BJU Releases a Report on Sexual Abuse
Bob Jones University today released the Findings of the Committee that Reviewed BJU’s Sexual Abuse Policy and Its Application. From what I can tell this is a good step (even if small) in the right direction for Bob Jones University. They seem to have recognized that things weren't being handled in the proper way in the past and that there was some confusion at the school. And it looks like they may put some mechanisms into place to both deal with future events and reconcile past ones.
First and foremost what caught my eye was the following section about BJU's Philosophical position:
The University will communicate to both the public and victims of abuse the following philosophy:
- All forms of abuse are abhorrent.
- Victims of abuse are not to be blamed for being the object of abuse.
- In cases of suspected abuse, the interests of the victim will be placed first.
- The University is committed to protecting the safety of the victim when a report is made.
While these are great points that are made the sad thing is that it took an entire protest and a review committee to finally make them. This is a tacit admission that these points weren't universally accepted, followed or taught by the university or its alum. How do we know this? Because of the next section.
Bob Jones University will:
- Establish plans for periodic training of faculty and staff in identifying and reporting suspected cases of abuse
- Review curriculum in areas such as education, religion, ministerial training, nursing, criminal justice, etc., and ensure students are receiving proper training regarding the identification and handling of cases of abuse
- Take a proactive role by hosting a Bob Jones University Seminary-sponsored conference for pastors and church leaders addressing the proper biblical and legal response to instances of abuse. The conference is scheduled to take place in November 2012.
- Hire a full-time, mature counselor to work with students who have been abused
I find it interesting and encouraging that they are going to hold a conference for pastors and church leaders. One reason that BJU got caught up into the Chuck Phelps controversy is because not only was Phelps on the board, but he was also trained at BJU. Phelps hasn't ever really offered an apology for what he did to Tina Anderson, but a lot of that stems from the fact that he feels he was only doing his job according to how he was trained. For better or for worse many pastors and church leaders follow BJU's lead especially on topics as deep and hard to grasp as this. Hopefully this conference will include the words, "seek out professional licensed counselors", and "report everything to the police, then report it again and keep doing it until the police finally take action."
I do wonder what they mean by a "mature counselor." I find that wording odd. I also wonder what kind of training they will require of this "mature counselor." I hope by mature they mean licensed counselor. As you may know at the heart of the Chuck Phelps/Tina Anderson issue is the fact that Chuck Phelps felt that he was qualified to handle an issue as serious as child rape and sexual abuse with his religion degrees. It turns out that he wasn't. He got the legal facts wrong, assuming that the relationship was not rape. He got the psychological facts wrong, assuming that her silence and even her "dishonesty" meant that the relationship was consensual when, in fact, those very symptoms are signs of sexual abuse. Which led him to get the the religious aspects of that sad story wrong as well, by making her apologize for the rape in front of the church. All of this happened, to a large degree, because he simply wasn't/isn't qualified to handle such cases in the first place. Religion degrees and Nouthetic counseling do not qualify you for such cases. So one hopes that BJU's committee knows this and will hire someone who actually is qualified (licensed). She can be older (mature) but she must be qualified.
Bob Jones University will appoint an independent ombudsman to review past instances in which it is alleged that the University under-served a victim or did not comply with the law. The ombudsman will have strong integrity and will be selected from the Christian community at large...BJU is currently seeking an appropriate ombudsman.
First I applaud the act, but I'm a little confused. They are going to hire an ombudsman that is selected from the Christian community, but they are already seeking the position? Does this mean they've already gotten the feedback from the community? And why must it only be from the Christian community? Is BJU afraid of a little outside secular influence on such a dark and historically mishandled topic like this? Given that this issue affects people from inside and *outside* the Christian community, and because this is part of a review started by people from both inside and outside the Christian community it just strikes me odd that they feel the need to throw in that qualifier. You are doing this in large part because you, the Christian community, failed. But finally where can I put in my feedback? I am a Christian and am part of the community. I'm an alum, so when can I add my input? Are you taking nominations? Where are you looking for this impartial, yet wholly Christian, ombudsman?