Investigation Finds that Bob Jones University Officials Told Sexual Assault Victims to Repent of Their Sins, and Discouraged them from Filing Police Reports


The final report on how Bob Jones University has responded to past reports of sexual abuse and assault has been released.  (Link to report below on this page.)

GRACE, which stands for Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment, began its investigation two years ago. The Board of Trustees at BJU hired the firm.  The Board said it wanted to review policies and procedures for responding to reports of sexual abuse and to review a past instance in which a student alleged that the school did not respond appropriately to reports of abuse.

Bob Jones fired GRACE in early 2014, saying the school was concerned about the direction the firm’s investigation was taking.  Then in February 2014, Bob Jones University announced that it rehired the firm after negotiations between the two sides.

To read GRACE’s final report of the review of sexual abuse disclosures and institutional responses from BJU, click here .

The report commends BJU for “taking unprecedented and proactive steps by voluntarily requesting this independent investigation.”

GRACE investigative review findings

The report said 47 percent of survey takers who self-identified as abuse victims stated that BJU personnel directed them not to make a police report or discouraged them from doing so. The survey comments related to the issue of abuse victims being discouraged from making police reports: It said victims heard, consistently, from chapel speakers and faculty/staff, that abusers should be forgiven, that they bore the sin of bitterness, and that they should not report abusers.

The investigation also raised evidence indicating that information pertaining to some sexual abuse disclosures was not reported to DSS or to law enforcement officials.

According to the report, several of victims expressed deep hurt that the crimes perpetrated against them were not reported to the legal authorities. Dr. James Berg, dean of students (1981-2010), acknowledged there have been some failures to report some sexual crimes. However, he noted, “A failure to report, especially early on, was not an attempt to cover up anything- it was pure ignorance of what to do.”

On a number of occasions, sexual abuse and sexual assault appear not to have been reported to law enforcement or DSS officials because they were mislabeled and not identified as sexual crimes, the report said. BJU officials, on multiple occasions, identified sexual crimes as only moral offenses and disciplined the offender for a moral offense instead of reporting the offense as a crime, GRACE found.

Berg stated that in some instances where sexual abuse or assault had been disclosed, “It never crossed my mind that it was a crime — it was not just that it was not clear; it never crossed my mind,” according to the report.

GRACE also asked Dr. Bob Jones, III, BJU president (1971 to 2005), how he responds to complaints raised by some that the university has not reported some cases out of fear that a report might affect the reputation of the university. Jones, III stated that the university does not involve the law when it is unnecessary to do so, but will when an issue is “deserving of the law’s attention or mandated by the law to do [so].”

GRACE also discussed mandatory reporting laws with Jones, III who reported that he first became aware of these laws approximately 10 to 12 years ago.

When GRACE told Jones, III that mandatory reporting laws had been in place since the 1970s, he stated, “Okay. Well from that time onward if there was mandatory reporting requirements, then obviously they should have. If it didn’t get reported, that is bad. It may not have been deliberate; they may have just not have realized it.”

GRACE conclusion and recommendations

In its conclusion, GRACE thanked those who participated in the investigation, including those who were victims of sexual abuse who attended BJU from the 1960s to the present day, commending their courage.

The GRACE report said, “Most of those interviewed expressed their love for BJU and did not wish ill upon the university. Instead, they desperately want the university to appreciate where it went wrong in responding to cases of abuse and chart a path that will better serve victims in the future, as well as more accurately reflect the teaching of our Lord.”

The review’s final recommendations for BJU’s “Godward sorrow for past offenses” that would include a public apology that is desired by many of the former BJU students who are abuse survivors, providing counseling at BJUs’ expense, funding the completion of degrees for the “handful of former BJU student who are sexual abuse victims that left the school prior to completing their degrees, and that BJU publicly offer to make personal contact with every known survivor of abuse who was “hurt by the university’s response to his or her disclosures” to listen to them and acknowledge the university’s responsibility and its “failed response to their disclosures of sexual abuse.”

The report also recommended a number of procedural and guideline changes at BJU, including changes in teaching materials, who is allowed to speak on campus and disassociation from people who have been hurtful or insensitive to victims of sexual abuse.

Statements preceding release of report

Bob Jones University released the following statement Wednesday:

“Bob Jones University President Steve Pettit announced to the BJU faculty, staff and students this morning that GRACE has completed its report on how the University responded in the past to student reports of sexual abuse or assault.

“In November 2012, BJU initiated the GRACE investigation to make certain university policies and procedures for handling reports of sexual abuse and assault comply with every aspect of the law and ensure a loving, scripturally based response to those involved. Additionally, BJU leadership wished to have an opportunity to communicate with and be reconciled with any former students or other individuals who believe they received inadequate help when they reported to a BJU representative that they had been abused at some point in their past.

“In making the announcement, Pettit said, ‘We are all awakening to the depth and breadth of this societal problem.  Colleges and universities across the country are reassessing how they handle cases of sexual abuse and assault.  We want to be part of that solution.  To do that, we must first take the mote out of our own eye and address our own failings. The GRACE report helps in that effort by helping us identify areas of concern.’

“While the report focuses on the experiences of approximately 20 out of over 90,000 former students, it identified a number of instances where BJU’s response was inadequate and students were not satisfied with the help they received. It also identified a number of specific areas requiring improvement.

“During his presentation earlier today, President Pettit apologized to the abuse and assault victims who said they did not receive adequate help and expressed his appreciation for their courage in coming forward and sharing their experiences with GRACE. He stated, ‘I would like to sincerely and humbly apologize to those who felt they did not receive from us genuine love, compassion, understanding and support after suffering sexual abuse or assault …To them I would say-we have carefully listened to your voice. We take your testimony in this report to our hearts. We intend to thoroughly review every aspect and concern outlined in the investigation and respond appropriately.’

“President Pettit will immediately appoint a committee which will review the report findings and recommendations over the next 90 days.

“‘For those actions to be truly meaningful, we must make a long-term commitment that creates genuine, sustainable change,’ said Pettit. ‘This will take a lot of hard work in the coming months, in fact, years. This is a process of change that must and will happen by the grace of God. This is our solemn pledge.'”

GRACE released the following statement Wednesday:

“The purpose of this independent investigation, at the invitation of Bob Jones University, was to address the responses of the university to instances of sexual abuse disclosed or otherwise known to the institution. As such, this comprehensive report contains painful disclosures by sexual abuse victims and strong language when describing the impact of the institutional responses to abuse disclosures. We caution readers who have their own histories of abuse that reading this report may trigger painful memories and you may find portions difficult to process. We urge you to take steps to care for yourself in protective ways, seek support and only read the report in a place of safety and with the encouragement of faithful companions.

“The GRACE team continues to be amazed and humbled by this two-year journey. We have encountered some of the most amazing individuals who walk the face of this earth and consider each of them to be real life heroes.  Thank you for allowing us into your lives. As this historical process comes to an end, we continue to pray that the words of this report will fuel hope and healing in the lives of many as well as bring about transformational changes in the life of Bob Jones University. To that end, we look forward to having a front row seat at watching God work.

SOURCE: Gabrielle Komorows

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