Mormon-owned Brigham Young University has long been known for their dubious handling of sexual assault reporting. Until now, it has been common for the school to closely investigate anyone reporting an assault for violations of the school’s honor code. The school’s honor code, which is mandatory for all attendees and strictly so for anyone living on campus, prohibits sexual activity and substance use, even alcohol, in keeping with the school’s religious leanings.
The school has always maintained that its honor-code investigations are entirely separate from federal Title IX inquiries (in-house sexual assault falls under Title IX). But investigations found that it was common for the on-campus Title IX office to share names and details with the honor-code office. There are also allegations that local police have also been improperly sharing information.
The result of that sharing is that a student trying to report their own assault could wind up penalized or expelled for activities unrelated to the school, even if they kept them discreet. This, of course, discouraged reports. One student who came forward was subjected to a two-month probation while she was investigated, without apology when she was eventually cleared.
After several students and alumni have come forward to the media about similar experiences, BYU has finally made a commitment to change in order to better protect its students. A faculty council has made a series of recommendations with student input, and the school seems to be listening. The names of victims are now specifically forbidden from being given to the honor code office, and an honor code amnesty clause is in progress. The university is also hiring victims advocates to provide an additional layer of confidentiality between victims and the school.
More than 200 universities across the country are currently under investigation for their handling of sexual assault on campus. It is reassuring to see one of the worst offenders taking such a large step.