Campus Rape: What’s Left Unsaid

A few weeks ago, I participated in a town hall about rapes on college campuses. Madi Barney, Erin Alberty and Jodi Peterson were fantastic participants; I was glad to be there and listen to Madi’s experience, Jodi’s excellent advice and Erin’s solid reporting. BYU’s Julie Valentine provided a prerecorded message and it, too, was very powerful. I didn’t have much to say for my part, other than I think BYU should apologize and that an honor code that shields rapists is a false sort of purity. It’s been a couple of weeks, and I don’t know what impact that town hall actually has had — or what’s next. It was clear that this was only the very beginning of a longer and more difficult process. Here are a few things that might be worth talking about some more.

First, the experience of men and rape was largely ignored (but mentioned in passing). Rape of men can occur in various circumstances, but the Honor Code system at BYU produces a particularly harsh result for gay students. Enormous guilt and secrecy can accompany any gay sexual activity at BYU; a gay student is easy prey and the possibility of being shamed into silence is very real. The result is an environment where gay predators can thrive, and where we have no good statistics or means of providing pastoral care to people who have been brutalized.

Second, additional layers of intersectionality must be considered. Yes, even in Utah there are cultural and racial layers that are intertwined and inform how rape is committed, how rapists are shielded, and how rape victims are penalized. These need to be teased out with precision and with care. We know that BYU students are viewed differently by their skin color; we know that the Honor Code protects unequally. Any long-term effort to address rape culture here cannot be a one-size-fits-all approach or ignore how it is a crime that is committed and suffered on a multifactorial level. This was also called out briefly during the Q&A the other day but much more remains to be said.

Third, it is clear that platitudes and discussions about more discussions are not good enough. Concrete solutions are necessary: some sort of amnesty for rape victims is a no-brainer and should be implemented immediately. But more is needed, because amnesty is a post-facto measure that facilitates justice — it is not a preventative measure nor is it anything that will alter rape culture. To address the origins of rape, we must turn the mirror on ourselves. Why do rapists believe that they can abuse others as they do? Is rape an unavoidable element of Mormonism, if women can neither be ecclesiastical leaders nor fully determinative of their own roles? Can BYU pretend to set a level cultural playing field for men and women, when the professional landscape is nowhere near that? Equality is not a feeling, folks. This last point risks to be a particularly nasty conversation with more heat than light, and those involved must find a way to navigate this thicket with some inspiration and some compassion.

Not sure if there will be more public town halls about this issue. But as I listened to the speakers, it struck me that we are a long, long way from solutions. We don’t understand each other. We don’t know each other. And we lack the depth of feeling and the Christlike compassion we need in order to address this problem. But what is this Church, what is BYU, if not a Zion experiment, precisely the place where such feelings should be possible?
UPDATE: I thought of a 4th issue that might be worth discussing: the prevalence of pornography and its impact on rape culture and Mormon culture. I think it is a really complex dynamic and Mormons find themselves caught between two poles of unhealthy sexuality. What’s the impact there? 


  1. Michael Austin says:

    Steve, this is a nice framing of the enormous work still to do and of the tools that will be required to do it (i.e. depth of feeling and Christlike compassion). I’m glad that you were able to participate in the Town Hall, and I’m glad that you are keeping the issue before us. This is not something that we can let slip away after a requisite display of recreational outrage.

  2. Michael, exactly. This isn’t a once-a-year effigy. This is an ongoing and continuous problem.

  3. Rob Osborn says:

    I firmly believe that this particular problem will never go away until students in general have a greater drive towards improving their personal morality. Its only a problem amongst those who break rules and live somewhat immoral principled lives.

  4. Rob, we know this to be false. A rape victim already feels shame and guilt, which deters reporting of the crime. Personal morality of the rapist is a great thing to emphasize but it’s only a partial answer at best.

  5. Rob Osborn says:

    Steve, my sister attended BYU and obeyed the honor code. She wasnt raped. Why do the majority of rape cases at BYU involve breaking the rules by both parties? This is a private school with high strict moral standards. If students dont want to obey the rules perhaps they should attend a different school. The rules are there to protect them. If they dont follow the rules they cant blame the system.

  6. Rob, I hope you mean that being guilty of committing rape is only a problem for immoral people, not that being a victim of rape is only a problem for immoral people, or that rape in general is only a problem for immoral people. Otherwise that’s just not true.

  7. Rob Osborn says:

    This is in the spotlight at BYU because of honor code violations by both parties. If the bottom line is to prevent rapes (which I sure hope it is) then students need better education so that there is a greater committment to follow rules. Rape is not an issue at BYU by those who follow the rules and have a high moral standard. Its only an issue amongst those who break rules and have little moral standards in relavence to their peers.

  8. keepapitchinin says:

    Bad things happen only to bad people. The rain falls only on the unjust. The people at Haun’s Mill, especially the little boys, were notoriously wicked. And don’t even get me started on Jesus.

  9. I sometimes wonder if there can be any conversation when there are people who steal feel that bad things only happen to bad, law-breaking people. That attitude has led to so much pain and so many rape victims being shamed into silence and lives of fear and loathing. I’m sad that the conversation is relatively unchanged, 25 years after I was blamed for being raped, by my bishop, because good girls didn’t get raped. I still can hear people bearing their testimonies that claimed righteousness credit because their daughters were all virgins on their wedding day, in a lesson that was supposed to be about how Relief Society sisters could support those who have been assaulted.

    We do indeed still have a very long way to go.

  10. Rob, this is wrong.
    “Rape is not an issue at BYU by those who follow the rules and have a high moral standard. Its only an issue amongst those who break rules and have little moral standards in relavence to their peers.”

    Rape is an issue for everyone. There is no “get out of being raped card” that is given to the rule followers. Sheesh.

  11. Rob, you’re wrong. But others have pointed that out already and probably said it better than I would have, so I won’t belabor it. But you’re wrong. I’ll just say that I personally know someone that was raped at BYU that was not breaking the honor code at the time.

    But even assuming that you were right that rape never happens to moral, rule following people, there will always be some people that won’t follow all the rules no matter how much we preach at them. If you believe that being raped is a deserving punishment for breaking the honor code, then I guess you won’t think that’s a problem, but if you correctly believe that even people who break the honor code don’t deserve to be raped (a shocking position, I know), then just preaching rule obedience is not enough.

  12. Rob, maybe you can be specific about which rules you think are the ones that will always protect a person from being raped. The curfew rules? Nope. The dress and grooming standards? Nope. The rule against having the opposite in your bedroom? Nope. The academic integrity rules? Nope. Which is the great moral imperative within the honor code that always prevents against being raped?

  13. Steve, your mention of men as rape victims focuses solely on gay men, making men the rapist. I assume you know that when women rape men too. Straight men get raped by straight women. They get NO support at all and are almost never believed. They don’t even get the sympathy that women get, but instead they get the mocking sarcastic joke of “sure you were raped *wink *wink” Was this an oversight, or did you intentionally leave this out?

  14. Has BYU announced any changes to practice or personal innthe Title IX or HC offices following the “we are studying it” announce the a few months ago? I haven’t seen anything when I have looked but I may have missed something.

  15. John Mansfield says:

    There’s a sensible middle ground between “every single victim put herself in a foolishly vulnerable position first” and “it’s all completely random, nothing that can be done, the rapists and their patriarchal enablers control everything.”

  16. Jax, I didn’t exclude female-on-male rape. It, too, should be addressed.

  17. John, the middle ground is “don’t rape”.

  18. Okay Steve… I just wasn’t sure if it was an oversight. Thanks.

  19. John, I haven’t seen Steve or anyone in the comments advocate the extent position you set up (it’s all completely random, nothing that can be done, the rapists and their patriarchal enablers control everything) But Rob’s unqualified statement that rape is only a problem for immoral rule breakers comes darn close to the first extreme statement you set up (every single victim put herself in foolishly vulnerable position first). So if there’s more emphasis on disproving the first extreme, there’s a reason for that.

  20. Also, there’s a big difference between saying “here are some things you can do to reduce your risk of being raped,” which is pretty common sense, and saying “rape only happens to immoral people that break rules,” which is false and unchristian. We need to be able to teach strategies to reduce risk without suggesting that people that don’t happen to follow those strategies are somehow automatically responsible for the crimes of their attackers.

  21. Having worked at a rape crisis center, I have often wondered why the belief continues to be common that raped can be avoided as long as one is virtuous enough. I think it’s because it makes us feel safer. It’s comforting to tell ourselves that as long as we (or our loved ones) obey certain standards, we will never be victims. This conclusion has helped me feel more generously toward those who perpetuate that notion.

    It’s a false sense of security. Victims who themselves held this view prior to being raped struggle more to heal because of it, and their loved ones who held this view struggle to meaningfully help them.

  22. On a personal note: As a woman, I find it very heart warming that this discussion is initiated, and largely continued in comments, by men.

  23. A Happy Hubby says:

    I am still stunned that BYU has not said anything since saying they were going to create a panel to look at this overall issue. That has been months now. The longer there is silence, the more it feels like it is a distraction technique to calm down the issue in hopes it will go away. I hope I am wrong, but I am fairly sure the BYU image will be more tarnished the longer this wound lay open. I do feel for the individual professors/administrators that were assigned to the group to study it. I am fairly sure they didn’t take too long to arrive at the answer, but I am sure there are politics to overcome.

  24. Rob, did you ever read the story of Elizabeth Smart? What great evil did she commit to deserve the kidnapping and repeated rape by her rapist? Do you realize that after she was raped, she felt unworthy to return to her family? She considered herself worthless as a non-virgin Mormon girl? She internalized blame for her circumstances. Do you see how your view and comments perpetuate situations where rape victims won’t talk about what happened for fear of being blamed for the crime or for shame that they somehow deserved the rape because of some sinful thing they did? Please reconsider your narrow paradigms of this issue. No one deserves to be raped, no matter if they are “good” or “bad”.

  25. Rob Osborn says:

    I never said rape never happens to good virtuous people. The problem at BYU is almost exclusively because of honor code violations by both male and female participants. The overwhelming majority of campus rape at BYU involve honor code violations by both perpetrator and victim combined. Thats reality. BYU students should follow rules. Increasingly though, more students are breaking rules and more sex crimes are the result. Thats reality. You want to help curb the problem? Then better educate students to follow rules, both male and female alike. I am always reminded of why rape is so low amongst LDS missionaries. Its because they follow rules and have high moral principles. So why shouldnt BYU students folliw suit?

  26. Rob, your statement that rapes are “almost exclusively” the result of honor code violations by rapists and their victims is false. It is also repugnant and a very clear example of what rape culture actually looks like among Mormons. I think you should withdraw from this discussion. It’s really quite bad.

  27. Rob Osborn,

    The overwhelming majority of campus rape at BYU involve honor code violations by both perpetrator and victim combined. Thats reality.

    Unless you’re privy to the data from confidential crime reports from the BYU campus police (and unfortunately, it appears, the Honor Code office), there’s no way you can make this claim.

    Please stop spewing your vitriolic garbage here, get some counseling and move on.

  28. Rob, you are as much of a problem as the rapists at BYU, because you only see ruless breaking women, not the _rapists_ who rape them, as the problem. Your Myanmar example is simply ridiculous in a country with such a violent and consistent problem with rape from institutional authorities, specifically the military use of rape. ( )

    I won’t beg you to go away, because you are such a classic example of how pervasive and sick rape culture is in the Mormon church. It is your attitude and your self-righteousness that permeate the patriarchy of the culture. Your attitude and willingness to blame victims is truly more to blame for rapes than a victim who has failed to follow an honor code rule. It is important that we see and hear you, so that we can reject the ugliness that you spew.

  29. Rob Osborn says:

    So are you suggesting then that rape at BYU is in large part by men jumping out of bushes and raping innocent victims?

  30. Rob Osborn says:

    They left Myanmar because of the wicked tyrant oppression that wasnt allowing them to live and worship their traditional culture.

    If you were paying attention I have said repeatedly that honor code violations by both male and female lead to a higher percentage if rape and that better education for both male and female need to take place.

  31. nothing assumed about your food allergy says:

    Assuming Rob is sincere and not just trolling, I think his comments serve an important role. I think his opinion or some version of it is shared by a large number of mormons. If we hope to change this kind of thinking, we should address and counter it with persuasion, patience, and grace (see Jen’s 7:06 comment).

  32. Rob, if you were not so in love with your own ideas, and listening to the people who are rape victims, you might be able to stop mansplaining the problems with rape. The reality is that you are saying that a victim doing something that is neither illegal, and often not immoral in any context outside BYU, is just as at fault as a rapist who uses sex as a violent power grab over the body and soul of another human being. You are saying that breaking curfew or sitting on a sofa, or violently forcing someone to have sexual intercourse are all equally bad. If you can’t see the falsebook of that, then you have nothing to say that I could ever consider worthwhile on this subject.

  33. “falsebook” is a pretty awesome word. I’m gonna use it.

  34. Rob Osborn says:

    Of course I am being sincere.

    I just want to say that even at BYU a certain percentage of young males are like sharks trolling the waters for easy prey. My counsel is- if you dont want to be a victim, dont swim in the waters the sharks troll. By this I mean- if you want to be kept safe while at BYU, follow the rules, they are there for a reason. Besides that, students who go there shoyld already be rule followers. So, if there is a problem of rule breaking, tighter screening and better education need to take place to make it a safer environment.

  35. Wholeheartedly agree with nothing assumed’s comment. To get somewhere, we have to take all viewpoints at face value, and actually address what they are saying, not simply dismiss them.

    Rob: Those young males like sharks will find themselves prey, though, no matter what. So many of us feel the discussion should be focused on the shark’s conduct, not the prey’s conduct.

  36. The Other Clark says:

    I suspect that one of the issues that is being discussed by BYU administrators, and is alluded to by Rob Osborne in this post, is that consent is a spectrum, not a yes/no dichotomy. Similarly, there are various degrees of sexual assault.

    I think every girl, unfortunately, has the experience of being given an unwanted kiss. Is this rape? What about an unwanted touch? What about those cases he goes just a little bit further than she feels comfortable? And she doesn’t know if she was okay with that. Maybe she feels taken advantage of. Is that rape?

    I’m a guy, so I’m not sure my opinion carries any weight. My 2 cents would be to implement the easy stuff (Steve’s recommendations in the OP) and then tease out these more nuanced issues later. T

  37. Rob,

    Firstly, the point of the Elizabeth Smart example was not solely that “bad things happen to good people.” The main point was that AS THE VICTIM, Elizabeth Smart felt she had done something wrong to deserve the rape and was no longer a valuable member of Mormon society. How unfortunate that the most important message she got is that “Rape is your fault and now you are not worthy.” Rob, you are perpetuating that message.
    Strangely enough, I think we can all agree that the BYU Honor code is currently not stopping the problem of rape on campus. You believe that just teaching stricter adherence to rules will solve it. Others are saying the problem is more complex. People love and want to obey rules when they see and value others as equals. Otherwise, a list of equal rules for all who don’t see themselves as equals is unfair. We have a deep-seeded culture of gender inequality (this is just one aspect of inequality) that needs to be seen and addressed. Until we seek truth and to see things “as they really are”, then nothing will change.

  38. Rob Osborn says:

    We live in a crazy immoral workd. Our first principle to live by is our defense. As LDS we have a high moral standard as a defense. LDS missionaries have an even higher moral standard as a defense. I remember years ago when I was inactive and I had invited the sister missionaries for dinner. It was raining heavily that evening and I saw the sisters walking to my house on my way home from work. I stopped and said “jump in”. They said “we cant brother Osborn, its against our rules”. I thought that was strange but continued on home with them arriving a short time later. Their rules are there to protect them. Of course I wasnt a predator and they knew me well but they carried it to the letter of the law. I am pretty sure that rape amongst sister LDS missionaries is extremely low. Why? Because they have a great defense. Perhaps we should look to this for answers as a type of guideline of principles to teach. After all, we are trying to prevent future rapes arent we? Control what we indivudually can cobtroll. All of us can control our defenses to a high degree.

  39. I think his opinion or some version of it is shared by a large number of mormons.

    Including probably 90% of Mormon General Authorities, probably. It’s a generational blindness. A true fog of confusion.

  40. The $64,000 Answer says:

    Full disclosure: not a Mormon. This is a good conversation fo have, and I’m heartened to see it taking place here. Just wanted to add a couple of points:-

    1. Contrary to Mr Evans’ assumption, the majority of perpetrators and the majority of victims of male rape are heterosexual. Rape is committed for a lot of reasons, and the desire for sexual gratification is not always one of them. It can also be committed a lot of ways, including digitally and instrumentally, that require no arousal on the part of the perpetrator.

    2. According to federal statistics, 17% of victims of sexual assault, including rape, on campus are male students.

    3, Men don’t talk among themselves about sexual violence, for lots of reasons. One of them is fear of saying the wrong thing and being pilloried for it. Both of these things need to change. We need to have those discussions, and to have safe venues in which people get to say silly things (e.g. most of Mr Osborn’s contributions above) so that others can learn from them. That’s how education happens.

    4. Mind you, how you scale that up from a (forgive me!) somewhat obscure website to an all-LDS and, for that matter, all-national level, is a most difficult matter.

    5. From an outsider’s (Catholic) perspective, what matters most is not this or that point of specifically Mormon doctrine. Does women’s ineligibility for ordination in Mormonism contribute to an increased prevalence of sexual assault? I can’t imagine how one would begin to test that hypothesis, any more than one would in the similar case of Catholicism. In my view, what is much more likely to have a positive, indeed dramatic, effect is the church’s response to sexual violence, both preventative, pastoral and punitive, which need not wait on any doctrinal or theological changes. My own church’s failings in all three areas are too well known to require further comment. My impression is that the LDS Church, not having had the harsh light of public scrutiny shone on its practices and attitudes until very recently, may not even be where the Catholic Church currently is. That should be a source of grave and urgent concern to every LDS member.

    6. It would be a great mistake to think that BYU and/or the Mormon Church is going to have endless time, or even very much, to fix its problems in this regard. The mood of the country is thorougly impatient with and hostile to institutions in general, and religious institutions in particular, that fail to get out in front of the curve on these matters. What you refuse to do for yourselves, expect the civil courts and the legislatures to do for you, almost certainly in a way that you won’t like. That’s how it was for us, and the process is by no means over yet.

  41. $64K, I made no such assumption. I merely stated that the special case of homosexual rape needed attention.

  42. PS – thank you for your comment and thoughtful questions.

  43. Rob, a couple of things:

    “I never said rape never happens to good virtuous people.” Not in those exact words. But it was in substance was you said. What you said was “Rape is not an issue at BYU by those who follow the rules and have a high moral standard. Its only an issue amongst those who break rules and have little moral standards in relavence to their peers.” Rob, I’m not just being obtuse for rhetorical effect, I sincerely don’t see much daylight between those two statements.

    But, let’s not make you an offender for a word if what you really meant to say was not that only immoral rule-breakers get raped, but the slightly qualified version you gave later, that “The problem at BYU is *almost* exclusively because of honor code violations by both male and female participants. The overwhelming majority of campus rape at BYU involve honor code violations by both perpetrator and victim combined.” I think the percentages are disputed, but at least you recognize that some rapes at BYU are not prevented by victims following the honor code. That’s good. Now, do you really think that addressing those rapes that you believe are prevented by honor code obedience is good enough and that BYU doesn’t need to do anything to prevent those rapes that were perpetrated against people who may have had some honor code violation at the time? I disagree, strongly, with the suggestion that following the honor code makes somebody immune from rape, and even more strongly with the unstated corollary that if somebody was raped, they must have been breaking a rule at the time. But setting that aside just for a moment, even assuming that some percentage of rapes are always preventable by just making sure that potential victims follow rules, aren’t the other rapes, the ones that aren’t preventable by rule-following, just as pressing to prevent, and not only to prevent, but to bring to light when they do happen, to encourage victims to come forward and receive treatment, and to punish perpetrators?

    About your missionary example, I don’t know what the numbers are on rapes committed against LDS missionaries, so I can’t comment on how that compares to BYU students. But assuming that missionaries are raped less frequently than others their same age, does that really mean that the rules at BYU should be the same as the rules on a mission? For example, should we assign all BYU students a companion that they have to be with at all times? (I suspect, if any mission rule has any relationship to preventing rape, it’s that one). If not, then should we just throw up our hands and say, well we could prevent this with a companion rule, but since that’s not appropriate for college life, then I guess there’s just nothing we can do”? Isn’t it still important to make sure that we’re encouraging victims to come forward so rape doesn’t go undetected and unpunished, and the trauma from it untreated?

    Also, as a sidenote, you keep using the word moral. From context, it seems like what you really mean is sexual morality, not morality in general. I’d just point out that morality is more than sex, and that God cares at least as much about immoral behavior such as pride, greed, selfishness, dishonesty, gluttony, etc., than he does about sexual immorality.

  44. I agree that there should be greater sensitivity to this issue. But if you want to get through to Mormon folk you should start by *not* having someone run point who has a Clinton-like view of when sex is sex.

  45. Jack, I have no idea what you mean.

  46. Virtually none of the honor code “rules” have anything at all to do with morality. Sitting on a couch is not immoral. Staying at someone’s apartment past a certain time in the evening is not immoral. Sitting in someone’s bedroom is not immoral. Etc. Etc. Doing those things might be breaking a rule BYU has arbitrarily created out of a belief that not doing those things will help students remain chaste, but make no mistake, no protestations by Rob Osborne or anyone else can make those things actually “immoral,” as in a breach of an intrinsic, objective moral code.

  47. The $64,000 Answer says:

    Mr Evans: you’re most welcome. Not to beat a dead horse, but the expression “homosexual rape” is regarded as…well, not very helpful among the sexual-violence community. It was dropped about a quarter of a century ago, because it tended to lead to problematical assumptions about “gay predators” (or presumptively gay victims) when in fact the majority of perps, and of victims, are heterosexual.

    The point is that the “special case” you identified in your original post does not, in my view, truly require specific attention; I’d go so far as to say that singling it out in that way would result in much more harm than good. Everybody is at risk of being a victim of sexual violence; every kind of person is capable of committing it. The important thing is what happens when somebody comes forward to report it. Whether they are female or male, straight or gay, ought not to be an issue.

  48. That’s helpful to know – I wasn’t aware and will change how I talk about it. I only raised the issue because BYU and Mormon culture present some complicating factors around homosexuality. I don’t have data and I fully agree that the victim’s personal sexual identity should not, ideally, be an issue in reporting.

  49. Rob,
    I was sexually assaulted (not raped, but it was still traumatic) on my mission. I was not breaking a single mission rule. In fact, I was following a directive from my mission president that I disagreed with, but I believed that if I was obedient to it, I would be blessed.
    Also, all the mission rules that decrease the likelihood of sexual assault, also decrease the likelihood of getting married. If the only way to prevent sexual assault is more rules, we better expect our marriage rates to go way down.

  50. The $64,000 Answer says:

    Mr Evans: not a problem. The field is rapidly developing, and terminology changes quite quickly. It can be hard to keep up with. The consensus term these days is “male rape,” though some people use the expressions “male-on-male” and “female-on-male” rape when greater specificity with regard to the offender is required.

    I take your point about the complicating factors. We Catholics have some of the same ones. One of the advantages of a victim-centered approach is that it helps to prevent the conversation from disappearing down some of those rabbit holes.

  51. Yes – amen to a victim-centered approach. When we start to generalize or reduce people to metaphors we risk missing important things.

  52. Steve, thank you for continuing to have this conversation at BCC.

  53. “are you suggesting then that rape at BYU is in large part by men jumping out of bushes and raping innocent victims?”

    All victims of rape are innocent regardless of circumstances.

  54. Rob Osborn says:

    Theres no doubt sex crimes committed to LDS sister missionaries. My point was that it more rare because of their high moral principles and rules.

  55. Rob Osborn (8:57) – “All of us can control our defenses to a high degree.”

    This seems to encapsulate the problem. It accepts that there are evil people around and that the only thing we can do is protect ourselves. The problem is that is adds a great deal of guilt to anyone who is a victim, either from themselves asking “what else could I have done” or others saying “you didn’t do enough”. Adding guilt to the victim is the absolute worst thing we can do to anyone. I don’t understand how people can’t see the harm in “victim blaming”. We use it to soften the blame of the perpetrator; “they couldn’t help themselves”

    We don’t say things like “if you didn’t have such nice stuff, you wouldn’t have been robbed”, “if you’d just thought to celebrate in a place that couldn’t be accessed by vehicles, you wouldn’t have been run over”, “you went to a club full of gay people, of course you were shot”, “you don’t leave something valuable out and not expect it to be stolen”

    “how could you wear a skirt that showed your knees? of course you were raped”

    I just don’t understand it.

  56. nothing assumed about your food allergy says:

    I’m not sure what exactly is meant by a “victim-centered approach,” but I actually think we need to understand more and focus on perpetrator behavior. How we treat victims is a problem but not the fundamental one: rapists are the fundamental problem. This is why Rob Osborn’s thinking, which focuses on victim rule-following and defenses, is so obviously ridiculous. He accepts “rapists gonna rape” and wants everyone to act like missionaries to defend themselves against an inevitable evil.

  57. Rob Osborn says:

    I think its important to note that schools that have a higher code of morality rules which include the absence of alcohol on campus have less instances of rape. We need to address the circumstances that lead to rape. On campuses that have alcohol and fraternity/sorority houses there is a 600% increase in rapes than those that do not have them like we see at BYU. Eliminating the party culture will greatly diminish rapes. Young men and women, away from home, involved in partying and binge drinking do not prove good results.

  58. Rob, nobody is arguing against the existence of the Honor Code.

  59. Rob, On an individual level, I agree we should all “live by our defense.” I don’t, however, agree that this is how we should respond as a community when someone in our midst is sexually assaulted.

    Let’s say someone leaves his door unlocked, and a bad guy invades his home and robs him in the middle of the night. The homeowner will probably feel very violated. No one has a right to come into his home without his permission. But he left the door unlocked! Doesn’t this mean bad guy was invited in? It would be unfair to blame bad guy – how could bad guy have kept himself from invading the home when the door was left unlocked for him??

    It’s true that it was foolish, objectively speaking, to leave the door unlocked. But that doesn’t make the invader less guilty of the home invasion. And it doesn’t make the homeowner subject to investigation. But wait, what if the homeowner left the door unlocked because he was drunk? It wasn’t just foolishness, it was sinfulness. So NOW the homeowners has no basis to complain, right?

    It’s true that maybe if homeowner had locked the door, bad guy would have chosen an easier home to rob. Of course maybe, bad guy would have gotten in some other way. We really don’t know, and we really don’t care when we’re talking about invading someone’s property. We easily understand and respect that everyone’s home is their own property, and no one is allowed in without permission – not even if the homeowner was foolish in leaving the door unlocked, not even if the homeowner’s SIN led to the door being unlocked. We don’t care what the homeowner did – it’s the homeowner’s home, no matter what. The homeowner will have no qualms reporting the crime and knowing the community is behind him, regardless of whether or not he locked his door or why.

    Somehow understanding and respecting that everyone’s bodies are their own is much more confusing for us. It would seem we’d be MORE protective of rights to bodily integrity than to property. But when the protection we are talking about involves limiting women’s sexual accessibility to men, it all gets very complicated to decide how the rules should be laid out and who should be held responsible for what.

  60. The $64,000 Answer says:

    Mr Osborn: that’s what’s known as question-begging. Neither you nor I have the least idea what is the true rate of sexual victimization among LDS sister missionaries (or, for that matter, anybody else). It’s what the social scientists call a “dark number”: because one only knows what is reported, not the true prevalence rate, it’s difficult or impossible even to guess what it is. What we do know, though, is that when opportunities are provided to disclose a particular kind of sexual victimization, and victims feel safe and supported in doing so, things come out of which we never dreamed.

    A case in point: until the 1980s, child sexual assault was considered (i) extremely rare; and (ii) almost exclusively confined to families at the very bottom of the income scale. It wasn’t until rape crisis centers started to appear, and (to the founders’ astonishment) half or more of the clientele who showed up were disclosing victimization in childhood, that it became clear that it actually was pervasive throughout society.

    If you’ll forgive me for saying so, your approach to this question, in this thread and other ones, seems to be predicated on the notion: “if a person avoids occasions and situations in which rape is possible, a person will, except in unusual circumstances, avoid being raped.” Unfortunately, the correlates of sexual violence are a lot wider than you think they are. One thing that’s very clear from the evidence that we do have is that if a person, of either sex, wishes to avoid being raped, that person would do best never to be young. By far the highest “risk factor” — far more than attending boozy parties, or visiting an acquaintance’s apartment, is simply being a young person, especially one under the age of twenty.

  61. John Mansfield says:

    Steve, I think is what Jack was referring to is that as reported by the Daily Herald back in September, “According to police reports, the suspect, Nasiru Seidu, 39, and a female victim engaged in sexual activities last Friday. However, at some point, the victim told Seidu she didn’t feel comfortable and she wanted to stop. She began to get dressed, but reports state Seidu did not want to stop.” It seems to be the overall opinion here that the circumstances of this student’s rape were unusual, that most victims at BYU were not willingly naked and engaged in sexual activities already at the time they were assaulted, so it is odd that one of the few who was would be the face of this movement to change how the honor code office operates.

    [URL omitted because BCC hates the internet.]

  62. John Mansfield says:
  63. John, so Jack was arguing for a perspective that puts responsibility on the victim to prevent a rape? By referring to Clinton? It’s not often that you see such a gifted combination of bad analogy and wrong perspective.

  64. “Theres no doubt sex crimes committed to LDS sister missionaries. My point was that it more rare because of their high moral principles and rules”

    It seems to me, from reading all your comments combined, that your point is that sexual assaults like mine are inevitable. I was doing everything you suggest should be done, but it did not prevent the assault. You seem unwilling to admit that there are other problems rather than victims breaking rules that result in sexual assault. Either that or you assume they are problems not worth addressing. I found out much later that I was not the first sister missionary that this man assaulted. I didn’t tell my mission president and neither did the other sister. The reason? There is a lot of hostility toward sister missionaries in our culture (or at least there was when I was a missionary 8 years ago). The elders took any complaint we had as proof that women are not suited to missionary work. It was not worth it for the sisters to report any problems we had because the repercussions would be worse. There were never more than one set of sisters in a zone on my mission, which meant that if the elders didn’t like either you or your companion, you were completely alienated. I’ve wondered if I would have been assaulted if the sister before me had said something to the mission president. I’ve also wondered if there were other sisters assaulted by that same man because I didn’t say anything. Your solution to this problem would be to teach missionaries stricter obedience (as if that would even be possible since that was all we were taught at every conference we ever had). My solution would be to try to change the culture that punished sister missionaries for ever showing the slightest weakness (in fairness, elders are punished for showing any weakness as well. We should be changing that part of culture too).

  65. Rob,

    It is tautological to say that a rapist is breaking the honor code because I am pretty sure that forcible sex is against the honor code.

  66. John Mansfield says:

    Steve, it seems you’re a bit too busy to read comments today, which is unusual for you, so I won’t distract you further.

  67. It’s depressing to me that we can’t discuss this topic without it being hijacked by ‘If women would only obey the rules…’ I had to stop reading the comments because I find it such a pit of darkness. Especially as its never women or rape victims themselves who make the argument. I suppose those voices are less valid?

  68. I have to quibble with the following sentence in an otherwise helpful comment: “The homeowner will have no qualms reporting the crime and knowing the community is behind him, regardless of whether or not he locked his door or why.”

    Unfortunately that’s not always true. A quick glance at the literature on the underreporting of property crime says: “It sometimes just does not pay to report a victimization.” Brainstorming here: a victim may have complicated immigration status or fear reprisal for reporting a property crime, a victim may have some reason to protect a known thief (a family member or friend), a victim may not trust the police, or may have reported a crime before and found it more of a hassle than a help.

    If that’s the case with property crimes — and one website claims up to a quarter of property crimes go unreported — how much more of an issue will it be with crimes that actually carry an element of shame for the victim?

  69. Point taken, AmyT, thanks.

  70. ReT, your comment is really weighing on me. We’ll try to police this thread a little better and make it safer here.

  71. Rigel Hawthorne says:

    It doesn’t seem like it should be that difficult for BYU to adopt what SVU has already implemented. They have tested it out, written it into the language of their Honor Code and feel good about it. It’s not like their students have all turned to hedonistic rampage. I do think a lot of those conversing in the BYU catchment area might be turned off by the use of the word “amnesty” in terms of an honor code violation. Seems like for the sake of the cause, that specific term should be de-emphasized. As this topic seems to provide a forum for Rob Osborne’s soapbox, I will bow out now.

  72. pit of darkness is the perfect description for many of those comments

  73. Apparently the approach should be multifaceted, focusing on both victim and perpetrator. I still think, in light of the studies done that show women rarely lie about having been raped, that we need to change our laws so that the accused rapist bears the burden of proof that he/she didn’t commit rape. You might even soften the burden from “beyond a reasonable doubt” to clear and convincing (someone smarter than me can work out the details) but imagine the paradigm shift that would occur if all a victim had to do is make the accusation. Sure, there would be some innocents who, for whatever reason, won’t be able to prove their innocence. However, there would be many more rapists locked up. I think the benefit of putting more rapists behind bars would outweigh the costs of possibly jailing innocent people. You could have some kind of high perjury penalty in the event a trier of fact felt the victim had lied. There are ways to make this work.

  74. I think the benefit of putting more rapists behind bars would outweigh the costs of possibly jailing innocent people.

    That’s completely backwards from the perspective of Anglo-American law. It is better for 100 criminals to go free than for one innocent person to be imprisoned.

  75. Trond — I know it is. That’s the point of making a special exception with respect to rape.That’s why I mentioned possibly lessening the burden of proof on the alleged rapist and/or imposing a severe penalty upon the accuser if he/she is found to be false. Like I said, if accusers have been found to be truthful, then it would be a rare case in deed if, in fact, the rapist was really innocent.

  76. In the case of rape — is it really better to let 100 rapists go free? Look how that’s played out so far — not very good. Victim blaming, rapists who take advantage of a failed system. Why not turn things around and shift the burden from the state to the alleged rapist?

  77. The $64,000 Answer says:

    To revert to Mr Evans’ original points (discussions about burdens of proof, etc., are important and should be had, but this probably isn’t the thread for them):

    One thing that extends beyond Mormonism to Christian and non-Christian religions generally is a truly spectacular level of ignorance about sexual violence, what it involves, what patterns are evident, what approaches have been shown to help and not help, etc. The sort of basic empirical knowledge that anybody working in this field ought to have at his or her fingertips. Pop quiz: how many Mormon scholars do you know who is a national authority on this question? (If the answer is “none,” don’t feel bad. I’d have to scrape the bottom of the barrel to come up with an orthodox practicing Catholic equivalent, either.) The evangelical churches? Maybe Boz Tchividjian (Billy Grahan’s grandson, and head of the activist group GRACE — Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment), though his knowledge comes on the prosecutorial rather than the research side. Orthodox or Conservative Jews? I can’t think of a single one offhand. Mainstream Islam? Chirping crickets. And so on, and so forth.

    A second, and in my view highly related, thing, for which there’s support in the research literature: The huge number of people in society (one in five? one in six? a very great deal, regardless) who experience sexual violence, regardless of creed or denominaton, do not talk about it with their priests, ministers, bishops, etc., to any significant degree. They’ll discuss their marital or financial problems, their struggles with addiction, their doubts about their respective faith traditions, and lots of other things, but quite rarely this. That’s probably a good thing, as the responses they get when they do are so often stigmatizing, uninformed or both.

    A third (and, yes, again related) thing: just about nobody in the faith community has any kind of ministry under way addressing the needs, spiritual or temporal, of the (many) tens of millions of sexual violence in the United States. If they pay any attention to the problem at all, it’s likely to be focused on the perpetrator, and how he (hardly ever she, though not because female perpetrators don’t exist) can be redeemed. That indifference is far too universal to be a coincidence, and the fact that it persists speaks volumes.

    If the various churches truly care about sexual violence and those harmed by it — something that I do not at all believe to be the case, and I consider that the weight of evidence is overwhelmingly on my side — the first thing they need to do is for their leaders and opinion-formers to become serious about learning about it.

  78. $64K, another good point. I definitely feel uneducated about the issues.

  79. IDIAT, it’s true of both murderers and rapists. We don’t have to up-end Anglo-American law to hold rapists accountable. Focusing on the rapists probably is the answer — and perhaps changing requirements for proving consent would be enough.

  80. I think church leaders care about sexual violence and the victims but many of them are hindered by past societal views, which they continue to view as normative or even required, about the causes of rape and the level of responsibility a victim might bear (hint: none under any circumstances — the rapist is completely responsible for choosing to rape someone).

  81. Rob Osborn says:

    I think the only possible solution at BYU would be a compromise of sorts where the actual reporting of a sex crime would remain anonymous, but, the one reporting the crime would have to fill out an anonymous statement regarding what the circumstances, if known, were that accompanied said accusation which would include an anynomous disclosure on if that person felt the honor code was broken. These anonymous statements could then be used as an education tool to teach students and law enforcement about the prevention of sex crimes and how to protect oneself from being a potential victim or perpetrator. Anonymous victims would be allowed privacy but would also be utilized in anonymous fashion to bring added knowledge to the situation. Then, at each new year, students are interviewed as to their faithfulness in keeping the honor code. If they wish to disclose they havent been faithful they may do so and accept penalties at that point.

  82. That is not the only possible solution.

  83. Rob,
    You seem to think that the threat of rape is the only thing (or the most effective thing) that keeps young women at BYU from breaking the honor code. I assure you, this is not the case. It’s probably the biggest reason women take self defense courses and carry pepper spray though.

  84. The $64,000 Answer says:

    To believe that they do care, Trond, requires evidence, and that’s currently lacking. People who care about things demonstrate it somehow: through their words, their deeds, and above all, perhaps, through putting their money where their mouths are. Religious leaders don’t speak about this in public — and I haven’t seen any evidence that they speak about it to any degree in private either. They don’t educate themselves (it’s not as though the information is lacking, or difficult to obtain or understand), even to the point of being able to argue from a standpoint of knowledge about social-scientific perspectives with which they disagree. They don’t address their flocks about it. They offload responsibility for caring for the victims to secular agencies. They neither spend money on addressing the problem themselves, nor support those who do. The only way one can get them to acknowledge the question to even the most minimal degree, kicking and screaming all the way, is to haul them into the civil courts. We Catholics know this. And Madison Barney knows it too.

    Let me come at this from another angle: if Jesus were on earth in the flesh today, do we suppose that He would reach out to those who have been raped or sexually assaulted, to comfort and succor them, to stand by them and bind up their wounds?

    If He would, why don’t we? Because we sure as shooting aren’t doing it now.

  85. I’m getting a little tired of really appreciating your comments!

  86. The $64,000 Answer says:

    Oh, don’t worry. I’ll revert to type and say something truly crass and/or idiotic soon…I’ve bucked the law of averages far too long already!

  87. it's a series of tubes says:

    I still think, in light of the studies done that show women rarely lie about having been raped, that we need to change our laws so that the accused rapist bears the burden of proof that he/she didn’t commit rape.

    There’s this teeny little piece of the Constitution known as the Due Process clause. Throws a bit of a wrench into this ill-advised idea.

  88. They don’t educate themselves (it’s not as though the information is lacking, or difficult to obtain or understand), even to the point of being able to argue from a standpoint of knowledge about social-scientific perspectives with which they disagree.

    I agree with this description of the current state of affairs, among Mormon church leaders as among others. That is the sad truth.

  89. I did not attend BYU, and am not familiar with the honor code, so forgive any ignorance in this comment. Below are a couple of ideas for provisions in a BYU/other very religious school honor code. In sharing them, I’m thinking about how the honor code could incorporate a bigger picture when something traumatic happens to one student at the hand of another student.

    1. When a violation constitutes harm to another, the committee has discretion to waive violations committed by the harmed student during the course of the other violation, where the harmed student’s infraction constituted only harm to him/herself.
    * It just seems that an honor code should account for the differing severity between breaking a standard in harm to yourself and breaking a standard in direct harm to someone else. Priority should be given to preventing those infractions that harm others if the two types are in conflict. Meaning, if someone raped you, and you were doing drugs at the time, we can waive the drug offense to ensure we are adequately dealing with the rape.

    2. If an honor code provision is designed to protect against a certain harm, where it is violated, the person it was intended to protect cannot be disciplined in relation to the violation.
    * A similar concept exists in the law. For example, a 12-year old girl cannot be prosecuted as an accomplice to statutory rape, because the statutory rape law was designed to protect her. Same in some jurisdictions for selling alcohol to minors. Perhaps this concept could exist in relation to sexual misconduct honor code violations. Meaning, if someone violated the honor code provision not to rape, and you were the one raped, you can’t be disciplined for anything in relation to the rape.

    Finally, some universities have changed from the requirement of “beyond a reasonable doubt” in sexual misconduct discipline to the lesser “clear and convincing evidence.” Others require a showing of affirmative consent by the accused. I’m not a fan of the law shifting the burden to defendants to prove their innocence, as mentioned in an earlier post, but maybe colleges could consider that for their disciplinary purposes (not sure I’d be a fan of that even for college discipline, personally).

  90. Rob Osborn says:

    Amongst other reasons, the honor code is in place to keep students safe. I read a story recently where a student at a known party school was raped. The victim was sexually active, a known binge drinker, liked to flirt and have sex, and frequented frat parties. Now, to me, this tells me that she basically took no real precautions to keep herself safe. Of course the rape is not her fault, but, the rape could have been prevented in the first place if we take various parts of the scenerio and disband it. Doing away with party atmospheres at known party schools would be a huge impact. Doing away with alcohol on campus and enforcing it would also make a major impact. Doing away with party frat and sorority houses would also have a major impact. From there the steps are smaller and have smaller but still important impacts. These include curfews, dress standards, and educating vulnerable freshmans. Better screening for moral conduct, etc also would help. These things have the greatest impaft on rape prevention. How rapes are reported has such a minimal impact on rape prevention that I can guarentee that BYU will place focus on rules and education and screening.

  91. Rob (2:23) Just NO! I hope to God that you don’t have any influence on any rape survivors, in any way. Just stop the bullsh*t and take some time to listen to the stories of women who are actual rape survivors, who have suffered at the hands of men who are self righteous and so full of themselves that they think they know what happens better than survivors do.

    You can’t stop rape happening by focusing on the victims! You can’t be credible saying “of course it’s not their fault” when you are blaming rape victims, for being victims, in the same comment. Title fact that you have doubled down, over and over, rather than listening to what real victims of rape are telling you is the ultimate proof that you do not actually care about anything but being right and silencing the voices that actually have something to teach. Your brand of misogyny is well represented in the church, to be sure, but it is only damming yourself, and the things you claim to believe, that you are so unwilling to step outside your own privilege.

  92. Rob, anytime you say say/write “but” after “Of course the rape is not her fault,” you’ve already failed a test of sympathy and logic.

    You’re credibility on this topic both sympathetically and logically was shot awhile ago. I say give it a break.

  93. I appreciate $64,000’s comments also, as well as the OP. So Steve can you fix this sentence for future readers: “the needs, spiritual or temporal, of the (many) tens of millions of sexual violence in the United States.” I think it needs the words “of victims.” Just to clarify because the same comment talks about treating perpetrators.

  94. Rob,
    If we need to use prior rape victims (anonymous or otherwise) to scare students into following the honor code, then there is no honor or morality in the code or the students. I can’t understand why you insist on punishing rape victims. Whether it is by expelling them or “anonymously” spreading their stories all over campus as a teaching tool, you can’t come up with a solution that doesn’t punish a victim for being raped. If you could think of a solution that doesn’t immediately assume that any rape victim needs to be punished, you might be taken more seriously. Your contempt for rape victims makes it hard to take anything you say seriously.

  95. Rob Osborn says:

    So you think that we should keep the sex crazed rampant binge drinking frat party mentality and look elsewhere for curbibg sex crimes on campuses eh? Good luck! Statistics prove that rape prevention is about ridding the environments such as binge drinking and frat parties that fuel sex and consequential rapes.

  96. BYU is hardly a campus filled with sex crazed rampant binge drinking frat party mentality. The party atmosphere that is there is already against the honor code. I don’t understand how creating more rules will change anything at BYU.

  97. But I do see how creating more rules could possibly further punish rape victims. Which seems to be a theme throughout your comments.

  98. Rob, now’ve you’ve thrown into question both your reading comprehension and your goodwill.

  99. Bro. B. says:

    My only head-shaking conclusion after skimming through this thread is that Rob must be a brilliant troll.

  100. Anon for This says:

    I don’t believe Rob’s ideas are that unusual. I believe he lives in my county, and plenty of people in my county think like he does. Our county sheriff was recently in the news for some ill-advised comments regarding rape. You’ll find this kind of thinking in parts of the Mormon Corridor that are poor and where the average amount of education is quite a bit lower than average.

  101. The $64,000 Answer says:

    Mr Osborn may not realize it, but he inadvertently has put his finger on the problem with the “avoid rape by avoiding the circumstances of rape” approach.

    Granted, his list is shorter than others like it I’ve seen, but it’s a pretty formidable one nonetheless. To avoid being raped, women are to:-

    1. Be virgins;
    2. Be non-drinkers (presumably, this also includes avoiding medications like cough syrups, anti-histamines and anti-anxiety drugs that have similar effects);
    3. Do nothing that the least stable and balanced men on the planet — that is, rapists — might interpret as “flirting”;
    4. Keep away from fraternities and sororities (and, it follows, their members);
    5. Maintain a high index of suspicion of “party atmospheres”;
    6. Adhere to sumptuary rules. The nature of these appears to be undefined, but no doubt we know rape-prone attire when we see it;
    7. Adhere to a curfew; and
    8. Submit themselves to an inquiry to determine, at minimum, the rigor of their adherence to rules 1-7 above.

    Mr Osborn appears to regard these as trivial impositions on the liberties of women, the price they must pay to reduce (though never eliminate) their liability to being raped. And compared to other laundry-lists I’ve seen, in fact they are. Everybody here, I am sure, has come across these other pieces of conventional wisdom, advanced with equal dogmatism:-

    9. Never walk alone after dark, or through unfrequented areas at any hour.
    10. Always carry pepper spray or some other portable weapon.
    11. Be proficient in some form of martial art.
    12. Insist on being accompanied to your car after dark. Always check the back seat for intruders before opening the door.
    13. Never leave your shades open, or allow strangers to look inside your house.
    14. Never unlock a downstairs window.
    15. Do not leave upstairs windows open if sleeping alone in the house.
    16. If unmarried, do not have your first name (revealing that you are a woman) on your mailbox.

    I could keep going with this list forever, but you get the point. If one is raped, there will always be something else that somebody can point to as an explanation for how it is one’s own fault. Anybody who tried to live by this endless, and endlessly bizarre, set of prescriptions would enjoy a quality of life inferior to that of the inmates of many minimum-security prisons. And the cream of the joke is that all of this protects one only against Mr Osborn’s stranger leaping out of the bushes — by far the least likely scenario — whereas the evidence is indisputable that if one is going to be raped, it will be by somebody one knows and, in all likelihood, trusts.

    I don’t consider myself any kind of feminist, and I don’t know any feminists who would think of applying that description to me. But it is noteworthy that the persons whose lives we are proposing to circumscribe to this intolerable degree are women, not men. Perhaps Mr Osborn has indeed acquiesced in allowing some external authority to impose a nightly curfew upon him, or to run a tape-measure over the hems of his athletic attire, as a means of reducing his risk of being subjected to sexual violence. But I do not think so.

  102. A hug from me to you, $64,000.

    *Not to be interpreted as flirting

  103. Can we make $64,000 a BCC perma?

    If not that, someone should at least gather up his comments on this post and make them a post of its own. I think the perspective he’s brought to this conversation has been invaluable.

  104. PS, I think porn as relates to rape culture is huge and maybe worthy of its own post. But it certainly presents a good contrast between what women are expected to do in their daily lives to avoid rape vs what men ubiquitously do in their daily lives to reinforce sex as a tool to subjugate women.

  105. Loursat says:

    Permas: please keep trying to make forward-looking comment threads that are not powered by outrage about trolls. The comments here reduce the impact of the strong original post; very few of the comments respond to the OP. Wading through all the dross in this thread just isn’t worth it, at least to me. On the issue of campus rape, BCC’s voice has made an impact and has a chance to keep contributing. It pains me to see this post weakened by trolls. I know this is a very hard problem, but please don’t give up on it.

  106. Perhaps part of the problem with the differences on posts is that they address two different matters, what to teach people, generally women, on how to protect themselves against stranger rape, or robbery, for that matter, and how to deal with the situation when a rape has already taken place.
    I do believe in teaching common sense rules to both men and women about the effects of alcohol and drugs on their ability to recognize threats to their safety. I do believe in training people in self-defense and warning them of dangers.
    That does not in any way affect my beliefs about how to handle a rape after it has happened. It needs to be treated as a crime. Unfortunately, for the victims of such a personal and traumatic crime, this requires public testimony. I do not believe in changing the law to switch the burden of proof to the accused. I wish there was a way for every crime victim to be believed and receive justice. That will not happen in this world. What is doable and how do we make it happen?

  107. Loursat: done.

  108. Not a Cougar says:

    I appreciate everyone’s (well almost everyone’s – I’m sure most can figure out who’s who) comments. Here’s another question to move the coversation in a diffferent direction. Should the Church, not just BYU, be in the business of instructing the Saints about sexual assault? What should that instruction look like? At what level should it be held? Ward, stake, general conference? How do you teach in such a way that helps people to understand that 1. Yes, the Law of Chastity is vitally important and 2. Yes, regardless of what led up to the sexual assault a victim is NOT AT FAULT and deserving of complete love, compassion, and an absence of judgement. How would you structure the training for children v. youth v. adults and would you break out the training by gender (please don’t quibble about the term “gender,” please!)?

    Next, if a person is accused of sexual assault should he or she be immediately suspended from church attendance or at least have some sort of restriction from worship? If so, what restrictions are appropriate? Should the allegations be announced to the congregation? Should allegations alone be sufficient for excommunication? If not, then does that cut against the “Believe the Victim” focus around which much of current sexual assault training seems to be built (and yes I have been to at least 15 such trainings in the last 6 years including one held by the Kobe Bryant rape case prosecutor)?

  109. Lots of attacks for talking about prevention here, lacking in substantive talk about what to do after the fact, though that seems to be a welcome topic. Can we come up with something resembling a consensus list of things that should/nt be done for/by the victim afterward.

    * They need to be believed
    * Medical Attention
    * Comforted/Counselled/Cared for, etc
    * Encouraged to come forward and name rapist
    * They should be shielded from shame

    It’s a meager start, but let’s add to it. I imagine this was covered at the town hall Steve… can you report anything unique that it provided? Nuances that might have been suggested? I’m sure it could never be comprehensive, but is anyone else interested in what a list like this would look like? Despite all our talk I’ve not seen such a list presented here so the benefits/drawbacks of the items could be discussed.

  110. Kristen says:

    Not a cougar,
    It’s hard for me to picture how BYU would approach teaching it’s students about sexual assault because usually, that discussion revolves around consent. Mormons don’t talk about consent. Ever.

  111. Cough it’s called BY COMMON CONSENT!

  112. Kristen says:

    Steve, sorry for that

  113. Me too.

  114. Kristen says:

    Do I dare say that due to D&C 132, some Mormon men may have a sense of entitlement when it comes to their behavior towards women? When will that be removed from our scripture canon?!

  115. Maybe a sidebar question, but it’s been nagging at me that the Honor Code, and LDS teachings and expectations about sexual behavior, and the requirement of consent, should logically add up to a *presumption* that sex outside of marriage at BYU is rape and inappropriate touching is an assault, and that the perpetrator should logically be put to a proof of consent in every case. Not so? What am I missing?

  116. Kristen says:

    I really don’t think so. But the Mormon youth are never hearing about consent in their chastity lessons (for obvious reasons) and I think that is problematic (for obvious reasons).

  117. Kristen: You’re a little too cryptic for a detailed response. “Don’t think so” what? Logic? How things are done? How they should be done? And “for obvious reasons” I guess makes sense and I think I agree with respect to problematic, but does not immediately make sense with respect to teaching practices. I agree that most chastity lessons don’t talk about consent, but they would if I were teaching and, more to the point, I think a completely faithful uplifting positive “chastity” lesson could be built around the principle of consent.

  118. christiankimball – A presumption of guilt rubs me the wrong way. But I agree with affirmative consent as the required defense: The victim charges that he committed a sexual act without her affirmative consent. She provides her evidence. Now, he must provide evidence that he had affirmative consent. This is in contrast to her having to charge that she was forced against her will. In that case, she has a heavier burden, and he can successfully defend by simply saying he didn’t know she didn’t want it, she didn’t fight back, etc.

    How we define rape in this context is not just about proving guilt or innocence. It’s about how we culturally view women’s right to control their own bodies. Whether we define rape as forced sex or lack of affirmative consent sets a normative understanding. The default is that he can have sex with her unless she says she doesn’t want it OR the default is that he can’t have sex with her unless she says she wants it.

  119. With respect, I don’t think a chastity lesson is the place for discussing consent. To me, consent is an entirely separate issue and is not really about sex, but is about how we view women vis-a-vis men.

    I don’t wish to be overly-simplistic, but I really believe it comes down to focusing on the Savior, and on true Christ-like treatment of others. Because I believe the Savior truly respects and views women as equal to men, and because I believe this is his church, I do not believe rape is “an unavoidable element of Mormonism,” regardless of whether “women can neither be ecclesiastical leaders.” Certain doctrines lend themselves to be convenient misconstruing, in favor of male dominance. In my reading of the scriptures, misconstruing doctrine to favor selfish ulterior motives has always been especially vexing to the Savior, and has always been a problem among his followers. None of this really answers the question of exactly what this looks like in practice. But I feel like the underlying principle should simply be striving to sincerely follow the Savior in every context, including this one.

  120. Sorry for the misquote – I’m referring to Steve’s question: “Is rape an unavoidable element of Mormonism, if women can neither be ecclesiastical leaders nor fully determinative of their own roles?”

  121. MDearest says:

    I can’t possibly read all of this tonight, though I am greatly interested. But I have read some of it and one thought occurs to me: When we put all our energy into debating the notion that obeying rules makes people (women mostly) safe from rape, it distracts us from putting our energy where it would serve us better. Namely, finding out why some men feel entitled to rape, how they go about it, why/how they get away with it, and effective ways to deter it. The conviction rate for rape is shockingly low, as is the rate of reporting. We could change that, it’s criminal justice, not brain surgery.

    When we successfully train some women to do all the preparations required to protect oneself from rape, (if such a thing is even possible) all we’ve done is make it more likely that some poor unprepared gal will be victimized. All this attention on training women to protect their virtue does nothing to stop rape, and may actually give a “prepared” woman a false sense of security.

    I’m watching to see how BYU will address actually decreasing rape. And thanks for continuing to care about this.

  122. Keki: I’m probably guilty of being cryptic. I begin with the understanding that consent or lack of consent is fundamental to the definition of rape (variously, “without the consent”, “against the will”). Therefore, there will always be a question of consent. The question I pose is which way should the presumption run and which way should the burden of proof run. When a sexual act has occurred, should we presume that the victim (woman, more often than not) gave consent? Or, given the Honor Code and teachings about sex or chastity and the victim’s laudable right to control her body, wouldn’t it be more logical to assume or presume that consent was not given? We have to start somewhere.

  123. I talked about consent plenty of times with the young men, so I don’t know where Kristen is coming from. You can still have due process and switch the burden of proof. Why aren’t people willing to put their belief that women rarely lie about rape where their mouth is? You say you want a different outcome yet suddenly it seems like maybe you don’t really believe victims of rape. I can sit down in an hour and hammer out a set of laws that make it easy to report rapes, creates a rebuttable presumption of guilt yet still gives the rapist a fair chance to prove his or her innocence (that’s due process.) It won’t stop the drag in bushes type assaults by unknown assailants but it would curtail date rape and familiar assaults very quickly. So what if it has a chilling affect on dating and hanging out. The world would adapt and change, and people would figure out ways to clearly ascertain consent. I find it odd that people are fighting for the rights of rapists as opposed to the victims.

  124. christiankimball,
    When you word it this way, my answer is that we have to assume consent is not given. If we assume consent, then we are saying men are, by default, entitled to women’s bodies, and it’s up to women to let them know otherwise. The problem is that “presume consent was not given” sounds like he is guilty unless he can prove otherwise, and, liking the Constitution and all, this makes me really uncomfortable.

    So, I’m saying the way to assume consent is not given, without putting the burden to proof on the accused is by defining rape as “sex without consent.” This way, the accuser still has to do the proving – she must prove he had sex with her without her consent. In order to cast doubt on this, he must present evidence of consent. This could be “she said yes,” or “she led me to the bed” or anything else showing consent. But it CANNOT be “she didn’t say no,” or “she never struggled,” or “she just went still.” None of that will cast doubt on the fact that he had sex without her consent. In this way, we assume consent is not given, but we still keep the burden of proof on the accuser.

  125. Keki:
    I think we agree, when you say “we have to assume consent is not given.” As a result, your later sentence “she must prove he had sex with her without her consent” is slightly incorrect or overstated because it suggests two elements of proof. It would be better said “she must make the prima facie showing that he had sex with her and state or affirm that it was without her consent.” And then he would defend by proving no sex or proving consent.

  126. Loursat says:

    christiankimball, we should not start with any presumption at all unless there is an accusation of rape. The presumption that all sexual contact is an assault is just as unrealistic as the prevailing biases in rape culture. A stubborn lack of realism about sex and rape is one of the basic problems that BYU has to deal with right now. Let’s not compound the problem.

    When there is an accusation of rape, then the legal question about presumptions kicks in, but not before then. At that point, I see no reason why BYU should change well-established legal norms about the burden of proof.

    The real problem about these presumptions is not in the legal process per se. The underlying problem, at least at BYU, is when those in authority presume that all extramarital sexual activity—legal or not—must be punished. The first response should be compassion, not punishment. BYU has failed to make love and compassion its first response. Making a presumption of blame is where BYU gets into trouble in the first instance.

  127. Kristen says:

    sorry I wasn’t trying to be cryptic. Maybe I didn’t understand your question. I didn’t want to think that you were implying that women don’t really understand if they have been raped or not?
    Really? Fantastic! I would genuinely love to know how you worked that into the Mormon teaching of complete abstinence before marriage. I have never experienced anything in the church (as a youth or with my kids, both YW and YM, in the youth program) that even remotely touched on that topic but I would be happy to be wrong.

  128. I don’t understand the presumption that it’s somehow inappropriate to teach young LDS men and women about consent — is it like the old secular fear that teaching teens about birth control gives them permission to gave sex? Because there’s a lot of sexual behavior appropriate to young Mormons that requires affirmative consent — nobody should be grabbing someone else’s body, even to hold hands, or hug, or “steal” a kiss, and nobody should feel obligated to tolerate such behavior, without consent. Teaching young men that they need consent, and teaching young women that they have the right to deny consent, in no way implies that we aren’t serious about chastity. Quite the opposite, in fact.

  129. Great point, Ardis. Consent is not just required for intercourse.

  130. Kristen says:

    Of course we should be teaching about consent. My point is that is doesn’t happen and it should. When you say “there is sexual behavior that is appropriate to young Mormons” I would argue that is also something that is never spoken about. Mormons just are not very good at talking about sex other than in terms of it should not be happening before marriage. Never mind that it will and does. This is a problem.

  131. Kristen says:

    The OP brought up an interesting question: “Is rape an unavoidable element of Mormonism, if women can neither be ecclesiastical leaders nor fully determinative of their own roles?”

    At a very fundamental level, we have scripture in the Mormon canon that presents women as property that “belong” to men. We have an unhealthy modesty rhetoric that puts all the onus on women for men’s sexual thoughts and behaviors. We have a patriarchy that can’t be penetrated. Rape will be a problem in the church and in the world until women are truly seen and treated as equals.

  132. Regarding rape, consent and presumptions, here’s the setup: An 18-year old not married woman at BYU comes to the institution (Title IX office, administrator, police) and says “I was raped; he did it.” It’s 100% clear that something is wrong, meaning that the logical possibilities are (a) she was raped (non-consensual), (b) consensual sex happened (and at BYU in particular that’s a ‘wrong’, leaving aside questions of appropriate response or punishment), or (c) she is lying or confused or misguided and anyway making a false accusation. There isn’t a neutral option; there’s trouble every way you turn. So where should we start? What should we assume? What is the most likely truth? It seems to me that (a) is almost always the answer. Non-consensual sex happened. That’s rape. In other words, believe her. Assume that when she says something bad happened that it wasn’t because she wanted it or asked for it. Assume that she listened to all those chastity lessons, that she is really trying to live by the Honor Code that she signed. Assume that she is a capable human being in charge of herself and perfectly able to say yes and to say no, and if she says ‘no consent’ then that’s the truth until proven otherwise.
    Frankly, I’m appalled that we, the system, the school, would think or do otherwise. In a situation where by definition something’s wrong, how can you rationalize any assumption or starting point that assumes the accuser, the woman in this case, is the one in the wrong?

  133. stephenchardy says:

    Rob Osborn:
    I have a hard time understanding what you want. However I don’t doubt that many people think like you do. First it may be that you simply want people to acknowledge that they can reduce their risk of being raped by following certain rules. That reduction may be large or not. But even you ought to admit, I think, that following HC does not eliminate the risk.

    I think that it is important to understand that the purpose of life is not summed up by “Don’t get raped.” One way to avoid being raped is to never, under any circumstance, leave your home. And keep your home locked and under constant surveillance so that you can never ever come face-to-fact with a potential rapist. Hire someone who you trust entirely to watch your home and make sure that no-one is allowed to visit. Such an arrangement would drastically reduce, but not entirely eliminate, the risk of being raped. But of course that sort of protection would come at an extreme cost in the form of social isolation, and would interfere with the growth and progress that we believe is the purpose of life. We must live our lives, and that means that we must make choices. The purpose of life is not to avoid being a victim. The purpose of BYU is not to avoid being injured. The purpose of life and of BYU is to gain knowledge and experience through our choices, actions, and interactions.

    I would be able to accept your attitude (although not agree with it…just find it to be understandable) if you were to make this statement: “I understand that an approach to rape which places some portion of the blame on the victim will result in some shielding of rapists. I understand that this attitude, of blame-sharing of victims, will result in some rapes being unreported.”

    Are you able to acknowledge that your attitude of blame-sharing results in more raping? If so, then you have a measure of integrity. If you don’t believe that blame-sharing protects rapists, then I don’t think that your arguments or attitude can be respected.

    I am deeply sympathetic to victims of rape, and all other crimes. I believe that allowing amnesty of rule-breakers who become victims will encourage a culture of protecting victims and prosecuting predators. I don’t believe that such an amnesty rule will be widely employed by students who simply wish to get drunk and party. Our Mormon culture is strongly against such an attitude and the vast, vast majority of potential BYU students would not and will not abuse such a policy.

    So, Rob Osborn and those sympathetic to his opinion, please acknowledge that your attitude results in the protection of rapists and under-reporting of rape. Then if you stand by your statements….well I admit that I still won’t understand, agree with, or support them. It would simply show that you understand the consequences of your approach.

  134. Loursat says:

    christiankimball, I agree that it is wrong to assume that the accuser has done something wrong. But we don’t have to make any extraordinary presumptions to fix that. The legal system already gets that one right when allegations of sexual assault are investigated *correctly*. If BYU is getting it wrong (and it is), then BYU doesn’t have to flip its presumptions to the other extreme, it just has to stop presuming fault in the victim.

    Regarding discussions about consent, I’m hopeful that BYU’s current difficulties will be productive. BYU is being forced, as a matter of law, to face problems with its culture of blame and its refusal to speak openly and realistically about some aspects of sex, dating, and rape. I hope that BYU administrators will embrace their opportunity to figure out the challenge. Here’s the thing about BYU students: they really are capable of talking about sex and rape without compromising their moral commitment. But here’s the other thing about BYU students: many of them need someone to give them permission to have those discussions. There are many professionals and professors at BYU who understand these issues. They know how to lead discussions about them and set appropriate policies. Will BYU administrators recognize the opportunity and let these people show what they can do?

  135. it's a series of tubes says:

    You can still have due process and switch the burden of proof

    IDIAT, a discussion of why you’re wrong is far outside the scope of this thread, and would distract from the more productive discussions taking place here. So let me put it simply: you’re wrong.

    To be clear, I’m NOT defending rapists or any other criminals – merely stating that the presumption of “innocent until proven guilty” is required, by due process, for all crimes.

  136. Note that Title IX requirements are “preponderance of evidence” (that’s intentional, not inadvertent) and the several legal concepts being thrown around (me too) derived from criminal law are important but not directly applicable.

    In partial reply to Loursat (6:33) where we seem to be mostly in agreement — my thinking/questioning about presumptions (or if “presumption” is objectionable, call it “believing the victim”) goes to the point that at BYU in particular, at BYU especially, there is every reason to believe the victim. It is a partial response to the OP question “Is rape an unavoidable element of Mormonism?” It is to say that we have within the culture some elements of hope that if developed fully would be beneficial in dealing with this awful problem.

  137. it's a series of tubes says:

    Christian, rape is a crime in every state. In the context of a prosecution for this crime, the concept of due process is directly applicable. In the Title IX context, as you note, the standard differs.

  138. Loursat says:

    christiankimball, I’m with you about believing the victim. One more thought on presumptions: the way you frame the argument is logical, but there is a fault in the premise. As you explained, BYU’s assumptions about how to deal with extramarital sex require that someone be punished. If we allow that assumption, then the idea that we should reverse the legal burden of proof makes sense as a way of treating victims better. But, in fact, if we reverse the legal presumption we are still spinning the same hamster wheel, but now in the opposite direction. The root problem is the assumption that someone must always be blamed. It is a harsh and compassionless assumption. I recognize that I’m asking for a deep change in the way that BYU thinks about these things, but I believe that it is possible to act with compassion without dumping the honor code. Let’s remember this: we dishonor ourselves when we fail to act in love.

  139. Not a Cougar says:

    IDIAT, in criminal trials, the Supreme Court has ruled that presumptions which are binding on the jury and presumptions that shift the burden of proof to the defendant violate the 14th Amendment requirement that the State prove every element of a criminal offense beyond a reasonable doubt, the instruction is unconstitutional. See Sandstrom v. Montana, 442 U.S. 510 (1979). If you want to shift the burden to the defendant to prove his or her innocence, you’re going to need to amend the Constitution or get the Supreme Court to radically reinterpret its case law on the issue. I don’t see either possibility as very likely, at least for the foreseeable future.

  140. Focusing on consent as a solution to this problem seems wholly inadequate to me, or maybe misses the mark all together. If BYU were a secular university, I would agree that persistent education on consent was the best approach. We live in a hyper-sexualized culture, where manhood means wanting sex all the time . . . no “real man” would pass up an opportunity to take it if he can get it. But this is not a level of ignorance young men at BYU can claim, because they HAVE been taught a gospel-centered definition of manhood, and they HAVE been taught sexuality is a loving expression in an eternally committed relationship.

    Unwanted sexual behavior in the church is really a far deeper problem than education about consent. Any man, married or single, sincerely striving to be like the Savior simply cannot justify himself in unwanted sexual contact. It requires extreme perversions of doctrine, much of which is beyond the control of anyone but the perpetrator. But there are some ways in which we commonly assist these men in perverting the doctrine.

    One biggie – women are responsible for men’s sexual behavior. Example: women must dress in anticipation of how men might respond to their dress. Modesty in dress is a true principle, and I live it and teach it to my daughters. But I have seen this taught in a fireside of young men & women mixed, with no accompanying discussion about men controlling their thoughts and actions (because, you know that might make the ym uncomfortable in front of the girls). Another example: if women try to look pretty enough, and give their husbands enough sex, their husbands will never look at porn &/or have an affair. General Authorities have made unequivocal statements rebuking this hurtful myth, but I have seen it presented in church meetings by people in leadership callings. These kinds of doctrinal perversions help perpetrators feel ok about their conduct because they can more easily tell themselves it was the woman’s fault.

  141. Keki, right on. Root causes need to sussed out.

  142. Keki: I argue for consent-based instruction for a number of reasons, but one is close to a direct response to your example. From a Mormon man’s point of view, it is hard to imagine any way to ramp up the teaching: Don’t have sex, don’t initiate sex, don’t (etc.) . . . except as a loving expression within marriage. I don’t think there are any more gains to be had in that direction. Nobody could miss the point. Instead, let’s pay attention to the perversions that occur, as you say. Again thinking from a man’s point of view (which is all I’ve got) it seems to me that the top-of-the-list perversion is “It’s her fault. She asked for it. She asked for it by the way she dressed, by the way she flirted, by the position she put herself in, late at night . . . out alone . . . whatever.” To counter that perversion in advance, in talking to men, the best way I can think of is to say it out loud and direct: “That is NOT ‘asking for it’ . . . That is NOT consent!” I’m finding it difficult to imagine a way to say that nicely or indirectly. I mean, get rid of the myth, stop implying that women are responsible for men’s thoughts and actions — Absolutely! But it’s already underway and in the end I believe that getting rid of the myth will have only marginal effect. I keep coming back to plain speech (the NOT in my lines above), and I need the fundamental idea of consent to make the point.
    (For what it’s worth, whether I make sense or not I am not making this up on the fly. I have spoken and written on the topic of consent elsewhere and for a long time, including the argument that a public commitment ceremony, i.e., marriage, is the best form of consent that we’ve got and that everything short of marriage has identifiable flaws in a consent-based ordering. (Not to say that there isn’t a need for day-by-day moment-by-moment consent–that can be withdrawn at any time–even within marriage.))

  143. Wow. This is a frustrating conversation. Let’s examine where it went off the rails, by making the comment that derailed it more explicitly clear:

    “I firmly believe that this particular problem [i.e. BYU’s systemic mishandling of rape cases] will never go away until students in general have a greater drive towards improving their personal morality. [BYU’s systemic mishandling of rape cases is] only a problem amongst those who break rules and live somewhat immoral principled lives.”

    Yes, rape is a problem.
    Yes, we should work to stop people from raping other people.
    Yes, following the BYU Honor Code by not raping people would reduce the instance of rape.
    Yes, women and men, including missionaries, who abstain entirely from dating and other romantic contact dramatically reduce their odds of being raped by someone with whom they are on a date or otherwise romantically involved.

    None of that is even remotely relevant to the issue that BYU systemically mishandles rape cases.

    Ya know, if you would just not be a victim of crime, you wouldn’t have to worry about whether the police solve crimes, would’ja?


  144. christiankimball,
    I have to disagree with your assertion that marriage implies consent unless consent is withdrawn. I am married. My husband absolutely, 100% does not have my de facto consent for sex. I shouldn’t have to explicitly withdraw consent. Like any healthy relationship, he has to seek consent each time. I’m not saying he has to get a signed contract or an affirmative yes each time, but we have built a close relationship and he knows when I’m saying yes and when I’m saying no. I also don’t think that I am entitled to sex with him at any time. If I want sex, I make my move and see how he responds. If one of us wants sex at 3 in the morning when the other is fast asleep, the other should not have to become fully conscious to withdraw consent. I don’t mean this to be nitpicky, but I think when we approach our marriages with a sense of entitlement regarding sex, it can cause serious problems (especially in marriages where the sex drives of the partners differ greatly).

  145. EBK, agreed – spousal rape is a real thing. Christian – care to clarify / amend your comment?

  146. I understood the last lines of Christian’s comment to mean he agrees that the need for consent applies in marriage as well.

    Sgnm, I surely get “off topic” in my comments if they are supposed to be confined to BYU procedure for handling rape. To me, nearly all the comments in the thread address underlying assumptions that drive how rape is handled, so they don’t seem irrelevant to me.

  147. Keki,
    I also read Christian’s comment as saying that consent is important in marriage. I just disagree that consent is the fallback position for marriage. I believe that consent is never the fallback position. It is possible that I’m misreading Christian and that he didn’t mean that marrying someone creates consent as the baseline. Either way I think there are probably people in the Mormon community who do believe that, so I thought it important to make my argument.

    Also, I’m with you in being guilty of getting off topic. I just keep coming back to the idea that no amount of policy change at BYU is going to make much of a difference if we can’t change people’s basic ideas about women, consent, and sex.

  148. EBK, I choose to give christiankimball the most generous interpretation possible, since he clearly seems like a good guy :) But I see your point that teaching unmarried people that marriage is the best form of consent easily leads to the misconception that once married, you’re entitled by default.

    It all comes down to being considerate and kind, for both parties, whether the one initiating sexual behavior or the one not initiating, and whether in marriage or not in marriage. Anyone who is sincerely trying to follow the Savior wouldn’t have the misconception that they are entitled to anyone else’s body. So, to christiankimball’s comment, I still feel the core problem will not be solved by teaching consent, not that I’d argue with anyone teaching it. I just think the core problem, in the context of church members, is rather a need to emphasize that the Savior’s teachings apply to our treatment of EVERYONE. Even a woman wearing a tube top, even a man who is gay, even a person passed out drunk, even a woman who made out with you then changed her mind at the last minute (which I don’t argue was mature or considerate of her), and even a woman who is your wife.

  149. Consent in marriage–I regret saying anything because it goes so far off topic. Having started, I guess I have to say more. It’s a complicated subject. Not because I think marriage implies ongoing consent for sex. I don’t. Not at all. It’s complicated because marriage is a long-term relationship with a presumption of commitment (not sex, but commitment) to stay together, to talk, to work together, to work things out. There should be lots of conversation, lots of communication, and it should be nearly continuous. Therefore, it’s very difficult for me to say from the outside how communication and agreement and disagreement and consent should work inside somebody else’s marriage. There are probably experts for that, or people who think they are experts. Not me. That there should be consent — yes. What it should look like, in somebody else’s marriage — not me.
    The reason I brought up marriage in the first place is to say that I can and do and have argued that any kind of consent short of a consent made within a public long-term commitment is deficient. I stand by that.

  150. I agree with that, Christian.

  151. christiankimball,
    I agree completely with your first paragraph. I don’t really agree with your last paragraph, but I can definitely respect it. Since I’ve already contributed to too many tangents, I’ll leave it at that. Thanks for the response.

  152. Here’s what’s really left unsaid. You are missing the forest for the trees. Our society is plagued with rampant immorality, selfishness, pride, obsession with sex. Children born to broken families. Abuse. Women believing abortion is a better alternative to motherhood. Fathers being abscent. Sexual gratification taking precedence over commitment and love. The plague of pornography also is a result of these societal diseases. I’m not saying these problems are new, as the battle is ages old.

    Surely, our completely screwed up picture of sex has an impact on date rape scenarios. I’d assume most of those date rapists used pornography, not that I’m suggestion all porn users rape or that porn caused the rape — but it’s a clear indicator of misguided obsession with sex in the assailant.

    And standing in front of all this is the church, and the principles the church teaches, which society desperately needs to be healed. We desperately need more voices and testimony in support of church teachings on proper sexual morality.

    And here we are battling, which church members battling against the church, completely misunderstanding the skirmish they are fighting is actually a bunch of friendly fire against your own side.

    What the world needs and the church needs is standing up for true godlike understanding of morality. I am not downplaying rape. But the broader issue surrounding morality will help solve a rape crisis more than uniting with the world which despises church morality in the name of fighting a byu policy.

    I truly wish the brilliant posters on this site would put their hearts and zeal toward promoting godly principles which support the church in the world rather than putting themselves against it in the name of achieving Zion through nitpicking policies.

    Put your intellect into railing against pornography and sex outside of marriage, or sexual objectification and you will help save souls (and reduce rape in the process as men and women come to view each other as children of God with divine potential and worthy of God’s own life as a sacrifice — not objects for their immediate gratification). The world has it so wrong and we need clear voices supporting the Lords servants teachings. It’s easy to dismiss this and move on, but please consider your priorities are misplaced. Yes, Mormon culture makes mountains out of molehills with sleeves and hemlines. But the real problem is the broken lives and families from completely turning away from sexual morality, despite all our failings as humans in setting up boundaries to maintain traditional standards.

  153. Comment of the year.

  154. So we just need more people to be Mormon? Because Mormon men are godly enough to know not to rape?

    Sorry, I just don’t buy it. There are too many women I know who have been raped by the bishop’s son, or the bishop himself. This is not a problem that goes away by not talking about it.

  155. EBK: On rereading I see that I did not respond to your reading of my comment. When I say “that can be withdrawn at any time” I am not suggesting a baseline of consent in marriage that has to be actively withdrawn. I don’t think that and didn’t intend to write it (although I can understand how my too quick comment can be read that way). Rather, I was talking about consent given and then withdrawn, consent to part not to all, and consent today not tomorrow. Fully consensual foreplay begins, and then someone says stop. That’s OK. That’s the way it works. That kind of “consent withdrawn at any time” should be understood as fundamental to a consent model. Inside marriage, outside message, anywhere. It’s actually an important principle to teach–you can stop any time, yes to a kiss does not mean yes to anything else, yes today does not imply yes tomorrow.

  156. “I am not downplaying rape.”

    And yet that is the explicit thesis of your entire comment, right?

    That people are mistaken to focus on a “skirmish” or “tree,” rather the “war” or “forest.” That they are overplaying rape, so you are here to downplay it as a corrective?

  157. Alpineglow says:

    Ardis’s point about teaching consent is spot on because it gets to our core doctrine of agency. In fact, we could probably ditch the term “consent” if we really wanted to and just talk about agency with regard to sexual relations. Everyone has the God-given agency to make choices about how they will use their sexuality. Some of those choices are Church-approved and others are not. But the very most important thing is to never try to deny someone else’s agency in these matters. Taking away someone’s agency is literally the most Satanic thing you can do, and to do so with something as important as sexual relations is especially horrible.

    An approach rooted in our understanding of agency would solve a lot of the problems in our culture. It would help men see women* as full sexual agents whose desires must be respected, even when annoying or inconvenient or just different from their own. It would help women see themselves as full sexual agents entitled to their own opinions and preferences; this would teach them they are entitled to say no and help them have the ability to recognize when they have been assaulted. It would contextualize rape in a larger gospel context and show Mormons how rape is primarily about power and not sex (and never about love, no matter what someone says). It would put things like manipulating dates to push boundaries into proper perspective. It would give us a way to talk about marital rape that would make sense to Mormons. And so many other things.

    I would love to see our religious sex education modified to begin with the idea of God-given agency over our bodies and sexuality. The doctrine is just sitting right there waiting for us to teach it. I wonder if the fact that we haven’t already jumped on it suggests that we are actually fairly ambivalent about the doctrine of agency itself (perhaps especially with regard to women?).

    *I’m using a stereotypical situation here, but I recognize that it’s stereotypical.

  158. I love your formulation, Alpineglow.

    Something about teaching members of the church of Jesus Christ, and men who hold his Priesthood, that they must have consent, and what constitutes consent seems very underplayed to me. What they have been taught thus far in the gospel has left that ambiguous? Now we need to teach about consent to resolve the confusion? That can’t be it. The gospel has to have already covered this, and people are willfully missing it. I like that your approach points us to a particular gospel principle where this is already covered. By applying a principle we have all already accepted as true to the context of sexual misconduct, I think we are more likely to arrive at a common understanding within the church.

  159. Kristen says:

    “I truly wish the brilliant posters on this site would put their hearts and zeal toward promoting godly principles which support the church in the world rather than putting themselves against it in the name of achieving Zion through nitpicking policies.”

    No one is arguing the need for godly principles. This post is confronting problems that we have right now. Not just in the world at large but at BYU, the church’s owned and operated university. Harmful things are happening there and these things need to be acknowledged, addressed and changed. The students at BYU, for the most part, have been brought up in the church and have been taught these “godly principles” their whole lives. And yet…there are still problems. Sometimes it is important to look at the institution or culture and see where and ask why it is failing. This is not putting ourselves against the church (as you say) this is strengthening it. We look to the pure gospel of Christ as our guide, and in doing so we need to look very carefully at where we are missing the mark and make the necessary changes.
    All is NOT well in zion.

  160. All this talk on teaching consent, as if LDS males aren’t taught about consent or don’t understand the concept. It’s as if some commenters think only LDS males don’t understand consent, but non-member males do? There isn’t a male alive who doesn’t understand what consent is, who doesn’t know the difference between a yes and a no. The real issue is: what makes them push forward despite a lack or indication of consent? And that issue is the same, whether it’s on the BYU campus or Harvard. AP/MP holders are consistently taught to respect females and children, which obviously would imply respecting a “no.” Certainly a drag in the bushes rapist doesn’t care about consent. The guy that slips drugs into a girl’s drink doesn’t care about consent. The guy who rapes a girl passed out drunk doesn’t care about consent. The guy participating in heavy petting turned into eventual forced sex doesn’t care about consent. The inebriated guy and girl making out who are both making poor decisions that lead to unwilling sex probably understand consent while sober, but throw that understanding aside because of alcohol’s effects. Talking about and teaching consent is fine. The notion of yes and no and personal boundaries is taught at church. It’s taught in the home. It’s taught from pre-school on up. Constant reminding is great. But it’s not going to suddenly stop sexual assault at BYU or anywhere else. For the most part, you’d be preaching to the choir. Show me a study or survey in which sexual assailants said: “I didn’t understand what consent meant. I wasn’t taught that concept. No one ever mentioned it to me.” I don’t think you’ll find that anywhere.

  161. IDIAT, it’s not that men and women don’t know what consent is, it’s that the paradigm for sexual relations has been “if they’re not saying no it means yes.” The consent paradigm empowers both partners to communicate their consent actively rather than forcing or allowing one or both partners to make assumptions. It prevents mistakes and fosters responsibility for both parties. I wish I had thought of it that way – or been taught to think about it that way – when I was younger. It would have changed some of the things I did when I was dating.

  162. Nothing assumed about your food allergy says:

    I would like to be taught what “heavy petting” is.

  163. Alpineglow says:

    “The notion of yes and no and personal boundaries is taught at church. It’s taught in the home. It’s taught from pre-school on up.”

    I respectfully really, really disagree that we teach boundaries in a meaningful way. Maybe the men get taught this, but I don’t see a truly serious discussion of personal boundaries and being able to say “no” among the women. In fact, the opposite is often the case. We say yes when we get a calling, regardless of our own preferences. We say yes when we are asked to help with an activity, regardless of our own preferences. We give what our families want and need, regardless of our preferences. Though I don’t believe this is doctrinal, there is a strong cultural expectation that women will sublimate all of their personal desires that conflict with what others want from them. And the more more we give up what we want and prefer, the more righteous we are. (See the song “A Window to His Love.”)

    I am deeply committed to the Church. But how can we be surprised that people, especially women, have trouble identifying their own personal boundaries and confidently saying NO based on their own personal preferences when we hammer in the idea that they are supposed to outsource their boundaries and preferences to their leaders or their family or the FTSOY pamphlet? I get that the idea is that they should quickly ascertain which requests from others are good to be obedient to and which are not. But it’s not always that clear immediately. What happens when it’s a guy who says he really likes you, and he starts pushing boundaries? Boundaries that, let’s be honest, are not as clear in real life as they are in the New Era. What happens when it’s your husband forcing you to have sex?

    I’m not trying to bash sincere efforts to align our will with God and be obedient and sacrifice. But we have to be careful how we do that or we create a culture in which women have no practice saying no, and meaning it, and not feeling bad about it when others get upset at them. We can do so much better. We must do so much better.

    If you don’t believe this happens, here are some quotations from the recent Tribune article about four women who were assaulted at USU by the same man. Look at how three of them described the situation.

    “Catherine immediately was put off by the male student’s forwardness when they met in January 2015 outside the Taggart Student Center on campus, she told The Tribune. But, she said, she eventually gave him her number. And when he said he was coming to pick her up, Catherine — who asked to be identified by a pseudonym — said she didn’t feel she could say no.”

    Mary: “They went back to his apartment after dinner and watched the Disney movie “Hercules.” They started kissing, to which she said she uncomfortably consented.”

    Anna: “The two had met on the dating app Tindr, she said, and she didn’t feel like she could stop him when he called days later at 2 a.m. to say he was coming over.”

  164. Alpineglow says:

    Let me modify my comment. It is a little stronger than I actually believe, upon reflection. We don’t *consistently* teach personal boundaries. There are conflicting messages, especially when we wrap in Mormon culture.

    Also, just as important as women gaining practice unashamedly setting their own boundaries is men getting practice respecting women’s decisions. How often do we give men the practice deferring to women’s wishes and preferences and decisions? How often do we show that institutionally? We tell them in YM that they have to respect the sexual boundaries of the women they meet, but how much exposure do they have to men deferring to women in other contexts? I have very mixed feelings about the movement to ordain women, but it’s hard to deny that when men don’t see women in authority (or *ever* have women in authority over them) it might diminish the authority of women’s voices in everyday interactions.

  165. Alpineglow is spot on. And those college women will now feel immensely guilty and unworthy because they assumed the best in someone they were likely justified in trusting, didn’t want to hurt his feelings, and then it became too late to stop him.

    “And I will not suffer, saith the Lord of Hosts, that the cries of the fair daughters of this people . . . shall come up unto me against the men of my people . . .
    For they shall not lead away captive the daughters of my people because of their tenderness, save I shall visit them with a sore curse, even unto destruction.” Jacob 2:32-33.

    I agree that women are most often taught NOT to have boundaries, and I agree that this is not based on doctrine. I also think there are a considerable number of men in the church who take advantage of this fact in all kinds of selfish ways. I think that’s exactly what leading women away captive because of their tenderness refers to.

  166. Little side note: One doctrinal resource that clears up common misunderstandings regarding boundaries is the support guide for spouses and families of addicts. I consider it another comforting reminder that church culture is not church doctrine, and that safety is found in relying directly on the Lord, not on blindly following the herd.

  167. lehcarjt says:

    I ended up a sexually active teeager because at the time I 100% believed I had no right to say no to a boy/man. Or when I did say no, my no wasn’t important compared to his yes. I saw myself as not having any personal power.

    Looking back, I feel deeply sorry for the girl I was. Especially because I carried a huge weight of guilt for that relationship. And yet as an adult I can clearly see that the girl was backed into a corner she had no way out of.

  168. Alpineglow says:

    Lehcarjt: I’m so sorry for your pain, and I hope you are able feel more peace (and autonomy) now. Your experience resonates deeply. I think this happens much, much more than we might like to admit.

    Keki: I had not thought of that passage from Jacob 2 that way before, but it is such a good insight. And it is beautiful to see that “leading women away captive because of their tenderness” places the blame where it belongs–on the perpetrator, the pusher of boundaries, the manipulator. Thank you so much for sharing that.

  169. Quick clarification- I used the word safety to convey that it can feel scary to reject prevalent misconceptions, and that it’s comforting when we receive confirmation of our instincts in doctrinal materials. I was not suggesting that women who have been harmed for acting the way they were taught to act were blindly following the herd.

  170. The Other Clark says:

    AlpineGlow 4:54 says “Maybe the men get taught this, but I don’t see a truly serious discussion of personal boundaries and being able to say “no” among the women. In fact, the opposite is often the case.”

    I don’t think men are taught appropriate boundaries either. We’re encourage as much as the women to say yes to whatever the church wants (callings, Prop 8 campaign, Friends of Scouting…) regardless of our personal feelings. It’s the oath and covenant of the priesthood; give it all up.

    And as for husbands pushing for sex, I would surmise that in the vast majority of Mormon households–like most households in the U.S.–it’s the women determining the frequency and boundaries. (I’ll add a link in a subsequent comment).

  171. The $64,000 Answer says:

    ” I have very mixed feelings about the movement to ordain women, but it’s hard to deny that when men don’t see women in authority (or *ever* have women in authority over them) it might diminish the authority of women’s voices in everyday interactions.”

    I agree with this. Big problem in Catholicism too.

    That said, the manifest failure of Catholic women’s congregations to speak or act in defense of victims — as well as the poor record in respect of sexual violence of denominations like Anglicanism in which women do occupy prominent ecclesiastical positions — leads me to believe that women’s ordination is not the answer to this problem.

  172. Kristine says:

    $64,000–I’m not sure a given church’s institutional record is the right metric for whether women’s ordination makes a difference. The effect would be much more subtle–men who are accustomed to viewing women as full human beings, with a right to authority, might be less likely to objectify women and, at the extreme edge of that objectification, rape them. I doubt there’s a good way to measure this effect, but it seems plausible to me that seeing women as powerful would be salutary for boys’ development.

  173. A different anon for this says:

    I also think Alpineglow nailed it.

    D&C 132 reinforces the idea that women’s consent doesn’t matter. Verses 64-65 talk about the ‘law of Sarah’, which sets up the husband (Joseph) to pretty much do whatever he wants.

    See also the Reed Smoot hearings.

    Prophet Joseph F Smith: “The condition is that if she does not consent the Lord will destroy her, but I do not know how he will do it.”

    Question: “Is it not true that … if she refuses her consent her husband is exempt from the law which requires her consent.”

    President Smith: “Yes; he is exempt from the law which requires her consent. She is commanded to consent, but if she does not, then he is exempt from the requirement.”

    Question: “Then he is at liberty to proceed without her consent, under the law. In other words, her consent amounts to nothing?”

    President Smith: “It amounts to nothing but her consent.”

    This submissive mindset still very much prevails in female members today. Look at the language in the hearken (formerly ‘obey’) covenant in the temple that women are required to make. The structure of the liturgy sets up the husband as the lord of the wife, and it would be unthinkable to say no to the lord.

  174. The Other Clark says:

    Kristine, most boys–especially in the early developmental stages when character and values are molded–see their mothers as powerful. Similarly, the vast majority of the authority figures in school are also female. I think rapists have zero respect for authority. It’s about power and domination, and using force to take what you want. Doesn’t seem plausible to me.

  175. The $64,000 Answer says:

    I daresay it’s possible, K. Personally I have my doubts. For one thing, to revert to one of Mr Evans’ original points, the continued prevalence of male-on-male rape suggests that a formally egaitarian world is not necessarily one from which sexual violence is absent.

    My own view is that what will make the greatest difference is the knowledge by potential perps that wrongdoing on their part has an extremely high probability of resulting in swift punishment. The penalties involved don’t necessarily have to be exemplary to have a salutary effect. Even though we face nothing more severe than a fine of a hundred bucks, none of us drives in excess the speed limit on the interstate when we can see a police cruiser filling our rear-view mirror.

  176. Changing the minds of a few boys or men who might become rapists would be great, but it’s the least likely thing to happen if we succeed in making the kinds of changes being discussed here to more fully empower women and girls. Other effects that are more likely include:

    –Helping girls and women feel more confident in their autonomy and their ability to decide what they will do in all aspects of their lives, including their dating relationships.

    –Creating social norms in which women’s voices are more prominent in positions of leadership; normalizing women’s perspectives alongside men’s perspectives in discussions relating to sexual assault.

    –Normalizing attitudes that require police, prosecutors, judges, and juries (and college administrators) to take women’s voices seriously and recognize sexual assault as a crime with devastating consequences. (The current SL Tribune article about an alleged rapist at USU is a good study of police, prosecutors, and university officials who are not terrible at their jobs but probably just lackadaisical about the gravity of rape.)

    A world with changes like these probably would not change the hearts of predatory rapists, but in that world it would be a lot harder for rapists to operate freely. That is to say, changes like these are what is required to improve the cop-in-the-rearview-mirror effect. The many other benefits of empowering women that go far beyond the context of rape are, I hope, self-evident.

  177. As far as I know, the only rapists who feel that they can get away with it are the football players.

  178. OK folks,here’s my .02. I was maritally raped by my temple recommend righteous priesthood holder husband three times back in 1976-77. I had no idea at the time what had happened. Rape being the forcible act of intercourse against the will of another. That is what happened while we were at BYU. He held me down on the bed, tore off my clothes and raped me. Fast forward 29 years, with more marital rapes along the way. I was not immodest or in the wrong place at the wrong time. I did not break the Honor Code. My now X RAPED ME! I deeply believe than Mormon men get a pass with D & C 132, the temple sealing ceremony where women are GIVEN to men and not vice-versa, and the subsequent devaluing of women, who have NO institutional power in the church. If anyone wants to argue that perhaps I was a sexual prude, forget it. I liked sex as much as he did. However, it did not prevent him from insisting on sex when I was ill or tired or just not in the mood because of his verbal and emotional abuse. Plus we had four kids under four, then two more and the oldest of the six was only 7.5 years old. I was damn tired most of the time! We ended up with nine children. He RAPED ME over 29 years of temple marriage. When I finally had a p-hood leader believe me ( I had several who told me to go home and be a good wife, my husband had needs) X got a slap on the wrist. Long DC was held and he was extended mercy – for RAPING me over 29 years. Where was the mercy from these 15 men towards me??? We later divorced and I recently left the church. I was the victim, he was the rapist, end of story. Next story – one of my daughters was raped at BYU. She was the only one home in her BYU approved apt. in 1997. Knock on the door, she answered. This stranger who was selling something, quickly sized up the situation, locked the door, raped her on the living room floor and left. My sweet innocent barely 18 y/o daughter cleaned herself up, told no one and felt so horrible she later “confessed” to her bishop. Who told her it was her fault, etc etc etc. She told me YEARS later! SO…for all of you self-righteous people who believe rape happens to those who must have done something they shouldn’t have, think again. RAPISTS cause RAPE – period, end of discussion. Educate the MEN in your life, young and old, so THEY KNOW WITHOUT A DOUBT what rape is and that is it ALWAYS WRONG.

  179. How often is Sec. 132 studied in Young Men’s groups, in youth Sunday School, in seminary, in preparing-for-mission classes at the BYUs or Institutes? Is there a serious uptick in studying Sec.132 in elders’ quorums? I don’t mean lessons on eternal marriage where the usual selected verses are quoted, but a real study of Sec. 132 so that the verses on plural marriage are the focus? If polygamy is not discussed and not taught to young men any more than it is to young women, then what’s your secret for getting young men to study the scriptures on their own so that they somehow discover and internalize those verses? And how do you get so many battalions of young men to read and internalize these principles that those words color their world view and dominate their view of women? Ditto for studying the raw materials of Church history.

    Because, different anon, either you’re blowing smoke, or else you’re hiding a very important technique that we could use to get young men to study other scriptures and internalize other principles, like, say, the Golden Rule, or Alma’s charge to new members, or other key behavioral lessons.

  180. Kristen says:

    Believe me the YM in the church know about D&C 132, Because the church stopped practicing polygamy but never fully renounced it and never removed D&C 132 from the canon, it is understood that the doctrine stands and that it is merely on hold until it is reinstated or until the afterlife.
    Let me give you a few examples from personal experience:
    On my mission, the MP set aside an entire day to study the D&C. The elders in my district talked about sec.132 at length and assured my companion and I (only sisters in the district) that polygamy is an eternal principle and would be either practiced at a future date or practiced in the afterlife.
    Fast forward to a couple of years ago during Thanksgiving break. We were visiting a group of friends from our old ward. All the adults were visiting in the living room and all the tweens and teens were in the family room. After we left, I asked my daughter and son if they had a good time hanging out with the other kids. They told me that one of the boys had went online to the church essay on Joseph Smith’s polygamy and read it to the group. He then told them that he was pretty sure that meant that all the guys would have more than one wife someday.
    And then, last summer my 14 year old daughter attended EFY and was made to feel extremely uncomfortable when the boys in her group were talking one day about polygamy and how great it will be to have many wives in the next life.
    These are true stores.
    So, you tell me…If polygamy and D&C 132 are never talked about with the YM in the church,then how are they getting these ideas??

  181. I don’t know, Kristen. It’s bizarre — I can think of no other word — to read assertions that oh, yeah, every young person is so thoroughly conversant with historic polygamy and expectations for the next life that Sec. 132 is being used by LDS boys to justify rape and LDS women have no power to refuse the grossest abuse of their bodies because Sec. 132, while only a year or so ago there was an uproar about how ignorant everybody is/was about polygamy — nobody seemed to know a thing, because the Church was lying to us and hiding it from us and refusing to teach us about it and it came as such a surprise to everyone and the sky is falling..

    You’ll have to forgive me for my puzzlement over how both conditions are simultaneously true.

  182. Kristen says:

    “while only a year or so ago there was an uproar about how ignorant everybody is/was about polygamy — nobody seemed to know a thing, because the Church was lying to us and hiding it from us and refusing to teach us about it…”

    Mormons have always known about polygamy in the church. Some just didn’t (and maybe still don’t) know all of the particulars. When church history is really studied (beyond the correlated materials), there’s some pretty disturbing details.
    However, Brigham Young’s polygamy was common knowledge as he lived it openly. This was also true with subsequent church leaders. A lot of Mormons have polygamous ancestors etc. When the church released the essays on polygamy, a couple of years ago, there was information and details about Joseph Smith’s polygamy and polyandry that shocked some people, but the fact that the church had practiced polygamy in it’s past was not something people were ignorant about.

    You should read Carol Lynn Pearson’s new book: The Ghost of Eternal Polygamy: Haunting the Hearts and Heaven of Mormon Women and Men

  183. demosgen says:

    Ardis, both conditions are simultaneously true only if you take out the words “every” and “everybody” from your statements. Some members are/were ignorant of many of the disturbing details discussed in the Church’s essay on polygamy, while others were already familiar with those particulars. Some people have not given much thought to D & C 132. But others have. We are not all equally well-informed about scriptures or Church history.

  184. I’m not in any frame of mind to field arguments right now, but I wanted to say this much:

    There are other ways to interpret scripture regarding polygamy, the law of Sarah, and the role and worth of women. Just because some people interpret it one way, and some people interpret it another, doesn’t mean that either are correct.

    I’ve long had a hard time with this part of doctrine. I have spent hours in study, prayer, and pleading for understanding. I still have moments of struggle. But the Lord has slowly taught me the truths of those doctrines.

    I was maritally raped, though mine wasn’t as traumatic as it could have been. I am a survivor of domestic violence. It was my testimony and understanding of patriarchy and what it truly is in God’s eyes that gave me the strength to get out.

    I know that some people will probably never understand polygamy. I may be one of them. But I have seen enough that I trust God. There are people who submit themselves to this law and are richly blessed for it, whether it not they are called to live it. That is between them and God. It is no one else’s business.

    As a divorcee, feeling forever filthy and iredeemably unworthy of exaltation because of one foolish decision, the law of polygamy has taken on even more relevance and meaning.

    Ultimately, we each answer only to Him for our submission and for choosing what we are willing to give. If it were asked of me by God, I would give it because I trust Him, no matter which side of the submission I was asked to give.

    No amount of misunderstanding, derision, or ridicule by others can change that. I, for one, am grateful for D&C 132 and what it has taught me about God.

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