A new petition launched Friday has garnered more than 2,500 signatures alleging cover-ups and dismissal of sexual abuse incidents by staff at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago.
The petition includes a public Google document with testimonies from 10 current and former students who say they alerted staff to sexual abuse and were pressured to withdraw the charges or were misinformed about the Title IX processes involved with filing an assault claim.
Many of the allegations focus on Dr. Timothy Arens, who has worked at Moody since 1984 and was promoted to vice president and dean of students in 2015.
"While many of us have found God and His calling on our lives within the walls of Moody, some of us have also faced harm," the petition, addressed to Moody President Mark Jobe, says. "Harm that includes instances of stalking, discrimination, sexual assault, and rape. These harms were made worse when members of our community in positions of authority, specifically Dean Arens, seem to have an inability or unwillingness to act to address them."
Anna Heyward, a member of the graduating class of 2017, helped spearhead the petition and claims that Arens told her not to report a sexual assault. Heyward told Arens that her ex-boyfriend got her drunk for her 21st birthday and then reportedly forced her to perform oral sex on him. The boyfriend then allegedly told Heyward that he would report her for breaking the college's no-alcohol rule if she said anything and then raped her later in the year.
When Heyward broke off the relationship, the boyfriend reportedly told the office about her drinking alcohol. When she detailed the entire story to Arens, she claims he pressured her to not "ruin" her ex-boyfriend's life and told her that she would be put on probation for drinking alcohol. She was also allegedly told she could not graduate if she spoke about the incident.
Other students implicate similar situations where Arens and other staff members – including Title IX coordinator Rachel Puente – covered up sexual assault allegations or pressured them to not file a Title IX claim.
Many of the petition's signatories also alleged coverups by staff in the comment section of the petition itself.
"I also had numerous friends who had issues with the Title IX and had to drop out of Moody because they felt unsafe," wrote Christine Bowers, a member of the graduating class of 2020.
The petition ends with a call to replace Arens and Puente, to replace Title IX decision makers with students, alumni, parents, and other stakeholders, and to publish Title IX complaints made annually.
"Moody Bible Institute must do all in its power to defend their fellow image-bearers," says the petition. "We must stand together and value each other's dignity and thus respect our creator. God is the creator of possibility. But if the possibility we are creating amongst each other is one of pain and abuse, we are not acting in accordance with the very nature of our God."