Handling Rape at BYU

Sorry in advance for the downer of a topic, and trigger warning clearly, but this is something I came across yesterday and it’s really troubling me. The Salt Lake Tribune published an article two days ago detailing a terrible approach BYU has in the way it handles rape cases.  It’s a bit of a read, but I really encourage you to read it to get the full context of what’s going on.

For those of you who don’t click through, the basics are this: when a student at BYU makes a rape allegation, that student is also turned over to the Honor Code office to see if she was violating any honor code rules before the rape occurred. Let me restate that one more time to be sure it’s clear: a girl says she was raped. She tells the school. They tell the honor code office, and the honor code office looks into the rape, checking to make sure the victim wasn’t doing anything she shouldn’t have been doing before she got raped.

Doing what, exactly? Well, maybe drugs. Or drinking alcohol. Or getting too physical.

Because honor code. Can’t let those pesky students think they can get away with breaking the honor code just because they happened to have been raped afterward.

This is flat out unacceptable. Period. End of story.

First and foremost, it’s potentially telling the victim that the rape might have been her fault. “If you hadn’t been _______, then you wouldn’t have gotten raped.”

Sorry. This is never the case. Rape, by definition, is a person being forced to have sex against his or her will. A person could be lying in bed, clothes off, having a wild make out session with someone, and if that person suddenly changes her mind about what’s going on, then that’s it. Sex needs to stop.

“But what if she was dressed really provocatively?” “But she was totally leading him on.” “You can’t say it’s not partly her fault.”

I got a whole bucket full of Nope here for people making these sort of statements. Rapists rape. They consciously choose to ignore someone saying “no,” and have sex with that unwilling person anyway. Let me use a different example to make my point: say that I love fried chicken. It’s a well known fact that I just want to eat it about every day. And one day, my friend brings some of the world’s best fried chicken to school for lunch. I see it. I smell it. I want that chicken. So I reach over and grab it from his hands and scarf it down.

Not my fault, right? He knew I liked fried chicken. He shouldn’t have brought such great fried chicken for lunch. If he’d been smart, he would have brought oatmeal or a tuna sandwich. Right?

That makes no sense. It’s his chicken. He can offer it to me, but I’m not entitled to his chicken, no matter how much I like it or how great it smells. And say he thinks about offering it to me, but then I say something belittling, or he changes his mind? Do I get to eat the chicken then?

Why in the world would I have any “right” to? And who in their right mind would yell at him for bringing chicken to lunch in the first place.

Sigh.

With that out of the way, let’s talk about the other big problem BYUs approach in this situation is creating: it’s protecting rapists by discouraging rapes from being reported. If a girl knows she was out doing something against the honor code, and then she gets raped, she’s faced with terrible choice: report the rape and get kicked out of school, or stay silent and suffer and let the rapist walk around free.

How can BYU not see this is unacceptable?

The article has an interview with a girl who was on LSD right before she was raped. And she got kicked out for breaking the honor code. Not for getting raped, but for being on LSD. And sure, taking LSD can be a reason to be kicked out of the university, but BYU should look at it this way: if she really is an habitual LSD user, she’s probably going to get nabbed by the honor code sooner or later. Deal with it when it comes up later.

Because right now? You’re blaming the victim, and you’re discouraging people from reporting rapes. I get that you’re concerned girls will claim rape so that they don’t have to get booted for having sex, but statistics show false rape claims are few and far between. People know it’s a terrible allegation to make, and they just don’t make it without cause.

What would I like to see BYU do? Make a very public statement about how it abhors rape and will do everything in its power to ensure rapists are caught and prosecuted on campus. Give anyone making a rape allegation a free pass when it comes to the honor code. They’ve been raped, for crying out loud. Do they really need a lecture now on what they were doing before hand? Do they need to be “punished”?

Think this article is just a red herring? A one-off blip that doesn’t imply a larger problem? Then what about this article from 2003 that states 90% of rapes aren’t reported in Provo? Maybe there’s a connection? This article claims BYU’s a great place because it’s so safe. Maybe it’s safer than it seems because it discourages crimes from being reported? Think it’s just because it’s Utah, and there must be fewer rapes in Utah in general? Think again.

But all this is peripheral to the problem. There’s a clear right and wrong decision for BYU to make here, and they’re going with the wrong one. I hope it’s because they’re just tone deaf, and that they fix the problem quickly. Because I’d hate to think they pondered very long on this and still ended up with the current policy. Or that they leave it as is.

Very disappointed in my alma mater at the moment, and hoping they get a clue somewhere and fix this ASAP.

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