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:
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.