Upstate lawyer wants BJU-related sex abuse victims to come forwa - FOX Carolina 21

Upstate lawyer wants BJU-related sex abuse victims to come forward

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Bob Jones University is located in Greenville, SC. (Dec. 17, 2014/FOX Carolina) Bob Jones University is located in Greenville, SC. (Dec. 17, 2014/FOX Carolina)
  • Upstate lawyer wants BJU-related sex abuse victims to come forwardMore>>

  • Press releases issued in wake of GRACE report

    Press releases issued in wake of GRACE report

    Thursday, December 11 2014 2:22 PM EST2014-12-11 19:22:06 GMT
    Click here for the press releases issued by Bob Jones University and GRACE in the wake of a two-year investigation into the handling of sexual abuse and assault cases on campus.More >
    Click here for the press releases issued by Bob Jones University and GRACE in the wake of a two-year investigation into the handling of sexual abuse and assault cases on campus.More >
GREENVILLE, SC (FOX Carolina) -

An Upstate lawyer is asking victims to come forward, potentially as part of a lawsuit against Bob Jones University in the wake of the school's investigation into sexual abuse complaints in past years.

Lawyer John Hawkins of the Hawkins Law Firm said he is actively looking for victims to come forward in wake of the GRACE report from Bob Jones University, which revealed that the university counselors did not properly respond, on many occasions, to handling sexual abuse allegations by students. 

The report said that many students that came forward said they were either discouraged from pursuing charges or even blamed for their abuse. Hawkins said his purpose in coming forward is about forcing BJU to do what's right. 

"Numerous civil law violations took place at Bob Jones University over the past few decades," Hawkins said. 

Hawkins said the GRACE report showed that both civil and criminal laws were broken. Last week, the Solicitor's Office said they were looking into the criminal allegations associated with the report and the abuse reports that have been filed with local law enforcement. 

Hawkins said he's willing to take the civil cases on, adding, "I've done this before, but I've never seen anything to the magnitude of what's in this report." 

BJU told FOX Carolina last week that they would be forming a committee to look into the recommendations that the GRACE organization made for the university. Among the most notable recommendations were to move any sexual abuse counseling off campus and to the Julie Valentine Center, a sexual abuse counseling agency in Greenville; possibly taking personnel action against those counselors and staff that were either mentioned in or associated with the report, including Chancellor Bob Jones III; and removing Dr. Jim Berg from his sexual abuse counseling duties at BJU. 

The recommendations were met with open arms from some of the victims, but news of a lawyer stepping up has them uneasy. 

"Victims deserve justice, whether in the criminal justice system or in the civil courts," said Jeffrey Hoffman, a BJU alum and sexual abuse victim who said he was abused by a now-former university employee. 

"I urge anyone who is considering civil action to do careful research in selecting an attorney and find one who will represent their interests well." 

Hawkins said he plans to donate a portion of any settlement to a fund for the victims and said civil action is likely one of the few ways change can come to Bob Jones University. 

"It was the civil lawsuits that forced the Catholic Church to cough up money for its victims that it had wronged over the years," said Hawkins. "That is what finally got their attention and made them change their conduct and behavior." 

Bob Jones University did not return FOX Carolina's request for comment.

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