Moody sex abuse reporting system 'unsuccessful,' causes 'pervasive distrust': investigation

Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, Illinois | Wikimedia Commons

Moody Bible Institute leadership has issued an apologetic statement announcing the results of a lengthy investigation into the Chicago-based evangelical institution's protocols amid charges it poorly handled sexual abuse allegations.

In a statement last week, the school apologized to those who "experienced a lack of empathy and follow-through" pertaining to the filing of Title IX reports. 

"We also apologize to those whose reports were not processed as rapidly and efficiently as they could have been,” MBI President Mark Jobe and Provost Dwight Perry said in the joint statement.  

“It is the sincere desire of the leadership at Moody to provide a healthy, God-honoring culture that allows our students to grow and mature in a safe and wholesome environment. We commit to doing everything we can moving forward to create a safe environment for all of our students, staff and faculty.”

Last fall, the school commissioned Grand River Solutions to investigate after several people complained through a petition, expressing dismay with how sexual misconduct allegations were dealt with at Moody.  

Specifically, the petition claimed that administrators showed an “inability or unwillingness to act to address” allegations of “stalking, discrimination, sexual assault, and rape.” The petition went on to accuse the officials of a pattern of “dismissal, cover-up, and even disciplinary action being taken against survivors of abuse, after they risked so much to come forward.”

GRS interviewed 35 members of the Moody community to “assess the effectiveness and  impact of training, prevention efforts, communications, and the processes and procedures in  place to respond to reports of sexual harassment.” The investigation ended in April.

In the 31-page report, GRS noted that Moody's structure for handling sexual assault and misconduct claims proved to be "unsuccessful.' The report contends that there is a culture of "pervasive distrust" of university leadership, including of those who were tasked with administrating sexual assault claims. 

"Inadequate resourcing of the Title IX Coordinator and investigator roles has resulted in deficiencies in the performance of these roles and caused high rates of dissatisfaction among individuals serving in the roles, thereby making it difficult for Moody to retain qualified and experienced candidates," the report said. 

"Ineffective partnerships between the Title IX Coordinator, Dean of Students, and Vice  President of Human Resources (collectively ‘responsible administrators’) have had a  significant impact on the response to 16 reports, and specifically those reports that were  transitioned, or that should have been transitioned, from one administrator to another."

The report explains that Moody’s "current organizational structure tasks three administrators with overseeing different aspects of the institutional response to sexual harassment and sexual or interpersonal violence.”

The Moody Title IX Coordinator “is charged with overall responsibility for compliance with Title IX and is responsible for coordinating the institutional response to sexual harassment and sexual and interpersonal violence falling within the scope of Title IX’s limited jurisdiction."

For reports of sexual harassment and misconduct that fall outside the scope of Title IX, the responsibility falls to the dean of students and the vice president of human resources. 

The GRS report states that there was a “stigma” associated with filing a Title IX report against someone on campus for both the person filing the report and the accused. 

“This type of language reflects a diminishment of the seriousness of the behavior someone experienced before ever considering a report of sexual harassment or sexual or interpersonal violence,” the report stressed. “Rather than a focus on the implications of a Title IX report, it is  our hope that Moody’s community will focus on supporting and caring for people that have  experienced harm and, as part of the response, providing a process that recognizes the rights  of everyone involved.”

“When coupled with a resentful attitude toward the perceived imposition of government regulations, the historic approach and perspective to Title IX reporting infects the larger community,” the report added. “Students fear the stigma of initiating a process and faculty and staff reject a responsibility to report because reporting is part of a set of regulations they see as infringing on their deserved autonomy. This means that before anyone can seek support and care from Moody, they must overcome or navigate through additional and unnecessary  obstacles.”  

The report further noted that “there are several members of Moody’s faculty who are resistant to, or have simply declined, to comply with this requirement that the reports that they receive be referred to the Title IX Coordinator.”

“The reviewers are concerned that resistance of this kind has already, and may continue to,  cause unintended harm to the complainants and to the Moody community as a whole,” the report shares. 

The school announced that based on the GRS recommendation, the school will be implementing 11 commitments that will be operational starting in the fall of 2021.

Among those commitments, the school will create "one policy regarding sexual harassment and sexual and interpersonal violence" and "a leadership structure where one person is responsible for overseeing the institutional response to all reports of sex-based misconduct." The school also commits to providing additional resourcing for the Title IX Office and "enhanced training."

"We commit to improving perceptions and building trust toward our Title IX compliance program," Moody assured. 

The petition from current and former students emerged last October, stating that "while many of us have found God and His calling on our lives within the walls of Moody, some of us have also faced harm.”

The petition, which has garnered over 3,200 signatures, specifically criticized Dean of Student Life Tim Arens and Title IX Coordinator Rachel Puente for mishandling their complaints. 

Days after the petition went public, Jobe asked students to reserve judgment on Arens and Puente while the investigation was conducted. 

"Our posture in this moment must be marked by a spirit of humility and action,” Jobe said at the time. “We must be on our knees in prayer, and we must listen and learn in order to come through this experience as a stronger community.”

Arens has since taken early retirement, and Puente was placed on administrative leave. MBI has not indicated whether Puente's role will change going forward, according to The Roys Report. 

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