Bob Jones, an evangelical Christian institution in Greenville, S.C., displayed a “blaming and disparaging” attitude toward abuse victims, according to 56 percent of the 381 current and former students and employees who replied to a confidential survey and said they had knowledge of how the university handled abuse cases. About half the 166 people surveyed who identified themselves as abuse victims said the university actively discouraged them from going to the police.
In interviews with investigators and in written comments, some respondents detailed hurtful, often startling treatment.
“I was abused from the ages of 6 to 14 by my grandfather,” one respondent said. “When I went for counseling I was told: ‘Did you repent for your part of the abuse? Did your body respond favorably?’ ” The person reported being told by a university official that going to the police “tore your family apart, and that’s your fault,” and “you love yourself more than you love God.”
Another person said that at Bob Jones, “abuse victims are considered ‘second-rate Christians.’ ” And another said that university staff consistently told victims “that they bore the sin of bitterness and that they should not report abusers.”
Some people quoted in the report said Bob Jones University had shattered their faith, along with their psyches. The university made God out to be “someone who turns his back when children are harmed and then mocks and shames the child further,” one said, while another said, “by the time I left B.J.U., I didn’t think God loved me at all.”
The investigators’ recommendations included taking unspecified action against the university’s chancellor, Bob Jones III, who was president from 1971 to 2005, a potentially explosive idea at an institution where the founding family’s authority has gone unquestioned.
The criticism of Bob Jones differs from that prompted by the sexual-assault scandals that have erupted at colleges across the country, in that it is not primarily about assaults on or near campus, committed by students or staff members. Rather, the university has been criticized for penalizing victims who reported incidents or sought treatment, and were told not to go to the police, even when the university had a legal obligation to do so.
The investigators requested a meeting with Bob Jones administrators “to review a list of employees identified during the investigation as individuals who have caused hurt to sexual abuse survivors through their teachings, conduct, or overall disposition,” and decide what action to take. It does not say how many names are on that list, but in frank language, it singles out the roles of Bob Jones III and James Berg, an administrator who has headed counseling programs.