Abuse at Pensacola and Bob Jones, and you (and me, too)

Abuse at Pensacola and Bob Jones, and you (and me, too) March 14, 2014

Tamara Rice, who blogs at Hope. Fully. Known, grew up in another part of the fundamentalist bubble — as a missionary kid in the Association of Baptists for World Evangelism.

ABWE, like so many other fundamentalist institutions steeped in authoritarian patriarchy and purity culture, is dealing with a sex-abuse scandal. Or, rather, it seems to be doing everything it can not to deal with its sex-abuse scandal. It’s another iteration of the same pattern we’ve seen at other fundie institutions, including Pensacola Christian College and Bob Jones University. So Rice has been following these stories closely.

ABWE initially hired the abuse-investigation group GRACE (or “G.R.A.C.E.,” which stands for Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment) to help them clean house. Then, earlier this year, they fired GRACE, apparently because the group was actually intent on cleaning house.

Bob Jones University did the same thing with GRACE — hiring them to investigate alleged abuse, then firing them when they seemed to have confirmed the allegations. After that blew up in their face a few weeks later, BJU changed its mind, again, and re-hired GRACE to finish its investigation.

The following is from a post by Tamara Rice that was originally written in between BJU’s firing and re-hiring of GRACE. That re-hiring doesn’t change the substance of what she writes, or the impact of her argument. The post is titled “The Realist Speaks: 5 Reasons the BJU Scandal Will Go Away.” These aren’t reasons it should go away, but rather reasons that, unfortunately, it very well might with no real reform or meaningful change. Rice’s punchline is worth quoting at length:

No. 5. You: That’s right, I said it, the last reason is simply YOU. Let’s be honest. If you are not one of the victims, your interest in this matter is fleeting. If anyone actually is still posting it on Twitter and Facebook in two week’s time, you’ll stop clicking the links. You’ll stop being outraged. Your compassion’s short attention span will move on to another cause. And let’s face it — if you aren’t from a similar patriarchal fundamentalist culture where stuff like this whole “let’s cover up abuse because it’s bad for the gospel” happens all the time, you’re thinking: “Well what else do you expect from a patriarchal fundamentalist culture where stuff like this whole ‘let’s cover up abuse because it’s bad for the gospel’ happens all the time?”

But I want to talk to you about that. About your apathy. About your thinly disguised rape-apologism that is akin to saying that because the victim was drunk, she doesn’t get your sympathy and outrage. Because isn’t your shrug of the shoulders over victim blaming and silencing in such extreme and almost cult-like settings of fundamentalism (“I mean, what else did they expect … we’re talking about Bob Jones University?”) exactly like asking what else a woman expects at three a.m. in the dimly lit corner of a truck-stop bar?

So you have a choice now.

You can be that person who gives this a few seconds of your compassion through a retweet or a comment or a change.org petition and moves on. (In which case, you’ll quickly forget that there are dozens of victims out there who likely just saw their last chance at any form of justice slip away. In which case, those victims can be assured that when they get online a year from now to see if people still care, they’ll quickly figure out that even their so-called “advocates” are way more into Mark Driscoll’s latest blunder than the fact that BJU got away with it.)

Or … you can remember that your consistent, persistent, and tireless collective outrage and unified voice is likely the victims’ only hope.

OK, then.

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