Raised in a conservative Mennonite home in rural Ohio, Katie Landry was a sheltered kid. She hadn’t even held hands with a boy when, at age 19, she says her supervisor at her summer job raped her. Two years later, and desperate for help, she reported the abuse to the dean of students at her college.
“He goes, ‘Well, there’s always a sin under other sin. There’s a root sin,’” Landry remembers. “And he said, ‘We have to find the sin in your life that caused your rape.’ And I just ran." Landry ended up dropping out of college, and didn’t tell anyone else for five years.
Her college was Bob Jones University in Greenville, S.C., the flagship campus of American fundamentalism, which teaches a literal interpretation of the Bible and separation from the world. Last year, BJU hired a watchdog group to investigate how it may have failed victims of sexual abuse. The so-called “fortress of faith,” one of the most closed-off Christian colleges in America, was finally opening itself up.
In an America Tonight investigation, five former students detailed similar and scarring treatment at the hands of BJU faculty. They spoke of a larger culture that heaped on shame and pushed them to silence -- one focused on purity and reputation, and insistent on unquestioning obedience. But most damaging was how, through the language of Scripture, victims say they were told that their sins had brought on their rapes, that their trauma meant they were fighting God and that healing came from forgiving their rapists.