Responding to sexual abuse at Moody
Historic Bible college promises change in handling complaints
Anna Heyward, a 2017 Moody Bible Institute alumna, wrote in a Change.org petition that another student raped her and that, when she reported it to former Dean of Student Life Tim Arens and Title IX coordinator Rachel Puente, they disciplined her for drinking. She claimed they did not inform her of her rights to an investigation under Title IX, a civil rights law that requires schools to investigate and respond to sexual misconduct claims. She never filed a claim.
She and other students and alumni organized the petition last October alleging that administrators at the historic Bible college in Chicago discouraged students from reporting incidents of sexual assault. Following an investigation into its Title IX policies, Moody last week published a list of promised changes in how it handles sexual assault, harassment, and abuse accusations.
In response to the petition, the school moved up Arens’ retirement date, placed Puente on leave from her role, and hired Title IX consultant firm Grand River Solutions to investigate its policies. After extending the fact-gathering phase to interview more people, Grand River Solutions concluded its investigation in April. Investigators interviewed about 35 students, alumni, faculty, and staff.
Moody on May 17 published the investigation’s recommended changes, including clearly identifying who at the school is required to report sexual misconduct and creating clear reporting guidelines. The investigation found most people at Moody did not understand the school’s Title IX process. It also suggested that Moody clarify the difference between nonconsensual conduct covered by Title IX and prohibited but consensual conduct such as sex outside of marriage.
With the report, Moody released a list of 11 changes it promised to make before fall 2021. Those changes include streamlining its policies and Title IX processes following the report’s recommendations, as well as mandatory annual in-person and video training for students and employees. The school also promised to build consistent systems for record keeping and communicating about the outcomes of investigations and to annually report how many Title IX cases are filed on campus. Moody did not specify whether Puente would return to her role as Title IX coordinator and declined to comment further on planned changes.
“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,” President Mark Jobe and Provost Dwight Perry wrote. “We also apologize to those whose reports were not processed as rapidly and efficiently as they could have been.”
Heyward expressed frustration about a lack of contact from school leadership during the investigation and concern that Moody would not take enough action based on its general commitments to change. But she said she’s grateful for the investigation. “This is a good thing that needed to happen, and I’m very thankful for every survivor that came forward,” Heyward said. “I guess we’ll just watch and see what happens next.”
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