On KUER: Sexual Assault in the Mormon Context

This morning I appeared on KUER’s Radio West with Doug Fabrizio, alongside Erin Alberty of the Salt Lake Tribune and Prof. Andrea Radke-Moss of BYU-I. We discussed sexual assault in the Mormon context. You can listen to a podcast on KUER’s website, and I welcome further discussion of the issue here.

KUER: Sexual Assault in the Mormon Context

This month, The Salt Lake Tribune has been following the story of BYU students who say they’ve been punished under the school’s honor code because they reported sexual assaults. Some of the questions these women are facing have been experienced around the country: will they be believed, shamed or blamed for being a victim? Tuesday, we’re asking how LDS culture and theology of chastity complicates this, and if there are lessons from the Mormon experience that might help challenge assumptions about rape in America.




  1. Kevin Barney says:

    I was able to listen to the entire hour live (the magic of smart phones!). You were all great; very well done.

  2. Yes, it was absolutely outstanding. I can’t imagine two better people to discuss these issues. I was especially glad that the conversation moved beyond the incidents at BYU, and even the policies that lead to that, to talk about how our cultures (both American and Mormon) often end up sending the kinds of messages that lead to victim blaming and an inability to sufficiently address cases of sexual assault.

    I thought that the most important points that came up were: 1) your discussion of the way that our discourse around chastity and modesty has the unintended, but tangible result of placing responsibility for male sexual behavior on the shoulders of women (literally and figuratively) in a way that makes it easy to assume that women have the primary responsibility not to get raped–and that, therefore, women who do get raped have somehow failed. 2) Andrea Radke-Moss’s observation that women at BYU and in Mormon culture need to have three or four levels of male priesthood authority all aligned behind them (father, bishop, university administration, police who are probably Mormon) in order to be believed, and if even one of those layers does not align, she can suffer serious consequences for reporting a sexual assault.

    These are things that we have to think about as a religious community–not in order to assess blame, but in order to solve the problem of women being sexually assaulted in our communities. You aptly pointed out that rapists are very good at using every tool that their communities give them in order to accomplish their objectives. As painful as it may be, we have to undertake a very serious examination of the tools we are providing.

  3. Kevin Barney says:

    During the “every tool” part of the discussion, it occcurred to me that the Honor Code itself is a tool rapists can use to facilitate rape. By making violations of the Honor Code part of the fact pattern immediately preceding or accompanying his assault (alcohol, curfew, in a room alone, etc.), the rapist is greatly minimizing the chances that his assault will be reported, since the victim would be submitting herself to an Honor Code inquisition and possibly risking her education by going forward with a complaint.

  4. JeannineL says:

    While we’re at it, can we discuss the Church “Honor Code” (aka Church Discipline) that also has a “chilling effect”?

  5. ^ YYYEEEESSSSS to the “every tool” issue, including the Honor Code.

  6. I missed this live and can’t find a podcast. My casually-informed understanding is that KUER will rebroadcast at 11pm MT tonight, and only after that post a podcast. Any better information?
    Without hearing, but only the comments here, I’m paying special attention to the ‘every tool’ point (in a nauseated way).

  7. The podcast is up at the link above now.

  8. Well done! (I do have some concerns about the Salt Lake Tribune reporting, but that’s not a matter for this forum.) Because I have read and heard most everything before, I was particularly struck by a couple of comments that I had not thought about before. The notion of the returned missionary “aura of holiness” being used as a tool — frightening; needs attention. I suspect that many Mormons will find that one particularly troubling in a way that their response will be denial. On the other hand, the observation that the victim needs to have three or four levels of men be consistently supportive, while true and telling and arguably exaggerated in Mormon settings, strikes me as not that much different than our larger society. The large number of people who have to believe, and the prevalence of men among that number, is a notorious problem.

  9. “On the other hand, the observation that the victim needs to have three or four levels of men be consistently supportive, while true and telling and arguably exaggerated in Mormon settings, strikes me as not that much different than our larger society.”


    One big difference at BYU is the layer of ecclesiastical leadership, the bishop and stake president have a huge amount of power in their ability to sign or withhold an ecclesiastical endorsement. But arguably the even more important difference is that, at most universities, there is a very good chance that the institutional officers with the real power (president, provost, key deans) will be women.

  10. I appreciate the reminder and information, Michael. I tend to forget the ecclesiastical endorsement; having carefully avoided it my whole life, that’s a willful forgetfulness. And in my days on not Church-owned campuses most of the officers with power were men. (That’s a long time ago.)
    However, in the overall discussion about sexual assault and rape on campus, reporting, honor code, retaliation, etc., at BYU, I keep having a “nothing new” reaction. I’d like to see BYU become a leader and an example, and I am distressed to find BYU 10 years behind, but it only takes one step of abstraction to think I’ve heard it all before, and that most of the best practice answers are now obvious.

  11. Christian, of course in any situation like this there are a thousand thoughts afterwards of what I should have said more/less/differently. But one thing in particular I meant to say was that I am very hopeful that the power of the RM aura as a gendered power differential should be waning now that a much higher percentage of our women are also RMs! That missionary age change really has very far-reaching impacts, and I don’t have any data or anything but I feel like this is one area that may be impacted for the better.

  12. Christian, this would actually be an excellent quantitative research project for somebody who knew how to do such things (which, unfortunately, does not include me, a three-time English major). I am trying to think of all of the schools that I have been associated with, or have had some connection to senior administration, and I cannot off hand think of one (other than BYU) in which the top three officers with the authority to make policy in this area–the President, the Provost, and the Vice President for Student Affairs–are all male. I can think of a lot of them where two of the three are men. In my current school, for example, the President is a woman, while the Provost (me) and VPAA are male. In my previous institution, the President and Provost were male, but the VPSA was a woman. And so on.

    But, of course, I have a limited circle of experience–perhaps a dozen schools. I wonder if anyone out there needs a project and could get a hold of data for a few thousand schools to see how many of them have “all male panels” in these three key policymaking positions.

  13. I wonder if there’s a way to get the data without asking or searching thousands of schools individually? We get studies like this of large corporations partly because the information is publicly available in a form that can be scavenged electronically.
    For all that, BYU is also different in having all male trustees, and I believe a decision that will sound to some like ‘not enforcing the honor code’ will be a trustee level decision.

  14. Studies show rape is not a sexual act, it is an act of violence. This is why and 85 year old woman can just as easily be raped as a teenager in a short skirt. I wish this would have been addressed.

  15. On the honor code as a tool that rapists wield against victims:


    May God somehow find ways to forgive us all for ever being quiet about these things.

  16. I can’t get over how great Cynthia and Andrea were. I mean, wow good. We have a lot of fixing to do at BYU.

  17. Left Field says:

    BYU Trustees are not all male. I don’t know how far back that goes, but the General Relief Society President was a Trustee when I was a student back in the early ’80s.

  18. Left Field, thank you. I learn something: The most recent information I can find is that BYU President Kevin Worthen (since May 1, 2014) reports to the Board through the Commissioner of Education Kim Clark (since August 1, 2015). The Church Board of Education is the Board of Trustees, which (as of some date in 2015) comprises:
    Thomas S. Monson
    Henry B. Eyring
    Dieter F. Uchtdorf
    Dallin H. Oaks
    Jeffrey R. Holland
    Donald L. Hallstrom
    Linda K. Burton
    Bonnie L. Oscarson

  19. Leonard R says:

    The initial portion focused on the idea of the Title IX and HC processes being separate. What is so striking about the argument that the two can be done separately is that regardless of how separate you make the processes, there is one thing that cannot be separated – the victim.

    The HC process could be 100% separate in the bureaucratic sense, but there is no way the victim will be able to do so. They are the center of each one. They are them.

    To place the burden of maintaining this fiction of separation is simply another abuse.

  20. Katherine says:

    May I correct one inaccuracy I heard in the broadcast. About ten years ago a member of my singles ward in California was placed on church probation for having sex with a man she had gone on a date with. She told the bishop she had told the man to stop but he would not listen. The bishop told her she did not protest enough.
    The problem is current. It is not part of the past.

  21. Katherine, Your friend isn’t alone. The problems are linked–but I also hope what happened to your friend becomes discussed separately from the BYU fiasco because it [the scenario of your friend] deserves it’s own spotlight as it is a pervasive problem.

  22. “a member of my singles ward in California was placed on church probation for having sex with a man she had gone on a date with. She told the bishop she had told the man to stop but he would not listen. The bishop told her she did not protest enough.”

    Disclosure: I was firmly in the corner of ‘BYU doesn’t punish you for being raped by enforcing the HC’ last time this discussion came around. But how any man could hold that position above is frightening. Would anyone ever tell their wife/daughter/sister/mother this? How could you have a sliding scale of acceptable level of protest? If a Bishop told my daughter this after her rape then that Bishop would almost be in just as much physical danger from me as the rapist.

    Is this the most common response from leaders?

  23. Sorry to say, Jax, but when BYU investigates and punishes what it perceives as honor code violations surrounding the circumstances of your rape, that *is* punishing you for being raped by enforcing the honor code. It’s a very easy concept to grasp. Someone who has been raped but who must concede that, yes, she was alone in the rapist’s apartment with him when it happened, isn’t going to even report the rape because Sarah Westerberg isn’t going to believe her that she was raped and didn’t have consensual sex, and the honor code investigation might even go so far as to interview the rapist to find out if the victim is telling the truth about being raped. Can you believe that? Although it approaches the surreal, it is a fact, and it is where we are.

  24. it's a series of tubes says:

    Disclosure: I was firmly in the corner of ‘BYU doesn’t punish you for being raped by enforcing the HC’ last time this discussion came around. But how any man could hold that position above is frightening. Would anyone ever tell their wife/daughter/sister/mother this? How could you have a sliding scale of acceptable level of protest? If a Bishop told my daughter this after her rape then that Bishop would almost be in just as much physical danger from me as the rapist.

    Is this the most common response from leaders?

    Jax, as to how this abhorrent attitude has been promoted, please see at least The Miracle of Forgiveness, p. 63, 196. See also Gospel Standards, p. 55.

  25. Jax: I sometimes wonder if this is one of the outgrowths of the “better to lose your life than your virtue/viginity” rhetoric from a few decades ago. (Isn’t it in Miracle of Forgiveness, too?) This was brought out in the podcast as well. Perhaps it is one aspect of this discussion that we need to explore — what do these statements really mean? I personally see these kind of statements as “rhetorical hyperbole” — where the statement is not meant to be “literally true”, but used to emphasize the importance of a principle, but it might be worth some discussion to see what we as a Church community really think these mean. I will agree with you that a leader who enforces too much of a “you didn’t resist enough” is not understanding something.

  26. If the “principle” you are saying this rhetoric is meant to buttress is that a woman can be partially at fault for her rape either by what she wore or drank, then it’s a principle that is not virtuous, lovely, of good report, or praiseworthy, and we need to jettison it immediately, regardless of whether it had cultural currency in the 1950s during the formative years of many current GAs.

  27. @Trond: I think the principle these extreme statements are trying to buttress is that chastity is an important law — no more, no less. That, in hindsight, is the only way I can make sense of these kinds of statements.
    I have often thought that it would be preferable to completely jettison and expunge such statements, but it seems to be very difficult in the Church to completely expunge something like this that was spoken by men who have been sustained as prophets and apostles.

  28. Trond,

    I don’t think Dave mentioned the woman being at fault at all. I think we all agree there is no blame for being raped; being victimized isn’t punished.


    In my mind, the sentiment of “better to die…” is meant only to convey that a woman shouldn’t submit. But you could fight with everything you have, still be raped, and not end up dead. I think the problem is the assumption that if you lived through rape that you didn’t resist “enough”, and that is a terrible presumption to make IMO. I fully support the idea of not submitting and fighting (even to the point of killing your attacker or dying yourself), but can’t condone the idea that because you survived therefore you are in any way guilty, unworthy, unvirtuous, etc. You can fully resist (verbally and physically) and still survive a rape encounter.

  29. At one point in the podcast, the discussion went around the concept of “trying to figure out how the victim contributed to the assault”. I don’t recall the exact words used, but they reminded me quite starkly of something said in this essay from Meridian Magazine: http://ldsmag.com/article-1-13438/ In this article, In counseling this young woman (a victim of sexual assault in my opinion), she told her, “The first thing is for you take responsibility for the things you know you could have chosen differently. Take responsibility for lying. Take responsibility for drinking. Take responsibility for being at the wrong place at the wrong time doing the wrong things.” I would be interested in anyone’s response.

  30. Jax: I think you are right, that it is important to resist. How shall we measure putting up enough resistance? If you have a few drinks before the assault, have you immediately failed to resist enough? If you were making out and “touching the sacred parts of another’s body, and allowing the sacred parts of your own body to be touched”, is there any amount of refusal to engage in further sexual activity that can constitute “resisting enough”? Is a simple “no” enough?

  31. Dave,
    That was a terrible article. Hearing it second hand, it certainly sounds like date-rape (even with the police deciding otherwise). Nobody forced this man to predate. It is not the girl’s fault that she did. Whether or not she showed poor judgment.

    As to the notion that we have to accept responsibility for our poor decisions in order to move on, I suppose that could be true. But none of her poor decisions resulted in rape. That was entirely on the predator in question. So I’m not sure how examining her poor decisions would help her draw useful conclusions. She did not somehow force this man to take advantage of her. My guess is that she’d have a healthier outlook on life, love, and sex if she lays the blame with the rapist, but I’m no mental health professional.

  32. No, having a few drinks doesn’t mean you have failed to resist “enough”. No, touching another person doesn’t mean you have failed to resist “enough”. If you were both agreeing to physical contact up to a point, and then your partner wants to cross a barrier you are uncomfortable with then you should resist as much as possible from that point.

    A simple “no” is not enough if other resistance was possible. It should be enough for a partner to stop; that should be all it takes to stop a “partner”, but it doesn’t constitute full resistance in my mind. Say no, say stop, tell them you want to stop (if it started consensually – its obvious other times, right?), push them away, hit them, kick them, bite them, gouge their eyes out, find a weapon, scream, kill them if possible. That is resisting enough in my mind. A “NO” and then consciously submitting doesn’t do enough in my mind, but the victim wouldn’t be worthy of blame either (it would still be the rapists fault)

    All of the above might not be possible all the time of course. If you’re drunk you might not be able to scream/fight/attack because of drunkenness. Or maybe you are beaten unconscious or tied up. I can’t draw a line in the sand and say “this is the threshold for ‘enough’ ” … just do EVERYTHING you can to make it stop. If you get paralyzed with fear and your brain shuts down, maybe that “NO” will be all you can do. I can’t know that. Neither can a Bishop – that’s my point. Any Bishop saying “you didn’t do enough” is just simply wrong. The victim and the Lord know what they were capable of doing to resist, and if the victim says they did what they could and were raped, then any leader needs to accept that… just as they accept the verbal but unverifiable answers to temple recommend questions.

  33. Is a simple “no” enough?

    That is all the resistance that is morally required. Requiring anything on top of that is an expression of how we make women responsible for the sexual misdeeds of the rapist.

  34. @ Trond

    John C says “But none of her poor decisions resulted in rape”… agreed wholeheartedly! But should she face the consequences for the decisions that were contrary to the HC? I think yes, and so should he (and his punishment better be MUCH more severe). I think if a person goes drinking and doesn’t get raped they should answer to the HC violation, and being assaulted doesn’t change that. You face punishment for YOUR actions regardless of the actions of a rapist. You aren’t punished BECAUSE you are raped. You shouldn’t/aren’t blamed for being assaulted; but also shouldn’t be free from punishment for HC violations because you were raped either.

  35. John C. In saying that it was terrible, I hope that it was okay to share it here. Even if it is terrible, I was hoping that it would shed some light on attitudes around sexual assault in a Mormon context. Does Sister Hess’s approach and attitude towards a victim of a “not convictable in a court of law sexual assault so maybe it’s not really sexual assault” represent broader attitudes within Mormonism, or is this an outlier?

  36. A Turtle Named Mack says:

    Sorry, Jax. A simple “no” MUST be enough. A woman’s ability to be emphatic may be compromised through alcohol, or fear. At the same time, a woman may simply come to the rational conclusion that actively resisting will not change the outcome, but will increase the likelihood of additional physical harm. Alternatively, she may believe that, because of the perceived righteousness of her assailant, or because of his standing in the community, she doesn’t have a choice but to eventually submit. It doesn’t matter. A woman’s level of resistance cannot be evidence of her culpability. A simply “no” MUST be enough.

  37. That is truly terrible Jax. Truly horrible. The raped woman does not need to be separately punished by the honor code for breaking an honor code rule. It’s simply absurd. And it prevents us as a community and society from catching rapists who are sexual predators stalking on our campus. If a woman believes she will be punished by the honor code for breaking some rule at the time a man raped her, she will not report the rape. Because the honor code investigation and punishment victimizes her all over again. You’ve made very clear you can’t understand this exceedingly simple point.

    By all means punish a woman for breaking the honor code if she’s gone out to drink and doesn’t get raped. But if she gets raped, there’s simply no reason to investigate and punish her for an honor code violation. The focus should be solely on doing everything possible to catch, prosecute, and sentence the rapist to make sure the person is no longer on campus.

  38. This is a question for every married male reading this post — you mean your wife has never said No, then Maybe, then Yes? You don’t think your wife has had sex with you even though she really didn’t want to — wait — shouldn’t we consider that to be marital rape? That’s the problem with all of this stuff. Trond says a simple “no” is enough, but if she then acquiesces, male is still guilty of rape. Mormon girls raised not to question authority, so she doesn’t have to verbalize “no.” Who could blame her when she’s been brain washed to do anything an RM tells her to do, right? Perhaps a “no” should be like our urine — clear and copious.

  39. I am not meaning to hijack the discussion but I think the whole level of power we give our bishops and stake presidents in these matters needs to be examined. What exactly does the Church leadership teach them about counseling in general, and for sexual sin and sexual assault in particular?
    When I attended a mid-singles ward, we had two women raped that I know of. One was a date rape and one was a woman raped by the man she was trying to teach the gospel to. The bishop, while a good man, mishandled both situations in my opinion. I know the other women in the ward who had heard from these sisters directly, never trusted him again with any important information.
    But I always wondered exactly what direction he had been given. Was he told to direct these women to the police? Was he told to give them information about rape counseling? This was in a large metropolitan area, so all these services were readily available.
    The last time I saw one of these sisters she literally spit out the bishop’s last name; she was that angry with the way he handled what she told him. I think he thought she was dealing with a rape that happened long ago, not one that just happened. Again, what direction had he been given?
    A few years ago I approached a bishop for advice. What he said was well meant but wrong. Fortunately, he gave me an inspired blessing that directed me to the truth I should have had years earlier. Too often we assume our church educational and ward and stake leaders are always inspired. They often assume that about themselves. In matters this important, shouldn’t there be training or referral to someone with it?

  40. We need to be teaching our people that if you’re raped (someone touched you or had sex with you after you said no), you go to the police, not your bishop.

  41. Kevin Barney says:

    I don’t think it’s wise to tell young girls to try to do stuff like gouge an attacker’s eyes out. This isn’t the Three Stooges we’re talking about here. In most cases the assailant will be twice the size of the victim and much stronger physically. If you have no training in self defense, the odds are whatever you ttry to do will be ineffective and could escalate the situation to put the assailant in a rage such that he maims or murders you. I think we should leave it to the best judgment of the victim at the time under the particular circumstances and not second guess her for not doing “enough.”

  42. @A Turtle Named Mack,

    I acknowledged that both fear and alcohol/drugs might compromise a woman’s ability to resist, and that she is still not guilty because of that. As stated above, a “NO” is enough if that is all she can do. If she can do more, then a “NO” is not enough. I can’t know that, and neither can a Bishop or SP. So no Bishop should ever tell a woman she didn’t do enough. Are you in disagreement with that? It’s what I said above.


    “By all means punish a woman for breaking the honor code if she’s gone out to drink and doesn’t get raped. But if she gets raped, there’s simply no reason to investigate and punish her for an honor code violation” Do you think the Lord will not punish her for a WOW violation just because she was raped? I don’t. I said in previous threads that it isn’t horrible/terrible/unthinkable that any person be “separately punished” for an HC violation. But it needs to truly be “separate”… as in after ALL legal and HC issues with the rapist have been handled. They shouldn’t be done simultaneously or by the same people. But I think a tenant of our faith is that people “will be punished for their own sins”, and BYU holding that line is acceptable to me.

    A woman who refuses to name a rapist because she is afraid of punishment for a violation she did in fact commit is lamentable, but that is HER choice to let the rapist go free and unpunished, not BYU’s. BYU would obviously choose to punish the rapist if they knew.

  43. IDIAT: After years in a sexless marriage, that certainly is a possible dynamic that I am cognizant of. Where does a desirous spouse’s asking and encouragement turn to assault and abuse? How should we view things like “pity sex”? Undoubtedly, there are times when a married couple has sex when one or the other is not “enthusiastic” about the activity. It is probably well beyond the specific topic in the OP, but there is certainly a long and fruitful discussion to be had about how to navigate sexuality and sexual differences in marriage. Some of that may even skirt around some of these issues here.

  44. The days need to be gone in which our culture has created a situation in which a raped woman feels like she needs to ask her bishop if she needs forgiveness.

  45. BYU would obviously choose to punish the rapist if they knew.

    BYU is choosing not to punish rapists by having the policy the way it is. BYU knows it has a chilling effect on reporting rapes and yet hasn’t changed it. So BYU has made the conscious choice that having some rapists on campus is acceptable because BYU knows those rapists would otherwise be caught absent this policy of not granting honor code amnesty to rape victims.

    I find your pathology of “if someone has broken a rule at some point somewhere we absolutely have to punish her for it” very disturbing. Grace is completely missing from your worldview. I understand that yours is a typical Mormon understanding of the world. I’m not laying the blame for that at your feet. It is a cultural and religious indictment on us as a people though, that we think like this. We can’t even create a policy that ensures mercy to rape victims because we have to be sure that the rape victim is punished for any little infraction of the honor code that might have happened in connection with her rape. It’s truly shameful.

  46. “We need to be teaching our people that if you’re raped (someone touched you or had sex with you after you said no), you go to the police, not your bishop.” Amen

    Kevin, I think we should trust a victim who says they did what they should. I think I’ve made that clear (I think you are responding to me about the eye gouging).

    “If you have no training in self defense” … well that’s it then. Just train them in self-defense. Teach them to incapacitate a man who is bigger. TEACH them HOW to fight back, rather than just telling them to do so. Give them the physical and mental strength/skills to defend against attack. Any woman can be taught to kill/maim with her hands any man who is close enough to rape her. I know of no reason a woman shouldn’t do so. Of course rape would still happen to both men and women. But teaching our girls/women to do this will do more to end rape than changing a BYU/Church policy will.

  47. “The days need to be gone in which our culture has created a situation in which a raped woman feels like she needs to ask her bishop if she needs forgiveness.” again, AMEN

  48. “We can’t even create a policy that ensures mercy to rape victims because we have to be sure that the rape victim is punished for any little infraction of the honor code that might have happened in connection with her rape” Um, We believe that all people will be punished for all their sins. That umbrella covers rape victims too; it isn’t specific to them. We haven’t singled out rape victims for special scrutiny for possible HC violations. It is a consistant policy/principle applied to everyone. We don’t have built in amnesty for battery victims, theft victims, kidnapping victims, fraud victims… etc. Sexual assault is terrible (rape especially so), but being victimized doesn’t release us from the consequences of our transgressions.

  49. Jane Smith says:

    I think Bishops are not well trained in these areas at all. I lost all trust in my Priesthood leaders after my daughter confessed to the Bishop at the age of 16 to an experience she had at 15. Sixteen-year-old girls having to discuss any details of a sexual nature with a man they hardly know is extremely problematic. She said as little as possible about the traumatic event–didn’t claim it was rape or make excuses. He made her send this much older, predatory boy an apology letter and explained how this would effect her marriage and that she would have to confess her sin to any serious boyfriend and her parents. She finally thought it would be better to be dead after she talked to the Bishop. Come to find out she was actually raped and felt she hand’t fought him off hard enough because she wasn’t injured and saying “I don’t want to do this” wasn’t enough. She is inactive and needs serious counseling because she experienced all the negative aspects of a sexual assault victim and her Bishop made her feel like God would never forgive her. Yes, I am bitter and desperately trying to rebuild trust.

  50. We believe that all people will be punished for all their sins.

    No we don’t. We believe that people who accept Christ as their Savior and repent of their sins will not be punished for their sins. I place myself on the side of not punishing rape victims for infractions of the honor code they might have been committing at the time of their rapes. You place yourself on the side of punishing women who have been raped for these things. That’s your choice to make but make no mistake you have no moral high ground in doing so. Yours is a path devoid of Grace and mercy.

    being victimized doesn’t release us from the consequences of our transgressions

    Punishing a rape victim for an honor code violation that occurred at the time she was *raped* victimizes her all over again. I get that you don’t agree with this. For you, if anyone anywhere has broken any rule whatsoever, they must be punished to the full extent permitted by the law. There is no notion of simply having mercy on the rape victim. She broke a rule and she MUST *pay.* Right? (But what role could the Atonement of Jesus Christ possibly play in your worldview? It’s a true mystery — we will all be punished for all of our own sins. No role for Christ, Grace, the Atonement, or God, really. Your God is more like a demon who desperately desires to punish people for the slightest infractions. A curious being.)

  51. Jane Smith, you need to name names on that Bishop and expose what he has done. It is evil.

  52. Did we change the 2nd Article of Faith and nobody told me? We believe men will be punished for their own sins… They aren’t punished for being raped, because that would be someone else’s sin. But it also says we “WILL BE” punished for our sins… that punishment is light if we repent and severe if we don’t (D&C 19). That is where the “grace and mercy” are. But that we will be punished IS a tenant of our faith, even if you choose to reject it.

  53. The whole discussion about whether “no is enough” is wrong-sided because it still puts the responsibility on the victim. Turn this aright and the question becomes whether and when yes is enough, because *obviously* anything less than yes means no.
    And then it is straightforward to talk about impaired judgment (late hour, young age, drugs and alcohol, compromised situation such as already violating the honor code, etc.) in which consent can not be given or inferred, in which even “yes” does not mean yes.

  54. “Jane Smith, you need to name names on that Bishop and expose what he has done. It is evil.” Where is your grace and mercy now? It would maybe classify as evil if it were intentional, but it could just be the ignorance of an untrained and naïve lay leader.

  55. It is not. That’s the point of the Atonement. I’m truly sorry you don’t understand this simple teaching, which is the core of all Christianity and Christ’s message and mission.

  56. Christian Kimball, that is a very wise and true comment. Thank you.

  57. Jane Smith says:

    He was so ill trained he doesn’t even know what he did was wrong or damaging. She had to apologize to the boy and her parents in order to “make restitution.” Psychologically, she wasn’t prepared to disappoint her parents that way. (We still only get small bits and pieces of this whole event at a time–it’s just too much for her to talk about.) I know not taking the sacrament is not supposed to be a public shaming but tell that to a sixteen-year-old girl. I taught her repentance. I told her the stories from the FHE manual about the bigger boy taking the lashings for the smaller boy. I taught her the atonement and that Christ payed the price for our sins if we just turn to him. Honestly, I have had to reevaluate the whole repentance process because it seems, Bishops feel they must mete out punishments. It is called Church Discipline.

  58. It is not only NOT very wise, but instead is very foolish to say that not only does no mean no (which it always should – I agree with that part), but also that Yes might mean no too. No means No, Yes means Yes. Failure to say anything (drunk/unconscious/etc) is a NO. Consent MUST be affirmatively given. But if you are a willing participant before and during, it cannot be withdrawn after the fact – you WERE NOT RAPED if you said yes and ‘acted’ yes and later felt regret when you were sober.

  59. That is such an awful story. So so horrible Jane Smith. You need to confront that bishop and forcefully explain to him your view that he has damaged your daughter. You need to be very specific so that he gets the point. Seems completely clueless. Making a 16 year old girl apologize to her rapist and his parents, even where it isn’t rape but just a sexual transgression, that is *NOT* part of making restitution according to the repentance process. That is ecclesiastical voyeurism. The man should be ashamed of himself. Truly.

    Did he make the boy apologize to her and to you as the parents of the girl he raped (or merely committed a sexual transgression with)? If not, pray tell me, what is the bishop’s explanation for not making the boy do these same extraordinarily damaging things? Did he perhaps view the boy as the victim — because women are in control of boys’ thoughts and sexuality in some not insignificant corners of our little Mormon culture?

  60. Just postulating here… maybe the boy isn’t a member. Or not in his ward. He doesn’t have jurisdiction on the entire world you know. There are good options here that don’t leave the Bishop as an evil person Trond. You seem to be intent on assigning evil intentions on him. I won’t say his actions weren’t harmful, but that doesn’t mean his intentions weren’t good, just that he was in over his head and untrained.

  61. It’s occurred to me listening to this and reading the statements BYU has made that the “uninspired administrators” appear loyal to the structural idea that enforcing the Honor Code. They do things the way they’ve always done it, and that practice constitutes an outcome which fosters the health and well being for those involved.

    Yes, the impression I have is that HC action is always regarded as for the student’s own good, regardless of the student’s emotional reactions or perceptions of justice and mercy related to her experience there.

    It shows me that they really believe that their procedures do the ultimate right thing. But speaking as someone with 30 years of frustrating experience with many of BYU’s institutional failures, none of them connected to the Honor Code Office, some which intersect with all large universities, I have no confidence in the BYU statement.


    Now, because I detest the way BYU conducts student-facing business, vastly underpays and overworks its full time employees, and only glacially addresses problems with student experience, there existed a chance that I am confirming my bias.

    That would have been fair to say until this Title IX stuff arose, exposing things like IT decisions to modify record keeping software using the “fast” and “cheap” approaches to systems conversions, which is consistent with their practice, in my experience, at every level of the University’s administration.

    But we’re talking now about this Title IX/HCO story. Title IX imparts rights to federally entitled supports, are designed to keep a woman’s equitable graduation possible at a university. The automatic application of policies from that “entirely separate” department which imperil that really does constitute a violation of Title IX, especially if she’s following legal advice not to cooperate with the HCO.

    And then, the other reports of similar adverse results from the practice of combining student records.

    Honestly, if a University records a date for one department in a shared system, and the policies require an HCO employee to review new records, starting when they see specific text in the record, then the investigation necessarily began at the date stamp of the record.

    Mormons at BYU are remarkably kind, remarkably obedient, remarkably deferential, completely protective of leaders. But the problem is not the obedient people. It is the decision to do things on the cheap, and it is the political structure imposed on those good people. And its root cause could stem from nothing more than the goodwill of aged trustees whose reflexive perception of the purchasing power of money comes from the 1970s.

    This all says to me that more is there than my confirmation bias. There is an urgent need to audit all the policies and procedures of the University, not just the Title IX office.

  62. Jane Smith says:

    @Jax You are correct, his intentions were good and he was in over his head and untrained. This is why my daughter lost her testimony. She doesn’t think a loving God would ever set it up this way and that the church “hurts people.” The boy was not a member and 3 years older but he replied to her apology and told her he was sorry for “what he did to her.” I always keep thinking of the repentance story about the backpack with rocks in it. I’ve told it and used as an object lesson in class. We explain that when we repent, the rocks in the backpack disappear and our load is lighter. My daughter found the repentance process not to be that way. Her backpack was made much heavier and it was made too much to bear. She had a suicide attempt. As her parents, we were also ill prepared and untrained. As good Mormon’s we thought we must support the Bishop and he knew what to do. The gospel should not be “survival of the fittest” but sometimes, I think that is what our repentance process has turned into. It has taken 5 years to piece the events of everything together. I’ve fundamentally changed.

  63. He was 18 and she was 15? You need to report the statutory rape to get this guy prosecuted as soon as possible. In all likelihood, he’s a sexual predator.

  64. Jax at 1:54: I don’t think you really mean what you’re saying. No matter what words are said, affirmative consent does not exist when there is coercion, abuse of authority, incapacity such as one who is unconscious, has an intellectual disability, or is below the legal age of consent, or physical force.

  65. Jane Smith says:

    @Trond Not in my state and by the time we got enough details, too little proof, he said-she said, she feels no one would believe her, victim unable to face process etc..ALL the reasons rape is so under reported…ALL reasons why BYU should not make it more difficult for girls to come forward.

  66. Getting raped sucks. Getting murdered is even worse. Once we ladies realize that we’ve ended up in an unsafe situation, we usually do what our instincts tell us will keep us alive. I just love it when men tell us “Fight back, and by the way learn how to be better fighters.” Guess who murders us most frequently? Our husbands, boyfriends and dates. Guess who can overpower us easily? I’ve played nice to save my own skin, and since I’m alive to tell the tale I don’t regret it. But if I had chosen to escalate the situation and been murdered (or just beaten), the fact that I didn’t get raped would be pretty cold comfort. I shouldn’t have to be Ronda Rousey just to satisfy your gross standards for what’s an acceptable level of resistance. When all of your choices are terrible, sometimes you choose the option that seems most likely to keep you alive. Ever been in that situation yourself? Alone with someone you suddenly realize isn’t nice and who has the power to kill you?

  67. ::applause:: for Melissa and Trond and Jane and others making great comments.

    But are we actually having a debate about how much resistance is enough? Really? Come on, people.

  68. Hey, I’d like to clarify something. All a rape victim needs to do is not consent. That’s it. This ‘you must fight tooth and nail to preserve your virtue’ is some kinda BS. I am not interested in comments seeking to increase the burden of rape victims.

  69. Reading through more of the comments, I’m physically disgusted to have hosted this discussion here. It is so wildly unrealistic, inappropriate, and cruel to presume that you can armchair quarterback somebody else’s response to a violent crime that it does not merit any response than for me to say: Jax, you are banned from this website.

  70. Thank you. I was physically ill reading his horrific comments.

  71. TW: description of rape scenario and response.
    I mean, if you are tied up and therefore can scream but not gouge out the eyes, Jax will still permit you to consider yourself raped despite the omission of the eye gouging. WHAT A GUY.

    This is clown stuff, Jax. But a horrible, ignorant, damaging clown rather than a funny one.

  72. Jason K. says:

    Jax’s comments in this thread make me think of The Backslider, in whose early chapters Frank Windham imagines God looking down from heaven at him through a rifle sight. All of us sinners make for some mighty fine target practice. Two minutes past curfew? *plink* Didn’t say “no” loudly enough? *plink*

    Give me Cowboy Jesus instead.

  73. This will take the discussion in another direction entirely and one I am not sure will go well but I feel I need to add my two cents here.

    First, I am a middle aged woman. I have never personally been raped. I am single and have spent much of my adult life in singles wards. I have known ward members who have been raped, both date rape and violent, break into your home and leave you beaten and raped rape. I believe their stories.

    But I have also known women who will not take responsibility for any of the choices they make. I have personally been publicly blamed by a “friend” who told ward members I forced her to attend a play that turned out to be raunchy, a play neither of us knew anything about prior to a friend inviting both of us to attend. She would not have her reputation besmirched in the singles ward. Mine, she did not care about.

    Years after the fact, I have heard completely false stories that were spread through the ward about me by the former girlfriend of someone I was dating. None of the things she accused me of happened and she had to have known that they did not when she told people. Two separate men repeated the stories to me.

    My home teacher was called into his BYU bishop’s office and told he had been accused of “kidnapping one of the sisters in the ward and driving her to Wendover, Nevada to gamble”. In fact, the young woman was simply invited and chose to come but later regretted her decision and went to the bishop to lay blame on the men.

    I watched another friend of mine try mightily to destroy her former boyfriend and his new girlfriend by spreading false rumors through the ward that he was living with the new girlfriend. Fortunately, the accused woman was able to defend herself. Nothing was done to the woman who spread the lies.

    I heard a woman in one ward tell me about sneaking from her apartment downstairs to her boyfriend’s place (they lived in the same building) late at night to make out with him and his insisting that they could not kiss on his bed. They did not have sex. After they broke up, she told every woman in the ward that he had used her physically. She completely destroyed his reputation.

    There are women who would lie, changing consensual sex to rape. They would rewrite the story so they were not at fault. There are undoubtedly men as well, changing the story of rape to consensual sex. While we have to start by believing the women, we must be careful.

  74. Janet,
    It’s not the bishop’s job to call ward members in for gossip–so I don’t know why you suppose the woman who spread lies should have had something done to her. These all sound like relationship problems and interpersonal problems; and frankly, the stories you told are all based on gossip. How you compare them to rape scenarios is beyond baffling.

  75. I’ve repeatedly made clear that I don’t think any rape is justified, and that no blame should be placed on the victim even if they were “making out” beforehand or even drunk. I’ve said “no” equals “no” and that it should be enough to stop every man. Are these banned comments?

    I think a woman should fight/resist to the best of her ability, but she isn’t to blame even if she can do nothing or only say “no”. The fault is all the rapists. Is that controversial?

    I’ve said that nobody else can know whether someone “resisted enough” and rejected the idea that there any Bishop or other leader would blame anybody for failing to “resist enough”. How is that position objectionable?

    What am I missing that everyone thinks I’m some monster here?

  76. May I share an anecdote about the “yes doesn’t always mean no” business?

    First, the list from ChristianKimball at 2:40 gave a list of reasons a person couldn’t consent, and I agree with them all.

    Second: In the Army they gave us a 2 hr stage play to educate us all on how consent cannot be given if ANY alcohol had been consumed. A man and woman both went out drinking and subsequently both “consented” to have intercourse. In the question and answer period afterward (about another hour of time) we discussed the legal aspects of consent. The way the legalities worked was that consent after even one drink was legally impossible and rape could be claimed because of it. So as we rehashed the play we asked whether the man could claim rape as well, since he’d been drinking too. The answer was “of course”. The follow up was “So they raped each other? They are both guilty of rape?” and the JAG rep there said, “well, whoever made it into our office first would have the best claim.”

    So as we moved on from there what it came down to with alcohol is that if both drink even a little, and then both say yes to sex, if either of them regret it the next morning then the other one is going to be considered a rapist for the rest of their lives. The JAG admitted that even if it WAS consensual, that if a friend later was mocking the person for their choice of partners that they person could easily claim rape because of alcohol (and therefore no consent). That didn’t sound right to any of us. After the meeting let out the almost unanimous consent among the men was that it would be best they simply claimed rape after EVERY sexual encounter to make sure that they weren’t accused first.

    I say (despite its unpopularity) that if you gave your consent, and were willing during the actual event, that simply feeling guilt/embarrassment/shame afterward does NOT make your partner a rapist. I know that LEGALLY you have a case, but morally your partner did nothing wrong. It just makes you a terrible person for accusing your willing partner. If you gave consent, then you weren’t raped IMO.

    If “coercion, abuse of authority, incapacity such as one who is unconscious, has an intellectual disability, or is below the legal age of consent, or physical force” are involved then obviously this doesn’t apply.

  77. ** Yes doesn’t always mean yes **

    Typo from above

  78. M Miles,
    What I am saying is that sometimes people will lie within a ward setting, telling others that they did not do something they did do, even if it gets someone else in trouble. Especially to protect their reputation. They will lie to ward members and they will lie to ward leaders including the bishop. The examples I listed were ones I knew personally of ward members making false accusations about other ward members, some purposefully to protect themselves, without any regard for the reputation of the person they were accusing. Others simply to damage the reputations of people who hurt them.
    Would a woman lie about consensual sex if she thought it would keep her from being asked to leave BYU? Some of the women I knew in singles ward would. I have been told twice since I moved to Utah that is a problem the police face every time an LDS young woman files a rape complaint. Did she agree and then regret it the next day and did she say no?

  79. Jax, I can’t speak for anybody else, but I do think that the whole conversation about rape in America, and especially at BYU, is focusing on the wrong things. See christiankimball (1:41) above. Nearly all of our discourse about rape, here and elsewhere, focuses on the actions of the victim. This is embedded in the semantics that we use. We always say that women “get raped” or that women are “rape victims”–as if there were no other party involved. By making rape passive grammatically, we frame rape as something that simply happens to women and that, therefore, women need to find ways to prevent. As long as we frame it this way, we are almost always going to be drawn into discussions of what women can (or can’t) or should (or shouldn’t) do to prevent rape. At some level, we are telling women that they bear the responsibility of not being raped.

    This is all wrong headed because it erases the person doing the raping–the rapist. Women don’t just “get raped.” Rapists rape women, and it makes no sense to focus any part of our discussion at all on the actions of the person who is not doing the acting. The way to stop rape from happening is to stop rapists from raping. Once you add the actor back into the story, discussions of what constitutes “enough resistance” don’t even make sense on the semantic level, since it relies on a formulation that takes the subject out of the sentence. The question is not, “what do we need to do as a society to help women not get raped?” The question is, “what do we need to do to prevent rapists from raping women?” Put the focus on the actor where it belongs, and virtually everything about this discussion changes.

  80. “I have been told twice since I moved to Utah that is a problem the police face every time an LDS young woman files a rape complaint. Did she agree and then regret it the next day and did she say no?”

    So basically the police assume she lying. It sounds like police in Utah have a different problem than the one you think they have.

  81. @ Melissa 3:00pm

    “When all of your choices are terrible, sometimes you choose the option that seems most likely to keep you alive. Ever been in that situation yourself? Alone with someone you suddenly realize isn’t nice and who has the power to kill you?”

    Yes. Go check out the Least Degree of Allowance thread from April 9th where this was gone over.

  82. Cynthia (and Andrea if you’re here), you were both outstanding! Thanks so much for going on to discuss this. I felt like you all had barely scratched the surface of the issue when time was up. Cynthia, I particularly liked how you captured the dismissive tone of all the comments where people say “oh, sure, rape is *theoretically* possible if you follow the honor code, but in practice it would never really happen.” What utter idiocy. Thanks for calling it out for what it is.

  83. Michael Austin

    I agree. I thought I’ve made that abundantly clear. The entire point of my first post (9:33 am) was to condemn the idea of a “resist enough” scale used to judge the woman virtue. It’s repugnant. (the fact I’ve been accused of supporting the opposite confuses me). Rapists are always responsible for the rape 100%. I think we should try to do more to stop rapists from raping, which is why I brought up self-defense training, and why I think that THAT will do more to stop rape than changing a policy that only takes affect after a rape has happened. I’d much rather stop a rape from happening than respond to one that has already occurred.

  84. Jax I think you are still missing the perceptual shift that I am trying really hard to impose in this discussion. Self-defense training is something that WOMEN can do to not get raped. Let’s put all of these things aside for a moment and think of what it might look like to put policies in place to prevent men from raping women.

  85. Okay Michael. I understand now. Suggestions since this is your plan?

    Rape is illegal. Stalking is too. BYU has made HC violations out of many of situations that commonly lead to rape (being in men’s rooms, drinking/drugs, etc). I personally don’t think we can policy our way into stopping it, but I’m open to ideas and having the discussion.

  86. So let me give this a try on policies that can make rape less likely…

    How about legal carrying of firearms on campus and in dorms?
    Mandatory castration of convicted rapists? Death penalty?
    Buddy system (similar to missionary companionships)?

    I’m typing as I think this through… so be kind. These would all be policies that might reduce rapes, but carrying a gun and/or staying in a group are still things that women do. So I’m stuck here. If there was some rule/law/policy that WOULD stop rape, wouldn’t we have done it? That is the whole “problem” with agency. We don’t know WHO the rapist is until they do it. They have to make the choice first, and since the choice is repugnant and already illegal, does adding another layer of illegal/HC help?

  87. Policies that can make rape less likely: Let everybody know in advance that reporting will be straightforward and absolutely without retaliation by anybody, including the Honor Code office.

  88. ChristianKimball… a HUGE number/percentage of rapes go unreported on all college campuses outside of BYU. Same for just in the world in general. A huge number go unreported across all spheres, with HC at all. So even with a change, does the number of rapes go down? what are the stats that say that when reporting goes up that rapes go down? (I’d hope/think that they would, but I’d hope nobody commits rape either…)

    Can you propose any other policies that will reduce the number of rapes?

  89. ** with no HC at all **

  90. M Miles, I think Janet has a valid point. I have twice been involved in legal situations with women in my ward who made false police reports. In one case I had to testify against a wealthy ward member who filed false theft charges against another ward member who worked for her. Almost every word the wealthy ward member told the judge was a fabrication. The woman who worked for her had exposed something she had done wrong to another and the wealthy ward member filed false charges to protect her own reputation.
    In the other case I was with another woman the night she made a serious mistake that could have killed her elderly relative.We discussed it that night. A few days later I walked into Church to hear her telling the ward members how her relative’s caregivers had tried to kill him. She called the district attorney and tried to have these people charged and if possible deported for her mistake.
    If I have been involved in two legal cases with dishonest ward members who are willing to send others to jail for their mistakes, how rare is lying in our culture. Am I a total outlier in this respect?
    Any conversation about this needs to include the possibility of false accusations.

  91. Soooo, what exactly does this have to do with it ? Someone might lie so sexual assault should be attached to the Honor Code? What are you saying that is relevant to the conversation? Yes, sometimes people lie…and so the police should assume they are lying by default? BYU should assume they are lying?

  92. It is really alarming that it has come up repeatedly in the last few days that in Utah (especially in Provo) there are lots of false reports. How is that determined exactly? Do the victims go to the police and say it was non-consensual and then the perpetrator says it was consensual? How are the police departments in Utah establishing all these accusations are false?

  93. This idea that we’ll be awash in false reports of rape if we create policies that are sympathetic to rape victims is really one of the most despicable objections anyone can make. It’s a vicious idea, depicting the victim as a predator who actively schemes to victimize others. It is false.

    The reality is this: false reports of rape are no more common than false reports of other crimes. But rapes go unreported more than any other kind of violent crime. The problem here is emphatically not false reporting. The problem is underreporting. Please focus on the real problem.

  94. I despair for humanity because of this thread.

  95. Jax,
    The larger issue of affirmative consent as a standard puts the responsibility on men for getting consent and women for giving it (and vice versa, really (and other combinations, obviously)). That helps.

    Studies show that many perps admit to sexual assault if you don’t call it sexual assault. So, being clear with kids about what constitutes assault might also be useful (much like attempts in business to clarify what does and doesn’t matter in sexual harassment).

    Of course, true predators won’t care, but that’s why making reporting easier is important.

  96. Here’s a thing: Most colleges and universities treat all women as potential rape victims–that, at least, is how our policies, training materials, and general discourse encourage us to see the issue. What would it look like if we considered all men potential rapists and trained and acted accordingly?

    One example of this phenomenon: most of us know, because we have heard over and over again, that 1 in 5 (20%) of college-aged women will be victims of sexual assault. The research on this is overwhelming. But does anybody know what percentage of college-aged men will be rapists? I don’t, and I do this for a living.

    The more I think about this and work with it, the more convinced I become that we aren’t going to solve the problem until we shift our perspective and start all of our discussions with the fact that rapists rape, rather than the fact that women get raped. Taking action requires us to start by identifying the actor.

  97. Cynthia: no kidding.

  98. Anonymous says:

    All the concerns about false accusations cause one to wonder if many of them are being made by men who have victimized or coerced women and realized that their actions were over the line and they are in personal danger of legal repercussions. It emphasizes the need to train men not to rape, to teach them what consent is, to teach them not to have or coerce casual sexual relationships with women when they can’t show a paper trail indicating consent, and that they would also be wise to have community recognition of a mutual relationship. I’m not an expert; would following those guidelines protect men against most false accusations?

    I had eleven roommates at BYU. Three of them were victims of sexual assault or coercion during the time we were roommates. None of them reported the assaults. One of the cases may have involved an honor code violation on the part of the woman; two involved no honor code violations. If you could extrapolate this small sample to the current population of BYU, it would mean that thousands of current students will experience sexual assault while they are at the school and will not report the assault, and 2/3 of those assaults will involve no honor code violations.

    Who are the men assaulting and raping the women? In one case I could name a name, and it’s a name that some of you might recognize, but I don’t care to open myself to charges of libel since I don’t have actual documents proving the event. Do these men carry a burden of guilt, or have they rationalized their actions away long ago?

  99. While it is probably gauche to link to one’s own blog post, you can get a sense of how the army is attempting to deal with its own epidemic of sexual assault at the following link:

  100. Anonymous says:

    “2/3 of those assaults will involve no honor code violations.”

    Hopefully it is clear that that meant “no honor code violations on the part of the victim.” (!)

  101. Angela C says:

    Anonymous: Certainly, but also we need to bear in mind that in many of these rape cases the perpetrator doesn’t attend BYU and isn’t under the Honor Code. The rapist merely preys on students (often with false personal information) and uses the Honor Code to ensure victims stay silent.

    While it wasn’t (to my knowledge) a rape, I had a roommate who was preyed upon by a local man also. He told her he was much younger than he was and single and that he would marry her. In time, he persuaded her to enter a sexual relationship with him. As it turned out he was married with kids and quite a bit older than he said he was. She was a UVU student, so not under the Honor Code, but it did violate her housing contract as she lived in BYU approved housing.

  102. If we’re going to focus on the rapist, I wonder: When does Mama’s sweet little man become the rapist of some other Mama’s darling daughter? And don’t blame it on the church or its teachings, as there are plenty of non-member rapists out there. What happens in the mind of a young man to cause him to act out in this fashion? Some want to treat every assault victim’s story as truth first, the presumed innocence of the alleged perpetrator being thrown out the window. Do we change our legal system so the burden of proof falls on the alleged perpetrator, since the cases of false accusations are allegedly so few and far in between? Burden of proofs are the subject of legislation in civil cases; why not take the steps necessary to carve out an exception with respect to criminal sexual assault cases? That one change might have a big enough affect to significantly reduce assaults. Besides being a simple commandment, all the more reason to strongly discourage all young men in the church to avoid all aspects of physical intimacy before marriage at all costs. Forget the hugs, kisses and making out. Eventually it’s likely to land you in a prison cell.

  103. Janet, as to your concern about false reports of rape or sexual assault, the good news is the honor code is a 100% protection for men against the false accusation of rape or sexual assault. (As others have said, such false accusation is mythical or, if real, only an infinitesimally small percentage of the drastically underreported crime of rape and sexual assault.)

    You’re a man who is worried about being falsely accused of raping someone at BYU? Follow the honor code and don’t engage in any consensual sex at all, even if she has affirmatively consented and does everything in her power to convince you to do it.

    You’re a man (Mormon or not) who is worried about being falsely accused of raping someone outside of BYU? Don’t ever have consensual sex or engage in sexual behaviors such as intimate touching with anyone until you are legally and lawfully married.

    In the meantime, study up on affirmative consent and talk with your fiance about it so that once you are married, you still look for that affirmative consent before sexual contact.

  104. Wait, so now the Law of Chastity and the Honor Code are there to: Keep women from being raped; and Keep men from being falsely accused of rape. ???? Whaaaat?

  105. That’s not what I am saying. My comment was a response to the type of people who argue if women would just follow the honor code they would not get raped — that the honor code is a defense against rape. Of course it is not. A rapist is going to rape because he is a criminal — it’s not about what a woman can do to prevent it.

    But on the silly argument that granting honor code amnesty to women who report rape or sexual assault would cause men to be victims of false rape accusations, because women would allegedly claim that consensual sex was rape in order to avoid getting punished by the honor code office (a ridiculous argument), the “honor code as protection” argument actually applies.

    If you as a man are actually worried about being falsely accused of rape, then simply follow the honor code and don’t have consensual sex or engage in intimate touching. It seems like you see that differently — care to elaborate?

  106. Trond,

    The problem with your logic and IDIAT’s in saying things like, “If you as a man are actually worried about being falsely accused of rape, then simply follow the honor code and don’t have consensual sex or engage in intimate touching,” Is like saying, “Girls will accuse you of rape, so follow the honor code.” Or, “If you as a woman are actually worried about being raped, then simply follow the honor code.” The Honor Code is not a rape prevention/false accusation prevention tool kit. The point is rape can happen, and false accusations can be made, either way.

  107. If you haven’t had consensual sex with someone, it will be more difficult for that person to say the consensual sex was rape.

    I’m not here to argue that with you though. The argument is only meant as a response to the foolish concern that granting honor code amnesty to victims of rape or sexual assault in order to encourage them to report the crimes will lead to false rape accusations because those crafty women (in that argument’s view) will use the amnesty to have consensual sex and then avoid any honor code issue that might result. Simply claim rape. I don’t believe in that. But others are very concerned by it. Those who are concerned by it seem to tend to be the same sort of people who say the honor code is a 100% protection against rape. Why don’t they see the honor code as a 100% protection against false rape accusations then? It’s one of those bona fide mysteries of our generation, like Loch Ness.

    But I agree that even if a man is following the honor code, a false rape accusation (or a false accusation about anything — gossip) can happen.

  108. IDIAT wrote, confusing the issue, “Some want to treat every assault victim’s story as truth first, the presumed innocence of the alleged perpetrator being thrown out the window.”


    Ending policies that are hostile toward women who report sexual assault is not the same as assuming that the accused is guilty.

    Michael Austin is persuasive in his argument that in order to change rape culture we need to talk much more about rapists. However, BYU and Mormon culture generally are not at that point yet. Starting from where we are now, first we need to stop punishing victims.

  109. First:
    @Michael Austin: What percentage of college men are rapists? The David Lisak study says 6% (http://www.davidlisak.com/wp-content/uploads/pdf/RepeatRapeinUndetectedRapists.pdf) (the study involved male university students). Obviously when you look at the data, with 20% of college women being victims of sexual assault, and only 6% of college men as perpetrators, it’s very clear that there are repeat offenders (as the Lisak study notes). The study is old, and I’d love to see more data from other studies, but I think the Lisak numbers are the main ones that are found in the literature. It’s my opinion that based on these statistics alone, universities need to do what it takes to catch the perpetrators the FIRST time, and, as has been noted multiple times in this thread, that means victims need to have the support, protection and encouragement they need to come forward.

    While the false reports rate is pretty low (the DOJ says it’s the same as the false report rate for other crimes, but the data is dicey and incomplete), it shouldn’t matter that by establishing amnesty for honor code violations associated with a sexual assault, some women may attempt to use the system to get out of trouble. The point is to protect the community from perpetrators, and in order to do that, you have to know what’s going on, which means women (and men) need to feel like they can come forward.

    When I was at BYU (not too long ago), most BYU students I knew were honestly trying their best to keep the rules. Yes, some get caught up in alcohol and drug use, some (all??) may not keep all of the dress and grooming or housing rules, and some may break the sex rules. But setting up a system that may let someone out of an honor code violation for alcohol use because they decide to say they were assaulted (basically taking advantage of the system) isn’t going to mean BYU is going to turn into a wild party school. What is DOES mean is that women can step forward and get the help they need, and in turn create a safe community. I would rather have a few individuals taking liberty with the rule and protection for those who need it most, than to be so intent on catching a few individuals who are trying to skirt the rules that we end up silencing victims and providing an environment that will lead to more sexual assaults.

    Worried about being falsely accused? Don’t engage in activities with others without consent and trust. Don’t coerce others. Don’t be a jack-a**.

  110. Sorry, Tom, but I’m not confusing anything. There are some commenters who cite statistics that say women rarely lie about being sexually assaulted, and therefore, the presumption of innocence needs to be discarded. I can’t say I’m wholly against the idea of altering presumptions and burdens of proof, even if it might have unintended consequences. The pendulum of justice is heavily swung towards rapists, and has been for thousands of years. Why not swing it the other way? It should relieve women of victim blaming, encourage easy reporting, etc. Sure, some men may be thrown under the bus because of the occasional false accusation, but haven’t millions of women been thrown under the bus by the current approach? Instead of the state having to prove she didn’t consent, let the man prove she did. I think you’d still have rapists who rape (drag in the bushes types) but I am confident this date rape nonsense would almost cease overnight. Enough talk of policy and institutional and societal changes.. Change the burden of proof and get immediate results.

  111. “Forget the hugs, kisses and making out. Eventually it’s likely to land you in a prison cell.”

    Wait. No. If rape is a power crime, then sexual activity in other contexts does not cause it.

    “What happens in the mind of a young man to cause him to act out in this fashion?”

    This implies that rapists are young men. A better general definition would call rapists people who assault by forcing sexual activity on someone else. Any age, theoretically either sex, theoretically any gender. A category of the high crime of felony assault.

    If rape is a power crime, then rapists are attempting to assault their way out of a sense of complete powerlessness. If the most common type of rape is by people in families and friendships, then are not assaulting because of the victim’s sexual appeal, and they would be using their own charisma or social power to groom the victim over time, and using its aftermath after the assault to continue controlling their victims.

    Michael, is that the kind of definition which would aid the paradigm shift you’re calling for?

  112. Rob, it is definitely the right direction to go in.

  113. Come on, Rob P. Not too many men wake up at age 60 and become rapists. At some point, something happens in the minds of a male and it propels him towards being a rapist, and I would that that occurs at a relatively young age. And yes, I know there is a wide range of rapists, from all out crazies to guys who decide to take advantage because the opportunity presents itself. (Perhaps they’ve created the opportunity with drugs or alcohol.) I haven’t studied the literature on whether date rapists eventually grow out of that phase, go on to marry and have children and becomes a productive member of society, or whether the y go from date rape to more brazen assaults. Some guys like Bill Cosby or Clinton (allegedly) get away with it for a very long time. It’s not about cause. In order to protect young men from themselves (as well as on behalf of young women) doesn’t it make sense to double down on the law of chastity so they can avoid any semblance of impropriety?

  114. I confess that I can’t tell whether you’re trolling, IDIAT.

    There is no reason to think that we should change the legal burden of proof in rape cases. The issue immediately at hand – BYU’s policy on handling reports of sexual assault – has nothing to do with the legal burden of proof in a rape case. The problem is that BYU’s policies punish people for reporting rape. If BYU did not punish people for reporting rape, then it would be easier to catch rapists using the legal procedures that are already in place. The same argument applies equally to the way victims are treated in Mormon settings outside BYU.

  115. This might be an interesting addition to the discussion. A NY Times article addressing the situation at BYU included a link to BYU’s sexual misconduct policy: https://titleix.byu.edu/sites/default/files/Sexual%20Misconduct%20Policy.pdf
    Browing through the document, a couple of sections that caught my attention:
    Section III -> Part A “Duty to Report” -> 4. Victims of Sexual Misconduct. “In order to protect their own and others’ safety, individuals who believe they have been subjected to Sexual Misconduct should make a report even if they have simultaneously been involved in other violations of university policy, such as use of alcohol or drugs. Violations of university policy or the Church Educational System Honor Code do not make a victim at fault for sexual violence or other forms of Sexual Misconduct and will be addressed separately from the Sexual Misconduct allegation.” The part that I see getting highlighted is the last part about addressing honor code violations separate from the sexual misconduct. I see a lot of pressure to put an amnesty clause of some kind here.

    The other part is Section III -> Part E Retaliation. “Similarly, intimidation is any adverse action or threat of action reasonably likely to prevent or dissuade an individual from making a Report or providing information in connection with a Sexual Misconduct investigation.”
    As I see it, these two statements might best represent the “tension” that Pres. Worthen described in his response calling for a review of these policies. Does the statement that “violations of the honor code will be addressed separately” represent “intimidation that dissuades an individual from making a report”.

  116. Does the statement that “violations of the honor code will be addressed separately” represent “intimidation that dissuades an individual from making a report”.

    That is absolutely what this whole situation is about.

  117. pconnornc says:

    I’m confused who these mysterious people are who keep insisting that the HC will protect people 100% from being assaulted. Posters keep referring to them, but I just never see their posts.

    On the other hand, I do see plenty of evidence that collectively we are tone deaf and obstructors of mercy, even if it is unintentionally, within the BYU, Church and greater communities.

  118. Tom — the podcast, as noted by a commenter at the very beginning, moved beyond BYU and the HC. You’re the one who is fixated on zeroing in on those two items, not me. I’m for fixing the whole rape problem, not just the policies that discourage reporting as relates to the HC.. In fact, I think my idea of shifting presumptions of innocence and burden of proof would significantly eliminate victim blaming and hesitancy to report rapes. If you want to keep talking about BYU and the HC, fine. I don’t think I’ve addressed those two in any of my comments because the podcast did move to rape in general.

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