Rape, Responsibility & Reporting. The BYU Debate
by Lizzy Smith
May 03, 2016
Brigham Young University (BYU) is located in Provo, Utah and is just some 20 minutes from my home. Recently, the school has been receiving loads of negative press surrounding a student who reported a rape and, as a result, has been disciplined by the university herself. That’s right—a female student reports a rape (and apparently her attacker admits to it in a recorded phone conversation) and she finds herself in hot water with her university. Why? Because if you attend BYU, which is owned by the Mormon church, all students must promise to abide by a strict Honor Code, which includes not having sex outside of marriage, not touching alcohol or drugs, and dressing to a standard that includes no shorts above the knees or sleeveless tops.
The student who launched the media blitz, 20-year old Madi Barney (who has publicly come forward and agreed to be named), met a guy who, she says, raped her during their date. She waited four days to report it because she feared BYU would find out. Her concerns came true when a deputy sheriff turned the report over to the university. Soon after, Madi was informed that BYU had launched an Honor Code investigation against her. Refusing to answer all of the university’s questions so as not to impede the police investigation, BYU refused Madi services under Title IV, the Federal law that prohibits sexual discrimination at universities, and barred her from registering for classes the following semester. Since coming forward with her story, several other female BYU students have reported that they, too, were either disciplined or kicked out of school for reporting rapes or sexual assaults because, the school determined, they were in violation of the Honor Code. (I have to hand it to these young women who were strong and brave enough to go public with their stories. This is never easy for victims of sexual assault but it is particularly hard in the Mormon community where members are taught at an early age to never disparage the church or its institutions.)