Bob Jones University, a Christian liberal arts school in South Carolina, found its record of handling sexual abuse under the spotlight again this week when a former student revealed that she was told by a dean of students at the school to repent of her sin after she told him she had been raped.
Former Bob Jones student Katie Landry, 31, explained in an Al Jazeera America report Tuesday that she was just an inexperienced 19-year-old conservative Mennonite from rural Ohio in 2004 when she was raped by her supervisor at her summer job with an ambulance company in Columbus, Ohio.
She says one night as she counted supplies in the back of an ambulance she was startled by the prick of a needle then everything else that followed.
"I just couldn't move and he came over and he took my clothes off," she recalled. "I could still speak, so I was telling him, 'No.' And he raped me and my eyes filled with tears, but I couldn't brush the tears away."
She said her rapist threatened he "would do worse" to her 9-year-old sister if she didn't return to work. She said she returned for five more shifts and was raped three more times before she moved on to start her freshman year at Bob Jones University.
Two years after the rape, Landry said she recognized that she needed help and sought it from BJU and was referred to Jim Berg, the dean of students at the time.
After telling Berg her story, Landry said he asked her if she had been drinking, smoking marijuana or had been "impure." He then asked her about her "root sin."
"He goes, 'Well, there's always a sin under other sin. There's a root sin,'" Landry recalled. "And he said, 'We have to find the sin in your life that caused your rape.' And I just ran."
"He just confirmed my worst nightmare," Landry said. "It was something I had done. It was something about me. It was my fault."
The Al Jazeera report highlights the stories of two other women who attended BJU in three separate decades, from the early 1990s to the 2010s, who allege that faculty at the fortress-like Christian college handled their sexual abuse reports poorly.
A nonprofit led by Billy Graham's grandson Boz Tchividjian, called Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment, is investigating how BJU handled sexual abuse at the request of the university.
So far, according to Al Jazeera, more than 100 people have come forward to GRACE investigators, and a report on the organization's findings will be released in a few months.
Tchividjian thinks Christian organizations across the United States have failed victims in similar ways, and noted that Protestant organizations could be "worse" than the Catholic Church.
Another victim in the report, identified only as Sarah, said when she reported her rape by a family member to BJU professor of counseling Pat Berg, the wife of Jim Berg, she was told she had to forgive her rapist or God would not forgive her.
"Picking up that phone that day and calling him was one of the most gut-wrenchingly hard things that I ever had to do," said Sarah. "It didn't bring me closure. Instead, it was like sticking a knife inside me and twisting it harder."
In response to the report Thursday, Randy Page, director of public relations at BJU, released the following statement:
Caring for our students and alumni is of utmost concern. Rape, abuse and neglect are not the fault of any victim. Those who perpetuate these horrific crimes bear full responsibility for their actions and should be prosecuted.
Believing that all forms of abuse and neglect are abhorrent, Bob Jones University embarked on a program in 2011 to review and improve our response to students who report abuse. In subsequent months we have updated policies, implemented awareness training, appointed a full-time abuse counselor, and appointed an ombudsman to review our policies and past responses to abuse. It is our desire to continue to serve and improve our care for the hurting and abused.