GREENVILLE, S.C. ― An independent report on how Bob Jones University has dealt with sexual abuse over several decades concluded that university employees weren’t properly trained to handle such cases and victims seem to have been blamed.
The 300-page report, released Thursday, recommended that the 3,000-student, fundamentalist school issue an apology to abuse survivors hurt by the school’s response.
It also suggested the school provide better training for school personnel and provide tuition assistance to student victims of abuse who left the university before receiving their degrees.
The report was compiled by the group GRACE, or Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment, hired two years ago by the university. The report spans approximately four decades and included dozens of interviews with school personnel as well as students and former students, some of whom are abuse victims.
University President Steve Pettit issued the apology even before the report was released publicly.
“I would like to sincerely and humbly apologize to those who felt they did not receive from us genuine love, compassion, understanding, and support after suffering sexual abuse or assault,” he said Wednesday. “We did not live up to their expectations. We failed to uphold and honor our own core values.”
Pettit also said he is appointing a committee to review the report and make recommendations within three months.
When it announced it was starting the investigation late in 2012, the university said it was not in response to any specific incident but because of revelations of sexual abuse in both secular and Christian organizations nationwide.
The report suggested the university take what it called “personnel action” against Chancellor Bob Jones III, the university’s president from 1971 through 2005 and grandson of the university’s founder.
“As President of BJU during much of the time that was the subject of this investigation, Dr. Jones III is ultimately responsible for many of the difficult findings of this investigation,” the report said. “Dr. Jones, III has also repeatedly demonstrated a significant lack of understanding regarding the many painful dynamics associated with sexual abuse.” The report said “personnel action” could range from remedial education and training to termination.
University spokesman Randy Page said that Jones would not be commenting.
But when interviewed by GRACE for the report, Jones noted the university began the study two years ago “not because anybody charged us with anything. We did it voluntarily because we wanted to know: Did something fall through the cracks? If so, we want to know. If we cause that pain, if we can do anything in retrospect to ease that pain we are ready. We want to.”