Moody Bible Institute
Moody Bible Institute's campus in Chicago, Illinois.

Investigation Finds “Unsuccessful” Sex Abuse Reporting System at Moody & “Pervasive Distrust”

By Jackson Elliott

A months-long investigation of the sexual harassment and abuse reporting system at the Moody Bible Institute has found a climate of “pervasive distrust” of leaders at the institute. The investigation also found that MBI’s staff was “ill-equipped,” and at times, unwilling, to report Title IX infractions, and that MBI’s reporting system was “ineffective” and “unsuccessful.”

The investigation by Grand River Solutions (GRS) was commissioned by Moody in November 2020 following a petition by sex abuse survivors, alleging a pattern at Moody of “dismissal, cover up, and even disciplinary action” being taken against survivors.

As part of the investigation, Moody interviewed 11 MBI sexual abuse survivors, as well as 35 other community members. GRS also examined Moody training materials and response protocols.

The investigation concluded on April 15. And though Moody has refused to release the full report of the investigation to the public, the school recently released a 31-page document outlining numerous recommendations by Grand River Solutions. 

In response to the GRS recommendations, MBI presented its own list of commitments to improve its sexual assault response, along with an apology to students who were affected by mishandled sexual abuse cases.

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 “We apologize to those members of our Moody community who experienced a lack of empathy and follow-through with respect to their Title IX reports,” Moody stated. “We also apologize to those whose reports were not processed as rapidly and efficiently as they could have been. We are deeply sorry for the pain that has been caused to any of our students.”

According to the GRS document, the problems with MBI’s reporting system was cultural and systemic.

“Moody’s current climate (includes) a pervasive distrust of Moody’s leaders, including those leaders who are responsible for coordinating the institutional response to sexual harassment and sexual and interpersonal violence,” the GRS document stated.

At Moody, reporting sexual misconduct with Title IX laws was stigmatized, the document continued. School leaders felt that they shouldn’t be accountable to the government, it said, even for sexual misconduct at their institution. These hurdles made it hard to report abuse.

“When coupled with a resentful attitude toward the perceived imposition of government, the historic approach and perspective to Title IX reporting infects the larger community,” GRS stated. “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.”

The GRS document added that some of the problem at Moody could be attributed to disobedience of Title IX law. Professors didn’t report abuse when they learned about it, GRS said, and Moody’s explanations of Title IX were misleading and sometimes incorrect.

“The reviewers understand that there are several members of Moody’s faculty who are resistant to, or have simply declined, to comply with the requirement that the reports that they receive be referred to the Title IX Coordinator,” the GRS document stated.

It added that Moody’s Employee Information Guide used language that implied a Title IX investigation is optional in sexual abuse cases.

Title IX requires that all reports of sexual abuse be investigated, GRS said. In addition, Illinois law requires that institutions to respond to sexual assault reports within 12 hours.

Moody committed to evaluate all policies and protocols but didn’t say whether the institute would rewrite the misleading language.

GRS also found that Moody’s policies and procedures failed to distinguish between consensual and non-consensual sexual conduct.

Both Moody’s Student Life Guide and Employee Information Guide prohibit consensual and non-consensual sexual contact outside of marriage. But GRS said Moody needs to clearly delineate the “difference in process and procedures for responding to reports of sexual harassment or sexual and interpersonal violence.”

GRS also recommended an amnesty policy for people who reported sexual abuse in settings where people were violating Moody conduct code policies. About 50% of sexual assault cases at universities involve alcohol, which is prohibited under the Moody conduct code.

Moody did not commit to creating an amnesty policy. However, MBI did commit to centralizing campus institutions to deal with sexual abuse.

In the past, sexual misconduct cases were handled by the Title IX Coordinator, the Dean of Students, and the Vice President for Human Resources. GRS strongly criticized this arrangement, calling it “unsuccessful” and “ineffective.”

Now, sexual abuse cases will be handled by one leader using one coherent policy, according to Moody’s published commitments. This policy will write out procedures for both Title IX sex abuse and harassment cases, as well as sexual misconduct that falls outside the scope of Title IX.

Moody also agreed to create a comprehensive sexual misconduct database, a system to communicate with assault victims, and an annual report on the numbers of Title IX cases filed at the school.

Several months ago, MBI Dean of Student Life Tim Arens, who was accused of mishandling sex abuse cases, took an early retirement. Moody also placed its Title IX coordinator, Rachel Puente, on administrative leave from her Title IX role. Moody has not specified whether Puente’s position will change in the future.

Grand River Solutions’ Recommendation Report:

GRS Recommendations

 

Moody’s Commitments in Response to GRS’ Recommendations:

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Jackson Elliott

Jackson Elliott is a Christian journalist trained at Northwestern University. He has worked at The Daily Signal, The Inlander, and The Christian Post, covering topics ranging from D.C. politics to prison ministry. His interests include the Bible, philosophy, theology, Russian literature, and Irish music.

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6 thoughts on “Investigation Finds “Unsuccessful” Sex Abuse Reporting System at Moody & “Pervasive Distrust””

  1. William Orris

    A sad state of affairs that began by accepting title 9 money years ago. Now further down the path of worldliness the issue of sexual sins is focused on the rules and guidelines of title 9 and how to get back in line with that document, but further is a perceived need for an outside commission to tell them where they went astray and what to do about it.

    What happened to the Word of God on this matter? Why not use his set of documents as the guideline? Should this issue ever have needed to be taken to the outside to be given clarity on moral issues? An institute committed to teaching Biblical principles now needs the secular world to tell them how to act and what to do to fix spiritual disciplines.

    Has the school lost the spiritual battle; drifted too far to repent, now just interested in damage control? My heart aches over the above article ever having needed to be printed on events now in the past.

    1. “A sad state of affairs that began by accepting title 9 money years ago.”

      Title IX may have helped *reveal* Moody’s failings in responding to victims of sexual assault, but it certainly didn’t *cause* them.

      Seems to me that it helped bring works done in darkness out into the light.

  2. Mr. Ralph Jesperson

    Let me guess what happens next, based on experience upon experience when men try to serve Mammon and God. There will be some shuffling of chairs and some very slight changes to procedures. There will be some small noise made about doing better in the future. But after a very short while everything will go back to the way it was before. There will be more complaints but little to nothing at all will change. You see that institutions cannot repent, only individual people can. The institution is just a pile of rubbish. It is all it can ever be. Jesus did not die so that more institutions could be made in His name. Rather He was specifically killed by the very same institution that God set up with very exact and specific guidelines. Why do we keep thinking things can be any other way other than this?

    And I found it interesting that the report highlighted the attitude of administrators and teachers of pure rebellion against governmental authorities. All these people have read what the Apostle Paul plainly said about the role of government. It is God’s tool for keeping order and civility. The people running this school do not just have a rebellious attitude against secular authority, but also plainly against God’s. They are not righteous in their rebellion but wholly and fully evil in it. The school will continue and people will praise it even though the institution is wicked. What a sad state of affairs…

  3. I just dont understand why a victim doesnt go to the police – I mean its their right if they so choose. I dont think too many organizations/ businesses will tell their student/ employee,” please go to the police and let them handle this. Of course there are companies and businesses that do this… but not most,and usually under force by law.

    1. Glad to hear that the report appears to be pulling no punches and MBI seems to be releasing most of it’s results. Unfortunately, many of the results seem to show that MBI -that like so many evangelical organizations- seems to value it’s autonomy higher than its responsibilities to it’s students well-being and to the law.

      I’m fervently hoping that MBI and its supporters and alumni take this not as a “done deal” but as a reason to keep a close on MBI in the following years. This is not an issue that should be considered closed or a situation that has been fully rectified.

      Karl Paulsen
      Class of 2005

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