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An online petition urging Brigham Young University not to investigate rape victims for Honor Code violations has garnered nearly 32,000 signatures in two days, with many commenters sharing that they too have been victims of sexual assault and others saying they plan to withdraw financial support from the Provo school.
"It's incredible to see how much people care," said Madi Barney, the BYU student who started the petition after her rape allegation led to her being investigated by the Honor Code Office. "I hope BYU is paying attention and will take a step forward [and] adopt an immunity clause for rape victims and adjust their horrible practices that revictimize and shame victims."
Barney and other students say the private university's Title IX office, which reviews student sexual assault cases, routinely passes information to the Honor Code Office.
The practice, Barney said, punishes victims for crimes committed against them. Breaking the Honor Code which includes prohibitions on drinking, wearing form-fitting clothing or visiting the bedroom of a member of the opposite sex can result in expulsion.
"Our goal in every situation is to give students the support that they need and safeguard their educational environment," BYU spokeswoman Carri Jenkins said in response to the petition. "We will continue to look for new opportunities to help our students understand the resources available to them if they are a victim of sexual assault."
Barney said that the school, owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, has not contacted her about the petition. "They're on the wrong side of history if they ignore this," she said. "The signatures are international, which really shows that rape is a universal human rights issue and that people everywhere care about it."
Last week, Barney spoke out at a rape-awareness conference on campus, challenging how BYU handles students who report that they've been the victim of a sex crime. Revealing her sexual assault and becoming the center of an international issue have been "overwhelming," she said, "but I feel really empowered and excited at the same time."
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