Bob Jones University Slammed in Report on Sexual Abuse

In February, I reported that Bob Jones University had canceled the independent investigation into how they responded to sexual abuse. The outcry following their decision was staggering, far greater than anything I’d seen before. I believe it forced their hand to reinstate G.R.A.C.E. to finish the investigation. However, I was hesitant to hope that the final report would actually see the light of day, so I watched and waited.

On Thursday, G.R.A.C.E. released onto their website a 300-page document chronicling their investigation, findings, and recommended actions.

It’s long. If you’re not directly tied to BJU, you probably don’t want to read a book-long report. And if you are tied to BJU, you might find it pretty damn triggering, like me.

Even though I think it’s always wise to read the original documents of something of this magnitude (and I will finish it eventually), the New York Times also did an excellent article that summarized the findings and recommendations.

There’s a part of me that still can’t believe this is happening. To have another Christian organization condemn the way that rape and sexual assault counseling was handled and to suggest that the school’s most beloved “counselors” and “godly men” be banned from speaking on the topic or from having their books promoted is more than I ever hoped for. To have the media actually pick up on the story and start to show the world the fucked up environment that was my reality is even more astounding.

Bob Jones University, under the direction of a new president–the first of whom isn’t actually a Jones, released their typical, carefully worded non-apology in the same vein as their non-apology for racism. I’m not sure at this point whether to hope that things will change or not. In my experience, they’ll do something that publicly looks good, but they themselves won’t actually change. They’ll just go underground with their victim blaming.

The greatest hope I have thus far lies in the fact that this investigation has prompted a more official investigation into whether BJU can legally be held responsible for counseling students not to report crimes to the police.

In other words, for obstructing justice.

I’m excited to see this develop further. I make no attempt to pretend to value anything about BJU. And this report makes for three organizations within the circles of the IFB that have been exposed (The rape scandals surrounding Jack Schaap and Bill Gothard being the others).

Grab a seat and a bag of popcorn as the empire comes crashing down. I expect that this could be as big as the Catholic Church scandal.

Maybe my prayers to Kali are paying off after all…

Is Bob Jones University Covering Up Sexual Abuse…Again?

As I was writing this post, I was thinking of that question about trees falling and sound, then I found this graphic from Naked Pastor that so poignantly illustrates the concept and the emotions that I'm experiencing around this.  Copyright David Hayward. Used with Permission

Copyright David Hayward, nakedpastor.com. Used with Permission.

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

Authentic Movement: A Lesson in Following my Heart

This past weekend, I went to my first herbal conference, though hopefully not my last because it was a ton of fun. While I was there I decided to attend a class about working with plant allies. I’d developed an unusual bond with catnip over the last year, and I wanted to see if I could find a way to understand what made it particularly special to me.

I didn’t pay attention to the class title until I got there: “Authentic movement.”

For those who are equally unfamiliar with this type of movement, the best way I can describe it is movement meditation that involves going into a trance-like state in order to listen to your body’s urges (hence the “authentic part”…you only move when your body wants to). Since this class was focused on plant allies, it started with inviting the plant of your choice to accompany you on this mental journey.

I’m definitely not opposed to meditation or trances, and I’ve had my fair share of “visions” and revelations during meditation. But when I heard what was about to happen, my first thought was, “Oh hell no!”

I couldn’t imagine doing that in front of people, not just because it sounded potentially embarrassing but also because my experience with spiritual vulnerability has taught me to never let my guard down around others. When it came to spiritual groups, I lived by the motto: Never let anyone get you into a state of anything less than guarded.

However, I allowed myself to linger when the teacher explained that we’d all have our eyes closed during the exercise (no one would know I looked like a fool) and that her job was to create and hold safe space for us in our process.

I was still thinking I wouldn’t be comfortable doing anything, but at the very least, I figured I could learn what it was about and take it home with me if I really needed to be alone to feel safe.

To my utter surprise, I didn’t sit in the grass, hugging my knees to my chest the whole time. Not too long after she rang the meditation bells signaling the start of the exercise, I found myself releasing into my traditional meditative safe space. Part of me prowled the perimeter of my mind like a tiger, ready to pounce if I felt even the slightest hint of invasion or danger, but I slowly surrendered the rest of me to the movement.

Since visions are intensely personal, I won’t share what came to light in my soul here. However, I did want to talk about some of the secondary lessons I learned from participating in this class and stepping out of my comfort zone.

The first, and perhaps most obvious lesson, was the importance of listening to my body. As awkward as the idea of authentic movement sounded when I started, I realized later that it was nothing more than an exercise in intuition.

There will always be a cognitive, logical side to decision-making, and we hear about how to strengthen that aspect of our mind all the time. But there is also an intuitive side to decision making that we rarely talk about as a society. How do you know that you just applied for the right job? How do you know that this particular car or house is the one for you? How do you determine when it’s time to re-enter school? Or when it’s time to leave?

Sometimes, the logical side and the intuitive side coincide well, and the decision is easy. Other times, they clash, and what might seem like the best move to outsiders feels like the wrong move to you. Do you listen to your mind or your heart at those times?

Can you even tell the difference between your heart and your mind during those times?

Intuition was distrusted in the IFB. I was taught to fear and suppress it, yet I often found it to be my most accurate guide. Looking back with the awareness that comes not only with time but also with healing and distance from the brainwashing, I can see how my intuition protected me and led me, first in the small ways that informed me when people couldn’t be trusted with my truth, then in bigger ways when it led me out of the IFB even before I fully realized the magnitude of what I had left. Right now, I’m just beginning to grasp the depth of my intuition in protecting myself from my own truth until I could handle it.

However, my skill in listening and recognizing my intuition has been sketchy. I don’t always understand the subtle cues or hear the early warning signs. I can talk myself out of my feelings or deliberately ignore them in the effort to follow another’s expectations.

But the authentic movement showed me what it could be like to practice actually listening to myself. Rather than following someone else’s guided meditation or sitting still trying to empty my mind of useless thoughts, I can block out the outside world and go deep, deep into myself until my own impulse is all I can hear, see, feel, and understand.

The implications of this for my personal practice and life are exciting, to say the least, but I can’t help but also think about the implications for healing within a psychological setting. For anyone who has ever had their autonomy violated or their personhood crushed, I see tremendous possibilities for empowerment and reclamation through authentic movement.

Of course, in order for authentic movement to work, safe space is absolutely essential, but I’m afraid you’ll have to wait until next week for that part of my revelation. My body is telling me it needs to repay the sleep debt it acquired over this magical weekend!