BYU Has a Rape Problem

Yesterday (April 7, 2016), Brigham Young University held a rape awareness conference, according to BYU’s own publication, The Daily Universe. The Universe’s reporter seems to have missed the disruption of the conference’s Q&A segment, per this Reddit post:

I was at this event tonight — things got a little heated for a minute because a survivor student brought up honor code…(because she had been through them twice for sexual assault) and directly addressed the title IX coordinator, who stood up and responded that they do not apologize for abiding by an honor code so integral to BYU.

BYU is the Mormon church’s private university, located in Provo, Utah. Like other religious schools, BYU has an honor code that requires all its students to live by the Mormon Church’s moral standards. Students are punished for having sex, being in someone of the opposite gender’s bedroom, and having beards. According to other Reddit users commenting on the same post, being raped and then subsequently punished isn’t that unusual at the school:

My sister was raped at BYU in 2002. She turned him in with help from her roommates (who witnessed her screams in her bedroom)…she was interrogated and then was put on probation for a semester and given a referral to get some help with her “issues”…and was put on anti-depressants while he continued to walk around campus like nothing happened. Oh, and then he left on his mission to Argentina.
I sadly also know a former BYU student who was raped and then kicked out of school. She was only a semester or two away from graduating. She had to fight like crazy to get back in to graduate. Pretty messed up.

BYU’s Honor Code takes victim blaming to a whole new level. Other users in the above thread state that they and friends never reported their rapes because they were breaking the honor code. One, for example, was in a man’s room before being raped. Another told friends not to report because she was breaking curfew.

But even for those who decide to report and aren’t expelled or punished by the Honor Code Office, their rape kits might never get tested. According to multiple news sources, “62 percent of rape kits in Utah…were not submitted for analysis and remained in police custody, or were destroyed before ever being submitted.”

At a school whose Title IX representative defends punishment of rape survivors, it’s not surprising that there seems to be a larger systematic problem around the treatment of all types of harassment and assault. Just two weeks ago, Josh Weeks, a BYU Football player was suspended from the team for violating a stalking injunction against him. But this wasn’t his first injunction — the team didn’t suspend him for the protective order filed against him by another woman one month earlier. Another article in the aforementioned Daily Universe includes reports from multiple women saying they’ve been stalked by men who want to marry them. The writer makes sure to include several quotes from teachers and authorities defending the stalkers.

While BYU isn’t the first university to have issues with rape reporting, their strict moral policies make it especially problematic for those trying to report. According to other Reddit users, “BYU may be liable for the way they have treated sexual assault victims”, and several users have contacted media outlets about the story.