BYU Student Punished By School Administration For Being Raped
This story is becoming all too common. A college student is raped, she reports her attack to the police and her university—and then the university punishes her for being raped. This would be horrific if it only happened to one person, but it’s happening year after year, all across our nation.
This time, it’s Madi Barney, an undergraduate student at the Mormon-run Brigham Young University. Barney reported her rape to the police in September of 2015. Her attacker was not a fellow student, and she was not raped on school grounds, yet BYU has gotten a hold of her police report and now have accused her of violating the school’s Honor Code and have placed her under an academic hold. This means Barney cannot register for more classes until she completes the school’s honor code review. The stickler is that according to Barney, she can’t complete the review because it would require her to disclose the details of her sexual assault, which she can’t speak about until after the trial. BYU claims that they are merely following a federal mandate, initiating this Honor Code review because of — get this — Title IX.
For those of you not familiar with the 1972 piece of educational legislation:
No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance
So what exactly does Title IX have to do with derailing a young woman’s educational career? As far as I can tell, nothing.
It’s Not Just BYU
BYU’s policy is endemic of a repressive, religious culture that isn’t limited to just the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Their backwards ideas about sex and purity, and their convictions that the rest of the world isn’t as wholesome as they are drives them to micromanage cases involving sexual abuse. Because what they really want to do is shame people out of reporting sexual assault for fear that those reports would reflect negatively on the school and church as a whole.
Take the “Two Witness” rule from the equally repressed Jehovah’s Witnesses. This policy, which requires at least two witnesses to be present for a sexual assault to be taken seriously, and which discourages adherents from going to the police under the threat of being shunned from the community, is instituted to quell any disillusionment that their particular religious organization is perfect, chaste and moral.
But by now, BYU should have known better. In 2011, the U.S. Department of Education sent a letter to all institutes of higher learning who receive federal funding which advises:
Schools should be aware that victims or third parties may be deterred from reporting incidents if alcohol, drugs, or other violations of school or campus rules were involved. As a result, schools should consider whether their disciplinary policies have a chilling effect on victims’ or other students’ reporting of sexual violence offenses.
Since BYU’s unusually strict Honor Code prohibits pre-marital sex and even fraternizing with someone of the opposite sex in private, there are probably countless infractions a victim of rape might incur while being attacked. If BUY administration spent more time reading their bibles, they would know that even Jesus taught us to forgive sinners and to not judge others.