“My missionary offender came back to the U.S.”
BJUGrace provides a platform for people to tell their stories who have survived abuse in the context of Bob Jones University. 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 witnesses, to confirm to the best of our ability that her story is true and accurate.
The author of this article has chosen to remain anonymous, and legally her anonymity must be honored, but the people named in the article, as well as other representatives of these institutions, know who this accuser is, because she has tirelessly been in contact with them trying to make things right.
by anonymous Bob Jones University abuse survivor
“He’s here – here. He’s not just back in the U.S. He’s here in South Carolina, right here in Greenville.”
I heard these words last month and felt shock. For years, I had lived knowing that the one who criminally sexually assaulted me was on another continent, far away from me, from my family, from my community. I feared what horrors he might be unleashing on other young, vulnerable women, but I never thought he would return.
While his return sparked memories of the fear and humiliation of that time, it also offered me a clear step forward. Perhaps now is the time to speak. Perhaps now, my words will be heard and serve to help protect someone who cannot yet speak.
On December 24 and 25th of 1993, Christmas Eve and Christmas morning, I experienced an extended period of criminal sexual assault by Richard DeVall, who at the time was a ministerial student at Bob Jones University.
I myself was a recent BJU graduate, and at the urging of my former “campus mom,” I went with her to be questioned about the assault by the BJU Dean of Students, Jim Berg. Berg didn’t mention reporting to the police (which I had been taught was not a “Christian” response). Instead, he indicated that this was a matter that would be addressed by the spiritual authority over me—that is, himself, Jim Berg, as the Dean of Students and head of counseling at BJU (link).
After this report, I was informed that Devall had met with Tony Miller, the Dean of Men at BJU at the time, had admitted to everything I had reported, and was being suspended. Shortly after these events he began stalking me, putting notes on my car windshield, telling me he was outside my house watching and thinking about me as I slept. I was terrified of him.
About a year or so later, the Dean of Students called to tell me DeVall was returning as a student. He asked for assurances that I would not do anything to hinder this godly young man from completing his preparation for ministry. When I told him of the stalking after the assault, he assured me DeVall would not be permitted off campus during the remainder of his educational training.
However, only weeks later I found that even this promise was empty. I was contacted by the personnel director of the agency where I worked to tell me DeVall had applied to work there. After someone from the agency contacted Jim Berg to obtain more details about the assault, I was told that Berg read DeVall’s confession to her—and that he confessed to rape, a crime that should have been reported to the police. (He was not hired.)
After DeVall graduated, he went on to become a missionary to Bolivia with Baptist Pioneer Mission (link). I tried to move on.
By 2010 social media was providing a significant platform for abuse survivors to speak, and for the first time I realized I wasn’t alone in what had happened to me. I also began to learn about the risk that, statistically speaking, those who sexually assault can pose to other vulnerable women, especially when they face no significant consequences for their actions.
In 2011 DeVall came to BJU in the official capacity of representing his mission organization for Mission Emphasis Week (link).That was also the year Bob Jones III said in chapel that the University leaders had always handled sexual assault the way they should.
Finally, in May of 2012, at the encouragement of others, I made a police report. When I made the report, DeVall was in the U.S., but when the police attempted to bring DeVall in for questioning, he fled to Bolivia at the recommendation of his pastor (Paul Kingsbury of North Love Baptist Church, see below).
Later he wrote me a letter asking forgiveness for what he had done, but minimizing the extent of the crime. In that letter he said, “I am willing to do whatever needs to be done to handle this matter in a Biblical way. I will cooperate and work with all those who are involved with the issue.” However, in subsequent conversations I had with his mission board, it became clear that he was never planning to return to the U.S., as he did not want to face the risk of prosecution.
In the meantime, pressure was being brought against University administrators regarding how they had mishandled sexual abuse cases, and in 2012 University administrators hired GRACE (Godly Response to Abuse in a Christian Environment) to conduct an investigation as to how they had handled abuse (link to report).
At that time, GRACE wanted to interview anyone who had been involved with the school whose abuse situation had been mishandled. It was hard for me to give details about this story, but I did, because I wanted so much for the University to tell the truth about what had happened, and I wanted them to change and truly desire to help others.
During GRACE’s investigation of this crime, they sought interviews with both the mission board and DeVall himself, but neither would agree to be interviewed. (See footnote 80 on page 99 of the report here.)
The University never did tell the truth about what happened to me or others, and I have yet to see significant change in their approach to counseling and reporting.
Through the last several years I have communicated a number of times with DeVall’s mission board about his offense against me. Among other things, the mission board director told me, “Everyone should be protected under the law, and it is right that we use any legal means to protect [DeVall].” It seemed that he was saying criminal sexual offenders should be protected.
Also, DeVall is in a powerful position of religious authority in his Bolivian community. His mission board has made it clear to me that they will do nothing to try to ensure that he is not committing sexual offenses while overseas.
DeVall’s sending church is North Love Baptist Church (link), whose pastor is Paul Kingsbury, the same man whose organization, Reformers Unanimous (link), was the place Josh Dugger was sent after he was found to have committed sexual assault and adultery (link). North Love is presently raising money for DeVall to continue as a missionary (link) even though they know of my charge against him of criminal sexual assault.
In March of 2019, I received word that DeVall was back in the United States from Bolivia, which meant he could be questioned. Not only was he in South Carolina, I was told, but he had returned to the Greenville area — the place where he committed the crime, where he attended school, and where I still live. A representative of the Greenville County (SC) sheriff’s office called him to come in for questioning.
But DeVall replied that he was not in Greenville County and would not come in for questioning, nor does he have any intentions of ever returning to South Carolina, as he does not want to risk prosecution.
This once again stands in direct opposition to his earlier statement that he would “cooperate and work with all those involved in the issue.”
I have now chosen to tell my story publicly as one way for the truth to be made known, and in hopes that any other possible victims over the years would learn that they are not alone. I also hope that in speaking, perhaps something may happen so that any potential future victims would be protected.