Abuse: ‘Protestants worse than Catholics’
Last year, a grandson of the well-knowm evangelist Billy Graham – Boz Tchividjian, above – claimed that evangelicals were ‘worse’ than Catholics when it came to sex abuse.
A Liberty University law professor, Tchividjian said:
Protestants can be very arrogant when pointing to Catholics.
He said that mission agencies, “where abuse is most prevalent” often don’t report abuse because they fear being barred from working in foreign countries. Abusers will get sent home and might join another agency. Of known data from abuse cases, 25 percent are repeat cases, he said.
Tchividjian is Executive Director of Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment (GRACE) – and the work of GRACE was highlighted this week in a Guardian report about sex abuse victims at the conservative Christian Bob Jones University in Greenville, South Carolina.
GRACE has just published a damning 300-page report, which details the experiences of current and former students, employees, and others who have dealt with students’ sex abuse claims –such as pastors, counselors, and family members.
The report, which BJU commissioned Grace to produce, said the findings “support a possible conclusion” that childhood survivors of sex abuse may not consider the school a safe place to disclose such experiences or seek help. More than 60 percent of respondents who identified as victims characterised the “general attitude at BJU toward victims as one of blame and disparagement”.
BJU founded in 1927 by Christian evangelist Robert (Bob) Jones, above. He was apparently inspired to so so by his anti-Darwinian mate William Jennings Bryan who warned him that:
If schools and colleges do not quit teaching evolution as a fact, we are going to become a nation of atheists.
The university has its students sign a “covenant” to indicate their intention to abide by the university’s policies, which include requiring that students abstain from premarital sex, strive towards a modest appearance, and be subject to curfews.
The report was written by a team of GRACE investigators, including mental health professionals with expertise in child abuse, child abuse prosecutors, and clergy members.
The investigators created an online survey, then conducted 116 interviews, approximately half of which were with people who self-identified as victims of sexual abuse. The others interviewed were staff members, pastors, counselors, former students, and other people who have dealt with sex abuse claims made by students.
BJU released a four-page summary of the report on yesterday. The university said it questioned some of the methodology of the report, but that the themes and recommendations it provides are ultimately valuable.
Bob Jones University is committed to making needed, substantive changes to better reflect our values and show victims the love of Jesus Christ. These changes will take deliberate thought and planning and time to implement. We ask for patience as we work with victims and other current and former students and take the necessary steps over the coming weeks, months, and years to achieve these goals.
School president Steve Pettit is set to appoint a committee to review the report over the next few days.
Because the school receives Title IX funding, it is required to report abuse claims under the Clery Act. The report, however, indicates that the university does not encourage individual reporting to the police.
In GRACE’s survey, the 66 people who reported abuse were asked about the school’s stance toward the victim making an abuse report. Of these, only five were encouraged to make a report. Fourteen participants described BJU as “discouraging” reporting, and, most damningly, 17 participants stated that they were directed by BJU personnel not to make a police report.
One survey participant wrote:
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.
While BJU officials have said they don’t believe sex abuse can be justified, the report concluded that blaming and shaming messages found their way to students. One participant noted the use of Biblical language in shifting blame onto victims:
If a girl is raped she must have done something to provoke it. It was ALWAYS made to be the woman’s fault. We were ‘stumbling blocks’ to the men.
GRACE also criticized the school’s dress code, which it said sends an institutional message that victims could be responsible for the abuse they suffered. It said this:
Does not only exonerate perpetrators for their actions, but these messages also fail to demonstrate love and compassion to those who needed Christ more than ever.
Dani Kelley, a former BJU student who is a sex abuse survivor and a critic of the school, said she is not confident that the university could change its ways. She has never approached the school about her past abuse because of her concerns about how she would be treated.
She is especially concerned about GRACE’s recommendation that the school contact victims.
Not only would this require BJU reinserting themselves in the lives of those they hurt, I simply don’t trust them to be humble, caring, compassionate, or repentant enough for such a meeting to do any good.
The language that BJU has used all along about this investigation and those it has hurt has been distancing and minimising, including their pre-emptive response to the report that they published yesterday, in which they admitted that ‘some’ people may have ‘felt’ like they didn’t receive the help they needed.
That sort of language and attitude does nothing to inspire confidence in the university’s willingness to repair their mistakes.
Back in 2013, Tchividjian said:
Too many Protestant institutions have sacrificed souls in order to protect their institutions.We’ve got the Gospels backwards.
Hat tip: Trevor Blake