Monday, March 31, 2014

Bill Gothard and Bob Jones University Abuse Scandal Connections: protecting leadership, silencing victims

The Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests held a media event last week at Bob Jones University in Greenville, South Carolina urging BJU officials to release the identities of all sex offenders (proven, admitted and credibly accused) who have worked at or attended the university and post them permanently on the school's web page. This would help prevent future crimes.
We are urging Bob Jones University officials to
–launch an independent investigation into alleged cover-ups of child sex crimes and/or sexual harassment accusations that have surfaced recently against a nationally-known minister, and
–permanently post the names of proven, admitted and credibly accused sex offenders who are or have been at the university on the school's website.   
Earlier this month, a prominent Illinois-based Protestant minister, Rev. Bill Gothard, was put on administrative leave after as many as 34 women said that he sexually harassed them. At least four women said that he molested them as youngsters. And Gothard also allegedly hid sexual harassment by his brother, along with Bob Jones officials, according to a recent Washington Post article.
According to bloggers at Recovering Grace, “In 1980, two BJU officials (only one is named, a Rev. Van Gelderen) were summoned by Gothard to help him downplay a scandal that was about to overwhelm his multi-million dollar ministry. The two BJU men were used by Gothard in his attempt to hush up accusations of sexual harassment against Gothard’s brother.”
We want BJU to hire an outside firm to investigate the charges that two university staffers may have hidden alleged sexual crimes, misdeeds or other wrongdoing by Rev. Gothard or his brother.
Rev. Gothard headed the Institute In Basic Life Principles (IBLP). In the 1970s, Rev. Gothard regularly filled auditoriums across the US with attendance figures as large as ten thousand and more, according to Wikipedia. 
As best we can tell, there are no pending civil lawsuits or criminal investigations against Rev. Gothard. But SNAP notes that his own IBLP board asked him to step down in light of the dozens of allegations against him, some of which go back decades. Many of these reports surfaced first on Recovering Grace.
In an email to our leaders last month, BJU spokesman Randy Page ignored our request, claiming only that “All known perpetrators of child sexual abuse have been reported to law enforcement.”
Page also told us “We know of no current student, faculty or staff member who has been convicted of child sexual abuse or sexual assault.” That means that school officials know of former staff and students who ARE convicted offenders. “For the safety of others – both adults and kids,” we believe those names should be put on the BJU website. Religious institutions, “especially those who are accused of concealing crimes,” should be held to a higher disclosure standard than other organizations.
We can imagine some at BJU may be surprised at our requests. Some will question the propriety of our requests. Here are some likely questions and our responses:
Some might ask "These Gothard allegations date back to the 1980s and appear on a blog but largely nowhere else. So why should BJU officials take them seriously?"
Because it's a blog that many people find credible, including mainstream media sources. Because it's best to err on the side of protecting the vulnerable and wounded, not the accused and the powerful.
Some might ask "Why students? Why not just staff?"
Listing any perpetrator is better than listing none. But why make arbitrary distinctions? The more offenders they list, the more vulnerable people they protect.
Some might ask "Does the University have an obligation to list these offenders?” 
Legally, no, but we believe that morally, yes. We believe there's every reason to do so and no reason to NOT do so. This action will safeguard those at risk. Why wouldn't BJU officials want to do this?
Some might ask "Could the University be sued for doing this, for listing these names?”
Anything's possible but we don't think so. The last thing a sex offender wants is more publicity. Roughly 30 US bishops have posted offender lists. None of them, as best we can tell, have been sued. http://www.bishop-accountability.org/AtAGlance/lists.htm
Some might ask "Aren't folks in US considered innocent until proven guilty?”
That's the standard we use when considering depriving a person of his or her physical liberty. We agree with this practice. But we also know that most sex offenders are never caught or convicted. People are safest when predators are jailed. But when that can't happen, the next best alternative is to alert the public about them. That's what we're asking BJU to do.
Finally, we also want to stress that sexual crimes should be reported to law enforcement by anyone who sees, suspects or suffers them. To most victims this is a frightening prospect, but if innocent kids and vulnerable adults are to be protected, victims must somehow find the strength, courage and wisdom to call secular officials, not religious officials.

A Thread Called Grace: How I came to stop hiding and face the biggest secret of my early life by Jonathan Merritt:
"Shame keeps us from telling our own stories and prevents us from listening to others tell their stories," says Brené Brown. "We silence our voices and keep our secrets out of the fear of disconnection." In the end, shame steals the very thing it promises: meaningful, authentic connections with others. Pursuing a life of honesty means to reveal who I truly am and assert that my story too belongs at the table.
More from Jonathan Merritt:
Owning one’s story can be costly, but it is not nearly as expensive as spending one’s life running from it.
The New York Times:
For sure, sexual maltreatment of children and cover-up are not Catholic monopolies. Charges have been brought against predatory rabbis in New York and elsewhere. In the Hasidic world, a code of silence governs much of life in this regard. Those who break it, by taking allegations to the civil authorities, find themselves ostracized. The existence of a website like StopBaptistPredators.org points to problems in other denominations. As for secular institutions, who could be unaware of abuses within the Boy Scouts of America and at Penn State?
Barbara Blaine, founder of SNAP, featured in a New York Times video today on the front page:




1 comment:

Sarah Grace Fitzpatrick said...

I am having one of those odd moments in life (rare too) where I hate that my gut instinct was right. I had *no idea* what had happened at BJU, this is terrible. Has anything changed?? I keep ending up in the middle of this topic, this conversation, in a way that makes me feel the need to ask God how I can possibly help - since this can't keep being just a coincidence. No matter what I Google lately I end up back at Gothard, at other people who have been harmed in similar ways, and it breaks my heart doubly because people are running away from God, instead of to Him. Or they have a TV show and people are fighting about what the "right" response to that situation is. :( (I hate seeing people who say "I love God" fight each other. Awful. I cannot fathom how that breaks God's heart!

(And i am a survivor, and while I know we all have unique life experiences and hard things to go through, I have been through this and .... if God can use me at ALL to help others heal, well I might feel like more than a survivor, I'd rather be a thriver :)) Spell check didn't like that word, but I do.

I am watching an old TV series that stars a lady who reminds me so much of my wonderful maternal Grandmother, and I Googled her to find a way to write & thank her for bringing laughter into my life... found that she went to JBU! I was so surprised, and I wanted to know more about the College. Sadly, I found articles after articles about what has happened there. Then (this was the gut part) I slowly typed in G o t h a r d. And again even more articles and connections.

I am SO glad to find your Blog! That someone is talking and writing about this who isn't mad at God for what humans have sadly chosen to do. I feel so alone when adding comments about my brief (but lasting) encounter with the Gothard organization and how there are SO many public scandals that all surround .... well, I guess I just write what it is, this sex abuse that seems to be running too rampant in similar places, how they tie together, how they are disgustingly helping each other cover these crimes.

Victims need voices. I wanted it to just go away when I was assaulted. Finally told the guy I was spending time with, starting to date and he called one of my girl friends who took me to the hospital. My Mom, who is a lovely person and super gifted Bible teacher recently told me - and this happened to me in 1994 when i was 25, i will be 47 in 4 days - that she thought when I finally told her I was raped, that I had "Just made a bad choice and decided to call it rape so you didn't feel so naughty".

wow, I have never written that, it still hurts. But that's the point - every person who has been abused, hurt... they need strong, loving, filled with grace voices to speak for them when they are healing. To help them heal. To believe them.
Sorry to go on and on, I am off to read some more. Thank you for what you are doing here! :)