In 2005, Shielagh Clark, a student at the fundamentalist Christian school Bob Jones University, told administrators that her former pastor had sexually assaulted her beginning when she was 15 years old (in 2001) and that she was pregnant with his child.
Those school officials never told her to report the man to the police. Instead, they told her to withdraw from the school for lying about her whereabouts that night she spent with the pastor.
Because of that, it wasn’t until last month when that pastor, Jonathan Alan Weaver, was finally arrested on multiple counts of assault and battery.
In a statement to The Greenville News, [BJU spokesperson Randy] Page said the university failed by not encouraging Clark to go to authorities at that time.
“In reviewing the actions taken by the University administration at the time they learned of these assaults, BJU failed to adequately assist the female student by encouraging her to notify law enforcement of the assaults committed against her in South Carolina,” BJU’s Page said in the statement. “In the intervening years, we have learned much about how to assist women who experience trauma as a result of sexual abuse and/or assault. We would handle this situation much differently if it were to happen today.
“We applaud the courage and bravery of our former student in notifying law enforcement and pray that she and her family may find comfort and peace in the days ahead.”
That’s easy to say in hindsight. A hastily prepared statement doesn’t make up for 15 years of trauma.
Notice that it also doesn’t address the claim that Clark was told to leave the school, suggesting there’s no real change when it comes to victim-blaming. Bob Jones University has a nasty history of blaming survivors for their assaults. One of the school’s trustees even forced a teenager to publicly confess her “sin” of being raped (and impregnated) in front of their church congregation.
Apologies are important — and Clark said she was “encouraged” by the statement — but BJU needs to do so much more if it truly cares about its student body. It shouldn’t be this hard.