“I see a lot of other women saying things like, “I thought I was the only one” in all the news reports I’m watching. And that’s exactly how I have felt for so long. Nobody talks about this kind of stuff. I’ve been at BYU for three years now staying silent about what happened to me. I’m thinking about breaking my silence now that others are being so brave. But it’s still scary.”
I hope you will be able to find a safe way to tell your story and get the help you need and deserve.
It is incredibly powerful to see so many Mormon women standing in solidarity against the egregious practice Brigham Young University has been involved with: that of interweaving sexual assault reports with Honor Code investigations (regardless if honor code violations have occurred). Victims are then further traumatized by educational and ecclesiastical punishments (or the threat thereof), at a time in their lives when all that should be afforded is support, counseling, and a variety of financial, legal, and spiritual resources. The fact that it remains an appropriate punishment to kick university students out in the middle of their educational studies for consensual sexual conduct is already extremely troubling. But to be doing so when assault and trauma is involved, takes the issue to an entirely different level of damage (are we surprised that many violent acts would then go unreported?).
Many of our women are coming forward and sharing their full identities as they tell their stories. This is an incredibly courageous step when, historically, women who go public with acts of sexual violence are met with shame, ridicule and bullying. I hope that as a community of saints, we reach out to these dear sisters (and at times brothers) of ours in a myriad of ways (including the comments we leave on media channels that many victims are reading at this particular time). Hopefully as the dialogue is opened and support is felt, we can all play a role in helping shift the low-reporting numbers we find at BYU for sexual violence.
I continue to call on our church which claims revelatory power, to not persistently find itself in backwards positions when it comes to such pivotal issues that deal with social justice, welfare and the overall wellbeing of its members. Although it is promising that BYU has said it will investigate its practices, it is not enough to “study potential structural changes” only as a result of the international backlash BYU is currently receiving or concerns around complying with Title IX. “Studying” can often take time – and time is not a luxury we have here. Change needs to happen quickly with an immunity clause being put into place immediately. There is plenty of psychological, sociological, criminological, and trauma-informed research, data and information that is readily available to the leaders of our church when it comes to sexual safety, sexual education, sexual consent, and sexual responsibility. As a proud alumna of BYU myself, there is no excuse that this is the position we currently find ourselves in 2016.