Bob Jones University Breaks with GRACE, Prematurely Ending Investigation into the School’s Culture of Sexual Abuse

How do you deal with your school’s reputation for astronomical levels of unchecked sexual abuse? Probably the first step is to try to find out what’s causing the situation so you know what needs fixing — right?

Nah, that’s just silly. We’ll pray instead.

(Image via John Shore)

In an article I’m not even going to try to top, and will really recommend you check out for yourself, journalist John Shore‘s report on the situation at Bob Jones University. In a nutshell:

Terrible, terrible things happen at Bob Jones University. They do, and they always have, because the white men for whom it generates such prodigious profits make certain that every teaspoon of the Bible served at their school comes stirred into a cup of fear.

In more specific detail: the university came to recognize that it had a reputation as a haven in which men who sexually abuse women face no consequences, so they entered into a partnership with a ministry group called Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment (GRACE — for real). It seems that GRACE focuses primarily on the abuse of children, which they’re apparently defining that broadly enough to include college-aged women. And though they seem shy to mention the s-word too often on their website, their FAQ seems to indicate that they focus on sexual abuse in particular.

So somebody thought it was necessary to make up a ministry helping deal with sexual abuse in the Christian churches — who’d have thought?

Anyway, GRACE started their investigation into the environment. It was rough going, because for some strange reason people were reluctant to come forward with information about their experiences. They encouraged students to complete an online survey and got trusted members of the BJU community to encourage the same. They interviewed people both in person and by phone, and collected written statements for review and analysis. They had planned to release a final report detailing their conclusions sometime this spring.

Then, yesterday, GRACE announced the termination of their working relationship with BJU:

With a very heavy heart, GRACE announces that on January 27th, 2014, we received a ‘Notice of Termination’ from Bob Jones University.

This ‘Notice’ took GRACE by complete surprise as there had been no prior indications from BJU that termination was even being considered. Furthermore, this termination occurred days before GRACE was to conduct the last interviews of this 13-month investigation and begin drafting the final report scheduled for publication in March.

Despite repeated requests, GRACE has not been informed of why the agreement was terminated. However, due to the fact that GRACE certainly wishes to keep all options on the table in order to complete what has been started, we have spent the last week in communication with BJU and we remain open to continued dialogue.

But surely there’s nothing fishy going on with that. Right?

BJU posted a corresponding statement on their blog, in which they explained how their growing concerns about “how GRACE was pursuing our objectives” led to the termination, and outlined their efforts to make BJU a safer place for potential abuse victims, including “live Sexual Abuse Awareness training [for staff and students]” and “a comprehensive Child Safety Workshop for local church leaders”. (Is anybody else disturbed by how frequently BJU elides the difference between college-aged young women and little kids?)

They end on this note:

We grieve with those who have suffered abuse in their past, and we desire to minister the grace of Christ to them. Our prayer for the abused is that God will be their refuge and strength.

I hope I’ll be forgiven for cynically pointing out that ministering the grace of Christ and praying for the abused to find strength in God is a lot more convenient than actually pinning down the problem and finding a way to make changes.

About Sara Lin Wilde

Sara Lin Wilde is a recovering Catholic (and cat-holic, for that matter - all typographical errors are the responsibility of her feline friends). She lives in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, where she is working on writing a novel that she really, really hopes can actually get published.


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