Lydia still doesn’t know why she was expelled from Bob Jones University in March 2009. But she believes it has something to do with the fact that she was raped.
Lydia, who asked to be identified by only her first name, loved BJU, a Christian university in Greenville, S.C., when she started there in the fall of 2008. Pursuing a nursing major, she enjoyed the classes, played intramural sports and had a great group of friends. Then, when she went home over Christmas break, she says she was raped by an acquaintance.
For weeks, Lydia didn’t tell anybody about it, or talk much at all. Then, a friend noticed that she was acting strangely, and Lydia admitted why. The friend wasn't sure what to do, so asked an old roommate, Rebekah, who was a few years older, a BJU dorm counselor and graduate student. Rebekah wasn't sure what to do, and so arranged a meeting with the dean of students.
After all, the administration states clearly in the student handbook: "You may come to any of us for help in any area of your life. We are your brothers and sisters in Christ."
Lydia desperately didn’t want to go.
"It’s the feeling you get from campus," she told America Tonight. "These people don’t have my best interest at heart, and I don’t want to share this scary personal story with a man I don’t trust."
But Lydia was worried that if she backed out, she’d be put on “spiritual" or "character" probation -- a punishment where students are closely monitored and required, as the handbook puts it, to “evidence genuine, observable effort to grow in Christlikeness." So Lydia entered the office of the dean, a man she’d never met before.
“I did not want to be with a man by myself,” she says. “I thought it was strange that he closed the door.”
Lydia says the dean asked her repeatedly to walk him through what happened, but deeply uncomfortable, she refused. At one point, she says he asked: “Is there anything that you did that made him do that?”
According to BJU spokesman Randy Page, if an employee learns that a student has been abused, "the University will assist the victim by encouraging him or her to make a report to the authorities, helping him or her to make the report and directing him or her to the appropriate services."
But during the meeting, Lydia says the dean never suggested that she file a police report, or even indicated that rape was something the police might care about. She says he never mentioned the sexual assault recovery center in town. And he couldn't point her to a licensed counselor on staff whose job is to care for students in need, because BJU doesn't have one.
The dean did, however, tell Lydia to keep meeting with Rebekah, a 21-year-old with a bachelor's degree in counseling, but no experience actually counseling a person.
"The only kind of intense training I got was three days," says Rebekah, who also asked to only be identified by first name, because she still has family "in good standing" with BJU. "And most of that was how do we enforce the rules, not how do we help people with their problems."
But Lydia and Rebekah had good conversations anyway, about all kinds of things, and they became friends. A couple weeks later, the university shut off Lydia’s email. Lydia realized her counselor was passing everything she said on to the administration, like the fact that her rapist had been messaging her. She felt betrayed.
Rebekah says she was just following the unwritten rules, as her position and scholarship were at stake.
"At that point in time, there was no privacy," Rebekah explains. " ...I was supposed to keep them in the loop. Everybody was supposed to know and be able to help out." She adds: "It wasn’t until a little bit later that I started to question whether Bob Jones really had Lydia’s best interest in mind, and whether what I was doing was best for her, or to keep my job."
In their conversations, Lydia had also been asking Rebekah questions about her faith, and certain BJU policies. Rebekah thought she made some good points, and in the hope of getting answers herself, raised them with university officials.
"I think they started to think she was somehow leading me astray," Rebekah says.
Lydia believes she'd become an irritation for the administration. She believes that's why she was then called into the office of her dorm supervisor, a BJU staff member, and accused of lying about her rape. "Basically she said, 'The bottom line is this: We don’t believe what you’re saying and you need to stop saying it or we’ll have to take disciplinary action against you.'"
Lydia protested. “It’s this kind of attitude that you need to drop,” she says she was told, “or you’re not going to be successful here.”