Saturday, March 9, 2013

The Importance of Reporting Abuse in a Religious Setting (especially if you attended Bob Jones U)

The message below was posted at Do Right BJU, and a portion of this came directly from a formal announcement made by Godly Response to Abuse in a Christian Environment (G.R.A.C.E.), the organization that Bob Jones University hired to investigate allegations that they do not handle sexual abuse matters appropriately I hope that it is encouraging to all victims and survivors, not just those who endured problems within the Independent Fundamental Baptist system.

The concern about how Bob Jones University handles reports of sexual or physical abuse became a very public matter when Tina Anderson's story came to light on ABC's 20/20 program in 2011. A previous post here notes that BJU seems to be interfering with students ability to access GRACE, and they appear have failed to include all former students in the requested surveys.

The GRACE organization “is a non-profit organization made up of highly trained and experienced multi-disciplinary professionals who seek to educate and empower the Christian community to identify, confront and respond to the sin of child abuse.” They provide a variety of services and resources toward that end. Read more on their website.

How to contact GRACE

Anyone who has been a survivor of abuse and received poor counsel from BJU Staff while attending the university, past or present, is encouraged to contact the G.R.A.C.E. using the special email address that they created specifically for BJU students and alumni. The University has no access to any correspondence sent to this address. Someone who posted a comment at Do Right BJU phrased it this way:
This includes anyone who received counseling there for sexual abuse and was blamed, shamed, humiliated, etc. through the counsel. Essentially, it is any experience where BJU was involved in someone's story of sexual abuse and mishandled the situation in any way.
Please keep in mind that GRACE is also interested in learning about how BJU handled anything reported to their staff concerning the abuse of minors within the homes of individuals who attended the school, even if that abuse did not occur on the campus at the school. The staff is a “mandated reporter” of abuse of minors, so GRACE investigators need to consider this type of information as well.

If you have information about your personal experience while at BJU but have fears and concerns about coming forward to talk privately with GRACE investigators, please consider this message that was posted earlier this week.

From the Do Right BJU site:
We here at DRBJU, hope that the following first-hand account by someone involved with the GRACE investigation will encourage people to come forward and share their story with GRACE, knowing that they will be treated with utmost dignity and respect. 
"As a BJU graduate and also a survivor of all forms of abuse (physical, emotional, verbal, spiritual and sexual), I was excited to hear about the GRACE investigation. But, I was also terrified. 
If you are reading this, chances are you have similar questions to the ones that I did. Could I trust GRACE? Would I be hurt worse by talking with them? Would they believe me? Since they were a religious organization, would they expect me to be at a certain level spiritually? Would they judge my life choices (some of which are directly related to the impact of abuse on a person’s life)? 
Many times life involves taking risks and making hard choices. I knew that I was taking a massive risk by choosing to interview with GRACE. I knew that it could potentially be a setback for my healing. But, I wanted to believe that this experience would be different. I had to believe that GRACE was who they said they were. 
As the time for my interview grew near, GRACE went over and beyond to answer my questions and do whatever was needed to make me feel comfortable. They set up my interview at a neutral location and allowed me to bring a trusted friend into the room, to help ease my concerns. At every point in the process, they asked for my feedback. I could have chosen to cancel the interview at any time, without any judgment from them. 
Meeting the GRACE team was far different than I imagined. I never expected to feel such an instant connection to a group of strangers. You could feel the support they had for you from the instant you met them. I never once felt judged for anything that I shared. The only emotions they expressed were genuine compassion and deep sadness for what I had endured.

The questions were very open –ended and the interviewer did a great job of pacing with me as we unpacked what had occurred. They had no problem taking breaks and working within my comfort level. If a question made me uncomfortable, they had no issue with me skipping past it.
I knew the interview would be hard. And, it was. But, knowing that this entire room full of people was supporting you and believing you, made even the painful things, a bit easier to share.

What I did not anticipate was how incredibly healing it would be for me to share my story with GRACE. I have NEVER been treated with so much love and compassion, when I’ve shared the story of my abuse. There was no judgment. There was no shame. I was accepted for who I was. They valued me as a person. I am not just another number to them in a list of interviews.

Can you trust GRACE? Yes, I believe you can. I believe they will do everything possible to earn your trust. Will you be hurt worse, by opening up to them about your painful story? My hope and prayer is that everyone who chooses to work with GRACE, will walk out of that room with a piece of their heart healed. Will they judge you for where you are spiritually? No. Absolutely not. GRACE understands the impact that abuse can have on your faith and accepts you where you are. 
As you prepare for your interview, please know that you are not alone. There are so many people supporting you and applauding you for your incredible strength and bravery."


Church Survivors

If you're struggling after leaving a high demand group, you may want to stop by Facebook to visit the Church Survivors page. Tom Wheeler who remained a Christian after he left the Independent Fundamental Baptist movement offers helpful thoughts and good information from some of the best books on Evangelical cult recovery. It's also a good place to share your experiences, too.