A fundamentalist Christian university in the US has called in ‘Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment’ (G.R.A.C.E.) (http://netgrace.org) to conduct an independent review over the way the university’s counsellors dealt with victims of sexual abuse.
According to reports first broken in an America tonight TV documentary investigation, five former students of the South Carolina-based Bob Jones University (BJU) claimed that, when they went to their counsellors for help and reported past experiences of rape, they were told to repent of the underlying sin that caused the rape to happen.
As reported in Al-Jazeera, one girl, Katie Landry, a Mennonite from Ohio, was paralysed by a shot in the arm and raped by her manager at a summer job in an ambulance company. She claimed he threatened to do the same to her nine-year-old sister, if she didn’t return to work.
Ms Landry claimed that, when she went to BJU and finally approached the dean to tell him about her ordeal, he said, ‘There’s always a sin under other sin. There’s a root sin. We have to find the sin in your life that caused your rape’.
According to Al-Jazeera, other women who came forward to various members of the faculty were instructed to forgive their attackers, as the bitterness was causing the pain of the rape to be remembered.
The victims claimed that the university did not give them support by encouraging them to go to the police or report the alleged attackers. A school spokesman said, ‘We certainly encourage victims to report any illegal activity to applicable law enforcement agencies, as these types of criminals may strike again’.
It is understood many of the BJU counsellors used a 1996 book called Becoming an effective Christian counsellor, published by the university, in which it tells counsellors that all non-medical problems are caused by a root sin.
In 2011, BJU invited G.R.A.C.E. to come in and investigate the university over how it has handled sexual abuse. According to G.R.A.C.E., more than 100 people have come forward and the report is due out in a few months.
Randy Page, director of public relations at BJU, said, ‘Caring for our students and alumni is of utmost concern. Rape, abuse and neglect are not the fault of any victim. Those who perpetuate these horrific crimes bear full responsibility for their actions and should be prosecuted.
‘Believing that all forms of abuse and neglect are abhorrent, BJU embarked on a programme in 2011 to review and improve our response to students who report abuse. In subsequent months we have updated policies, implemented awareness training, appointed a full-time abuse counsellor, and appointed an ombudsman to review our policies and past responses to abuse. It is our desire to continue to serve and improve our care for the hurting and abused’.