GREENVILLE, S.C. — For decades, students at Bob Jones University who sought counseling for sexual abuse were told not to report it because turning in an abuser from a fundamentalist Christian community would damage Jesus Christ. Administrators called victims liars and sinners.
All of this happened until recently inside the confines of this insular university, according to former students and staff members who said they had high hopes that the Bob Jones brand of counseling would be exposed and reformed after the university hired a Christian consulting group in 2012 to investigate its handling of sexual assaults, many of which occurred long before the students arrived at the university.
Last week, Bob Jones dealt a blow to those hopes, acknowledging that with the investigation more than a year old and nearing completion, the university had fired the consulting group, Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment, or Grace, without warning or explanation. The dismissal has drawn intense criticism from some people with ties to Bob Jones, and prompted some victims and their allies — including many who were interviewed by Grace investigators — to tell their stories publicly for the first time, attracting more attention than ever to the university’s methods.
I’m not very surprised. Bob Jones University is the kind of institution that gives Protestantism a bad name, and this is of a pattern with their general conduct. Considering their strictures on dress codes and inter-racial relationships, the level of hypocrisy is amazing.
How do you “damage Christ” by turning in those who yield to Satan? One would think that would strengthen the Church by exposing behavior that needs to be stamped out. I just don’t get the hypocrisy that often surrounds this type of abuse…don’t talk about it, pretend it never happened and we’ll all live happily ever after?
That is what upsets me so much. What struck me was this one quote:
Several students interviewed said they had known little or nothing about the charges and were not concerned about them.
This is why abuse continues throughout our society. It’s the attitude of as long as it doesn’t affect me and those I love, I’m not going to care about it and think much of it.
I don’t get why people would believe reporting abuse would “damage Christ”. It’s so counter-intuitive. The thing is, as we know, this kind of attitude happens in all aspects of life. The family who believes that reporting the abuse of a relative would cause scandal in the family. Family members who become angry with the victim or the one who reported a beloved uncle or father because it “damaged” their family by allowing it to come out into the open. As well as the problems that have occurred in not wanting to let it out in other denominations, including our own.
What also got me was that the person who clued me into this story (not a Catholic) was shocked that this was going on. She and others could not believe that it happened in other denominations. Again… another reason why abuse continues on. We really need to better educate people on all kinds of abuse, otherwise, more and more children and adults will continue to be hurt or worse. People have these stereotypes of what abusers look like and who they are, without any real knowledge and background.
I think our Church has done a lot since to make things right and I really hope other denominations, families and society, in general, will do the same.
I would dare guess that “damaging Christ” is code for hurting attendance there, since it would either imply the morality of the student body was lacking, turning away students seeking a Christian environment; or that the campus is unsafe, again scaring off potential students.
You can’t damage Christ but you can damage human institutions like churches (Catholic or otherwise), governments, corporations, school districts, unions and they will all react to preserve themselves and persecute dissidents.
Unfortunately, the media constantly putting “Catholic priest” in headlines about sex abuse has led many to think that it is problem that only the big bad Catholic Church has, allowing Protestant groups to feel that they don’t have such a problem, thereby jeopardizing children’s safety by not protecting them.
They used to. They stopped the ban in the year 2000.
Why don’t they know? Could it be because of the media’s omissions? Why don’t people know how much the Catholic Church has done? Could it be because of the media’s omissions?
Yes, it’s about the media (notice I did not say it was “all” about the media, YOU said that).
…when you have one group (Catholic priests) being villified but another group (public school teachers or protestant pastors) doing the same thing at slightly higher rates getting a yawn.
…when the Catholic Church is primarily associated with sex abuse in people’s minds even though protestant churches have slightly highter rates of abuse.
…when a story about the Church or the Pope cannot be published without numerous slanderous comments in internet comboxes about sex abuse – no matter what the actual topic of the story is.
…when disortion and lies are used to attack ONLY one group.
…when sexual abuse of minors is perceived to be a Catholic ONLY issue.
…when the average person doesn’t even KNOW that there is abuse in protestant groups or public school systems.
…when the scandal has been used by anti-Catholics to call for the Church to be wiped out, but no similar calls for other groups when sex abuse is discovered. (No calls for Penn State – or all universities-- to be shut down was there?)
…when people have no idea that most of the headlines generated now are about old cases.
…when Catholic priests are considered guilty until proven innocent.
Okay, yes, to head off a “gotcha” game here, I’ll say that of course there are other factors involved, such as the huge payouts to be gotten from the Church.
All of this has bearing on why the public sex scandals that have rocked the Catholic Church have totally drowned out the evangelical world’s greater problems with sex abuse. What I’d like to suggest is that this disproportion in coverage makes perfect sense.
When I say the evangelical problem is greater I’m talking about an even earlier RNS report about Billy Graham’s grandson, Boz Tchividjian. He reasons that the Protestant abuse problem is much worse, because of structural reasons.
You’re using anecdotes to explain a complex phenomenon. We are the most organized and oldest Christian denomination; and one of the few with an imposing global presence. Of course whatever happens in the Church is news in a way it is not with protestant groups. Good or bad. The only Christian leader I know who even used to come close to having the same global media presence as the Pope was Billy Graham - note the use of the term “used to”.
Perhaps I shouldn’t, but I do get irritated to hear the kind of comparisons that might, however unintentionally, seem to excuse the abuse. It happened, we’re trying to fix it - no need to remain fixated or develop guilt complexes. But seriously, the “others do it too/worse” arguments sound really, really out of line with our stature and maturity as a Church.
The media portrays whatever brings them ratings - that’s it. If we want to be portrayed in a good light then it seems two things are need: more good stories that will draw viewers and a greater presence of Catholic media/Catholics in the media. That’s it.