Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Sexual assault victim punished by Brigham Young University under Honor Code

Brigham Young University (BYU), affiliated with the Church of the Latter Day Saints or Mormons, is the largest religious university in the United States. Its main campus is in Provo, Utah.
 

All students who attend whatever their religion must adhere to an "Honor Code" that includes "living a chaste and virtuous life," using "clean language" and not drinking alcohol or even coffee. Of course, premarital sex is not permissible. Some students at the university complain that the "honor code" is being used by administrators against sexual assault victims. The code may also serve to keep victims from reporting sexual attacks.
Madi Barney, 20, told the Huffington Post that she filed a Title IX complaint against BYU with the Department of Education. The complaint alleges that the university put her on academic hold after they learned she had reported an off-campus rape to local police last September.
Title IX is a portion of the United States Education Amendments of 1972. In 2002 it was renamed the Patsy Mink Equal Opportunity in Education Act after the now-deceased co-author and sponsor of the act. It says in part:No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.In April 2011, a letter was issued by the Department of Educations Office for Civil Rights that said in part: "The sexual harassment of students, including sexual violence, interferes with students' right to receive an education free from discrimination and, in the case of sexual violence, is a crime."
Her accused rapist, Nasir Seidu, 39, has been charged with undressing Barney and engaging in sexual intercourse without her consent. However Seidu told police that the sex was consensual.
According to Utah County authorities, Seidu was at an apartment with Burney back in September of 2015. Documents indicate Seidu and Barney began to "engage in consensual sexual relations" when the victim became uncomfortable and said she wanted to stop. It was then that Seidu allegedly undressed and raped her. The assault was off-campus and Seidu is not a student at BYU.
Barney did not report the incident to the BYU. However, without Barney's knowledge or permission, Utah County Deputy Sherrif Edwin Randoph, a former women's track coach at the school passed the police file on to BYU. The school than began an Honor Code investigation against Barney. A BYU Title IX coordinator wrote to Barney: “We have received information that you have been a victim of behavior that is addressed in the university Sexual Misconduct Policy. We have also received information that you have engaged in behavior that violates the BYU Honor Code.”Barney's lawyer advised her not to partake in the Honor Code investigation as it could impact her criminal case. When she followed his advice the school responded by blocking her from both registering and withdrawing from classes.
Barney wrote on a petition that has more than 87,000 signatures: “Dealing with this hostile environment has been upsetting, re-victimizing, and discouraging, to say the least. It’s clear to me that BYU is not on my side.” The petition called on the BYU to give immunity to sexual assault victims. This would allow victims to report their experiences without worrying that they will face a separate investigation into their own behavior. She claimed that her own experiences were not unique that other women have been put on probation or even expelled "for circumstances of their rapes and sexual assaults."
BYU President Kevin Worthen agreed that there was an "inherent tension" between Title IX and the Honor Code provisions but said: “A victim of a sexual assault will never be referred to the Honor Code Office for being a victim of sexual assault. Sometimes in the course of an investigation, facts come to light that a victim has engaged in prior Honor Code violations.” Barney has claimed that the school has not informed her of which rule of the code she broke. Carri Jenkins, spokesperson for BYU told NBC: “I can assure you that we would never put a hold on a student’s registration because she reported her rape to the police.”
Although Seidu was arrested and charged with rape, he is also being charged with retaliation. Officers said Seidu's friends gave the police report to BYU.