Victims of alleged sexual misconduct at Moody Bible Institute feel left in the dark

Grand River Solutions is reviewing the interviews it conducted and will develop a report with recommendations for the school.

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A woman walks by the Moody Bible Institute located at 820 N. LaSalle Dr.

Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times

When Moody Bible Institute launched an investigation into claims the school mishandled allegations of sexual misconduct, administrators of the Near North Side religious college said they would provide “periodic updates” as the process moved forward.

But almost a month after the school outlined the steps being taken in light of the allegations, students and alumni who’ve shared their stories of sexual and emotional abuse said Moody administrators stopped talking to them, leaving the alleged victims in the dark about the status of the probe.

Last November, Moody officials met with some of the 11 current and former students who had claimed in an open letter on that they were victims of sexual misconduct and emotional abuse and that the school mishandled some of their allegations.

Three days after that Nov. 2 meeting, Provost Dwight Perry messaged the “Moody Survivor” group email account saying he would no longer respond to them unless they use their personal email accounts and attached their names even though some have chosen to remain anonymous.

That Nov. 5 email was the last correspondence between the administration and the alleged victims, according to Anna Heyward, a sexual abuse survivor who helped organize the online petition and was in the meeting.

“It’s not surprising, but also ... you would think [Moody would] have more respect,” according to Heyward, who said she wasn’t comfortable emailing the school on her personal account.

Earlier this month, Heyward said she found out on Twitter that Grand River Solutions, the third-party firm hired by Moody to examine the school’s Title IX office and related practices for responding to reports of sexual misconduct, had wrapped up its fact-gathering process of its investigation.

Moody released a statement Feb. 8 saying Grand River Solutions had concluded its interview process. After some raised concerns about the thoroughness of the investigation, Moody announced Saturday that Grand River Solutions would extend the fact-gathering phase through next Sunday.

Grand River Solutions contacted anyone who identified themselves by name in the online petition, according to Moody. But Heyward said that wasn’t necessarily the case for her and at least two other victims who reached out to Grand River Solutions first.

Moody said 25 current and former members of the school’s community have been interviewed. Heyward said she talked to other victims and knows of only four, including herself, who were interviewed by the firm. She blamed the lack of participation by those who shared their experiences in the October open letter on Moody, saying people who say they were abused should have been clearly told how to share their allegations with Grand River Solutions.

A Moody spokesperson declined an interview.

In its Oct. 20 statement, Moody said: “It is important that we, as a Christian community, take time to listen, hear, and support any who may have been victims of sexual misconduct at Moody as well as fully investigate allegations of sexual misconduct in our community.”

Heyward said the college has fallen short of that goal.

“They’ve listened once. Besides that, they have not and I don’t think they care to,” Heyward said. “It’s all PR.” 

Though Moody had allegedly promised to keep those who say they were subjected to sexual and emotional abuse in the loop about the investigation, Heyward said the school sent updates to students, faculty and staff only to school email addresses, which some victims don’t have access to. Moody has released only two public statements since Grand River Solutions was appointed to the investigation last November.

“None of us want to, like, burn down the school, but we want them to be accountable and held accountable, and I don’t think they want that,” Heyward said. “And that just really saddens me, because I don’t feel like it’s a safe place for students to be.”

Moody said it’s committed to providing updates to the community and will share Grand River Solutions’ findings after the review.

“Our hope is to share these recommendations within a month following completion of the additional interviews,” Moody said in a statement. “We will update you further about the timing of sharing these recommendations once Grand River Solutions completes the additional interviews.”

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