with an open letter to Bob Jones III
A few weeks after what Miss Luena Barker called “the incident,” Wendy relates:
I got a call slip to appear seven minutes after chapel. I would meet with both Drs. Bob on the stage [Jr. and III]. So you go into this massive auditorium, and I thought I was in trouble. I was scared because I was getting so many lectures. I didn’t know what they were going to do to me. I honestly thought I was going to get expelled. . . . The Third was the one talking to me. He told me that I had a choice to make that I could be positive and trust in God or I could let the enemy take over my life. It was this simplistic either/or. There wasn’t compassion of how I was feeling right then. I was glad he didn’t lecture me. I really thought I was going to be in trouble.
[They] 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.
It’s stories like this from Wendy that caused a large number of people to rise up in protest against words such as these spoken by Bob Jones III in the chapel sermon of November 15, 2011:
I just want to tell you for your own peace of mind, Bob Jones University doesn’t do that [sweep sexual abuse under the rug like the people at Penn State]. . . . Physical molestation, sexual molestation, it will not be swept under the rug. It never has been. It’s not the way we operate. It’s always reported to the authorities. . . . Nothing is swept under the rug. . . . Nobody would be kept on the board or on the faculty or on the staff who did such things as that, swept things like that under the rug. . . . I just want you to know that, you can just tell anybody who might say anything to you, that that’s not the way, by the grace of God, the institution I attend does not function that way. It never has.
It seems apparent that Bob Jones III misrepresented the school in this chapel speech. But even further, we also have reason to believe that the attitude of Bob Jones III, the President at the time of Wendy’s assault and currently the Chancellor of the University, has not changed since he confronted Wendy in the late 1980s. Though this reprehensible mishandling of this criminal assault took place about 25 years ago, the way Bob Jones III spoke to Wendy in the late 1980s is consistent with the way he spoke to the Bible conference audience in the spring of 2013, telling those who had been abused that if they “have a bitter spirit” then the abuser “will win.” Less than four years ago, he allowed for no acknowledgement that something terrible and traumatizing has just happened to someone who had been victimized, the need for healing and counseling, and the need for the abuser to be brought to justice.
Can you imagine speaking this way to people who had recently lost loved ones in the attack on the Twin Towers?
Bob Jones III also said to GRACE in 2013, regarding the possibility that the University was simply trying to avoid negative attention in keeping Wendy’s on-campus rape quiet, “Well, naturally, you don’t want unnecessary negative attention to be brought” (GRACE report page 277). The attitude of the late 1980s was still the attitude in 2013. If that attitude has changed, we have seen no evidence of it, since only a little over a year ago he said the University “came out of [the GRACE investigation] looking very, very good.”
In the same 2013 interview with GRACE, he also said, “If somebody has stolen, if somebody is a shoplifter, anything like that is taken to the police.” It appears to be generally acknowledged that BJU has dealt harshly with thieves. What they have not dealt with appropriately is sexual abuse.
When Wendy read the GRACE report, several things about her own story came as a shock to her, because she had been so closely involved with the Jones family prior to the time of the vicious sexual assault.
Then, when she heard Bob Jones III say in an official interview with the BBC in September 2015 that “the University had come out of [the GRACE investigation] looking very, very good,” she was appalled.
But on page 184 of the GRACE Report, Bob Jones III is reported as telling GRACE, “If we cause that pain [of mishandling cases of sexual abuse], if we can do anything in retrospect to ease that pain, we are ready; we want to. . . . If our best has not been good enough, then we want to hear from those that we failed with so we can make it right the best we know how.”
In June of 2016, Wendy sent the following letter to Bob Jones III. She received no reply. So, in November she sent it again, informing him that it will now be published as an open letter. She allowed more time to pass but was still met with silence. So now, here it is:
June 27, 2016 original mailing date
November 18, 2016 letter resent (with introductory cover letter)
Dear Dr. Bob Jones III —
I would love (as I’m sure you do) to just leave this matter alone. But as your public lies increased, as your words have disregarded me personally, and as the pattern of protecting abusers continues to emerge, I can no longer ignore the pang in my heart that hungers for God’s truth.
There was a time when I considered myself close to your family. I visited with your mother over meals. I listened to your grandmother recite Scripture. Your photo was taken with me in various leadership positions. I not only took Beneth’s “Preacher’s Wife” class but assisted her and Mrs. Yearick with set up and clean up so that I could get to know them and learn from each woman.
Yes, I was a “BOJ” – I bought the whole picture of the perfect, clean, trustworthy university campus. I was hungry for a Christian community that functioned as family. In fact, you yourself presented the “Wings of Eagles” promo video when I first learned of BJU. Since I came from a home that was lacking in authentic Christianity, I longed to become part of “The Show Window.” Little did I know that my Greenville experience would offer an even greater dichotomy between private truth and public façade than what I’d been trying to escape.
Imagine my surprise when I read in the GRACE report your perspective of my on-campus rape and the way it was handled. Your response to the questioning is what I portray as the “Big Bad Wolf” persona – “I’ll huff and I’ll puff…” as though it had all been someone else’s problem. You did nothing to remedy the situation (then or now), yet you were “the” president of this very unsafe university that took its every cue from YOU. Twenty+ years later I continue to see how very untrustworthy the University is.
Several weeks ago [as of the original June letter] you betrayed me personally. You said that the university did nothing wrong. You said that the GRACE report made you look good. SERIOUSLY??? I won’t ask the obvious questions of “Did you read the report” and “Did you consider the extensive, significant evidence that was gathered during the investigation.” Instead, I just want to understand.
- How did the report make Bob Jones University look good?
- How did my on campus rape at knifepoint with attempted abduction (that was NEVER reported to law enforcement) look good?
- How does inviting known criminals (and those harboring known criminals) to speak and pray and lead your students look good?
- How do you believe even a single sentence of your “looking good” speeches?
I had foolishly, selfishly, naively thought that you would contact me post-investigation. Even a form letter from your office would have been better than ignoring me – not “just” another victim – but a person who KNEW and INTERACTED with your whole family. Did you know your grandmother could recite the entire book of Revelation? She did so with only one “help” as I visited her. I exchanged notes with Beneth several times regarding personal issues. I accompanied her in the art gallery once. We prayed together (just the two of us) when she visited Mission Prayer Band. I did a “courtesy date” with each of your sons. I understood many aspects of your family. You and Beneth even sent a wedding gift to me with hand-written (not reproduced) signatures. So yes, I was expecting a response much more personal than a public dismissal.
If I had authority, I would have used the GRACE report as reason to fire you. Yes, fire. It would not have been a quietly handled HR issue, which the GRACE recommendation generously allowed. It would have been public and specific as to your significant shortcomings in both leadership and character deficits.
Had the University chosen to “do right” post-GRACE report, you would have willingly stepped down in a public forum. You would have personally admitted fault. You would have publically confessed to picking and choosing which information to claim and which to hide. You would have chosen honesty over saving face. Your refusal to face truth dislocated many of us from who God created us to be and from his use for us and our effectiveness. Your leadership has consistently been a distraction from God’s purpose for us.
I will be forever ashamed that I attended Bob Jones University. Long ago, I removed it from my resume, from LinkedIn, and from every script that introduces me. I spat you out of my life, erroneously thinking you were neither hot nor cold (just incredibly stupid in many arenas).
Over recent years you have proved otherwise. You are beyond cold. You are frozen. Frozen in your ways. Frozen in your lies. Frozen in your self-promoted glamour. Frozen in your idiocy. Frozen in your public persona. Frozen in your growth.
You can act as you want.
Your constituents can believe what they want.
Political figures and local leaders can see what they want.
Greenville churches can ignore or accept you to their hearts’ content.
But the rest of the world is watching.
People know the truth of how you manipulate people and information.
People know the truth of how your leadership is reproduced among those you have led.
The truth is far superior to mere facts, isolated and out of context. The truth will not be silenced.
GRACE participant and Task Force Member