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Bob Jones University
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Bob Jones University

Open investigation

Sexual Abuse | Independent group looks into claims of past sex abuse at leading Christian school

Issue: "Maximum insecurity," Feb. 23, 2013

Workers at a Virginia-based Christian organization continue to solicit information for an investigation of past claims of sexual abuse at Bob Jones University (BJU) in Greenville, S.C.

BJU officials announced on Nov. 8 they had tapped the group GRACE (an acronym for Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment) to investigate any claims that the Christian school had not responded adequately to sexual abuse complaints in the past.

GRACE launched its investigation on Jan. 10 with an online survey that will remain active until at least the end of April. The confidential questionnaire (available at netgrace.org) asks for input from anyone who may have information relevant to the investigation.

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A statement by GRACE says the scope of the investigation “includes any and all instances of [adult or child] sexual abuse disclosed or otherwise known to the institution, involving members of the Bob Jones University community as either victims or alleged perpetrators.”

BJU spokeswoman Carol Keirstead said the school has informed current students and faculty about the investigation through chapel announcements and email. She said the school has reached out to former students and alumni through Facebook and the university magazine, and that the school has sent emails or letters to any contacts in the database who don’t receive the magazine.

Schools that participate in federal financial aid programs must submit campus safety statistics to the U.S. Department of Education each year. In 2011, BJU reported nine forcible sex offenses for the year—more than any other college in the area.

Keirstead said the offenses involved one student who inappropriately touched nine other students in the school library. She said the school suspended the student and reported the incidents to authorities, and that the matter has been settled in the legal system. Keirstead said the student now attends another educational institution. The school reported zero forcible sex offenses in 2009 and 2010.

Boz Tchividjian—one of the founders of GRACE—says the organization is operating independently of BJU, and will work with claimants directly to ensure confidentiality. At the end of January, Tchividjian said: “We’re encouraged by the fact that many have stepped forward to participate in this investigation, and we’re hopeful that many more will do so in the coming weeks and months.”

Jamie Dean
Jamie Dean

Jamie lives and works in North Carolina, where she covers the national political beat and other topics as news editor for WORLD. Follow Jamie on Twitter @deanworldmag.

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