BYU to Review Assault Response Process After Petition

The review will look at every step of the university's sexual assault response process.
Published: April 22, 2016

Administrators at Brigham Young University announced they will review the school’s sexual assault reporting and investigation processes after a petition critical of the current policy gained support.

“We understand the concerns that have been expressed about the reporting of sexual assaults to our Title IX Office, and we care deeply about the safety of our students. We have decided to study these issues, including potential structural changes within the university, the process for determining whether and how information is used, and the relationship between the Title IX Office and the Honor Code Office,” the school said in a statement.

The review is likely a response to a student’s recent petition asking the school to stop investigating students for conduct violations when they report a sexual assault. The petition has gained over 100,000 supporters and put pressure on the university to make changes.

Students who have reported sexual assaults in the past say they have been referred to the Honor Code Office for possible disciplinary action after they go to the Title IX office.

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BYU’s honor code, which all students commit to when they enroll at the university, bans students from having premarital sex and having people of the opposite sex in their bedrooms.

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The student who started the petition, Madi Barney, is forbidden from enrolling in classes at the school because she has refused to answer questions from the Honor Code Office, citing an ongoing criminal trial relating to her alleged rape.

“I want victims of sexual violence at BYU to have an immunity clause from the Honor Code so that they don’t feel afraid to report,” Barney states in the petition.

Barney also said she waited four days to report her rape because she was afraid of repercussions from the school. Sexual assault is one of the most underreported crimes because victims often deal with shame and guilt after the assault.

The university’s statement emphasized that student safety is its first priority. Under current rules, a student who reports a sexual assault is referred to the Title IX Office, where they have an option to meet with a coordinator and are given information on their rights, resources at their disposal and services based on their individual situation.

“Sometimes in the course of an investigation, facts come to light that a victim has engaged in prior Honor Code violations,” according to the statement.

The statement said the school “recognizes the inherent tension” between sexual assault reporting and student discipline.

The school’s review will consider every aspect of their process and will be conducted with the help of resources both inside and outside of the university.

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