BYU professor encourages survivors to speak up about rape


Dr. Niwako Yamawaki, a professor at BYU, wants people to speak up about rape.

In Utah one in three women over the age of 18 has been the victim of sexual violence. One in eight Utah women have been raped. Yamawaki wants student to know Utah is not immune to sexual violence and has a higher rate of these assaults than in cities like New York. Utah has a higher sexual violence rate than does the rest of the country. In fact, about one in four women nationally have been victims of sexual violence.

According to Yamawaki, only thirty of these victims have reported the sexual assault. Victims are often afraid of possible retaliation from their attackers or feel that no one will believe them. Some victims even feel guilty and ashamed that they were raped.

One survivor told her story. “It was my brother. He assaulted me from when I was in diapers until I was baptized. When I told my parents about it, they said, ‘Well, he was our son first.’ I haven’t talked to them since. When I’ve told bishops about what has happened to me many didn’t believe me or told me it was my fault.”

“Many times bishops do not believe rape victims who confide that they had been attacked. People think that somebody wants to get attention so they are lying about being attacked and giving a false report,” said Yamawaki. “According to FBI statistics, only five to eight percent of rape accusations were false reports. Those few who give a false report ruin it for the 95 percent who are telling the truth. It’s important to believe those who report being the victim of an attack in a nonjudgmental way.”

One survivor explained the most important things you can say to a friend who confides in you about being the victim of a sexual assault or rape are, “I believe you,” and, “It’s okay to cry.”

“It’s important to give love and support in general. Overtime you will build trust with them and they will come to you. You have to let them come to you, and it has to be on their terms,” another said.

“Rape happens even at BYU; it just gets reported a lot less often. Only about one to two rapes are reported annually at BYU,” said Yamawaki.

Dr. Yamawaki feels that the reason these rapes go unreported is because the Utah culture teaches women that their bodies are sacred temples that are not to be defiled. When women are sexually assaulted they often feel defiled, unclean and guilty. This shame keeps them from reporting their sexual assault.

Because of the silence surrounding rape the perpetrators are often unpunished. “Only five percent of the time the man who committed the rape ends up in prison,” said Yamawaki.

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