This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2016, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Women do not have a responsibility to keep men from assaulting them.
There are decisions some women make in the interest of reducing their risk, but women who make different decisions are not inviting rapists to rape. If a man forces a woman to have non-consensual sex, it's rape, and it is the assailant, not the victim, who is to blame.
If the woman wore a sleeveless or strapless top, it's still the rapist's fault.
If she had been drinking, it's still the rapist's fault.
If they were in her bedroom, it's still the rapist's fault.
If she previously had sex with him, it's still the rapist's fault.
At Brigham Young University, that is not quite the whole story. If the victim is a BYU student, then any of the above conditions would put her in violation of BYU's honor code, and she could face punishment up to and including expulsion.
Without intending to, BYU has given rapists an advantage. If a woman has crossed any of these lines, she faces a different dynamic with a potential assailant, who can essentially say, "I'm doing this, and if you tell anybody, we're both going down."
BYU is genuine when it says that a student would "never be referred to the honor code office for being a victim of sexual assault." But it still is enabling perpetrators, including those who are not BYU students, by setting up a barrier to student victims coming forward. Even worse, in one case BYU refused a Utah County Attorney's office request to back off the honor-code investigation of a woman who prosecutors were trying to protect as a crime victim.
BYU has prospered as a university committed to strict standards of morality, and the honor code is the manifestation of that. The school backs up that commitment to students and their parents when it investigates and disciplines students for violating the code.
But when a woman has suffered one of the most violent and brutal crimes imaginable, her life is already turned upside down. It is simply not defensible to make her fear the end of her college career if she speaks up so another woman won't suffer the same fate.
BYU has a relatively low number of reported sexual offenses for a school its size, but it's difficult to know how accurate the statistics are when victims know they face a higher level of scrutiny for reporting the crime than they would at most colleges.
BYU officials need not abandon their standards, but they do need a better system for maintaining those standards without adding to the fear that too often silences victims of sexual assault.
If they do that, their standards will be raised considerably.