What’s been happening the past couple of years?
Two years ago now, we published the first post on the BJUGrace website, with plans for BJUGrace to be a place for commenting on and responding to the Final Investigative Report executed by Godly Response to Abuse in a Christian Environment on Bob Jones University. (which was designed to look into the mishandling of sexual abuse allegations by BJU authorities), as well as other kinds of abuses that also might be involved.
We also wanted BJUGrace to be a safe platform for any abuse survivor to speak who chose to do so.
The Final Report, which you can see at this website here, was very incriminating of the University. The condemning and shaming way they have taught in the classrooms, the shaming and blaming way they have counseled, the ignorant and sometimes allegedly illegal way they have responded to reports of abuse, the lack of care with information that should have been confidential, the ignoring of accused perpetrators, all of these things showed that through the years there has been a huge problem with BJU’s handing of abuse allegations.
Participating in and experiencing the fallout of the GRACE report was very difficult for many abuse survivors (and vicariously for those who cared about them). Many had dug up long-buried memories in order to help Bob Jones University make things right that were very wrong. After all—they had actually asked.
They had given the impression of really wanting to show true repentance for what they had done wrong.
But in the official University responses, along with saying that the counseling program that had proved damaging to so many would remain in place because it was “Biblical,” BJU President Steve Pettit issued a blanket apology for anyone and everyone employed by BJU who had done wrong, even those in administration who had mishandled cases for decades. Former Dean of Students Jim Berg told BJUGrace that he would not be responding himself in regard to all the ways he had admittedly mishandled abuse allegations. So President Pettit’s apology would have to suffice.
President Pettit also said in March of 2015, “The reviewers to date have found no evidence that the University protected any perpetrators or failed to comply with its reporting obligations.” We don’t know who the “reviewers” are or what modicum of evidence they examined in order to determine that University personnel had not failed in meeting reporting obligations. We here at BJUGrace do know of at least two verified cases, one of which was reported here, with the possibility of several more, in which there was not compliance with reporting obligations.
Over the next two years, while sermons about topics such as “bitterness“ and “bitterness“ and “bitterness“ and “forgiving“ and “forgiving so the abusers don’t win“ continued to be preach, no sermon against abuse or, as far as we are aware, even mentioning abuse as an evil has been preached. In the meantime, as some abuse survivors took up President Pettit on his offer to meet with him (during which time he acted sympathetic), they also found that their files were bereft of vital information—information that confirmed they had reported their abuse and when, details about the level of the assault, or other incriminating information.
When some of us BJUGrace admins met with Steve Pettit, one of the questions asked was “Will officials of Bob Jones University do what they can to help bring perpetrators from the past to justice?” That is, if people who were victimized wanted to shine the light of truth on the evil deeds of a “Christian” perpetrator, and if BJU has evidence of the evil from the past, will BJU administrators support those people and be willing to testify for them.
The answer was no.
Now, since December of 2014, through our website and accompanying Facebook page we have received many responses to the GRACE report and BJU’s response to the GRACE report. One response was a letter written by “The Survivors of the Abuse Response Task Force.” You can read that response here.
This is especially significant because one of those survivors who was part of the Task Force has decided to speak.
The final blow for this particular Task Force Member was the appalling untruths told by Bob Jones III speaking as a representative of Bob Jones University in an interview with the BBC in September of 2015. (You can read the transcript and commentary here.) In this interview, the interviewer said, “When students reported sexual abuse, the perpetrator was not handed over to the authorities.” She went on to say other things, but Bob Jones responded to her entire spoken paragraph with, “No, no, that’s totally false.” The GRACE report shows that actually this statement of his was untrue and the statement of the interviewer’s was accurate. All through the interview you can see a continuation of untrue or half-true statements like this on the part of Chancellor Bob Jones III, combined with what seems like flippancy and perhaps even arrogance.
But when Bob Jones III said, “The University came out of this looking very, very good,” claiming the police had said, “We found not one instance of Bob Jones University hiding from the police any criminal action whatsoever,” and ending it with “praising God,” that was the tipping point for this Task Force Member.
So here we are a year and more later, she is ready to speak, and Monday’s post will begin her story. You can subscribe in the box above to receive the posts via email as soon as they’re posted. Update: Part One of Wendy’s five-part story is available here, along with her open letters to certain members of the BJU administration.