Why has there been a sexual abuse investigation at BJU?
A number of events led up to the abuse investigation conducted by GRACE. This page hits some of the highlights.
In April of 2011, a 20/20 episode aired regarding a woman who had been raped and impregnated by a man in her church years when she was a young teen. It seemed apparent to some that the pastor of that church failed to take appropriate action against the abuser. At the time of the airing of the 20/20 program, this pastor was on the board of BJU, and as a result, a petition began, a Facebook page was created, and other outcries were made on social media, calling for Bob Jones University to remove this pastor from their board. In December of 2011, after intense social media pressure, the pastor in question resigned from the board of Bob Jones University.
In the fall of 2011, in the midst of this ongoing outcry, the Penn State sexual abuse scandal with Jerry Sandusky rocked the nation. This scandal intensified the national interest in sexual abuse and played a part in enlarging the listening audience for BJU-related abuse. Throughout this time, a number of Facebook pages and websites were reporting abuse perpetrated by BJU-related people. Bob Jones III referenced the websites and Facebooks in this chapel talk in November of 2011, when he stated that “sexual abuse has never gone unreported at BJU.”
Throughout the ensuing months, more people spoke out on social media, alleged victims of abuse, and those who cared about them.
In May of 2012, Bob Jones University announced that they would hire an “ombudsman” to help them right any wrongs they may have committed in “underserving” people who had been victimized by sexual abuse. In October of that year, BJU announced that they were hiring the professional investigative team of GRACE, Godly Response to Abuse in a Christian Environment, www.netgrace.org, to conduct an independent investigation of the University regarding charges of sexual abuse and the mishandling of the treatment of sexual abuse victims in the context of the University and Academy over the course of the school’s existence. The University said that they would send out letters to every person who had ever been part of the University—students, faculty, or staff—to participate in this investigation.
Between January 2013 and about April 2013, hundreds of GRACE’s questionnaires were filled out and turned in. Then, over the course of the following months, GRACE proceeded to conduct around a hundred or so interviews with people who either experienced or knew about allegations of sexual abuse or the mishandling of it. At the end of January, 2014, GRACE was just about to conduct the final few interviews in preparation for their final, public report to be issued in March, when they were completely surprised by a Notice of Termination from the University. (More information about that on this page.) After a public outcry, the investigation was reinstated on February 25th.
The final report is due to be published in mid-December. GRACE will make recommendations to Bob Jones University. We can get an idea of what kinds of recommendations they make from the report they made to New Tribes Mission, which can be seen here.
Thank you for creating this website!!
Just want to note that while I do believe it is accurate that BJU agreed to send out letters to every person who had ever been a part of the university, that did not actually happen. I was a victim of a sexual assault related to BJU and did not receive a letter. Many others report that they did not receive letters either.
Many of us who reported to GRACE did so after learning of the investigation through social media, not through any formal notification from the school.
I contacted the school to ask them why I and many others did not receive a letter. I was told that the letters were sent only to those who do not regularly receive BJU mail. I was told that it was mentioned it in a small blurb in one of their alumni magazines. It spite of looking for it in the magazine, it took me a few times of reading through the magazine before I was able to find it. The wording was a bit vague (in my opinion) and from my perspective, would have been unlikely to elicit a response.
I was told by the school that it was mentioned on their website and that alumni could find it there. They acknowledged that it is unlikely that many alumni pull up BJU’s website on a regular basis just to look for potential announcements, however, for whatever reason, they ultimately decided against sending the letter to all of the alumni. I have talked with many, many alumni and all but one learned about it through social media.
Our understanding was that BJU said they were going to send out letters. Maybe we misunderstood. Thank you for that clarification! ~Rebecca
I am almost certain that that was their original plan. I also believe that they were initially going to provide a mailing list to GRACE so that GRACE would be able to send out notices. Am not sure what changed or why that didn’t happen.