Readers’ Forum May 24


Why BYU sexual assault victims don’t report

I’m writing to explain why, when sexual violence occurs, students often choose to stay silent. In an effort to assist the Honor Code Office with possible reforms, I will share the kinds of perceptions that shape victim’s thinking.

Students view the Honor Code Office as an agency beholden to unknown standards and procedures. Little confidence exists that the office will handle investigations and judge in the meticulous, impartial manner expected of trusted government institutions. Moreover, victims believe that when they report violence, they also assume a burden of proof to defend their own innocence.

Mere association with an Honor Code investigation brings stigma, or at least the perception of it. One can debate the degree to which stigma actually harms victims. What matters is that victims fear stigma and they don’t trust the office to keep matters confidential. Students believe they will face a stigma if they report, so they consider the cost of stigma as if it were real.

Finally, reporting comes at enormous perceived costs to students in terms of time commitments and stress. Wrongly or rightly, students believe that entering an investigation will involve extensive paperwork, various interviews, councils, and complicated procedures. Once set in motion, investigations could last for months or even years. Victims want to go forward with their lives. They think Honor Code investigations will get in the way.

Victims want justice to take its course. However, reporting entails perceived high risks/costs. Mitigating these risks/costs must be at the center of BYU’s efforts towards reform.

— Spencer Whitworth

Thousand Oaks, California

Confusion about our accountability

I’ve seen and heard confusion among fellow students, such as:

  1. Not bothering to shave; not seeing wearing a beard as a big deal—“I think it’s a stupid rule” or “just laziness.”
  2. Wearing form-fitting attire—“but my butt is covered, and it’s long enough.”

The standards do not say that clothing is inappropriate if “two or more of the following” apply… It is inappropriate if it meets ANY immodest condition. Form-fitting clothing is inappropriate. It need not break multiple standards to be inappropriate. I heard one woman try to justify wearing skin-tight leggings because others wear skin-tight jeans. Both violate our oath.

President Hinckley taught: “Our great mission is to testify of [Jesus Christ]. We should not be involved with anything not in harmony with this major objective. We should be involved with whatever is in harmony with this objective.”

The decision not to shave sends a strong message contrary to our exalted purpose. Elder Larry R. Lawrence recently reminded us that our demeanor and our smiles particularly can be one of our most powerful testimonies of the Savior. What are we saying about Him if our principal message board is cluttered with evidence of dishonesty?

Let us follow the Savior with real intent by refusing to wear questionable apparel and keeping our appearance neat and free from signs of negligence.

Doing so will increase our intelligence, fortify our character, and grant us exceptional spiritual strength.

This is not a question of fashion. It is a question of integrity.

—  Seth Stewart

Evergreen, Colorado

“Do it for the Snap!”

I have heard that phrase more than once in my time here at BYU, and I’m willing to bet you have too. It seems like Snapchat is an addiction among students here, and getting on the BYU Snapchat Story is an ultimate, coveted prize.

Parties I’m at often get interrupted when someone calls out for something to be put on the Snap Story. Five minutes later, the person with the phone in their hands is the director of a movie scene, telling extras where to go in the production. Relaxation time also gets halted when a friend thinks of an idea and goes out of their way to make it happen — only in hopes of it getting on the Snap Story.

This obsession all over campus needs to lessen. Everyone always has a phone in their hand, waiting for the next perfect moment to be caught on film. Waiting for the next candid moment to be shared with the world. Waiting for the Campus Story to update. Waiting while the world passes them by.

I did not have a Snapchat before I came to BYU, and that became a legitimate inhibiting factor in my social life. Roommates and other friends were constantly on it having fun and communicating through it — I was left out. It has been fun, but after having a Snapchat for a few months, I realize that now I’m still missing out, just on the real world this time.

—  Sara Anderson

Mesquite, Nevada

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