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BYU launches website to gather suggestions for changing how it handles sex assault reports

First Published      Last Updated Jun 17 2016 02:20 pm

Brigham Young University has launched a website to receive comments on the school's handling of sexual-assault reports.

The website, feedback2016.byu.edu, is part of a study of campus responses to sex crime, announced last month after students alleged that they were disciplined under the school's Honor Code as a result of reporting sexual assaults against them.

The website includes comment fields for users to offer their suggestions and describe their personal experiences, as well as check boxes to identify their connection to the school, such as student, alumni or community member.

Responses will be reviewed by a four-person "Advisory Council on Campus Response to Sexual Assault," which BYU announced on Thursday would carry out its study.




The council hopes to "identify changes that will help BYU work toward the elimination of sexual assault on campus" and "determine how to better handle the reporting process for victims of sexual assault as sensitively and compassionately as possible," according to a media statement by BYU.

"The advisory council is specifically looking at 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 BYU Honor Code Office," school officials wrote.

Members of the committee are BYU Student Life Vice President Janet S. Scharman; Julie Valentine, a BYU nursing professor and sexual assault nurse examiner who researches sex crimes and violence against women; Ben Ogles, the dean of BYU's College of Family, Home and Social Sciences; and Sandra Rogers, the international vice president at BYU.

The group has been receiving comments over the past month and is reviewing comments in a petition of at least 90,000 names, delivered to the school by protesters during a rally in April.

That petition now has 114,000 names and was launched by BYU student Madi Barney, who faced discipline after a Utah County sheriff's deputy gave her detailed rape report to the school's Honor Code Office. Barney was forbidden from enrolling in future classes unless she agreed to cooperate with an investigation into her conduct — which prosecutors discouraged because a criminal trial against the man accused by Barney is pending.

During a rape awareness event at the Provo campus in April, Barney raised her objections to the school's actions.

Other students have since shared their accounts of being investigated by the school after they reported being sexually assaulted. The school, which is owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, has faced criticism from law enforcement and victims' advocates who say that victims likely will not report sexual assaults if they fear academic discipline may result.

BYU's president, Kevin J. Worthen, in April announced that the school would study the issue.

"At the conclusion of this study I believe we will have a system that people — particularly the victims of sexual assault — feel they can trust, and that creates an environment where we can effectively work to eliminate sexual assaults on campus," Worthen said. "I have every confidence that this group will bring forward positive recommendations that will ultimately make BYU a better place."

 

AT A GLANCE

LDS Church statement

The LDS Church issued the following statement Thursday evening:

“Sexual assault is a serious concern at campuses across the nation. At Brigham Young University, students enter the campus knowing that they are expected to live according to high standards of personal morality and conduct, and certainly any form of abuse or assault falls well below any such standard. BYU’s remarkable campus community reflects character and students’ commitment to live exemplary lives.

“Sadly, there are exceptions. Media have published deeply personal stories of victims of sexual assault who feel they have been treated poorly when reporting their assault. They are painful to read, but we do not believe they represent the ideals BYU or church leaders follow when responding to victims.

“Let us be perfectly clear: There is no tolerance for sexual assault at BYU or in the church. Assault of any kind is a serious criminal offense, and we support its reporting, investigation and prosecution to the full extent of the law. Victims of assault or recipients of unwelcome sexual attention should be treated with sensitivity, compassion and respect and should feel that those to whom they disclose the assault are committed to helping them deal with the trauma they have experienced. In instances where there may have been conflict between meeting Honor Code and Title IX priorities, BYU is taking significant steps, including forming an advisory council to explore these circumstances and make recommendations for change, as needed.

“Today, the university issued a letter outlining that process and launched a website inviting input. We believe their work should be given time and space to proceed so that it can result in a process that more completely reflects care for victims of sexual assault and that provides a safer campus.”


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