In an effort to clarify their stance on campus sexual assault, both The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and Brigham Young University (BYU) issued updated statements.
After the Salt Lake Tribune’s extended coverage of campus sexual assault at BYU, LDS Church stated:
“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.”
In multiple statements coming out of BYU, alleged sexual assault survivors have claimed that the existence of both the Title IX and Honor Code departments on campus make it difficult for them to come forward.
“I said, ‘I’d like to propose that victims of sexual violence have some kind of immunity clause from the Honor Code, because it creates a hostile environment for victims who think they’re going to get in trouble for reporting,’” said Madi Barney, a student at BYU who spoke at a sexual assault awareness conference on campus, according to the Salt Lake Tribune.
Barney, who has an open criminal case for an alleged sexual assault in her off-campus apartment, is currently being investigated under the University’s Honor Code, to determine if her alleged sexual assault in any way violated the Honor Code.
In defense of the allegations that BYU is prioritizing the Honor Code over the protection of sexual assault survivors, LDS Church stated:
“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.”
In an effort to underscore BYU’s implemented changes, LDS Church continued with:
“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.”
BYU has moved forward with a proactive approach to addressing sexual assault on campus by launching both a dedicated website for feedback, as well as an advisory council that will study how BYU addresses campus sexual assault and any areas of improvement.
“Brigham Young University is committed to thoroughly addressing concerns related to sexual assault and violence to foster a safe, respectful campus climate,” reads the University’s feedback website. “As part of this process, we are seeking feedback from the campus and community on matters related to sexual assault.”
The four-person advisory council does not have a deadline for submitting its reports, but hopes to be done soon, according to Deseret News.