Wendy’s hopes for Bob Jones University
This post is Part Five of a five-part series telling Wendy Terrado’s account of her rape on the campus of Bob Jones University, the subsequent cover-up of the rape, the GRACE investigation, and Wendy’s attempts at communication with officials at Bob Jones University.
The following is an email Wendy Terrado sent to GRACE in November of 2014, when she, as a Task Force Member, was anticipating receiving the semifinal Report. Her subject line read, “What I’d like to see as a result of the GRACE investigation.”
I realize that the semifinal report will arrive to me sometime today; however, I wanted to provide a glimpse of what I’m hoping to see within the BJU culture as a result of this process. These are my own thoughts and are clearly not influenced by whatever is already contained in the report. This is where my heart has landed as I’ve prayed toward this Task Force meeting:
First, I hope that the university leadership can comprehend that the emotional outrage from various “victims” is not — and never has been — about money. I’d love to say that we all simply want justice, but the reality is that some people’s wounds remain so deep and raw that vindictiveness is a goal for some. I can understand that perspective, particularly since justice is impossible in many aged situations.
Instead of justice, I think that what we’d love is a “do over” —
- I’d like to have experienced a life without shame. It’s a shame that is etched into our minds hearts, and bodies. It touches every relationship, every dream and every nightmare in ways that we cannot convey to those who don’t “get it.”
- I’d like to have lived a student life that did not sear my will, my conscience, and my memory with the invasion of “show-window” platitudes and, quite frankly, lies.
- I’d have loved to live my entire life without uninvited panic attacks, sudden tears, entrenched shame, unwelcomed nightmares, sudden memories, and encountering certain smells without sheer nausea and physical aches.
- I’d like to have no suicide, no flashbacks, no dissociation and no intensely painful loneliness in my young adulthood.
- I’d like to have had no headaches as I smothered my emotions and faked my way through life.
- I’d like to have no scars from my years of self-injury.
- I’d like to settle into a church without intense terror for my child’s safety.
Since a “do over” isn’t possible (Control+Z doesn’t tend to work outside of the computer context.) I believe we all want honesty. Here’s what I think is the only right response from the university:
- I’d like to see offending leadership completely removed from leadership roles. By “offending leadership” I mean those who have preached, taught, lectured, spoken, written, counseled or otherwise influenced “victims” in an illegal, non-grace-filled manner.
- I’d like to see university leaders trained to BE leaders. True leaders CARE about those who follow them. That care for others is tremendously larger than caring about themselves, their positions, their reputations, and their institutions.
- I’d like to see true freedom among the ADULTS who attend the university. This would mean that students would be permitted to disagree in a respectful manner, to question content without leaders assuming students are questioning their authority and thus feeling threatened & defensive in a conversation that should focus on discovering truth.
- I’d like to see the university admit full responsibility…
- For their wrongful teaching on the topics of abuse and victimization;
- For their hideous manner of demeaning women and addressing vulnerable, hurting souls with instructive, demanding words that bounce off a wounded heart;
- For their decades upon decades of influencing other “leaders” to graduate from the university with a recommendation for them to perpetrate abuse and victimization with the tacit affirmation that this is truly holy;
- For the need to invest massive funding and time from dedicated NON-university representatives to retrain many current students and past graduates so that the abuse and victimization can be brought to light and challenged and, ideally, STOPPED.
- I’d like to see the university realize that God does not need us to defend His reputation. Ours is a God of TRUTH. His character is not diminished by His people’s wrongs.
Here is my hope for future students:
- I want them to know — deeply know, to their very core — the amazing GRACE-filled relationship God invites us to have with Him. This is so much more than a beautiful a capella hymn that echoes in a filled auditorium.
- I want students to live a life of HOPE. We all live in a fallen world and experience situations that do not represent God’s Kingdom. Our HOPE is that Christ redeems us, comforts us, restores us and redeems our pain, This is not a platitude, nor an emotional/obedience switch that can be commanded and controlled. It is a process of God patiently at work in each life.
- I want students to be able to FREELY express questions, heartaches, and faith-less moments when they can acknowledge that God seems far away or not quite real — and that their admission can bring healing and hope and love instead of attack and condemnation and legalism.
- I’d like to see university faculty and staff connect with biblical CONTEXT and integrate the Bible fully into real life instead of proof-texting opinions and dismissing the extensive patience God exhibits with each of His people.
- I’d like the “show window” to disappear. I’d like realty to be portrayed. I’d like God’s LIGHT to shine instead of good works, lovely appearance, and proper emotions.
- I’d like to see students engaged in REAL friendships and real relationships. I’d like “victims” to experience healing and be able to grow into trusting, healthy relationships that do not simply repeat their victimization pattern in a new setting. The university sees a lot of “new love” as relationships are birthed, but I’d like “victims” to experience “old love” that is deep and honest and non-condemning and non-controlling.
- I’d like to see a university setting that models trustworthy, safe leadership that does the right thing even when it’s hard or uncomfortable. This change alone would prevent graduates from cynicism of church leaders and second-guessing their honesty.
- I’d like to see leadership that fosters TRUST so that graduates are discerning of sheep and wolves.
- I would like students to experience peaceful sleep both during their tenure at the university and also throughout life, knowing that their leadership models SAFETY and security — physical, spiritual, and relational.
A key distinction I’ve settled on over recent weeks is the difference between resolution and restoration. The university’s impact cannot be undone. Because of their mishandling of my on-campus rape, I will never know old love in a lifelong marriage. Because of their legalism I will never regain my years of battling depression, perfectionism, of never being enough, never doing enough, and never being good enough. I will never regain the days spent in 3-day hold following my suicide attempt. Although I have grown enormously and I believe that God will restore what the locusts have eaten, a part of me will always wonder how I can be more confident and comfortable with myself and with leadership.
I will always wonder who I was supposed to be. Who was I before the university’s abusive handling of my “victimization”? What was my intended purpose? Where would God have used me if I hadn’t been detained in this healing journey?
Please note that this email is simply an expression of my heart and is not representative of anyone but myself. It is a compilation of the brokenness I’ve experienced firsthand and also what I’ve witnessed as I’ve walked alongside others in the healing process.
Though Wendy’s hopes for the University have for the most part not yet come to pass, we at BJUGrace continue to hope with her that the light of mercy and truth will shine fully and truly and Jesus Christ will be fully glorified, in the love that is shown to the wounded, the protection that is given to the weak, and the swift justice that is accomplished even for perpetrators who present themselves as show windows, on the campus of Bob Jones University.