Former Day Saints
April 14, 2016 11:53 AM   Subscribe

Students at Brigham Young University, the private Provo-based university owned by the LDS church, have alleged that the school’s Honor Code Office investigates and sometimes penalizes victims who report sexual crimes. Honor Code investigations were launched even when the accused assailants were not BYU students, and when the attacks occurred off campus and away from campus housing. Ostensibly this is to punish violations of the school's honor code that may have given rise to the situation where the assault occurred.

One student identified as "Brooke" reported her off-campus rape to the Honor Code Office, and she was subsequently expelled and barred from reapplying for two years, because she openly admitted that the attacker had convinced her to try acid just prior to the attack. Meanwhile BYU football players who break the honor code are merely suspended for a few games.
"She was telling me at BYU people falsely report rapes because the Honor Code Office is so strict on premarital sex, and people report rapes so they won't get investigated," MacDonald said.
[...]
Emily said she hadn't broken the Honor Code in either assault, but in the school's eyes, that would also have been determined by the defendant's word.

"Basically, the Honor Code violation would have been based on when I said no," she said. "If I had let him go far enough … I'd have gotten kicked out."
Students have started a petition asking BYU to stop punishing victims of sexual assault.

"It's hurtful to survivors, and most significantly it's the kind of thing that will have a chilling effect on survivors coming forward," said S. Daniel Carter, a campus security consultant, "It's contrary to an institution's goal of combating sexual violence."
posted by Hot Pastrami! (26 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
 
"It's hurtful to survivors, and most significantly it's the kind of thing that will have a chilling effect on survivors coming forward," said S. Daniel Carter, a campus security consultant

That's BYU's motive, right there. Colleges -- even the ones that aren't sexually regressive in their very constitutions -- are desperately afraid of their own sexual assault statistics. Sure, they'd rather not have anyone getting raped, but thanks to the Clery Act, they have to report them if they are reported to the school. If they can keep survivors from reporting them, then that's almost as good as the assault not happening.
posted by Etrigan at 12:05 PM on April 14, 2016 [46 favorites]


I am shocked...SHOCKED! to find that a school entrenched in a religion that has embraced hate since its founding doesn't treat women with respect.

Beyond the sympathy that I feel for the victims here, the only thing that makes me sad about this is thinking of all of the non-LDS schools that are horrible to victims as well.
posted by sparklemotion at 12:08 PM on April 14, 2016 [9 favorites]


Religious organizations tend to "freeze" their morality at whatever era their founders existed. So, Mormons and a lot of conservative American Protestant denominations espouse a kind of warped 1840's -era American morality on a lot of issues: if a woman got raped, she must have been indulging in immorality somehow, black people are shifty, dangerous and vaguely subhuman, America is the New Israel, etc.

The current issue in Mormonism is that the 1840's era "factory settings" on the religion are no longer operating correctly, and the devs hate writing patches (like they did with the whole black-people issue) so they will try to wait it out until the customer stops complaining.

Sadly, a lot of lives will be ruined in the process - but that's religion for you.
posted by Tyrant King Porn Dragon at 12:26 PM on April 14, 2016 [12 favorites]


Meanwhile, at General Conference...
posted by Brocktoon at 12:31 PM on April 14, 2016 [3 favorites]


Actually, the "religion as software for the human brain" analogy is pretty apt, now that I think about it.

Q: the factory settings on $religion don't seem to be working for me. Can I change them? Or do you plan to release a patch to deal with these issues?

A: no, the system was designed to operate perfectly under ideal conditions from the beginning. Please consider changing your operating environment or changing how you operate the app so that your usage will more correctly match the perfect design specifications. Please note that deviation from allowed design parameters is a serious crime.
posted by Tyrant King Porn Dragon at 12:35 PM on April 14, 2016 [17 favorites]


Religious organizations tend to "freeze" their morality at whatever era their founders existed.

Or perhaps what they do is entrench their founder's values? This can be bad as in this particular case or it can be quite good as in the case of DePaul University's ethos of whole community service.
posted by srboisvert at 12:39 PM on April 14, 2016


Religious organizations tend to "freeze" their morality at whatever era their founders existed.

Do you have any evidence for this assertion? Given the lack of rigor you exhibit when developing your thesis (e.g., Mormonism was founded in 1830, not the "1840's-era") my guess this is just some bullshit.
posted by layceepee at 12:48 PM on April 14, 2016


This can be bad as in this particular case or it can be quite good as in the case of DePaul University's ethos of whole community service.

DePaul University? The same school where a law professor recently argued that it is wrong to encourage law students to perform community service by participating in law clinics that give legal assistance to the disadvantaged, because this results in perniciously "imposing morality" on students?

http://blogs.wsj.com/law/2016/04/13/law-schools-are-indoctrinating-students-with-a-social-justice-morality-says-professor/
posted by Mallenroh at 12:50 PM on April 14, 2016 [3 favorites]


I think it's fair to say that religious organizations tend toward a degree of conservativism, but I don't know of any religion that has actually frozen itself back in the era of its founders. I mean, I was raised with a religion founded during the bronze age, and the current incarnations would have been unrecognizable to the ancient Israelites.

Religions tend to pretend to be stable but in practice are tremendously elastic. They tend to have a lot of contemporary elements, a chunk of stuff that is less than a hundred years old but they pretend they have been doing forever, and maybe a handful of things they have actually been doing forever.

A Mormon college punishing women for reporting rape? That doesn't seem especially old or particularly Mormon. It seems woefully contemporary.
posted by maxsparber at 12:52 PM on April 14, 2016 [10 favorites]


but I don't know of any religion that has actually frozen itself back in the era of its founders.

I think it could be argued that there are some sects of Judaism that have attempted to freeze things from the moment of their founding. Moses Sofer famously declared that "new is forbidden by the Torah". Now, the Jewish practice at the time would have been unrecognizable to the founders of the religion, but there was an effort by Sofer to resist the encroachment of Reform Judaism by preventing any future change from the specific time when he was alive.

Similarly, various ultra-orthodox groups have attempted to adopt certain norms and laws at the time of their founding, and then tried to adhere to these customs via an ongoing hereditary dynasty. Most obviously visually, it's why Jews in Israel are in a desert in the summer dressed like they are in Eastern Europe in the winter.

Judaism is a diverse enough religious group that it can provide good insight in both a positive and negative sense about how religious groups can adapt themselves to modernity. Like Mormonism, you can find Jewish sects that have responded poorly to the problems of sexual assault and sexism, but you can also see groups that are showing how those issues can be properly confronted and overcome (to varying levels of success).
posted by andoatnp at 1:15 PM on April 14, 2016 [2 favorites]


Still baffled by the fact that universities get to have jurisdiction over crimes. Why would anyone think this is a good idea, much less legal?
posted by thecjm at 1:26 PM on April 14, 2016 [13 favorites]


I think it could be argued that there are some sects of Judaism that have attempted to freeze things from the moment of their founding.

Many do. But "attempted" is not the same thing as "accomplished." The Orthodox movement, it should be noted, developed at pretty much exactly the same time as the Reform Movement, in opposition to it, and it's idea of "new" was really "anything different than what was happened at that moment."

Obviously, modern Orthodoxy is as dissimilar from Schreiber's version as, well, Orthodoxy was dissimilar from the Misnaggedim the preceded them, which developed in reaction to Hasidism, which was different from the obsessive Talmudists that preceded them, all pretending they were continuing unbroken traditions from the time of the patriarchs.
posted by maxsparber at 1:35 PM on April 14, 2016 [5 favorites]


I mean, some Hasids basically dress in historical reenactment costumes, but my great-grandfather Wolf Kitzis would not have recognized their version of hasidism, despite having cofounded the movement.
posted by maxsparber at 1:36 PM on April 14, 2016 [8 favorites]


Yes, please, please for the love of God can we do everything we can to make clear that universities do not have any criminal jurisdiction over their students, and that university investigations do not in any way foreclose the option a victim has to go to the police? Just like police investigations do not foreclose the possibility of disciplinary action by a university?
posted by skewed at 1:48 PM on April 14, 2016 [1 favorite]


Not a jurisdictional question but why would an off campus assault be reported to the university? Is this required if an active student is attacked no matter where? This BYU honor code thing seems to be a lose/lose for the student. Either you lie about what you were doing prior to the assault (which could have potentially disastrous consequences should there ever be a criminal trial) or don't report. Good job BYU, you seemed to have covered all the shitty bases in your quest to CYA.
posted by MikeMc at 4:52 PM on April 14, 2016 [1 favorite]


...and that university investigations do not in any way foreclose the option a victim has to go to the police

Victims of sexual assault at Brandon University (Manitoba, Canada) are required to sign a behavioural contract that forces them to say nothing about the assault except to counsellors.

The contract, which Brandon University confirms is authentic, spells out that the signer cannot have contact with the other person involved in an incident and that they are not to discuss what happened with anyone else other than a counsellor. [copy of contract]
posted by rh at 10:39 PM on April 14, 2016


What continues to baffle me about situations like this is, why would anyone go to the university officials before just going to the police? A crime is a crime, and even when I was in college... I mean, when my beloved and decades-later still much-missed Centurion Clic bicycle was stolen, it wasn't the school I called. I called the city cops. Surely a sexual assault would be felt much more keenly than a missing bike -- so why aren't they the first number dialed?
posted by hippybear at 1:12 AM on April 15, 2016


I live three blocks away from BYU. If I go anywhere without my boyfriend or my dog I am frequently approached by a man and told that I am breaking honor code or that my outfit is distracting. I am not LDS. I do not go to BYU. I can hardly go to a swimming pool in a one piece, let alone a bikini, because I might "disrupt" some young man's fun time.

The women I know who have been either sexually assualted or raped? They can't tell anyone because they are the one who will get kicked out of school, not the rapist. This is a place where huffing glue or keyboard duster is more permitted then alcohol. And hippybear, they typically tell their Bishop first to ask for advice, and he tells the school.

Thank you for compiling this post. I'll be sharing it with my friends around here.
posted by Marinara at 8:13 AM on April 15, 2016 [9 favorites]


Also, very few people take sexual assualt seriously here. There's a place jokingly nicknamed "Rape Hill" because it's where all the co-eds go to make out. "She's probably got raped again last night" is probably the least offensive statement about rape that I've heard and it gets progressively worse. A few girls I see at the dog park started Honey to bring more awareness to the issue. It's a huge problem.
posted by Marinara at 8:24 AM on April 15, 2016 [4 favorites]


What continues to baffle me about situations like this is, why would anyone go to the university officials before just going to the police?

Because women who go to the police get treated like garbage. A university might be seen as slightly more sympathetic.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 8:48 AM on April 15, 2016 [4 favorites]


Often, survivors don't report their assaults to their university intentionally. At my school, all employees, with the exception of those who work for the victim advocate office or the counseling center, are required to report a sexual assault to the university's Title IX administrator. So, a survivor could disclose her assault to a trusted teacher, coach, advisor, or RA and wind up caught up in the university disciplinary process without ever starting any kind of formal complaint procedure. It creates a climate in which telling ANYONE of your assault is dicey: what happens next is completely out of your hands.
posted by batbat at 10:09 AM on April 15, 2016 [4 favorites]


The police question again. We've discussed this before.

A couple things to remember:
1) Most non-campus rapes aren't even reported to the police. There's no reason to expect campus rapes to be reported to police at higher rates than non-campus rapes. Not to mention that there's a good chance the cops will think you're lying anyways.

2) If you only go to the police, even if they do believe you and are willing to prosecute, without action by the university administration, the victim may still have to live in the same dorm, go to the same classes, etc. as her/his rapist.
posted by LizBoBiz at 11:01 AM on April 15, 2016 [6 favorites]


Yeah, same place. Right near Brick Oven Pizza? That makes it feel so much worse.
posted by Marinara at 11:22 AM on April 15, 2016


As a one time BYU student and long time Utah resident I know multiple women who were sexually assaulted while at BYU but never reported the incident because they knew part of their behavior broke the honor code and they would not only lose admission to BYU but any on campus employment and they BYU approved housing. This has been happening for decades.

The perpetrators know they are empowered by the strict rules and sexually repressive culture. If they go to their Bishop for counseling he reports it to BYU, if they go to a LDS social worker it's reported to BYU, if they report it to the police it's reported to BYU. The only safe space these victims have is the health care system because of HIPAA laws.

I'm glad this is finally getting the attention it deserves.
posted by ShakeyJake at 8:30 AM on April 20, 2016 [2 favorites]


mormons, either through their university or not, have a long tradition of forcing rape victims to repent for the circumstances of their rape. it continues to be heartbreaking that 20 years after i reported my molestation to my bishop, 40 years after my aunts reported their molestations to their bishop, this is still the lay of the land.
posted by nadawi at 6:54 AM on April 30, 2016 [1 favorite]


oh, and my abuser? not kicked out of the church until he had a baby out of wedlock, years after i reported. the evidence of consensual sin was worse than the accusation of prolonged rape.
posted by nadawi at 6:56 AM on April 30, 2016


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