Apparently Bob Jones University, the kingpin of my former cult, seems to think that ignoring sexual abuse will make it go away. At least, that’s the impression they give through the termination of their contract with the ombudsmen whom they hired last year to do an independent investigation of their past handling of sexual abuse cases.
I have to say that I’m not surprised they would backpedal shortly before the investigative team at G.R.A.C.E. released their findings. It wasn’t a smart PR move for a cult to bring an outsider in for such an in-depth review of their policies and was bound to backfire on one level or another, but I’m sure they didn’t feel they had many other options after the incidents that Dr. Lewis details in her post here, which included the student-led protest to remove a board member who had covered up a rape in his former church fifteen years ago and the vocal concerns of alumni over the questionable sexual abuse policy in BJU’s employee handbook.
Perhaps BJU hoped that a year later people would have forgotten their reasons for wanting an independent investigation…or perhaps the cult just underestimated the amount of shit that the investigation team would be able to uncover…regardless, BJU sent a termination request to G.R.A.C.E. this past week.
As I said, I’m not surprised, but I am outraged and grief-stricken.
I knew so many dear friends who had gone through horrendous pain to tell their story in interviews this past year, reliving their pain in the hopes that they might finally get the acknowledgement of the injustice of the way their trauma was handled. Now, I watch them grapple with the disappointment and devastation of having been silenced once again.
It’s downright heartless to encourage victims to speak of their abuses with promises that they will be heard, only to shut them down again and again—but it’s a tactic that the IFB loves to use.
Because they think they can break victims that way.
Because they think they can control the flow of information.
Because they think they can get away with it.
But they’re wrong.
Once upon a time, Bob Jones University might have been able to keep survivors’ stories under wraps. They might have been able to scatter and divide survivors, as good as erasing them from existence.
But they can’t do that anymore. Survivors have found each other, and through that, they’ve found their voices. They’ve discovered they have power and strength together. They’re not alone. They’re not without hope. And they’re not at the mercy of the cult anymore.
BJU has been allowed to get away with their abuses and control tactics for so long that it’s easy to believe they will continue to be able to get away with them, but the Internet is changing things. Survivors have been figuring out how to speak out over the last few years and finally–FINALLY–people are starting to listen.
Progressive Christian blogs like Naked Pastor and John Shore are spreading awareness. The media, both local and national (and many more than I can link to. Google it and see), is starting to report. And here’s the real kicker: for once, survivors aren’t going to shut up just because the cult refuses to listen.
They can keep playing the same games they’ve always played, but there’s an audience now. Their own precious image was the cost of this little cover-up. For once, even people within the Independent Fundamental Baptist Cult might think twice about sending their kids to BJU.
You can paint a skunk white, but you can’t hide hide the smell. Sooner or later, the world will see BJU for what it really is, and the survivors will be leading the charge to tear down the gates.
“And whoever receives one such child in My name receives Me; but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him to have a heavy millstone hung around his neck, and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.” Matthew 18: 5-6