Now? Tomorrow? Next week?
Content Notice: Sexual assault, victim blaming, misogyny.
Like many private religious schools, BYU has an honor code that requires students to live by its standards of morality. BYU’s Mormon-specific version bans alcohol, tobacco, tea and coffee, as well as beards (?!). It requires students to live in sex-segregated residence halls both on and off campus and forbids “homosexual behavior” of any sort. It also forbids sex between students who aren’t married, and that’s where the trouble begins.
According to reporting that first appeared last year, BYU uses its honor code to punish rape victims. Multiple students said that they reported a rape or sexual assault, only to have the school turn around and discipline them for breaking the rule against extramarital sex. Often, it interrogated them about what they were wearing, why they were alone with a man, or if they were acting “unchastely”. One student, Madi Barney, reported the man who raped her to police and faced expulsion as a result:
“I felt re-victimized,” she said.
Madi Barney said she was troubled that the school’s Title IX investigator didn’t offer her any support when she called.
“She only said we need to talk about the honor code. It looks like you violated it,” she said.
This is the same perverse logic as Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and other brutal Muslim theocracies that punish rape victims on the grounds that, by reporting rape, a woman is admitting to sex outside marriage. When they were called out on this, BYU’s defense was legalistic hair-splitting:
In BYU’s statement to the Tribune, spokeswoman Carri Jenkins pointed to the school’s sexual misconduct policy: “Violations of university policy or the… Honor Code do not make a victim at fault for sexual violence… and will be addressed separately from the sexual misconduct allegation.”
Barney scoffs at the claim of separation.
“‘Separate.’ That’s the word they constantly use to justify sending victims to the Honor Code,” said Barney. “You can’t just chop up the rape into little pieces and take out the parts you want to punish people for.”
BYU’s policy intimidated many rape victims into keeping quiet, since speaking up could destroy their own future whether or not the rapist was punished. They faced expulsion from school, loss of jobs, loss of housing. Even when there was enough evidence to charge the rapist with a felony, BYU refused to relent in its hounding of victims, to the point that a Utah prosecutor asked them to stop because it was interfering with his efforts to get witnesses to testify.
I need to stop wondering how low religious authoritarians can go. It’s not doing kind things to my mental health.