REPORT: Bob Jones University Failed to Support Sexual Abuse Victims for 40 Years

By Elaina Ramsey 12-11-2014

Rolling Stone is not the only one throwing sexual abuse victims under the bus these days. An alarming report released today reveals that Bob Jones University, a historically fundamentalist Christian college, failed to support nearly 40 victims of sexual abuse over four decades.

In January 2013, Bob Jones University hired GRACE (Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment) to conduct an independent investigation of the college’s response to sexual abuse allegations.

The report states that BJU officials were not adequately prepared or trained to counsel victims appropriately, often treating victims as blameworthy for their abuse or sexual assault experienced during childhood or adulthood.

In a video statement recorded yesterday, BJU President Steve Pettit issued an apology to students and faculty:

On behalf of Bob Jones University, 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. We did not live up to their expectations. We failed to uphold and honor our own core values. We are deeply saddened to hear that we added to their pain and suffering.

The GRACE report outlines a series of recommendations, including recovery assistance, tuition support, and a public apology to victims of sexual abuse. The university has also taken steps in recent years to revise its policies and procedures:

  • To make every member of the faculty and staff a mandatory reporter which requires each to promptly notify law enforcement officials of child sexual abuse.
     
  • To encourage adult victims of sexual assault to report their experience to the appropriate law enforcement officials.
     
  • To make clear that the biblical lesson of forgiveness does not imply that the victim is in any way responsible for the sexual assault or abuse they experienced.
     
  • To provide more extensive training and access to professional counselors with expertise in sexual abuse for University personnel who interact with victims coming to them for care and compassion.

For a complete look at GRACE’s investigation and recommendations, read the full report here.

Elaina Ramsey is women and girls campaign associate at Sojourners.

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