A Plea for Awareness, A Plea for Change

Today a dear friend of mine posted an article.  This article honestly made my blood boil.  I wanted to shout at BYU leadership "What the hell?!".  Unfortunately I don't know any peeps in leadership at BYU, so I'm obviously going to take it to all of you to at least get it out.   Ladies and gents, we have a BIG problem right in our back yard.  
I am pleading with you to bring awareness to Sexual Assault.  

The article that triggered all of this... (I decided to post it in it's entirety.  I will say, the comments are even  more saddening as they highlight how very true this stance is.  The link is below if you wanna check it out for yourself.)
The Least Degree of Allowance 
APRIL 9, 2016 BY  392 COMMENTS 
BYU held its first ever Rape Awareness conference this week. At the conference, representatives of BYU’s administration spoke regarding the role of the Honor Code Office with respect to both sexual offenders and victims. In the event of a report of sexual assault, the BYU police department reviews the report and then may provide that report to the Honor Code Office, depending in part upon the activities of the survivor in the event. BYU representatives reportedly made it clear that the Honor Code remains a primary rule of conduct at the university, and “we do not apologize for that.”
If this recounting is accurate, when victims of sexual violence at BYU report their attack, they potentially put their academic future at risk. If you’ve been raped while in your boyfriend’s bedroom, you’re in trouble. If you were drinking at a party and were raped, you’re in trouble. If you were fondling a partner who then raped you, you’re in trouble. There are many more Honor Code rules which may apply. The trouble is both ecclesiastical and academic. The Honor Code Office will report to and coordinate with the bishop of the student. A woman who has been sexually assaulted may find herself penalized, suspended, even expelled for the circumstances of her attack. 
The problems with this approach are clear. These rules discourage the reporting of sexual abuse and shield the perpetrators. Victims are shamed into silence. In their very moment of spiritual and physical pain, the Honor Code serves to heap additional guilt upon their heads. They are perhaps left with the implication that they deserved their attack. And if nothing is reported, the greater sin of sexual violence goes unpunished. The veneer of righteousness presented by the Honor Code is preserved and the sepulchre is kept white. 
I would welcome further explanation from BYU administration. I hope that I am wrong. I attended BYU, love BYU and support its aims. But to say that this approach is not the right one is an understatement. It would be a sinful, repugnant way to approach victims of sexual abuse. I call upon BYU to provide some explanation and to shield victims in their reporting and healing. 
Update: I’ve been informed that this was not the first such event held at BYU. 

As I read it, my heart sank.  This, my friends, is (part) of why there is a problem.  Gah!  Words can't describe the frustration I felt while reading.  One would hope that this was a false account.  Nope.  Truth.  Shame on BYU.  Shame on them for even remotely eluding to a survivor's choice of breaking the BYU Honor Code as a factor when a rape allegation has been made. Shame on them for bringing yet another reason for a survivor not to report a rape.  Shame on them for adding to the guilt that has already encompassed a survivor.  Shame on BYU!  If a girl chooses to make out with her boyfriend in his bed (breaking the honor code), how in the hell is that relevant in any way if the boyfriend decides to use that as an opportunity to choose to rape her??!!  No words.  Actually, I do have words, WTF?!  I don't usually get all crazy about things, but honestly this is one that I feel a-okay getting passionate about.  WE HAVE A PROBLEM!  Do you hear me?  I'm not okay with this!  You should not be okay with this.  Nobody should be okay with this.  

Speak up.  Please speak up to those around you.  Bring awareness.  Let them know that these policies are unacceptable (anywhere).  Our community has got to learn to put the survivors first.  Unless you have dealt directly with a survivor, you have no idea the guilt they already put on themselves.  They already tell themselves they did something wrong...that it was somehow their fault.  They don't need us to do that for them.  They need us to love them.  They need us to be the voice of reason, to drown out their anguish in their minds.  Please be that person.

Did you know that 90% of Provo rapes are not reported?  90%!   When Miquelle chose to share her story, I had friends (yes, plural) share that they too, had a similar story.  Unfortunately one thing that was common in multiple, yes multiple, stories was that they did everything "right".  They went straight to the police, did the rape kits, documented, gave statements, the whole nine yards.  Guess what?!  They were told it wasn't worth prosecuting because it was a losing case!  Can you imagine how that would feel?  Can you imagine the implications that has had on others who have heard this and then sadly are assaulted themselves?  Do you think they have a desire to go through the same heartache? Nope.  WE HAVE A PROBLEM.  

While I'm at it, I want to clarify one thing - It is NEVER the survivor's fault.  It doesn't matter what she was wearing.  It doesn't matter what she said.  It doesn't matter if she said yes at first and then changed her mind and said no.  It doesn't matter if she had had sex with him before.  It doesn't matter if she went into his bedroom.  IT DOESN'T MATTER.  What does matter is one thing - HE IS THE ONE THAT CHOSE TO RAPE HER.  She had no choice in the matter.  He took that from her.  It is HIS fault that HE chose to rape her.  There is nothing else to consider.  A no is a no, no matter what.  Nothing changes that.  (Note: The "he" and "she" can be interchangeable.  Rape unfortunately doesn't discriminate and isn't sexist.)  

I HOPE.  I PRAY.  That we can push for a change.  That we can speak out.  We have got to create a safe environment for survivors to speak up.  They need to know that they won't be judge.  They need to know that they are loved, that they are safe.  They need to know that a choice they made does not mean that the "deserved" to be assaulted.  It breaks my heart that there are survivors out there that have not been able to share their story...that they didn't feel they would be heard.  Why would we make this even harder for them?  

Please make survivors feel safe to be heard.
Please push for a change.
Please bring awareness.
Please speak up!

Edited to add a report that came out shortly after this post from Channel 2 news:http://kutv.com/news/local/byu-student-says-honor-code-creates-fear-shame-in-victims-of-rape

If you would like to respectfully voice your disgust of this policy to BYU, 
here is the Title IX Coordinator contact information:   
Sarah Westerberg
Associate Dean of Students
Title IX Coordinator  
3527 WSC
Provo, UT 84602
(801) 422-2130

To those who have a leadership influence at BYU, I hope you realize how very wrong BYU is in this policy.  I ask that you step back and look at the bigger picture.  Look at the grossly negative impact that is being made on your campus and your surrounding community.  You have the ability to push for change.  Now do it! 

No comments