Instead of being supported, female students at Brigham Young University (BYU) claim they are getting punished when they report rape or sexual assault to the school administrators.
CNN reports that BYU student Brooke (she chose to keep her last name private) was sexually assaulted in 2014, when she was just a freshman. She admitted to voluntarily taking a hallucinogenic drug shortly before the assault happened, while hanging out with a group of young male students in an off-campus apartment. She recalled that although the night was hazy, she still remembered exactly what happened to her when three guys started assaulting her.
“He started, like, touching me and stuff, so I tried to get up and leave. And then, right when I was leaving, two other guys came in and grabbed me and were like, ‘You can’t leave.’ And then they shut the door and locked it.”
Brooke stated that all three men began touching her inappropriately. When two of them left, one of the young men stayed behind, fondling and raping her for at least 45 minutes.
When Brooke told BYU’s Title IX office, she was kicked out for using drugs when the assault occurred.
“I thought there would be some mercy, you know. I told them everything, and because of the fact that I was on drugs, they used that reason to kick me out of school after reporting it.”
BYU has a long-standing “Honor Code,” in which students are prohibited from engaging in alcohol use, drug use, and any sexual activity, whether on campus or off-campus. Students attending BYU, a school that follows the Mormon religion, must agree to these rules and promise to live a life “encompassed in the gospel of Jesus Christ.”
School spokesperson Carri Jenkins, however, denied that the BYU Honor Code would prohibit a thorough investigation into a sexual assault accusation.
“A student would never, never, never have an Honor Code review for reporting sexual assaults, for being a victim of sexual assault.”
Jenkins wouldn’t talk about Brooke’s particular case, but reiterated that any sexual assault case, regardless of which student reported it, wouldn’t go without being looked into.
The problem, however, is that Brooke isn’t the only student who claimed they reported similar incidents and were punished for it. Student Madi Barney stated was she raped in September, 2015, while off-campus. She reported it to the Provo, Utah, police, but said she didn’t report it to BYU because she was afraid of what would happen to her.
“I waited about four days to report because I was scared of my standing at BYU. I remember sitting at the police station, sobbing on the bench. I was just sitting there crying, saying, ‘I don’t want to report. I can’t do this. What if BYU finds out?'”
Yet, the school still found out, and according to Barney, she was threatened that either she had to comply with the BYU Title X Honor Code and provide details about the assault or her case would be sent to the Honor Code office for review. Instead of answering back, Barney took her attorney’s advice and didn’t tell the school about the details of the case. Now she can’t register for future classes at BYU.
When Jenkins was questioned about the Barney case, she said she wasn’t allowed to comment on individual cases due to federal guidelines.
Other students who were victims of sexual assault, including Madeline MacDonald and Margot Crandall, shared similar stories. MacDonald said the school didn’t believe she was assaulted while Crandall stated that she was scared of BYU finding out and shaming her.
Meanwhile, several members of the Utah police are fighting to make changes to BYU’s Honor Code. It was a decision inspired by three Provo police officers who demanded the school to change its practices. Numerous students have joined in, in support making changes at the school. While Brigham Young University is looking into the policy, there’s still been no word if the Honor Code has been amended.
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