Cookeville timeline and why we’re posting

A Timeline of the Cookeville Christian School cases as related to Bob Jones University
fall 1979 Ted Anderson, soon to be a graduate student at BJU, became the principal at Cookeville Christian School in Tennessee. According to allegations made in three affidavits, he began grooming, molesting, and abusing shortly after arriving at the school.
May 1983 Barbra, the first Cookville victim, graduated from CCS and went on to BJU in the fall.
May 1985 Barbra left BJU after 2 years; did not return to Cookeville.
May 1985 Karen, the second Cookeville victim, graduated from CCS and went on to BJU in the fall.
March 1986  Amie, the third Cookeville victim, told her parents about Ted Anderson.
                 The pastor of the BJU-planted church called someone from BJU for advice; was allegedly advised to ask for Ted Anderson’s resignation and not talk about what he had done. According to statements from those involved, the police were not called, even though because of Amie’s age this was a mandated reporting situation.
                 The dean of students at BJU was informed that Ted Anderson had taken advantage of three girls in the Christian school and that Karen, a student at the time, had been one of his victims. Karen was seen twice by a dorm counselor who did not talk with her about her abuse.
May 1986 Karen left BJU after just one year and returned to Tennessee.
fall 1986   Amie began her senior year at CCS; struggled and failed; took the GED.
Jan 1987  Amie was sent to BJU at the age of 17 (she had turned 17 the previous November).
                 The dean of students was aware that Amie was one of the victims from Cookeville.
                 No one at BJU notified law enforcement, even though, according to Amie’s affidavit, she was only 17, which made this a mandated reporting situation.
                 Amie was counseled three times about the abuse she experienced, once by the dean of students and twice by the dorm counselor. She remembers being counseled to repent of her own sin in the abuse (even though she was eleven years old when the abuse started) and to forgive and forget. After receiving this counseling, Amie struggled even more deeply with shame and guilt.
May 1988 Amie left BJU after just one and a half years and did not return.
Dec 10, 2014 The GRACE report revealed that the dean of students confessed to having been ignorant of mandated reporting laws.
Dec 11, 2014 President Steve Pettit said, “I would like to sincerely and humbly apologize to those who felt they did not receive from us genuine love, compassion, understanding and support after suffering sexual abuse or assault …To them I would say—we have carefully listened to your voice. We take your testimony in this report to our hearts. We intend to thoroughly review every aspect and concern outlined in the investigation and respond appropriately.”
Dec 15, 2014 President Steve Pettit said of the counseling program, the content of which had not substantially changed since the 1980s, “We have a solid approach toward counseling people where we are helping those who have experienced sexual abuse or assault. We actually have it in place.”
March, 2015 President Steve Pettit  announced that a highly credentialed but anonymous attorney “conducted a review of our files that we are aware reference sexual abuse/assault. The review did not uncover any instances where the University failed to comply with its reporting obligations.” 
March and April, 2015 President Steve Pettit made it very clear that the content of the trauma counseling at BJU would remain unchanged.
Aug 2015 Bob Jones Third wrongly declared that the Greenville police had said, “We found not one instance of Bob Jones University hiding from the police any criminal action whatsoever.”

Some people have wondered why BJUGrace is providing a platform for those who had been victimized and participated in the G.R.A.C.E. investigation to tell their stories, naming themselves and their perpetrators. Dan Allender, author of The Wounded Heart, as well as other credentialed trauma counselors, have said that telling your story can be an important step in the road to healing from trauma. However, if after telling your story (or a tiny part of it), you’re shamed, blamed, and silenced, you’ll find that rather than healing taking place, the trauma is exacerbated.

The G.R.A.C.E. report indicated that about about 60% of those who had been victimized who took their survey believed that when they tried to get help at BJU, their trauma was increased.  For many, instead of being offered love and protection while being assured “it was not your fault,” their shame only intensified.

Here, though, is a new opportunity for those who were victimized to tell their stories. It is a new opportunity for the Christian community to say, “It was not your fault.” It is a new opportunity for us to offer love and support and to determine to the best of our ability to be aware of the reality of wolves in sheep’s clothing and to protect the vulnerable who are under our care. It is a new opportunity for abusers to truly repent, and for those who covered for abusers while shaming and blaming the victims to repent as well. We understand that forgiveness (release) needs to happen, and in many cases in which former victims have spoken, it has already occurred. Forgiving does not preclude speaking.

The posts so far have received encouraging, supportive responses. Behind the scenes, God is doing great things. The Lord Jesus is healing the shattered in heart as He promised He would.  He is even restoring long-damaged relationships. His work in this particular situation is ongoing.

We don’t hate BJU as an institution, or any individuals at BJU, and don’t want to destroy them. We simply want to see truth and love prevail. We believe this is what our Savior wants as well.

5 Comments on “Cookeville timeline and why we’re posting

  1. This timeline is helpful, especially with the verbal framing that explains the “why tell; why do this publicly?” — it is a question that seems to remain a loud call. My prayer is that the volume will experience static as these achingly truthful stories speak soul to soul, heart to heart. The “why tell [on the leaders]” will eventually be replaced with “how could they victimize these children?”

  2. Thank you for this explanation. I think it’s easy for people to misunderstand or to speculate about motives, and I think you’ve graciously expressed that.

    I, too, was 17 when I disclosed my abuse. It’s confusing to me why when Dr Bob stated that the law was followed, everyone is satisfied. But, when those who did not experience what he’s describing share our experiences, we are told that we are lying or that we couldn’t actually know that or prove it. I can prove it. Why is it wrong for us to share our experiences?

    I guess I hope people can understand, as they tell us to “move on,” that speaking is a part of moving on for some. It doesn’t indicate hatred or bitterness. It doesn’t make a person “disaffected.” It’s part of healing, part of learning not to be ashamed. Part of learning to speak the wrongs done so that we can begin to forgive, and heal, and move on.

    I WISH my abuser had been reported. He admitted to me there were others. I feel burdened knowing that if I knew it was a crime, if it was reported, others could have been spared.
    One thing some might not realize, is that BJU was the one who initiated the GRACE investigation. We did not seek out an opportunity to share our past with others. And, we can’t control what they do with the results. BUT – bringing it all up again left many of us with a lack of closure and a struggle to know what to do with all of “it.”

    In the long run, I think it’s a positive thing (speaking only for myself) because buried trauma is still something that needs to be dealt with, and it CAN be death with. The investigation just became the tool that forced me to deal with it. That needed to happen in some way. It’s went from something that I felt shame about, something that I was petrified of remembering, to something that I am no longer afraid to own as part of my past. I’m no longer ashamed, I’m not longer afraid of the truth, and I no longer am bothered by people trying to “help me” interpret the truth of what happened. But, I’ve found that I can DO something with all of it! I’ve found healing and hope.

    So, if it seems like there is hatred towards the University, I hope that those who feel that way can have patience, and realize that the GRACE investigation unearthed difficult things, things that we were afraid to remember and face. It brought it all back, put it right back in front of us, and we all have to find our own way to find closure and to find a way forward. THIS, sharing, speaking, not being afraid of our own stories, is PART of that! Good things can result, but it takes time! This is not about attention seeking, or hatred, or bitterness.. it’s about getting rid of the shame, and finding freedom. And there is MUCH freedom on the other side, it just takes a while to get there!

  3. Michelle, You verbalize very well how important it is for healing to speak the truth. That’s why we victims have had trouble telling our stories, because we were made to keep the big secret from everyone, including those we should have trusted 100 percent. There was no one to turn to when the abuser has made you into an island that only he/she is permitted to visit. So lying in creative ways, being sneaky, being made to feel guilty was taught to us and modeled over long periods of time. When you are young, insecure, easily manipulated and constantly told you need to repent for your selfish attitude, you can’t possibly produce the vinegar to stand up for yourself. This is magnified when all the adults use scripture to support their view of children being wicked, needing the rod, needing humility and repentance. You don’t think there is another life for you without the abuser. You can’t see it coming to an end, because all the adults will always treat you as a child and you must respect and obey.

    But my #1 reason for telling my story is to wake up Christian families who are not there for their kids. Churches are hiding the abuser from his/her consequence when they should be leading the charge to remove this cancer from their congregations. The church body should be a shelter, a protector, a light in the dark to the needs of their people and those who are seeking a new life in Christ. Stop denying that it has been and is going on! Take a stand against it and root it out!

  4. I am quite puzzled why this site is bold to name some names but uses titles instead of names for those who were explicitly named in the Report. In this timeline you use the term “dean of students” [sic]. His name is Jim Berg. Jim Berg covered this up. Jim Berg knew about the abused. Jim Berg told those abused that it was their fault. Jim Berg broke the law repeatedly and failed to report the abuse. JIM BERG must be named.