Sexual assault case raises questions about student safety

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    By Leah Elison

    Former BYU student Joshua Matthew Meyer was sentenced Jan. 8, 2003 to five years to life in prison after convicted of the sexual assault of another former BYU student.

    Meyer, 25, from Denver, was convicted in October 2002 of forcible sodomy and of the sexual assault of a freshman woman living in the Helaman Halls” dormitories.

    His crime raises many questions about the safety of students.

    “At BYU, they think they are safe all the time, and they don”t look at some of the dangers,” said Lt. Aaron Rhoades of University Police.

    Colleges nationwide reported 1,900 cases of forcible sexual assault in 2001, according to findings by U.S. News and World Report.

    At BYU, the sexual assault rate is relatively low.

    In 2000, only five sexual assaults occurred at BYU, and none occurred during 2001.

    According to Channel 5 KSL News, the University of Utah reported seven cases of sexual assault in 2000 and seven cases in 2001.

    However, low rates do not mean that BYU students are not at risk.

    “I think people buy into myths that surround rape itself,” said Pat Mills, rape crisis program coordinator at the Rape Crisis Center in Provo. “That it only happens to a certain type of person who is dressed a certain type of way, instead of the reality about what rape is.”

    A common myth is that most rapists are strangers to their victims.

    Approximately 85 percent of rapists attack an acquaintance.

    “It was someone they knew, a classmate or someone they worked with,” Mills said. “They knew them.”

    Meyers met his victim in a dance class while both attended BYU. He assaulted her at his apartment after the two went on a date.

    The majority of rape victims are women ages 18 to 24.

    Mills said risk increases for women of these ages because they tend to do more dating than people in other age groups.

    “One night, they are out on a date, trusting who they are with, maybe thinking he might be the one and that person takes control and rapes them,” she said.

    The Rape Crisis Center helped 370 victims from Utah County during the past year.

    BYU University Police has started several programs to prevent students from becoming victims.

    BYU students can register for a rape aggression defense class specifically created to help students avoid sexual assault by learning self-defense maneuvers.

    Faculty, staff and students can also call at night and request an escort from University Police to walk them between campus locations.

    “We don”t know what motivates them to give us a call, but we are glad to help,” Rhoades said.

    The best way to avoid being assaulted is to be aware of the danger, Mills said.

    “In actuality, rapists look for means and opportunity.” she said. “Be aware of the problem, that it is real. Realize that it can happen to anyone at anytime.”

    Mills said if someone is victimized, they can suffer from post-traumatic stress syndrome, for which professional help is essential to recovery.

    “The victim is never at fault,” she said. “A victim never gets dressed and thinks, gee, I hope I get raped tonight. The victim never makes the choice.”

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