Elizabeth Smart and Crime Watch Daily join BYU sexual assault coverage

Activist Elizabeth Smart speaking at BYU March 5, 2014 to kick off the Women's Services Office campaign, Voices of Courage. Smart will speak again to students Dec. 9 at Utah Valley University. (Photo courtesy Women's Services and Resources Office.)
Activist Elizabeth Smart speaking at BYU March 5, 2014 to kick off the Women’s Services Office campaign, Voices of Courage. Smart joined with Crime Watch Daily to discuss the Honor Code and sexual assault victims. (Women’s Services and Resources)

The issue of sexual assault at BYU continues to gain national attention as the university studies the Honor Code’s potential conflict with Title IX protection.

Daytime TV show “Crime Watch Daily” joined forces with kidnapping survivor and sexual violence prevention advocate Elizabeth Smart to share the stories of two BYU alumnae who have reported being raped during their time at BYU.

Smart interviewed Colleen Dietz and Hailey Allen, who said their experiences with university and church officials after their assaults were humiliating and made them reluctant to speak to others about their experiences.

“I went to the BYU Honor Code Office. I went to them knowing that it was wrong, and I went to them hoping that they would understand,” Allen said in the broadcast.

Instead of receiving the help and protection she hoped for, though, she faced anxiety about potential expulsion. Dietz had the same experience after initially going to her bishop for help.

Rick Bowmer
Brent Webb, Brigham Young University Academic Vice President, speaks with protesters who stand in solidarity with rape victims on the campus of Brigham Young University during a sexual assault awareness demonstration Wednesday, April 20, 2016, in Provo, Utah. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

“He made it clear to me that if I were to become pregnant (as a result of the rape) that I would have to leave BYU,” Dietz said. “The bishop’s handling of the situation was more damaging than the rape itself. I went to him for comfort and was devastated.”

Smart, who was kidnapped at age 14 and held for nine months by Brian David Mitchell and Wanda Barzee, said that hearing Dietz’s and Allen’s stories brought to mind what she herself went through.

“I have been physically chained up, and I have been ‘manipulatedly’ chained up,” Smart said in the Crime Watch Daily episode. “That power, that manipulation, is so much stronger than any chain anyone could put on me.”

BYU has formed an advisory council to review the process through which sexual assault reports are investigated and handled by its Title IX and Honor Code offices. The university has also asked for comments and input on the issue from students, alumni and community members through feedback2016.byu.edu.

Dietz says she left detailed suggestions to the university through the website, encouraging the school to better educate its students on sexual assault, provide immediate support to those who report assault and to never investigate victims.

“If violations of the Honor Code are discovered on the part of the victim during the course of a Title IX investigation, these violations should never be passed to the Honor Code office. These two entities must be 100 percent independent,” Dietz said.

BYU commented to Crime Watch Daily, saying, “Our goal in every situation is to give students the support that they need.”

University spokeswoman Carri Jenkins further commented Wednesday, saying, “Victims of sexual assault are never disciplined for being a victim of sexual assault.”

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