulnerability you must feel. I hope that in the midst of it, you feel safe and are gentle with yourself.

    Most of all, I hope that somehow this will lead to some sort of justice, as well as protection for those who might still be in danger at the hands of this man.

    When I can step back, and see the big picture, I see the mind of a predator. Someone who is a monster, hiding in plain sight, manipulative and able to easily gain the trust of others. The kind of person about whom, once the truth is told, people say, “I had no idea, but I wish I had known because I certainly would have stopped it!”

    I’ve heard those words before.

    I trust that your bravery will prevent others from being abused, whether by this man in particular, or just by people understanding better the mind of a predator.

  8. At one point in my early years as a new Christian, I used to bemoan the fact that I didn’t grow up in a fundamentalist family–or what I thought one was. I’d grown up attending a denomination which didn’t teach the Scripture. However, looking back many decades later, I’m thankful I didn’t grow up in the “system” that Fundamentalism is–rules, standards, being an example of set rules, elevating leaders, and being abused by those in authority. Rather, as a little girl I viewed Jesus as Love and knew He loved me. After walking in fundamentalism for about 5 years, I felt a wall between me and the Lord. He was distant and I couldn’t be good enough. My heart goes out to the many wounded saints who were born into the “system.” I hope you can shed it and walk in the joy and love of Jesus Christ. His yoke is easy; His burden is light. And I especially pray that Barbra will get all the help and hope she can to overcome the pain of her abuse. I salute her for coming forth, and I pray that it will free others to open up and receive help as well.

  9. Barbara, I’m sorry to hear what you’ve been through. May you find hope and healing in the One who will someday wipe every tear from our eyes.

  10. My dear best friend, I wept for you as I read your story. I read with tears as you talked about my dad being the first principal of CCS…
    After that first year, when my family and I left Cookeville for the mission field, I had no idea I was leaving you behind to face such horrific circumstances. I am very proud of you for speaking up NOW and putting a voice to this monstrous behavior. I stand with you. I will do whatever I can to support you and the others who went through this in Cookeville.

    These past several year, I have also been shouting my story to the world, in hopes it will encourage and help others in similar circumstances. I had 10 beautiful children, homeschooled them, loved the Lord Jesus with all of my heart….and somehow ended up having my “godly” husband sexually abuse my children. The church affiliation I was with at that time encouraged me that I should honor, respect and forgive him. We were told not to press charges, and not tell anyone. I struggled to do what was “right”… And my poor children were not given a voice. After a time, I began to look around me and realize the messed up lie I was being fed. I came out of that oppression…speaking out against this devastating, warped behavior. He ended up going to jail…

    My family is safe and healing today.

    I am truly amazed to see sins against children covered up and hidden.

    I applaud you, my dear friend, for coming forward and sharing your story. I love you and miss you!


    • Jill,

      So glad to hear that you stuck up for your kids. More women need to hear this.

  11. Barbra,
    First of all, I would like to second what everyone is saying about how brave you have been to share your experiences at Cookeville Christian School and Bob Jones University. I truly hope this will heighten people’s awareness of this horror which is sexual abuse, and I also hope it will be healing for you to talk with others about it.

    Another Cookeville Christian School student encouraged me to write about any instances where Ted Anderson acted in inappropriate ways toward me. I honestly don’t know how I escaped the fate that you, Amy, and Karen (and others) endured. Mr. Anderson never touched me in an inappropriate manner that I can remember, and I can’t recall if any of the paddlings I got were done without a witness. Here are the few things that he did that could be considered “grooming:”

    – I remember what Karen talked about when Ted had the girls sit cross-legged on the floor with our knee-length skirts. When we tried to pull our skirts to cover our knees, he said “stop being so prissy.”

    – One time, I remember he had everyone spread out around the sanctuary and lie on our backs on the floor to do a breathing exercise. He walked around and looked at everyone while we were breathing. I remember feeling very uncomfortable, but I wasn’t sure why at the time

    – Ted used to talk to me about my relationship with my father from time to time. My father wasn’t (and still isn’t) a Christian. Mr. Anderson told me that I should consider him as my father while I’m at school. I passed on that offer.

    – In the 1983-1984 school year, I was the only senior. Ted took me on a senior trip to BJU (he was trying to convince me to go there when I graduated), and then we went to Charleston, SC. His wife was the only other person with us. We went on a tour of a submarine at Ft. Sumter. He told me that I should climb up the ladder in the tube that led to the hatch. I started up the ladder and then realized that with him standing under me, he would be able to see up my skirt. When I refused to go up any further, he gave me the old “stop being so prissy” line.

    – On that same trip, we were staying at a Bed and Breakfast. I had changed into a nightgown and was ready for bed when he knocked on my door. I opened the door slightly, and he told me that he and his wife needed to come into my room so we could have a devotion time. I told him that I needed to change back into my normal clothes first (I had forgotten to bring a bathrobe). He gave me the old line again and then pretty much just marched into my room. It was a minute or two before his wife came into the room, so there I was with my nightgown and no bra. I know he could see through the nightgown. I assume that I found a blanket or something to cover my front with. I don’t know what his wife thought about all that. It didn’t seem to cause her any concern.

    I don’t know if any of this is helpful, but I want to do anything I can to support you, Amy, Karen, and the others.


  12. Hey Barbra this is Nathan Winebarger …..I do not have the words to give you after reading this story ….I heard about this so I searched it and found your story and Karens and Amies as well and I wished I knew at the time maybe it could have been stopped sooner …I just want you to know that my heart goes out to you ,you did not deserve any of this may God contuniue to work with you because I know there is not a day that you dont re live in some way or another …GOD Bless you and if you want to just chat friend me on FB

  13. I am sorry for all that happened to you guys. I am like the rest and had no ideal what was going on. Your brave for telling the story. I wish you all the best. Mark

  14. Thank you for telling your story. I am going to share this because the more the world knows about how predators work, the more likely they are to be caught. He used God to manipulate all of you and your families so he could abuse you. God will punish him for what he has done.