Posts Tagged “sexual assault”

Bob Jones University, Front Campus FountainThere are a number of evangelical Protestant colleges in the U.S., and Bob Jones University in South Carolina is one of the strangest and most controversial of them. It resisted admitting blacks until long after other major schools in that state had started admitting them, and even after that, it maintained a ban on interracial dating that lasted until 2000. In the 1970s the school fought a legal battle to retain its tax-exempt status, and ultimately lost. It’s also remarkably anti-Catholic (although this is in keeping with its Protestant evangelical origins). In spite of the controversy that swirled around it, BJU incubated more than a few Republican presidential campaigns.

But now BJU has found itself embroiled in yet another controversy. As the New York Times reports, this involves sexual-abuse reports on campus and the manner in which BJU dealt with them … or, rather, how it refused to deal with them (WebCite cached article):

For decades, students at Bob Jones University who sought counseling for sexual abuse were told not to report it because turning in an abuser from a fundamentalist Christian community would damage Jesus Christ. Administrators called victims liars and sinners.

All of this happened until recently inside the confines of this insular university, according to former students and staff members who said they had high hopes that the Bob Jones brand of counseling would be exposed and reformed after the university hired a Christian consulting group in 2012 to investigate its handling of sexual assaults, many of which occurred long before the students arrived at the university.

Last week, Bob Jones dealt a blow to those hopes, acknowledging that with the investigation more than a year old and nearing completion, the university had fired the consulting group, Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment, or Grace, without warning or explanation. The dismissal has drawn intense criticism from some people with ties to Bob Jones, and prompted some victims and their allies — including many who were interviewed by Grace investigators — to tell their stories publicly for the first time, attracting more attention than ever to the university’s methods.

The management of BJU apparently had differences of opinion with Grace. They claim to have wanted to resolve these differences … but one wonders what that means, given how they chose to go about it:

[BJU president Stephen Jones] said the university had not told Grace what its concerns were and wanted to discuss them with the consultant but could do so only face to face and felt compelled to fire the firm first.

“We terminated our agreement with Grace so that we could sit down and get it back on track,” Mr. Jones said, vowing to complete the investigation, with or without Grace.

I honestly don’t understand how they were forced to fire their own chosen investigators in order to get the investigation going again. This is mind-boggling gibberish.

Also, rather strangely, it’s not just on-campus abuse that BJU tried to squash:

But at Bob Jones, most of the stories that have been made public do not involve assaults on campus. They are about people who were abused as children and then looked for help in college.

Honestly, this too is mind-boggling. Why would BJU object to its students seeking help for abuse that occurred years before? Why would they get in the way of it? How could they find that unacceptable?

At any rate, the firing of Grace has blown the lid off the situation at BJU, and people are now talking about how the university handles sexual abuse cases. The Times reports:

“They said not to go to the police because no one will believe you, to defer to authority like your father or especially someone in the church,” she said. “They said if you report it, you hurt the body of Christ.”

Now, maybe it’s just because I’m a cynical godless agnostic heathen, but I’m not quite sure how “the body of Christ” can be “hurt.” I mean, Christ is God, is he not? Can God be hurt at all? How, exactly, does that work?

I note that running interference for sexual abusers, and the pressure on victims not to report it, in the name of protecting “the body of Christ,” is nearly the same as what we find occurred in the priestly-pedophilia scandal. Yes, folks, it does happen in places other than the Roman Catholic Church. It really, truly, absolutely is not just a Catholic problem — and I’ve never once said it wasn’t (even if Catholicism’s apologists may claim otherwise). But that it happens elsewhere still doesn’t mean it should happen anywhere, especially at the hands of people who claim to be doing God’s work and promoting morality.

Hat tip: Rational Wiki.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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Jesus WeptA man working for a church who committed a long serious of sexual assaults. His supervisors who found out about it and got him out of the way. Those same supervisors never reported the assaults to police, and what’s more, tried to block an investigation. One would think I was talking about the Roman Catholic Church — but I’m not. I’m talking, instead, about the VineLife Church in Longmont, CO. It’s some sort of Protestant evangelical church; I haven’t been able to find out which exact denomination, if any, it belongs to. In any event, KMGH-TV in Denver tells the sorry tale of abuse and cover-up (WebCite cached version):

Five officials at Vinelife Church in Longmont are accused of failing to report that a youth pastor had allegedly sexually assaulted a church member since she was 15 years old.

Boulder police said Wednesday detectives have served summonses on Vinelife Church executive pastor Robert Phillip “Bob” Young, pastor Luke Humbrecht, pastor Edward Bennell and church elder Warren Lloyd Williams. A fifth church official, who is currently out of the country, will be served a summons when he returns to Colorado, said police spokeswoman Kim Kobel. Police will identify the fifth after he’s been charged.

Each official faces one charge of duty to report child abuse, and is accused of failing to report the alleged child abuse to law enforcement or human services officials.

Boulder police arrested Vinelife youth pastor Jason Allen Roberson, 35, on Sept. 4 and charged him with one count of sexual assault on a child by a person in a position of trust; one count of sexual exploitation of a child and one count of unlawful sexual contact. After reviewing the case, the Boulder County District Attorney added one count of stalking.

The alleged victim, who is now 24 years old, is also a former church staff member. She told police the “inappropriate” relationship with the youth pastor began when she was 15 years old and continued for seven years. She said she “trusted (Roberson) as an authority figure and spiritual guide, and felt uncomfortable disclosing the relationship to others,” police said.

VineLife insists it’s done nothing wrong. On its Web site, the church claims to have cooperated with police — which police say is not true — and contend they’re not subject to mandatory child-abuse reporting laws (cached). They even threw their own lawyers under the bus over that last point:

[T]he Church sought and obtained legal counsel, who indicated that the Church leadership would not violate Colorado law by not reporting the incident given the current age of the victim.

Now, I’m no lawyer, but it’s not difficult to look up the relevant law here (Colorado Revised Statutes 19-3-304, Persons Required to Report Child Abuse or Neglect) and see that it clearly states that “clergy” are mandatory reporters of suspected child abuse. So I’m not sure if VineLife’s excuse will fly.

At any rate, for you Catholic apologists out there who read my blog (yes, there are some of you!) and are incensed that I seem to “only” report child abuse cases when it’s R.C. clergy who’ve done it, this post constitutes a refutation of that tired whine. Not that it was true before today, in any event; I’ve certainly mentioned child abuse by other sects’ or religions’ personnel before. I’ve never said, nor even suggested, it was “only” a Catholic problem, even if you think I have. So stop lying already, and stop bellyaching about how I dare criticize your precious Church.

Photo credit: Jenner8675309, via Flickr.

Hat tip: Friendly Atheist.

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A photo of the Cardinal Keith Michael Patrick O'Brien.I blogged a short while back about how Scotland’s Roman Catholic Cardinal, Keith O’Brien, had resigned his office in the wake of allegations made against him by four erstwhile seminarians, three of whom are currently priests in good standing. It turns out the allegations were substantial. The BBC reports O’Brien admitted wrongdoing and apologized for it (WebCite cached article):

Cardinal Keith O’Brien has admitted that his sexual conduct has at times “fallen beneath the standards expected of me”.

In a statement, he apologised and asked forgiveness from those he had “offended”.…

The statement issued through the Roman Catholic Church in Scotland read: “In recent days certain allegations which have been made against me have become public. Initially, their anonymous and non-specific nature led me to contest them.

“However, I wish to take this opportunity to admit that there have been times that my sexual conduct has fallen below the standards expected of me as a priest, archbishop and cardinal.

“To those I have offended, I apologise and ask forgiveness. To the Catholic Church and people of Scotland, I also apologise.

“I will now spend the rest of my life in retirement. I will play no further part in the public life of the Catholic Church in Scotland.”

The cardinal — who initially said he was taking legal advice when the allegations against him were made public — had been due to retire later this month when he turned 75.

Note how O’Brien’s putative “apology” is, in reality, no such thing! It is, rather, an example of the “non-apology apology.”

Consider: He said he’d first disputed the allegations because they were “anonymous and non-specific,” and only acceded once he knew who was behind them and what their details were. Excuse me? Did his guilt somehow, magically, change once the names and details became known? Did he not recognize his own past behavior in the allegations, while they were anonymous? Was he unable to connect the dots between his assaults on seminarians and the merely anonymous and generalized initial reports?

I seriously doubt it worked that way. He had to have known where the allegations came from, and to which events they referred. He must have. Nothing else makes any sense.

Also, O’Brien did not apologize to the seminarians he’d assaulted. Rather, he apologized only “to those I have offended.” Excuse me? How, exactly, is assaulting people merely “offending” them? Why is he equating a physical attack with mere “offense,” such as insulting someone? Seriously, Cardinal … WTF?

Put these together and it’s apparent that O’Brien does not really understand what he did, what he was accused of, or the severity of it all. Despite the appearance of having apologized for it, he’s done no such thing, and I don’t see any evidence that he accepts the reality of what he did.

Which, of course, is typical of the Roman Catholic hierarchy. They accept responsibility for nothing, and never admit guilt. Anything and everything but them is responsible for everything the Church does wrong.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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Because expressing how dumb that was in words, just doesn't work.No sooner had I blogged about a report of a military chaplain declaring that a soldier’s rape is “God’s will” and that she could get over it by worshipping the deity who ordered it to happen to her, I read about an outspoken Religious Rightist giving her (yes, her!) stamp of approval on the sexual assault of CBS reporter Lara Logan during a post-revolution celebration in Cairo (WebCite cached article). Here’s what the ferocious religiofascist Debbie Schlussel had to say about it (cached article):

As I’ve noted before, it bothers me not a lick when mainstream media reporters who keep telling us Muslims and Islam are peaceful get a taste of just how “peaceful” Muslims and Islam really are. In fact, it kinda warms my heart. Still, it’s also a great reminder of just how “civilized” these “people” (or, as I like to call them in Arabic, “Bahai’im” [Animals]) are

To Schlussel, this attack on Logan is acceptable, because of what’s been dished out to her:

Hey, sounds like the threats I get from American Muslims on a regular basis. Now you know what it’s like, Lara.

Of course, death threats that are made but never carried out are a far cry from an actual physical attack. But Schlussel just conflates it all into the same thing and — using “two wrongs make a right” thinking — says it’s great that Logan was attacked.

In an update to her post, Schlussel simultaneously claims moral rectitude and that she never expressed approval of the attack:

The reaction of the left to this article is funny in its predictability. Sooo damn predictable. Of course I don’t support “sexual assault” or violence against Lara Logan, and I said that nowhere here.

Schlussel must be right, you see, because she’s been widely criticized. (In the religious mind, criticism is equated with persecution which in turn is equated with veracity.) She also claims not to have supported sexual assault, but her support for the attack was clearly implied in what she originally wrote, which included (emphasis mine):

it bothers me not a lick when mainstream media reporters who keep telling us Muslims and Islam are peaceful get a taste of just how “peaceful” Muslims and Islam really are …

Schlussel clearly stated that she was “not bothered” by the attack. Thus, her attempt to backpedal, by saying she never stated that she supports sexual assault, fails miserably.

Way to go, Ms Schlussel. Thank you for displaying your (total lack of) character. Please, by all means … keep it up! I couldn’t possibly ask for any better confirmation of the moral abyss which is the Religious Right.

Hat tip: Romenesko blog.

Photo credit: Village Voice.

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Ivanov, Alexander - The Appearance of Christ to Mary Magdalene - 1834-1836I’ve never quite understood why it is that so many religions have such a hard time accepting that women — who are half the human population — are human beings, too, just like men. It seems rather obvious to me that both women and men are equally human … but hey, what could a cynical, God-hating agnostic heathen possibly know about such important things as institutional misogyny?

I blogged a while ago about how the Roman Catholic Church teaches that pregnant women’s lives are forfeit, and expect their hospitals to comply with this doctrine. But it’s not just the Catholic hierarchy that believes women are lesser beings whose welfare is secondary to theology. In a lawsuit filed over how the Pentagon mishandled sexual harassment, assault, and rape in the military, one story claims that an Army chaplain said something unconscionable to an Army sergeant who had been raped (WebCite cached article):

In February of 2009 SGT Havrilla reported for four weeks of active duty training. During this training, she saw her rapist in the shopette on Fort Leanard Wood. Upon seeing her rapist, SGT Havrilla went into shock. She immediately sought the assistance of the military chaplain. When SGT Havrilla met with the military chaplain, he told her that “it must have been God’s will for her to be raped” and recommended that she attend church more frequently (#46, page 10).

Definitely, that’s what every victim of rape needs — to bow and scrape and worship the vast cosmic deity whose will it had been for her to be raped. Why, of course! It’s the obvious remedy!

</sarcasm>

Now, I have no idea what the religious affiliation of the chaplain in question is. The military does have non-Christian chaplains. But the odds are, this chaplain was a man, ordained by some Christian denomination. So I’m assuming (at the risk of being wrong, I admit) this denigration of women must be something Jesus taught … right?

Well, I’ve just scoured every Bible I could get my hands on, but have never found “Thou shalt treat women like trash and abuse them as thou wilt” anywhere in it. Maybe one of you Christians out there (I know you read this blog!) can point me in the direction of it.* If you can’t find it, then maybe — just maybe! — it’s time to stop fucking acting as though he did. OK?

Hat tip: Friendly Atheist.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

* In fact … I dare you to point it out! Please post the chapter and verse in the comments. Thank you.

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Letter to Juneau county (WI) school districts, from D.A. Scott Harold SouthworthThis story is simultaneously shocking — in its scariness — and unsurprising, given how things are in this country. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports on this (WebCite cached article):

A district attorney is telling Juneau County schools to abandon their sex education courses, saying a new curriculum law could lead to criminal charges against teachers for contributing to the delinquency of minors.

Starting in the fall, the new law requires schools that have sex education programs to tell students how to use condoms and other contraceptives. Juneau County District Attorney Scott Southworth said such education encourages sex among children, which is illegal, and could lead to charges against teachers.

The new law “promotes the sexualization – and sexual assault – of our children,” Southworth wrote in a March 24 letter to officials in five school districts. He urged the districts to suspend their sex education programs and transfer their curriculum on anatomy to a science course.

It’s not clear to me how following an explicit state statute can also be a crime that Southworth could prosecute, but I’m not sure that little things like that really matter to him. He’s been brainwashed by the usual Religious Right spew on the matter:

“Forcing our schools to instruct children on how to utilize contraceptives encourages our children to engage in sexual behavior, whether as a victim or an offender,” he wrote. “It is akin to teaching children about alcohol use, then instructing them on how to make mixed alcoholic drinks.”

Southworth claims, rather incredibly, that he’s not motivated by religion:

“If I’d wanted to be ideological, I would have said in the letter you shouldn’t have sex before marriage because that’s the Christian perspective. I’m an evangelical,” Southworth said.

Sorry but this isn’t going to fly. Not with me anyway. When you do something that just happens to coincide with your own religious dogma, you can’t argue you weren’t motivated by that dogma, merely because you didn’t throw in something additional which is also derived from your dogma.

If you want to read his ridiculous letter, I’ve got a copy of it for you to read … in all its sanctimonious, hyperreligious baselessness.

OK, residents of Juneau county who elected this guy your district attorney … what have you got to say for yourselves? And when do you plan to start the process of removing him from office? Or are you going to approve of what Southworth has done, by choosing to do nothing about him?

Hat tip: Religion Dispatches.

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