Police Slam BYU For Punishing Rape Victims

Several police officials have criticized Brigham Young University for its role in punishing and suspending the victims of sexual assault for violations of BYU’s “Honor Code.”

Madi Barney, one such BYU student, reported being raped to the police in Provo, Utah. According to the Guardian, Barney was sobbing in the police station after what she had endured and that she would be punished by BYU for being the victim of a sexual assault. The police reassured Madi, telling her that the school wouldn’t find out, stating that she couldn’t possibly be punished for suffering a horrific act of sexual violence.

The police were wrong. A month later, Madi was suspended from BYU, she was no longer able to register for classes, and she was no longer welcome on campus — all because she reported her sexual assault to the police. Provo police officials today slammed BYU for its policy, which punishes students who report sexual assaults with investigations of their personal lives that are designed to determine whether or not a rape victim may also have broken the school’s rigid “honor code” prohibiting such behaviors as wearing short skirts and revealing clothing.

According to CBS News, the Provo police are not happy about the situation at BYU. Citing statistics that many sexual assaults go unreported – in Utah and the greater United States – a spokesperson for the Provo police department stated that BYU’s policy of persecuting sexual assault victims does a lot more harm than good.

“Non-reporting is a huge issue anyways here in Utah, and nationwide. So this doesn’t help that at all,” said Kortney Hughes, the coordinator for Provo police’s victim services department.

The controversial BYU honor code was created by students in 1949, and it prohibits behavior like sexual misconduct, obscene or indecent conduct or expressions, as well as premarital sex. Violators of the code can be expelled or punished by the Honor Code Office, which investigates victims of alleged sexual assault and rape to determine if, in the course of being the victim of a traumatic attack, the victim was also behaving in any way that violated the school’s 1949 honor code.

After BYU suspended several rape victims earlier this year, the school was the subject of blistering criticism from victims’ advocacy groups and the victims themselves – even more of whom have come out in recent days and shared their stories with the media. These rape and sexual assault victims allege that BYU punished or suspended them entirely for being the victims of sex crimes.

The BYU honor code has allegedly prevented numerous rape victims from coming forward and reporting the crimes to police, which the Provo police department says is a step in the wrong direction. Provo police chief, John King, told CBS News that it’s vital to have victim cooperation and the BYU honor code policy of investigating and punishing rape victims doesn’t help matters.

BYU has stated that they are re-examining the honor code policy but have not confirmed whether or not they will address the problem, or allow exemptions for victims of sexual assault. Provo police chief John King is pleased that the school is reconsidering the invasive policy, which has silenced many victims of sexual assault.

According to Colleen Dietz, who was raped while she was a BYU student back in 2001, the worst part of her whole ordeal was the threat that BYU might expel her if she became pregnant as a result of the violent sexual assault she endured.

“That was the most upsetting part, because I felt like everything I had planned for all of my life, my educational plans, my future, my career, my life, was being ripped from me because I was raped,” Dietz said, speaking with CBS News.

[Photo by Rick Bowmer, File/AP Images