“I would like to sincerely and humbly apologize to those who felt they did not receive from us genuine love, compassion, understanding and support after suffering sexual abuse or assault …To them I would say—we have carefully listened to your voice. We take your testimony in this report to our hearts. We intend to thoroughly review every aspect and concern outlined in the investigation and respond appropriately.”
— Steve Pettit, BJU President
Questions & Answers
BJU accepts that it needs to improve in some areas, but we need time to complete our review and determine appropriate action. We are in the process of thoroughly reviewing findings and recommendations contained in the report. We stand committed to making needed changes to better reflect our values and show victims of abuse and assault the love of Jesus Christ.
Victims should never be blamed for abuse or assault. The fault lies solely with the perpetrator of the horrific crime. In hindsight, we see how some could have interpreted our teaching, preaching, and counseling as indifference and insensitivity to those who needed help the most.
The personnel recommendations, along with the other recommendations, will be reviewed over the next 90 days by a committee appointed by the president of the University.
Some reported to GRACE that they were discouraged from reporting. If this occurred, it is unacceptable. In our policies and procedures, we have made it abundantly clear that any child sexual abuse or suspected abuse is to be immediately reported to local law enforcement and we have made each employee of Bob Jones Academy and BJU a mandatory reporter.
Institutions of higher education are to provide adult student victims the option to (1) notify proper law enforcement authorities, including on-campus and local police; (2) be assisted by campus authorities in notifying law enforcement authorities if the victim so chooses; and (3) decline to notify such authorities.
Federal privacy laws limit our ability to respond to the individual cases. What we can say, however, is that we sincerely appreciate the courageous individuals who shared their experiences with GRACE, and we apologize that we did not meet their important needs.
We gather that GRACE used the cases to illustrate certain points, and we will consider these points in our efforts to continuously improve our response to reports of sexual abuse and sexual assault.
With regard to our current policies, as an educational institution subject to FERPA, Title IX, and the Clery Act, current procedures provide:
If a member of the faculty/staff of Bob Jones Academy or Bob Jones University has reason to believe a minor has been abused or neglected either on or off campus, he or she must immediately contact local law enforcement authorities to make a mandatory report.
Any student of Bob Jones University who has reason to believe a minor has been abused or neglected on or off campus must immediately report the incident to local law enforcement.
If an adult student at Bob Jones University is assaulted on-campus, the student is encouraged to report to local law enforcement immediately. Institutions of higher education are to provide adult student victims the option to (1) notify proper law enforcement authorities, including on-campus and local police; (2) be assisted by campus authorities in notifying law enforcement authorities if the victim so chooses; and (3) decline to notify such authorities. In addition, in compliance with Title IX, BJU will initiate an internal investigation and disclose the assault on its annual Clery Report.
If an adult student at Bob Jones University is assaulted off-campus, the student is encouraged to report to local law enforcement immediately. Institutions of higher education are to provide adult student victims the option to (1) notify proper law enforcement authorities, including on-campus and local police; (2) be assisted by campus authorities in notifying law enforcement authorities if the victim so chooses; and (3) decline to notify such authorities. In addition, in compliance with Title IX, BJU will initiate an internal investigation.
BJU intends to thoroughly analyze each finding and recommendation and respond appropriately. We are committed to making needed changes to better reflect our values and show victims the love of Christ.
The president is appointing a committee to review the findings and recommendations over the next 90 days.
Yes. BJU takes the responsibility of safety on our campus very seriously. While there have been reports of abuse and assault involving people on campus as reported to law enforcement and on the University’s annual Clery Report, the vast majority of counseling results from students reporting abuse or assault they suffered while they were children or adults living at home.
The campus, including individual facilities, is secured relative to events and time of day and personal safety instruction is available to the student body.
BJU’s Public Safety team employs full-time and part-time officers who are trained and registered through the S.C. Law Enforcement Regulatory Division (SLED). Each officer is registered as a private security officer and has the same authority and arrest powers as a deputy sheriff when they are on campus. BJU’s Department of Public Safety also has several full-time employees who are trained through the S.C. Criminal Justice Academy and are certified Class 1 law enforcement officers and commissioned as State Constables by the Governor’s office.
One of the keys to BJU’s excellent record of safety is the personal integrity of the University community and our code of conduct. For example, because alcohol is not permitted at BJU, we generally do not have any problems with alcohol-related incidents. In addition, we have taken a number of proactive steps to ensure that our students are safe and that we are prepared in case of any emergency. Some of these steps include electronic entry system on all residence halls and most other campus buildings, routine 24/7 public safety patrols on campus, electronic emergency notification system, and excellent relationships with local law enforcement.
Additionally, BJU provides victims an online resource to report incidents of sexual misconduct, sexual harassment, discrimination or harassment. Victims also have the option to leave a private voice mail message for the Title IX coordinator at 864-770-1374.
Over the last several years as we’ve made changes in our abuse and neglect policy, as well as our sexual abuse/assault policies, we’ve notified and communicated with students through the student handbook and our website.
There’s been a comprehensive effort to update, streamline and simplify policies and procedures and provide an avenue for students to report incidents online or to leave a private voice mail message for the Title IX coordinator. Further information about policies are available online.
Beginning in 2013, all faculty, staff and students were required to attend sexual abuse awareness training. Specialized training was also required for some student life staff and those who interact with minors, such as BJA and Child Development Center staff, on a daily basis. Sexual abuse awareness training is required each year for incoming freshmen and new faculty/staff members.
Yes. Each year, BJU publishes an annual campus security report in compliance with the Clery Act. The security report includes campus crime statistics; reporting crimes; coordination between law enforcement agencies; fire and medical emergencies; emergency notification, response and evaluation; crime prevention; victim support services; the BJU Policy on Sexual Harassment; other BJU policies and more.
Nine students reported being touched by a single perpetrator in the campus library during regular library hours. The nine students reported the incidents to campus authorities the same day. BJU has a no tolerance policy and immediately facilitated the reporting of the incidents to the Greenville Police Department and offered counseling to the students. The student was dismissed. Representatives of the solicitor’s office interviewed the nine students and over the next months resolved the matter through the legal system.
The category under which BJU reported the offenses—forcible sexual offense—includes a wide range of offenses. This does not diminish the gravity of the situation as we are grieved over any kind of sexual misconduct.
Beginning January 10, 2013, GRACE collected surveys on their website from individuals who wanted to submit information to them. Following receipt of the surveys, GRACE reviewed all survey inputs and identified individuals they wanted to interview. GRACE has also told BJU they asked some others for written statements. In subsequent months, they conducted the interviews and scheduled interviews with some BJU current and former faculty and staff mentioned by the original interviewees as well as other people they thought could provide relevant information.
BJU and GRACE had monthly calls in which GRACE updated BJU on the general progress of the project. Because of the independent nature of the project, GRACE shared only general information rather than any specific information about individuals or findings.
Now that we have received the report, BJU is reviewing the report carefully to determine if there are any outstanding reporting obligations.
It is our desire to increase awareness and understanding of abuse among the university family and in the Christian community. In 2013 and 2014, BJU—through MinistrySafe and Abuse Prevention Systems—proactively provided training sessions for all faculty, staff and students, and will continue to provide sexual abuse awareness training to all students and employees in subsequent years. As part of this process, we are preparing specific guidelines for those who work with minors in a variety of capacities both on and off campus. In addition, we hosted a comprehensive Child Safety Workshop for local church leaders in May 2014.
Yes. Prior to our engagement with GRACE, the BJU Board of Trustees gave a directive to the administration to hire a full-time counselor to assist with sexual abuse /assault victims. In addition to our full-time women’s counselor, we have identified and shared several off-campus options for counseling in addition to on-campus options.
BJU has physically separated counseling services from the discipline process. This was done because the proximity of counseling and discipline may have contributed to an atmosphere of fear for abuse/assault victims and other students who were struggling with other issues.
Yes. It may be accessed at www.netgrace.org
Every employee at BJU and BJA is a mandatory reporter and has been trained to recognize and report sexual abuse of a minor directly to appropriate local law enforcement agencies. BJU actively encourages current and former students eighteen years of age and older to report abuse directly to appropriate local law enforcement agencies and we will provide them with assistance if they desire.
In the fall of 2011, following a number of high profile national news reports regarding child sexual abuse, especially on college campuses, BJU leadership wanted to make certain that BJU’s policies and procedures for handling reports of sexual abuse both comply with every aspect of the law and ensure a loving, scripturally based response to those involved. To accomplish those tasks, the president with the board’s approval appointed an external committee to review policies and procedures and recommend appropriate changes or enhancements.
In addition to recommending additions to and clarifications of the University’s abuse and neglect policy, the committee recommended the University engage an independent ombudsman to reassess the support we offer to students who had been abused at some point in their past and strengthen our overall capabilities to help prevent and respond to abuse.
An ombudsman is a trusted intermediary between an organization and some internal or external constituency and represents the broad scope of constituent interests. Usually appointed by an organization, an ombudsman may, for example, investigate constituent complaints relating to the organization and attempt to resolve them.
In initiating the project with GRACE, BJU’s president outlined two purposes to the Board of Trustees and the university family for initiating the project with GRACE. They were:
- To ensure BJU’s policies and procedures for handling reports of sexual abuse and assault comply with every aspect of the law and demonstrate a loving, scriptural based response to those involved
- To provide BJU an opportunity to communicate with and be reconciled with any former students or other individuals who believe they received inadequate help when they reported to a BJU representative that they had been abused or assaulted at some point in their past
The agreement with GRACE was not prompted by any specific event, nor was there any evidence of a systemic problem of sexual abuse on or off campus involving BJU students or employees.
GRACE (Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment), an organization based in Lynchburg, Va., was retained to perform an independent review and fulfill BJU’s objectives as outlined by BJU leadership.
On January 10, 2013, GRACE and BJU posted a link to a survey hosted on GRACE’s website. Both GRACE and BJU explained that anyone who wanted to communicate information to GRACE could go to this link and complete the survey. GRACE then reviewed the surveys and then determined individuals they would interview or contact for a further statement.
In addition to posting the link on the BJU website, BJU included an article about GRACE in the Winter/Spring 2013 issue of BJU Magazine with a circulation of over 90,000. The article announced GRACE as our ombudsman and pointed readers to the website for specific information. In addition, to former students, faculty, staff and alumni who did not receive the magazine and for whom BJU had contact information, BJU sent emails and/or letters informing them of the survey. BJU announced the GRACE survey in chapel to current students, faculty and staff and the same day sent each of them an email link to the survey.
BJU’s abuse and neglect policy, updated in 2012, makes every BJU faculty and staff member a mandatory reporter if they have reason to believe a minor has been abused or neglected. The policy delineates the reporting process including who is to be notified and the time frame for notification. It also provides telephone numbers for the state, county and city agencies to which reports are to be made.
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“We do not take the concerns of the victims who believe we failed them lightly. We know we must work to regain their trust through actions, not words, and for those actions to be truly meaningful, we must make a long-term commitment that creates genuine, sustainable change. It is our solemn pledge to do just that.” Read President Pettit's full statement