This response to rape reports isn't unique to BJU, according to Peter Janci of the Portland law firm O'Donnell Clark & Crew. In the dozens of sex abuse cases he's brought against religious organizations, Janci says he's found this type of victim-blaming reaction to be "all too common."
A few weeks ago Aljazeera America published an eye-opening article entitled "Rape victims say Bob Jones University told them to repent". Here is how it begins:
Raised in a conservative Mennonite home in rural Ohio, Katie Landry was a sheltered kid. She hadn’t even held hands with a boy when, at age 19, she says her supervisor at her summer job raped her. Two years later, and desperate for help, she reported the abuse to the dean of students at her college.
“He goes, ‘Well, there’s always a sin under other sin. There’s a root sin,’” Landry remembers. “And he said, ‘We have to find the sin in your life that caused your rape.’ And I just ran."
Landry ended up dropping out of college, and didn’t tell anyone else for five years.
Her college was Bob Jones University in Greenville, S.C., the flagship campus of American fundamentalism, which teaches a literal interpretation of the Bible and separation from the world…
The article goes on to reveal that Bob Jones University (BJU) rejects "secular psychology". Instead, university leaders seem to promote a worldview where almost all mental problems, barring medical ones, are the result of sin.
Where do such ideas originate? Perhaps from Walter Fremont, who served as Dean of Education at BJU for 37 years. He and his wife Trudy, a BJU professor, co-authored a book in 1996 entitled Becoming An Effective Christian Counselor. In it they make it clear that the blame lies with the abuser; however, the above article states that…
the authors also make clear that being sexually assaulted is no excuse for the sinful feelings of discontentment, hate, fear, and especially, bitterness – unresolved anger that “in reality is rebellion and bitterness against God.”
One of the most bizarre statements in the Fremont's book is found in a section on incest. The Aljazeera America piece includes a photo of a page from the book that outlines a process for confronting abuse. The victim is encouraged to share his/her story, and the blame is placed on the older person who purportedly victimized the younger, innocent person. However, here is where it gets really bizarre. What follows is a direct quote from the book (according to the Aljazeera article):
4. If the victim has deceived either or both parents, he needs to confess and repent of his own sin. One example would be the case of a teenage girl who takes a bath only when her mother is away from home and leaves the bathroom door unlocked, inviting her father's corruptness.
First of all, did you notice how the gender was switched in this direct quote? The victim is initially identified as "he", and suddenly a teenage girl is mentioned in the concrete example. Obvious gender bias…
Claire Gordon, who wrote the linked article uploaded the following YouTube video, which illustrates just how pervasive victim blaming is at BJU. Here is a clip from a 2009 chapel message delivered by an adjunct professor. She included the following Editor's Note:
Is it any wonder that Bob Jones University desperately needs the help of Boz Tchividjian to tackle what appears to be a systemic problem. Hopefully, Boz will be able to finish his work and make recommendations that will stamp out this 'blame the victim' attitude among BJU leaders.
Some may think that Bob Jones University is alone in its "blame the victim" approach. However, we believe that such an unhealthy attitude regarding sex and sexual abuse can be found in other corners of Christendom.
Almost two years ago, Dee wrote a post entitled Mark Driscoll's Bizarre World of Queen Esther the "Bachelorette" . If you missed it, I want to encourage you to take the time to read it, particularly in light of what is happening these days at Mars Hill. Here is Mark Driscoll's ludicrous statement regarding Esther: link
““She grows up in a very lukewarm religious home as an orphan raised by her cousin. Beautiful, she allows men to tend to her needs and make her decisions. Her behavior is sinful and she spends around a year in the spa getting dolled up to lose her virginity with the pagan king like hundreds of other women. She performs so well that he chooses her as his favorite. Today, her story would be, a beautiful young woman living in a major city allows men to cater to her needs, undergoes lots of beauty treatment to look her best, and lands a really rich guy whom she meets on The Bachelor and wows with an amazing night in bed. She’s simply a person without any character until her own neck is on the line, and then we see her rise up to save the life of her people when she is converted to a real faith in God.”
“Esther has been grossly misinterpreted.”
“Feminists have tried to cast Esther’s life as a tragic tale of male domination and female liberation. Many evangelicals have ignored her sexual sin and godless behavior to make her into a Daniel-like figure, which is inaccurate. Some have even tried to tie her story in with modern-day, sex-slave trafficking as she was brought before the powerful king as part of his harem.”
Is this what is being taught at Western Seminary (the institution where Driscoll got his Masters degree)? You know, the one that is teaming up with Mars Hill this fall?
When Driscoll did this series, it certainly seemed that he was blaming Esther for being sold into the king's household. In that day and time, she DID NOT HAVE A CHOICE! Should she have fought him off and gotten killed? We seem to recall that Mark Driscoll’s teenage daughter believed Esther should have fought off the king's advances. That certainly would have interfered with divine providence…
Another organization that appears to have treated sex abuse victims poorly is Sovereign Grace Ministries, which has been embraced by well-known Christian leaders. You may remember the story of Donna Doe from the Second Amended Lawsuit filed against SGM et al. While the lawsuit may have been dismissed on a technicality, the testimonies stand for themselves. Donna Doe's story account can be found on pages 30-34 (item #133-152).
Basically, Donna's father (we believe he was actually her stepfather) was alleged to have been sexually molesting her. The SGM pastors instructed Donna's mother to allow her husband to return to the home to serve as 'head of the household'. She was to be a "godly wife' and forgive her husband for what he had done to her daughter. One of the defendants told Donna Doe that she had 'sinned' by not telling her mother sooner and that since she was also a 'sinner' she needed to 'forgive' her father for what he had done to her. A defendant also advised Donna Doe's mother to put a lock on the inside of her bedroom door and lock herself in each night to protect herself from her father.
That is just one example where Sovereign Grace pastors engaged in what appears to be victim blaming.
It is important to remember that victim-blaming is not just isolated to the BJU camp. It has been reported in other corners of Christendom. We must continue to shine the light in these dark corners so that the victims can be helped and the perpetrators can be correctly identified.
We should never underestimate the possibility that what is happening in IFB pockets such as BJU will be picked up by some conservatives who align themselves with The Gospel Coalition and Acts 29, among other groups. We cannot emphasize enough that this 'blame the victim' mentality can slowly creep in and do irreparable damage. Please join with us in praying that these victims will be once and for all vindicated, both at BJU and elsewhere.
Lydia's Corner: Daniel 11:2-35 1 John 3:7-24 Psalm 122:1-9 Proverbs 29:1