I received an email update from a forum I am part of the other day. It contained a vivid and extremely disturbing account of the victim of a rape whilst out with a group of college students. This account is actually so disturbing and vivid that I would caution anyone who has been through a similar incident not to click on the following link as it will trigger you. But for those with stronger stomachs, you can read the story here.
This story is from a young woman who attended John Macarthur’s Masters College. She had had what she describes as ‘three glorious years’ training to be a counsellor, and this event occurs in the last year of her training. Here is en excerpt from the beginning of the story.
Spring break starts tomorrow. I was going to go home today but last night I hit my head and suffered a concussion. The doctor said I need to take it easy so I decide to stay on campus and catch up on rest and homework. Not to brag or anything but I hang out with the smart crowd, and the smart crowd hangs out with the seminary students from The Master’s Seminary. They invite me to go to a play in town and then to dinner. I probably shouldn’t but it’s an approved outing as some of the seminary guys are bringing their girlfriends, and of course there will be no drinking, drugs, or dancing. We all had to sign a contract that we would not do those three things while attending Masters. It doesn’t bother me. I don’t drink or do drugs anyway.
Four of the seminary students live together and I know three of them. The fourth, a stranger who I have met maybe once, sits by me at dinner and asks if he can get me a soda. I thank him and say yes, but about a half an hour later I start to feel foggy. Everyone begins to discuss going ballroom dancing after dinner. I want to weigh in but my words are slurring and I can’t move my legs. The rest of my friends start laughing because I’m acting funny. They remember I suffered a concussion yesterday and think I need to go to bed. They urge the stranger to take me to my dorm room so I can rest. By this time he has to carry me out of the restaurant. No one thinks this is strange or seems at all concerned. I black out.
I will draw a veil over the rest of her account except to say this. The treatment she received from the Master’s College teaching and admin staff was literally sickening. After having been to the police and the doctor, this young woman goes to those in charge at the college and is interviewed in a frankly disturbing and completely unprofessional way.
I tell him every excruciating detail I can remember…
Rick leaves the room several times to go talk to John MacArthur. He comes back with John’s ruling on the matter. Rick tells me that I need to be disciplined for doing drugs, drinking alcohol and almost dancing. He said the consequence for breaking the rules is that I will be kicked out of the college. He is angry at me for going to the police and the doctor. I should have let the church handle this without outside interference. He tells me not to tell anyone else, not my fellow classmates, not my teachers, not anyone at church.
“You are ruining that young man’s life!” He says.
He tells me I have to go to the police and drop the charges or I will be brought in front of the church to be disciplined. I don’t drop the charges. Not that it matters. The police interviewed my rapist and all the “friends” who were there and ruled it a “he-said, she-said” incident that can’t be proven either way.
I don’t keep quiet either. I reach out to the professors who “disagree with John MacArthur on a few things.” They won’t see me. People are avoiding me. I feel their whispers. Even close friends are acting weird.
Throughout the whole ordeal, the rapist’s situation and feelings are given priority and is treated as a victim and the victim of the rape is treated as the criminal.
I am standing outside the door to Rick’s office. I take a deep breath and feel confident that I am strong enough to do whatever it is that he asks me to do. I open the door and am shocked to see the stranger sitting there. I am starting to shake and sweat. Rick asks me to sit down by my rapist. Rick speaks for the rapist.
“He has admitted to everything he has done. He has acknowledged his sin and that this relationship was not consensual and he has repented. Look at him, he is crying.”
I don’t want to look at him but I do. I feel panicked sitting this close to him. I am wondering why I have to be present if it has become clear that I am innocent. Why wasn’t I immediately reinstated in school?
“Now it is your turn to apologize.”
I am not hearing right. I think that Rick Holland has just asked me to apologize to my rapist.
“Apologize for what?” I ask.
Rick says something about apologizing for the dress I was wearing at the bar and for drinking alcohol. He says I caused this young man to stumble, and he is incensed that I have not dropped the charges with the police. He says he has been talking to Joe and Sandra and my RD and they all say that my story keeps changing. I wonder why they are all allowed to talk about it but I am not. If I am to be reinstated in the school I must agree to weekly counseling with Rick and the stranger. I am told that the stranger and I have committed this sin together and therefore we must work through it together. I must agree to sit next to the stranger in church every week.
I don’t know where to begin. Do I start with the fact that I didn’t put that dress on or how my story isn’t changing, I am just remembering more things? I feel confused and angry. I am yelling. I hear more accusations coming out of Rick’s mouth. I am not submissive. I don’t trust the men that God has put over me. I am rebellious. He is angry and I cannot keep up with all of the attacks on my character that are flying out of his mouth. I am kicked out of school. I have less than twenty-four hours to get my things out of my room and get out. If I show up on campus, I will be arrested. They are changing my three years of earned college credits from A’s to F’s. I have flunked out of college.
There are a number of websites which discuss what happens at the Masters College and also at John Macarthur’s church. He is by all accounts a bully and a bigot and will not countenance anyone who does not agree with everything he says. I have seen too many men like this who run megachurches. This young woman’s experience is not unusual, and if you go to the website I linked to and read the 90 odd responses (probably more since this account was published) you will see more corroborating evidence.
Speaking up about abuse is vital, but speaking up about abuse always involves risk. People may not believe you. People in particular who know the high profile leaders of the college will have a vested interest in rejecting accusations against their heroes. Scripture tells us when bringing a reviling report against an elder to have two or three witnesses. Even when there are more than two or three witnesses, people will still not believe you.
When you have been as damaged as this woman has, you don’t have the emotional capacity to deal with further abuse from those you trusted to protect you. She had no reason to doubt that Rick Holland and John Macarthur would turn on her when she needed their protection the most. Yet they supported and protected somebody she had never even met before.
Every comment I read on the website supported and ‘saw’ this young woman. It was heartening to know that so many responded so well. Yet, this is nearly twenty years after the event, and it would have been good for her to have had that support when the rape occurred.
When somebody hears about abuse, they often want to minimise its severity or undermine the account by the victim in some way so that they either don’t have to process what they are hearing or consider that somebody they like or admire is in fact a criminal and possibly a morally insane individual.
If we ever hear an account of abuse from somebody and it sounds unreal or difficult to process, remember that cognitive dissonance is a normal reaction to having your belief system challenged. Nobody wants to believe that somebody they have thought of as trustworthy would do what they are being accused of doing. But just because you have not seen the abuse, or the abuse hasn’t happened to you, doesn’t mean that it didn’t happen to the victim. Often the official response is that the victim is making it up, or that somehow they caused the abuse themselves, especially in rape cases. This is rarely true. Every account of rape should be treated with due sobriety and concern, and in particular, if necessary, the victim should be assured that their case will be immediately investigated.
Whether we believe what is being told to us or not, if we understand that the first response is usually unbelief and discomfort, we will be more likely to understand why the report sounds unbelievable.
Since this young woman’s report was not only corroborated by others who have been through what she has been through and by others who understand what the Master’s College administrative team are like under these kinds of circumstances, there can be no reason to doubt her account. This has not only happened at this college, but at many other secular colleges and workplaces and churches.
In my mind, the most important aspect of this account is that while the college admin treated her rape with less than Christian mercy and compassion, they also deliberately sabotaged her academic career and destroyed any hope she might have had to complete her degree and recover her dignity and heal. It is one thing not to believe a person when they tell you they have been raped, it is quite another to consciously slander and destroy that person’s reputation and standing in a christian community. She had not previously shown herself to be promiscuous or of bad character nor had her academic record proven any lack of intelligence or ability. There was patently no defensible reason to attack this young woman. Yet they went out of their way to make sure she was punished for not simply bowing to their bullying and abuse.
Sadly and frustratingly, this is happening to women everywhere. Infuriatingly, it is happening in Christian churches and communities. Not only do Christians themselves find it difficult to know how to respond to this kind of traumatic event, non-Christians find these situations pretty horrific. How is this possible in places where people claim to be motivated by the love of God? It is possible because people lie about who they are, and it is possible because even Christians get to choose their actions. People can choose to do ugly wicked things just because. There doesn’t even need to be a reason, they just feel like being ugly. When a rapist or abuser becomes a predator there needs to be more than just decisive and rapid response. There needs to be a finality. Deal with the abuse, get rid of the threat to the safety of those who are vulnerable, and don’t even think about blaming the victim. It’s that simple.