A Taylor University professor, who has worked in Christian publishing for years, has stepped down from his teaching position after being accused of inappropriate sexual conduct with students 14 years ago.
Dennis E. Hensley is accused of hugging and kissing a student in 2004 after she told the professor that she had been recently raped. The university was notified of the incident but it did not force him to resign.
The student, Rachel Custer, was 23 at the time. She said she told him she had been raped and had reported the assault to police. Custer says Hensley held her hands while she cried, hugged her, kissed her tears and then kissed her on the mouth.
Custer said she pulled away and left the room before Hensley told her that the incident would be their “little secret.”
“It’s just hard to explain how much this messed with me,” she said. “After the situation I’d been through, I thought I was in a place that was completely safe.”
Hensley, however, says he has meant for his actions to be supportive and not sexual.
“I was trying to be gracious. I was trying to be comforting. I meant nothing in the way of any harm to her,” Hensley said in an interview with Inside Higher Ed. “Now this is coming out 14 years later, with this whole 'Me Too' kind of thing, and everyone is piling on the bandwagon.”
Because of his experience in the Vietnam War, he said he recognized Custer’s trauma and comforted her. He also told her to seek professional help. He admits that he hugged her but says the allegation of kissing is “fabrication.”
New accusations have also come to light from people who participated in writers’ conferences where Hensley attended. Some women have accused him of touching them or making inappropriate comments.
“I’ve always been outgoing, but in this era, that has been described going too far,” he said. “I regret that we’ve come to that, that we’ve gotten to that point. I don’t want to hold hands when we’re praying, or return a hug, so I think it’s an interpretation of what’s going on in the media.”
Publication Date: July 20, 2018
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