“You told us you would protect us like your own daughter. Where was my protection when your vice president and dean of women attacked me for being the victim?”
So asks a rape victim at Cedarville University of university president, Dr. Thomas White, in this episode of The Roys Report. The student says the school failed to protect her when she filed a Title IX complaint for sexual harassment, so when she was raped, she didn’t feel safe to report it. She did, however, repeatedly plead with Dr. White to do something, but says her pleas fell on deaf ears.
Hear this heartbreaking but important podcast, exposing what some are calling a “toxic” environment at Cedarville that needs to change.
UPDATE: In an earlier version of this podcast, I noted that I could not confirm that Joy Childs is a licensed professional counselor. Since recording, I have confirmed that Childs is licensed.
Note: This transcript has been edited slightly for continuity.
JULIE ROYS: Over the past month Cedarville University has come under fire for hiring a known sexual predator. The board has placed Cedarville President Thomas White on administrative leave and is conducting a third-party investigation. But is the problem at Cedarville bigger than the president’s office? And is there a culture at the school that fails to protect victims of sexual harassment and abuse? Welcome to The Roys Report–a podcast dedicated to reporting the truth and restoring the church. I’m Julie Roys, and today I’m going to be speaking with a former Cedarville student who says she was a victim of sexual harassment and rape. But when she reported her views to school officials, she says she was re-victimized by the school. I’m going to get to that interview in just a moment but I do want to thank our sponsors: Marquardt of Barrington and Judson University. And if you’re looking for a car, I encourage you to go to BuyACar123.com. Also, I want to remind you that Judson’s next World Leaders Forum is October 20, at the Renaissance Schaumburg Convention Center. The speaker for that event will be General David Petraeus, a four-star general and former director of the CIA. For more information, just go to JudsonU.edu. Well returning to our topic today, again, joining me is a former Cedarville University student who was a victim of sexual harassment and rape and she says Cedarville under President Thomas White has a toxic culture that fails to protect victims of abuse. In fact, in a letter to Dr. Thomas White that she sent after withdrawing from Cedarville earlier this year, she writes and I quote, “I went to Cedarville. And you Dr. White told us you would protect us like your own daughter. Where was my protection when your vice president and Dean of women attacked me for being the victim? Where was your protection when after I was held down and my pleas to stop weren’t listened to, that I couldn’t report it because of how your staff treated me? I pray you never experience what my parents did. The midnight phone calls when I woke up with nightmares. The fear that their daughter wouldn’t go to a hospital the next time she was suicidal. Or last week getting a phone call that I passed out because I cut too deep and I was sitting in a pool of my own blood. Where was this school’s love for others then?” Well, again, as you can tell, this podcast is going to be dealing with some rather intense issues. We’re going to be dealing with sexual abuse, attempted suicide. But friends, these are realities. And I’ve heard from numerous current and former Cedarville students, especially women, who complain about the culture at Cedarville. And so often when I hear these stories, I hear the emotion, I hear the pain. And sometimes that’s just hard to communicate in print. So, I’m really glad that my guest today agreed to be on this podcast. Now, because of the nature of the abuse, my guest today does not want to give her last name. However, she did want to use her real first name. And that was her choice, because she wanted those close to the story to know who she is. So, I’m honoring that. Her name is Kiara. And up until February of this year, she was a student at Cedarville. So, Kiara, welcome. And thank you so much for being willing to tell your story.
KIARA: Thank you.
JULIE ROYS: Well, also joining me today is Kiara’s mother Gail. Gail was a witness to many of the things that Kiara is going to be talking about, so I wanted to include her. Gail, welcome. And thank you as well for joining us.
GAIL: And thank you. And thank you for covering this for her.
JULIE ROYS: Well, I’m glad to do it. And I know it takes a lot of courage to come on and to talk about a story like this. So, thank you to both of you to be here and to be on this podcast. I also want to mention that I reached out to numerous employees at Cedarville, who will be named today to offer their side of the story. However, none of them have responded. I do hope, however, that the trustees at Cedarville are listening, those conducting the independent investigation into how things were handled recently, I hope they’re listening as well. None of us want to see Cedarville destroyed but we would like to see it reformed and real change happen. So, Kiara, let’s start with the fall of 2018. That’s when you came to Cedarville. And in that first semester, you began having some issues. Would you tell me about that?
KIARA: Yes, I moved in in August of 2018 and I moved in with my former roommate who I met on the Facebook page at Cedarville and had talked to her. And starting with “Getting Started Weekend,” she had started talking about me behind my back and saying things to other people about it. And I had tried to just push it to the side because I had to live with her. And then when I got to Christmas break, I found out that the rumors were going beyond like the eating disorder rumor and other gossipy rumors to that she had started sex rumors about me and one of my close guy friends.
JULIE ROYS: And so, at this point is I’m understanding during the fall you’re hearing about some of these rumors and you know, initially when you’re at school, things can happen. I mean, there’s messy relationships, but this from what I’m understanding went beyond the normal like this was being spread pretty widely and it was impacting your mental health. Am I right?
KIARA: Yes, it was. I was that’s when I started to skip classes more. And I would stay out until curfew, so I don’t have to be in the room with her.
JULIE ROYS: And at this point, did you seek any help from the school as far as counseling or anything like that?
KIARA: I started counseling in the fall of 2018. It was about a month or two into school. And I sought counseling through the counseling center. And right after Christmas break, I talked to my RA, who’s our resident assistant—who she’s also a student at Cedarville—about the rumors.
JULIE ROYS: Okay. So, let’s just talk about the counseling first, because I know that’s an important part of the story. It’s also one that’s touched on in some other stories I’ve done as well. The counselor you had was Joy Childs, is that correct?
JULIE ROYS: Okay. Did you find the counseling that you received from her, I mean, what was that like? Was that a positive experience?
KIARA: It was very toxic. I felt that it did more harm than good in my personal relationships and my mental health. She told me that I needed to be more vulnerable. And the other counseling I’ve gotten and classes—because I am a psychology student—trauma victims need boundaries, not vulnerability. And she just gave me like a lot of worksheets to do outside of counseling which on top of full-time school and a job like I never like actually did them because I didn’t have time and they didn’t seem helpful. And like she would talk to me instead of listening to my issues.
JULIE ROYS: And I know this is just a part, a sliver of your story, but I did do a little bit of research.* Jennifer Beck was the director of the counseling center there at Cedarville when Dr. White became president. Jennifer Beck was independently licensed as a clinical therapist since 2008. When Dr. White came in, she was just the interim director. They actually interviewed several people and hired a new interim director. And it wasn’t Jennifer Beck. And she said at the time that she got asked a lot of questions from the administration, felt like there wasn’t a lot of trust with the professional counselors that they had. And the person that got the position, which I know is going to come up a lot in your story, is somebody by the name of Mindy May. Mindy is not a professional licensed counselor. So she was hired as the head of the counseling department and she’s not a licensed professional counselor. Beck told me that during a meeting with administrators and some of the counselors at Cedarville, when they announced that Mindy Mae was going to take over some of the counselors said, “Well, is this a problem, that she’s not a licensed professional counselor?” And the response that Beck said that they got from an administrator was that that was baffling that they would ask that, and that reportedly, the administrator said that the state licensure is just the state imposing its standards and worldview on a Christian institution. So, there seems to be a culture from what she’s reporting where the counselors aren’t necessarily licensed. It sounds like from what you’re saying, Kiara, that you didn’t really get the kind of professional counseling that you had hoped.But you did report to the RD (Resident Director.) Did you feel at all like they were concerned and they were going to do anything?
KIARA: No. They were both really good friends with my roommate. And they encouraged me to confront her, which I did. And I told them that she admitted to it. And the day after I had the conversation with my RD, my resident director, she had posted a picture with my RA and my roommate about how much they meant to her, which made me feel like what I had just told her meant nothing.
JULIE ROYS: This is the fall semester then you have Christmas break, then the spring semester. You begin having some of these conversations, nothing seems to be resolving. You leave and you go home. And this is where I’d like to talk to you Gail. You saw your daughter come home. And what was Kara like when she came home after that year at Cedarville.
GAIL: She came home pretty broken and I had talked to her throughout the spring semester. I didn’t really realize how bad it was until she got home. Although I did know she actually had called one night. I didn’t answer the phone—I was sleeping—that she was even at that time having some really strong mental health struggles with suicide and contemplating and thinking about it. And I had talked to her about that on the phone. And so, I didn’t really realize until she got home, just how broken she was. And at that point, she decided that she would reach out to the Dean of women, Mindy May, and let her know what had happened.
JULIE ROYS: All right let’s pick it up there, then. Kiara, you reached out to Mindy May, who is the head of the Counseling Center also now she’s the Dean of women. Did you feel like you were heard?
KIARA: The first time I emailed her, I kind of did. Like her response to me like she gave me options. And like it was the first person who actually like gave me the option of going to Title IX. But that was about the last time I felt any support from her. And it was all over email. It was once I started talking to her in person, I kind of realized she wasn’t very supportive, and it was very fake.
JULIE ROYS: But you did at that point begin the Title IX process of complaining about this. It’s my understanding that it qualified as a Title IX type of infraction because there was considered sexual harassment, right? Because there were rumors that had been spread about you concerning that you had been hooking up with a certain student on campus, correct?
JULIE ROYS: Okay. So, you started that Title IX process and just help me understand. I went to a Christian College and it’s a small community. But for those listening, maybe they went to big university, rumors get started, whatever. But when you’re at a small school, can you explain what that’s like when there’s that kind of a rumor being spread about you?
KIARA: You feel like everybody is talking about you and looking at you, I lost friends, because they thought that it was true, and they didn’t want to be associated with that. And then I also got text messages from boys on campus thinking it was true trying to get me to hook up with them. And like then as soon as they found out I wouldn’t, they would like stop talking to me or call me a flirt. And like it just like dropped my self-esteem. I started keeping to myself a lot and I’m a very like, outgoing person. I was a cheerleader in high school, and I was always with people. So that I think was where like, I noticed the differences when I didn’t want to be around anybody.
JULIE ROYS: So, after this conversation, though, this summer it sounds like you felt like you were going to be heard. And you must have felt assured enough that you decided to go back in the fall.
KIARA: Yes. I had a phone conversation with Title IX. And she made it sound very clearly that my roommate would be revoked of the RA position leadership position that she had been given until the investigation was over. And that made me feel like, “okay, they hear me, I’m safe. They won’t let this happen to me again.” And which is why I went back. And I also went back, because I knew that if I didn’t report it, nothing would be done. And I wanted to protect other girls from going through what I went through.
JULIE ROYS: And this is a very big part of the story is that your roommate had applied to be an RA a Resident Assistant, so she was getting this position on campus. You felt like given what she had done, she shouldn’t get this position. But you felt somewhat reassured when you went back to campus. Now it’s my understanding that your parents came with you when you went back to campus. And you had a meeting—and you had emailed about this and set it up ahead of time—with Mindy May, your parents and you.
JULIE ROYS: But it didn’t exactly go down the way you thought it was going to go down. And actually, I’d like to hear from your mom about that if I could. Gail, what was that meeting like when you got to campus? I believe it was like August 20, because we have emails that go back and forth. Or maybe it was August 19th this happened, because you emailed Dr. White after this. What was that meeting like with Mindy May and you when you got back on campus?
GAIL: Well, we live 1200 miles from the school, and we had driven our daughter out. And we did meet with Title IX first and had a very professional meeting and we had also been in contact with Mindy May. And we were told to go to the field house. So, I’m thinking, Okay, we’ll meet her and we’ll go talk. And we get to the field house where students are registering for classes, and we find her. And she starts talking to us. And my husband was like, you know, this is kind of strange. And we stepped over to the side of the table she was working at and my daughter was visibly upset. And so, my husband said, “Is there someplace private we can talk?” She literally opened the curtain and we stepped behind the curtain in the field house.
JULIE ROYS: Wow. To talk about some pretty private things.
GAIL: Yes. And the fact that parents, students, faculty, were all in the field house and so we didn’t feel it was professional or private or important.
JULIE ROYS: Did you in that discussion feel like you got any assurances from her that this situation regarding your daughter and the rumors and this woman who had been responsible for them being held accountable for doing that?
GAIL: Not at all. I felt like she hadn’t given it any thought at all during the summer or anything. And I directly asked her if the girl had admitted that she had started these rumors. And she said, “Yes.” And at that point, my daughter fell to the floor crying, because she was told, “Yes, she admitted it, but I still gave her the RA position.” And that was kind of where the conversation ended for me.
JULIE ROYS: Kiara, tell me, when that happened—when she responded that way—how did that feel to you? I mean, obviously, you had a very strong emotional reaction.
KIARA: I, I kind of gave up. I felt so unheard so unimportant. I felt like I meant nothing. And I know that before that, I had said to her, that the girl was more important than me, because of how they took care of it. I had a panic attack. And I like kept like saying to my mom, “I need to get out of here. I need to get out of here.” But I cannot tell you anything that was going on around me at that point.
JULIE ROYS: So, Gail, I am in possession of a letter, an email that you sent to Thomas White the day after this meeting. And it’s a long letter, so I’m not going to read all of it, but I want to just read a part of it where you talk about this Saturday meeting with Mindy, and you write, “My daughter was falling apart in front of me as she learned that the girl had only been spoken to a few days prior to us arriving, that she was remorseful, and she was a new RA. At that point, I wasn’t sure if my daughter was going to be able to stay at the school. I directly asked Mindy, if the girl admitted to what she did and was told, ‘Yes.’ So there was my baby girl on the floor of the Fieldhouse crying, not being able to breathe and feeling totally ignored. The lesson she learned was that by being strong, holding someone accountable and taking the proper steps, she was ignored. She wasn’t important. She was told by Mindy that it was just ‘gossip,’ and she didn’t feel that she had evidence, so it wasn’t slander. She had the evidence as the other girl had confessed. My daughter was the victim once again and the girl that had committed this injustice was rewarded with the position of being an RA, where she could lead and guide others.” And then you reference in this letter, the school handbook saying that slander, libel and the use of vulgar obscene or threatening language—violations of these guidelines may result in dismissal. “We are questioning why was she rewarded and given a position of leadership in the school?” You got a response from Dr. White. Yeah. And I’ve been given that as well. Basically, he said, “I’m greatly concerned about the situation. I followed up. Our policies allow for a thorough investigation because she had filed for Title IX. And that all parties involved will be investigated all sides of the situation before coming to a conclusion. Per our policies, I cannot interject myself into any situations that could be perceived as undue interference or an attempt to bias an outcome.” Gail, what did you think of that response?
GAIL: I tried to think that maybe he couldn’t do anything because of, you know, it being sent to Title IX. I don’t feel that my questions were answered about the handbook. And I think going back to why my daughter was so affected by these rumors, as you said, going to a Christian college, they can kick you out of school for less than what happened to her. Those rumors could have resulted in her being removed from that school. And that was one of the reasons they were so serious, like you said at a big school they may not be. So, I didn’t really feel that I got what I needed from the president of the school.
JULIE ROYS: Right. And there’s Title IX investigation but then there’s also policies of the school. And again, I don’t have Dr. White here to respond. I did email him numerous times and through the communications director there at Cedarville, asking, saying, “I’d like to talk to you about what happened.” And there just was no response. So that just didn’t happen. At that point, Kiara, you asked for a No Contact Order. And this was something, it sounds like it’s very similar to a kind of legal order of protection or something like that. Can you explain what a No Contact Order is at Cedarville?
KIARA: A No Contact Order is, it can be anywhere from very light to just, “don’t text me, don’t call me.” Or very strict, like, “you aren’t gonna be in the same room as me.” I made mine somewhere in the middle. I didn’t want her in my classes. I didn’t want her like in the same vicinity as me and I didn’t want her talking to me or about me. But it wasn’t enforced in any way shape or form. And what I was told about it by the Title IX director and then what Mindy May told me were very different things.
JULIE ROYS: Okay,
KIARA: The Title IX director told me that like, if I was in line at Rinnova, which is a coffee shop on campus, my former roommate was supposed to leave the vicinity and not get in line, like go into the bookstore, which was across the hall. If she was in line, I was to do the same thing.
JULIE ROYS: Okay.
KIARA: However, when she had followed me, like, less than a step behind me, I had reported it to Mindy May and Mindy May told me that was not a violation, that we could be in the same vicinity. But she also told me that she thought the girl was about a football field away from me, which our sidewalk wasn’t even that long, where we were. And there was an alternate route she could have taken.
JULIE ROYS: And so, did you get the feeling that she was trying to harass you and giving you a hard time?
KIARA: I felt like she was trying to make me uncomfortable. Okay. And like there was one time she walked past me that she was with a friend and as soon as she got next to me, she just started laughing. And it just made me very uncomfortable.
JULIE ROYS: At one point, she sent you some pictures, is that right?
KIARA: Yes, from another person’s phone, but it was a picture of her. It was on Snapchat, so it disappears, but it was sent directly to me. Because you can pick who you send them to.
JULIE ROYS: You complained to Mindy May about that correct?
KIARA: The pictures? Yes, I did.
JULIE ROYS: Okay. And the response was?
KIARA: My mom was there for this one because I didn’t get a response from her until I got out of the crisis unit because I ended up in the crisis unit right around then. But that she didn’t think Alison knew I was getting the pictures and that it didn’t come from Alison’s phone. So, it wasn’t a breach of the No Contact Order. And they weren’t going to do anything.
JULIE ROYS: Wow. So according to—you had sent me some emails and I put together a little bit of timeline—on September 23rd, it was after you’ve gotten these pictures and you sent an email to Dr. White. And in this letter, and again, I’m not going to read the whole thing, but it does say in here, “Last year, I spiraled into habits of self-harm and active suicidality. There were a few factors that caused this. The largest however was my roommate.” You talked about the gossiping, how you had reported it, again, told the RA. Now he would have known this because your mother had also complained about this. But you sent that to him. And then on the 26th, he responded again with, “I can’t be involved. It’s an ongoing Title IX investigation. But I’ll be praying that this matter will soon come to resolution and that God ultimately will be glorified through this regrettable situation.” That was on the 26th. As I understand it on the 28th, you went into a crisis unit?
JULIE ROYS: So, what caused the breakdown that sent you to the crisis unit?
KIARA: The pictures, and the fact that Mindy May, in some of her emails had like said that I was lying. And just that I wasn’t being heard. And I felt that I would just be a better off gone because obviously, nobody cared about what was going on in the first place, which isn’t true, I know now. But from what I was getting from school, it’s what they were showing me.
JULIE ROYS: Wow. And your parents got a call I’m sure from the hospital saying, your daughter is in this crisis unit. She’s actively suicidal. Gail. I can only imagine what it’s like being, you know, more than 1000 miles away and getting a call like that from a hospital.
GAIL: We actually got a call from Kiara.
JULIE ROYS: Oh, you did? Okay.
GAIL: Thankfully, Kiara had started seeing an outside counselor off Cedarville campus. And with this counselor, they had actually made a plan that if she was feeling suicidal, and thank the good Lord, and by His grace only, she followed that plan and she called me. And I received a call at 9:30 at night that she was suicidal, from her. She had contacted a friend and the friend was with her and was going to take her to the hospital. So, by 10:30, my husband and I had plane tickets. We have to drive two and a half hours to get to an airport that’s large enough. So, we left our house at 10:30 and drove the two and a half hours and took a five o’clock AM flight. And I think we were at the hospital by 11 o’clock the next morning.
JULIE ROYS: Wow.
GAIL: It was, thankfully she did have a professional counselor that had set up a plan with her and that she was strong enough to follow that plan. And that she did have some very good friends that communicated with me and got her to the hospital.
JULIE ROYS: Thank the Lord that that happened and that she had that plan and how wise on all of your parts to have that plan in place and to have her seeing a professional counselor. I think there’s probably a lot of people listening right now that I mean, that’s really a model in many ways, of care. It’s my understanding, then you got there. And you signed her out. Again, she went into the crisis unit on the 28th. On the 30th, you had a meeting with the school—Jon Wood, who is an administrator there at Cedarville, and Mindy May. Tell me how that meeting went.
GAIL: Not very well. As we tried. I have a very strong daughter, very independent daughter. And we allowed her to speak on her behalf. And I don’t, didn’t feel that was received very well. I am also pretty outspoken; my husband is pretty quiet. So in hindsight and reading what’s going on now, I’m pretty sure they didn’t like the fact that two women were sitting in their office speaking as my daughter was telling them how she felt, and, you know, our disappointment in what had taken place with the girl that was given the RA position, the whole Snapchat story, which they pretty much, you know, said that was nothing. And I kid you not, at one point, Jon Wood rolled his eyes at my daughter. And she and I looked at each other and I said, “This is done.” And we walked out.
JULIE ROYS: Wow. Kiara. I’d like to hear your perspective.
KIARA: Yeah, it was one of the most emotional meetings I have ever had. And I was very outspoken, and I said what I needed to say. And some of it was not very nice, but it was very true. At one point, I looked at Mindy May and told her there was going to be a suicide, and their blood would be on her hands and that I hoped she could live with it. She just sat back and was like, “That’s not true.” And I just, every time I was trying to explain why it was slander with legal definitions, and dictionaries stuff and like laws that are in place, Jon Wood would say, “No, no, no, that’s not true. It’s just gossip. It’s just gossip.”
JULIE ROYS: Okay. So, on October 1, which would have been the day after this meeting with Jon Wood and Mindy May, you Kiara again sent an email to Dr. White and you tell him, “I was in a crisis unit this weekend because I almost took my life. I can tell you with no doubt in my mind, if I had done it, it would be on Mindy May. My parents flew out here.” You talk about the meeting, you talked about Jon Wood rolling his eyes, how you cried, how difficult this was for you. And you said, “I don’t want to withdraw, though.” And you said, “I love the Christian education I’m receiving. I don’t want to feel like I failed. But I don’t deserve to be punished for something someone else did to me.” You still wanted to stay at Cedarville despite all this. You, I mean, obviously, you were enjoying your classes. There are other parts of it you must have been getting a lot of good out of. Is that correct?
JULIE ROYS: Yeah. And so, when you sent this letter, what kind of a reply were you hoping for?
KIARA: Just something that he was going to look into it. That he would figure something out. I wanted to be heard.
JULIE ROYS: I don’t have a response from Dr. White. Did you get an email response?
KIARA: He did not respond to me. I was called into the Title IX office the next day and given the phone number of the head of campus security in case I became suicidal again, but he never responded to me. He never said he was concerned. I did not get a response from him.
JULIE ROYS: Then the end of October, you received the Title IX investigation results. Can you tell me what those were?
KIARA: They found that she had said the rumors, she admitted to it. Other people said that she said them. And that she was not going to be removed from the RA position. It recommended that she go to sensitivity training. But they can’t implement that—Mindy May has to—and I was never informed that she was made to go to that. There’s not really any disciplinary action even though the Title IX found that she had said them.
JULIE ROYS: So, your emotional state at this point—I can only imagine—very fragile.
JULIE ROYS: Reeling from all of this. And then it’s almost unbelievable that after all this had happened, what we’re going to talk about next happened. I don’t feel we need to go into any details, but you were sexually assaulted, I believe it was a week and a half before Thanksgiving. How did that happen?
KIARA: I had met this boy who didn’t go to Cedarville. But he went to the same church I went to out there. And we had started talking through social media because I knew he went to my church, and we hung out, but his parents were home the first time we hung out. We hung out in public places. And I had really enjoyed myself and before I went on that I text my parents and one of my guy friends out there, the address and check in times so that like, you know, this is the first time I’m hanging out with someone. I wanted to take all the precautions.
JULIE ROYS: So, that first time you hung out with him he seemed like a gentleman. Things went fine, right?
KIARA: Yeah, he seemed so nice. He bought me dinner. He brought me for ice cream. He introduced me to his parents.
JULIE ROYS: No red flags.
KIARA: Very nice. None.
JULIE ROYS: Okay. So, then you go out again.
KIARA: Then I go out again. And we’re at his house. His parents are home and his brother is home. We’re upstairs on their loft. I was doing homework and he was playing video games. The loft is like over their living room but is blocked from view. It’s just up the stairwell. And I had finished my homework. And he kept trying to push me to do things with him that I wasn’t really comfortable with. And I kept trying to stop him. And eventually, he just told me that I was going to try something new even though I kept telling him, “No.” And he raped me. And I kept telling him to stop. I told him it hurt. But he didn’t. He kept getting like angrier when I would tell him that. It was hurting me more. So, I started to try to tell him that like it was okay. Because I thought maybe then he would stop hurting me. But he put his hand over my mouth when I went to yell, and then he choked me. And then he finally stopped. And I was bleeding. And I really just wanted to get out of there. But I was so in shock. And someone, like one of his friends had shown up to pick us up. And I kind of just floated through the night until I finally like could get a hold of a friend who called and said they had an emergency so that they could get me out of there.
JULIE ROYS: I’m so sorry. That night, you called a friend.
JULIE ROYS: Bri. I talked to your friend.
JULIE ROYS: And she told me you told her everything that had happened.
KIARA: I don’t remember much of the car ride home. I was in a state of survival. So, I do remember telling her that I said, “No.” And I remember crying. But I don’t remember much of what I told her.
JULIE ROYS: Yeah. Well, I do remember she said she was very concerned, obviously. And you were on the phone for she said probably about an hour. She asked you if your parents knew. Did you call your parents soon after this?
KIARA: I called them a day or two later.
JULIE ROYS: You went that night, though. to a friend’s room. Was it a dorm room?
JULIE ROYS: And it was a friend of yours at Cedarville who was a student as well, but you felt safe going to her because you knew something had happened to her. Can you tell me about that?
KIARA: I knew that she was a victim as well. She, we had become close that semester. And she had told me some of it. And she was the only one on campus that I had known that had gone through that. And so, I called her and she met me in her room. And I just, like I sobbed to her. And it took a very long time for me to tell her what happened. And then I ended up sleeping in her room for two days.
JULIE ROYS: And that friend, when she had been raped, that was in the fall of 2018, correct?
JULIE ROYS: She had wanted to get counseling at Cedarville. What had she done as a result? Did she report it?
KIARA: I know she went to Title IX but didn’t report to police. I know she requested counseling, but they put her on a waitlist and said that they didn’t have anyone that could counsel her. And I know that she ended up going home for a couple weeks for the end of the semester.
JULIE ROYS: But she did come back to school then?
JULIE ROYS: You did reach out to her. She didn’t want to talk. I haven’t talked to her. Why didn’t she want to talk?
KIARA: I know that she still goes to Cedarville. And a lot of people don’t know her story. And that like she likes Cedarville. And she just didn’t want to talk bad about the school.
JULIE ROYS: And is there a decent amount of pressure that way to not necessarily share your stories or is that just kind of
JULIE ROYS: Okay.
KIARA: It’s very, like, “Don’t tell anyone.” Especially if you’re a girl who has a story, I felt like I should not be talking. I had a meeting with, I had one with Jon Wood. I had one with their outside investigator who he’s not really an outside investigator. He’s a lawyer, but he knows them very well. He’s their lawyer, and that’s who they use as an outside investigator.
JULIE ROYS: Cedarville’s lawyer?
JULIE ROYS: Okay.
KIARA: At least that’s what they did in the Title IX case. He did some of the interviews. The person he interviewed, later told me that he had asked if I have a tendency to overreact and if they thought that really had happened to me or I was just being dramatic.
JULIE ROYS: I see. So, you didn’t feel like this lawyer was someone who respected you and respected your opinion?
KIARA: Nope. He was kind of cold. Very lawyer.
JULIE ROYS: Sure. I can only imagine what your emotional state is like, like you said for two days you were kind of walking around in a fog—or not even walking around—you were in this room. Monday before chapel, that’s the first you came out, right? And you talk to the Title IX coordinator who admittedly I mean, this woman had been a friend to you and very kind. And you felt like you were heard by her? Correct?
JULIE ROYS: Okay. So, when you talked to the Title IX coordinator there at Cedarville what was her response when she heard that you had been raped?
KIARA: She cried with me. And she wanted me to seek help. She offered to go with me to the police. She offered to go with me to the hospital. But she also admitted that she understood why I couldn’t, because the last–just like with sexual harassment, which isn’t even as severe as rape–I wasn’t heard. I was blamed for it and it almost broke me, that she understood why I wasn’t in a mental state to report what had happened. But she did encourage me to go to at least get medical tests. And I did get my bloodwork done for STD screening just to make sure that I was okay.
JULIE ROYS: But you felt if you reported to the school that they would blame you for it? I mean, is that what you thought would happen?
KIARA: Part of me thought they wouldn’t believe me. Or that they would say that it was something I did, because part of what happened when the rumors went around, my old roommate had said that it was because I was flirty. And like they never thought anything of that like she hadn’t even written that in her response letter to me–before Title IX had started–that it was because of how I acted. And if rumors are okay, because of how I act like I could only imagine like, what they would say, because I was raped. And I was just, I was scared that if they shut me down again that I would kill myself.
JULIE ROYS: And you felt that if you reported to police, that they wouldn’t be responsive? Or did you just feel that you didn’t have enough emotional reserve to do that? Or why didn’t you go to police?
KIARA: I just, I felt I was gonna get the same response either way. I felt really broken and alone. And I just, I didn’t think I was strong enough anymore.
JULIE ROYS: Gail, I can’t even imagine as a mom getting a call from your daughter that she had been raped. How did you respond to that?
GAIL: Well, my first response was, “You need to report it.” And I know Kiara hasn’t been able to explain really why she didn’t. But I think I understand because as soon as the words were out of my mouth. She was attending a Christian school. And on the first day of her school, Dr. White gives a speech to all of the parents about how he will protect those girls like they were his daughters, and that he would go to jail for those girls. And they didn’t support her in something that compared to a rape is very minimal. They didn’t support her when she was talked about, lied about, gossiped about. And it’s a Christian school. So now she was going to go into a secular world–into a police station–and report that she was raped. How she just felt, “If I’m not supported in a Christian school, how will I be supported in a secular world?” So as soon as the words came out of my mouth that she had to report it. I instantly knew why she couldn’t.
JULIE ROYS: Wow. Did she come home for Thanksgiving?
GAIL: She did. We wanted her to stay home. And she wanted so bad to fight and to stand up for others. And she tried with everything in her because she didn’t want this happening to other people. So yeah, we wanted her home. We didn’t want her there. But we also tried to support her that if, if that’s what she wanted.
JULIE ROYS: And she went back between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Kiara, it’s my understanding you went back. You didn’t go to class very much. You are an “all A” student. You got your first “C,” which for some students would be very normal. For you, that’s probably rather traumatic.
KIARA: I cried.
JULIE ROYS: Yeah. I have no idea how, but you somehow gutted it out and you made it ‘till Christmas break.
KIARA: Survival Mode.
JULIE ROYS: Yeah. You had a choice whether to go back. You actually decided to go back in January. Tell me what influenced your decision to do that.
KIARA: I was really struggling with low self-esteem. And I felt that if I didn’t go back, I was failing myself. And I was failing my parents, because I was like, not going to school. I wasn’t finishing my degree. And so, I just felt like, if I didn’t go back, I would be disappointing myself and everybody around me.
JULIE ROYS: It’s so heartbreaking. It’s so heartbreaking. Because you weren’t failing anybody. So much was done to you. I’m amazed that you had the strength to go back. But you went back and tried to make it through. And it sounds like you really had a very tough time. You had, what, panic attacks. You had trouble getting to classes. In the past, something happened between that first semester and the second semester in that the Title IX administrator changed. So, you had one that was very sympathetic towards you. A new Title IX administrator came in, and you didn’t feel like she was nearly as sympathetic. And if I’m understanding correctly, the previous one if you would email her and say I can’t make it to class, she was cool with that. This one, what kind of response did you get?
KIARA: She responded to me saying that I needed to follow the attendance policies or I could be ex’d out of my classes. She told me—before she knew about the rape, she told me—that my anxiety was not an excuse to skip class, because what had been done to me was the previous semester. After she knew about my rape, she said, “I still can’t have you skipping class. If your anxiety is bad, you need to figure that out.” And she like sent me to disability services. But that’s not what they handle. And like they told me that they didn’t handle that.
JULIE ROYS: Wow. So, you made the decision you were done, right? At some point, what the end of January?
KIARA: End of January. I kept trying. I really, I just wanted to finish. I just wanted to get through it. But, just the stress on me was affecting other relationships because I was pushing people away, and I was lashing out because I was so angry about everything that had been done to me. I had stopped going to church ’cause I met the guy at church, and these people who were supposed to protect me were part of a church. And so, like I just felt really far from God. And the self-harm was getting really, really bad. And I remember one day I was sitting in my room. And I had a razor blade. And I was cutting my arm. And I passed out because I cut really deep, because I couldn’t feel it. When you’re in that point, you can slide a razor across your arm and just feel the pain that’s in your head. And I woke up in a pool of my blood. It was all over the floor. It was all over my arms. And that’s when I knew that if I stayed there, I was going to kill myself whether it was an accident or on purpose.
JULIE ROYS: Wow. I’m so sorry. So, you withdrew from Cedarville. You flew home.
KIARA: I drove home.
JULIE ROYS: You drove home. Wow.
KIARA: Yeah, we packed up all my stuff. My parents drove out, packed up my stuff, and my mom and I were in one car and my dad was in the other truck. And drove 21 hours.
JULIE ROYS: Thank God for parents at times like that.
KIARA: Yeah. Yup!
JULIE ROYS: You got home. And I’ve got an email that you sent on February 3rd to Dr. White. And I read a portion of this at the beginning of the podcast. But you started it out saying, “I withdrew from Cedarville University because of my anxiety and depression. And truthfully it is the University’s fault. Yes, I had depression and anxiety before, but the University’s actions worsened it. I was raped at the end of last semester. You truly don’t deserve my story, but I’m sharing it in hopes to help others. It’s not something I talk about. Not because I blame myself, but because after the way Mindy May and Jon Wood treated me, I’m afraid to. They blamed me for sexual harassment rumors about having sex. They continued to side with my roommate as she lied to them and continued to harass me. Jon Wood made it clear he wanted me gone in front of my parents. It wasn’t me being suicidal that was a problem to him. It was that I threatened the image of your school. That stemmed from slanderous rumors. What was I supposed to do with an actual physical action? It took the last ounce of self-worth and strength that I had. Yet I couldn’t report it because that’s a bad image for Cedarville. And I would be punished.” And then you reiterated this thing about, “I went to Cedarville. You told us you would protect us like your own daughter.” You didn’t get protected. And you write at the end, “I’m finally home and safe. My youth pastor and his wife are helping me on my path with the Lord, because Cedarville harmed it more than anything else. I pray that you rethink your student life staff so more people don’t live through what I did.” And I know that this is why you agreed to talk with me and tell your story. What needs to be changed at this school? What needs to be done?
KIARA: They need to protect their victims. And I feel there’s a fine line between grace and redemption—and protecting those, restoration—and justice. But I deserved justice for what happened to me. And I’m not saying that doesn’t mean I couldn’t eventually find forgiveness for my old roommate, or even the guy that raped me. But it also means that I needed someone to protect me and tell me that it wasn’t my fault. Because God teaches justice in the Bible. He teaches that He wants His victims protected. And that we will get protection. And we will get justice one day. But Cedarville doesn’t do that. I feel like Cedarville cares more about what they look like to everybody. That as long as they look perfect, and you don’t talk about your problems, you’re fine. But because I was someone who would admit, “I am a sinner. And someone’s sinned against me,” I wasn’t a good enough Christian for them. That’s not biblical. I think they need to start admitting that there’s problems and working to fix them. Because if they don’t, other people are going to get hurt. People are going to hurt themselves.
JULIE ROYS: Well, I know there was a petition that was launched after news came out about Dr. Anthony Moore being hired there—someone who had admitted to being a sexual predator in the past and videotaping men showering in a shower, or a man, his youth pastor, actually when he was a pastor. A petition was put up and there were a number of people who complained. In fact, you were one of them—that’s how I got contacted with you—complaining about not being treated—women saying not being treated—properly. They were raped and felt like they couldn’t report it, Title IX cases that were mishandled. It seems like your experience is not isolated. I haven’t talked to those other victims. But my guess is that they will continue to come out as this continues to be reported. You did get an email from Dr. White where he said, and this was his response to your email again, telling him that you’ve been raped, that you tried to kill yourself, that you are in a pool of your own blood from cutting yourself. “Kiara I’m sorry that you feel we have failed you. And while aspects of this situation may be viewed differently, I am sorry that your experience at Cedarville was not what we had hoped it would be. We only desire God’s best for you. In addition, I’ve requested Dr. Wood consider what may be done to alleviate any additional financial burden to you and your parents in light of your withdrawal this semester. Please know we are praying for you. In Christ, Thomas White.” What do you think of that email, Kiara?
KIARA: That email made me very angry when I received it. I felt like everything I just told him didn’t matter. I felt like they were paying me hush money. And that’s why they were giving me my tuition back. And I just felt like, “How do you hear a story like that and have no compassion?” I just, I was, I was done at that point.
JULIE ROYS: By God’s grace, you seem to be doing okay. You’ve re-enrolled in a school, correct?
KIARA: Yes. I was home like two weeks. And I decided after talking to my youth pastor’s wife about everything that school was important to me and that I knew that trauma counseling was where God wanted me. And so, I enrolled in a secular University online so I could stay home with my parents and heal while still getting my education.
JULIE ROYS: And how’s that going for you?
KIARA: It’s wonderful. One of the hardest things for me was reading through the syllabus and in every single syllabus for each class they have a Title IX disclaimer that if you–even on discussion posts—if you write anything that comes across as sexual harassment—or like blaming someone for putting someone down for their gender—that you will be punished. It will be taken care of, which could result in either you being expelled or failing the class because of something you write. And I, it just took me aback that a secular university would care so much more about sexual sin than a Christian University. But I feel like at this school, I’m thriving, that they’re teaching me solid psychology, where some of my classes at Cedarville were solid psychology depending on the professor, but some of them were very—I had one teacher who’s actually the new Title IX director (she was one of my psych professors) say in a class that she thought you didn’t, or not just students, but people only took psych medication for panic attacks because they felt like they couldn’t get through them without it—that they couldn’t live without them. And like she kind of denied the need for psych meds.
JULIE ROYS: Is it shaming a little bit?
JULIE ROYS: Yeah.
KIARA: Yeah. And it was the class after I had told her, “I couldn’t be in class because I took panic attack medication.” And so, I felt very attacked by it. But my new school, they teach different perspectives on it that some people don’t like medication, but some people need medication. And it’s just it has shown me even in my ethics class that I can use my Christian worldview, but do real psychology.
JULIE ROYS: And how are you doing spiritually right now?
KIARA: I’m doing better. I did start going back to church. I took about a month of being home. And I finally just, and I walked into my church at home. And it’s a completely different atmosphere than the University—like church systems there—that people hugged me. People, like they didn’t even know my story, they didn’t know what happened to me, but they just told me how glad they were to see me and how much they loved me. And I got cards from people telling me that if I ever wanted to get coffee with them, or talk about anything to like, call them. And that just really reminded me that it wasn’t God, that it was people that hurt me. And I got a new job that I love. And I’m helping people. And that just brings a lot of joy into my life. And I just, I’m rebuilding my support system with people that I feel actually support me and not people who claim to be Christians. People who actually show Christianity.
JULIE ROYS: Well, it has been an incredible pleasure and an honor to speak with both you Kiara and your mom, Gail. Thank you so much for taking the time and for so honestly and vulnerably telling your story. Thank you.
KIARA: Thank you.
GAIL: Thank you.
JULIE ROYS: And thanks so much for listening to The Roys Report—a podcast dedicated to reporting the truth and restoring the church. I’m Julie Roys. If you’d like to find me online, just go to JulieRoys.com. Also, if you’d like to help me continue my investigative work, please consider making a donation today. And please pray for this ministry. I desperately rely on your prayers and rely on your support. Thanks again for listening and engaging. Stay safe and healthy and God bless.
* An earlier version of this podcast mentioned that I could not confirm that Joy Childs is a professional counselor. But I have since confirmed that Childs is licensed.