Brigham Young University may be punishing victims of sexual assault under the school’s honor code. After Madi Barney, 19, reported that she was a victim of rape, she found herself under investigation based on the university’s code of conduct.
Barney reported her sexual assault to the Provo, Utah, police. According to the report, she met 39-year-old Nasiru Seidu online. Seidu lied about his name, age, and marital status. During the police probe, a staged call between Barney and Seidu confirmed Barney’s accusations against Seidu. As a part of procedure, the police department forwarded the results of the investigation to the university.
Two months after Barney was sexually assaulted, Brigham Young University contacted Barney to let her know she was under investigation. She was summoned to the school’s honor code office for a disciplinary hearing. As a result of her rape, Barney was accused of violating the university’s honor code.
The letter from the university indicated that, as a victim of rape, Barney was in violation of Brigham Young University’s sexual misconduct code. Students created the Mormon school’s code of conduct in 1949. The code holds students responsible for violations associated with “sexual misconduct, obscene or indecent conduct or expressions and involvement with pornographic, erotic, indecent or offensive material.” Those found to be in violation can be expelled or otherwise punished.
Barney did not participate in the school’s hearing, under the advisement of her attorney. Meanwhile, Brigham Young University has blocked Barney from registering for new classes. The school’s policy is also hindering the victim in her current classes and making it difficult to manage school and make court appearances. The school is saying they cannot prove the sexual assault occurred; therefore, Barney is not being given the opportunity to withdraw from classes that conflict with court appearances.
In response to Brigham Young University’s persecution of assault victims, Barney made her story public. Once other university students heard about her case, the students rallied in support of Barney and other victims of sexual assault on campus. The student body organized a protest on April 20, 2016. Barney was not present for her own personal safety.
Barney released a statement via social media ahead of the protests. In the message, she referred to Brigham Young University’s code as part of the problem which leads to rape culture, which blames the victim and creates laws that persecute them when they report incidents of sexual assault.
Barney has filed a complaint against Brigham Young University with the Department of Education. Her complaint states that she has been denied basic services, as a survivor of a sexual assault under the federal law.
Barney’s case is putting Brigham Young University and their honor code in the spotlight. The Board of Education is reviewing the school’s honor code and how it relates to victims of assault. Brigham Young University has responded by saying they would review the honor code and study its contents.
Students feel that the university is not moving quickly enough to address current issues that are based on old ideals. Brigham Young University believes they are following the foundation of Mormon beliefs, which the school’s philosophy is based on.
There has been no resolution in Barney’s case, either with Brigham Young University or with her sexual assault case. For now, she will be battling for her rights as a victim on two fronts; by hoping to hold the one who assaulted her responsible, and by helping future students who survive sexual assault to not be further victimized by the school’s archaic policies.
By Gichele Cocrelle
Edited by Jeanette Smith
Mashable.com: Rape Victims face honor code investigation at Brigham University
The Huffington Post: BYU Faces Federal Complaint over claim it’s punishing a rape victim
The Washington Post: Brigham Young University under fire for disciplining sexual assault victim for honor code breach
Photo Courtesy of Ken Lund’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License