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Dear BYU: Rape is Not Pre-Marital Sex

May 05, 2016 — Categories: ,

Madi Barney, a student at Brigham Young University in Salt Lake City, Utah, reported being raped off campus to the Provo, Utah, police. She did not report it to the university and did not want them to know. But a police officer shared the report with the university and they have gone after her for violating the “Honor Code” of the university. The Code prohibits students from inviting members of the opposite sex into their rooms, mandates chastity and modest dress and no drugs or alcohol. Barney has been told that she cannot register for future classes at the school.

Madi Barney, a student at Brigham Young University in Salt Lake City, Utah, reported being raped off campus to the Provo, Utah police. She did not report it to the university and did not want them to know.

But a police officer shared the report with the university and they have gone after her for violating the “Honor Code” of the university. The Code prohibits students from inviting members of the opposite sex into their rooms, mandates chastity and modest dress and no drugs or alcohol.  Barney has been told that she cannot register for future classes at the school.

At BYU, the “Honor Code” is a big deal.  According to sociologist Ryan Cragun, “If it’s tied to the honor code, not only is it tied to academic failure, but you’re a sinner. This could cause ramifications for your eternal salvation.” So it’s not just about your education, it’s about your faith as a Mormon.

It is long past time that this ethical confusion about the nature of sexual assault gets cleared up. This particular form of victim-blaming attempts to use moral turpitude on the part of the victim and ignore her/his victimization.  We see this confusion in Deuteronomy 22 where the text struggles to comprehend the moral wrong of rape. We see it even now in the response of the US military to some of the cases of military sexual assault where rape victims have been courtmartialed for “adultery.” The US Catholic Bishops had the same problem in 2002 when they tried to figure out why it was wrong to sexually abuse children and they came up with the “You shall not commit adultery” commandment. Here we are seeing it again in BYU’s response to Ms. Barney where it is more concerned with her alleged “immoral” conduct than her victimization.

What never ceases to amaze me is that in all  of this, there is never any discussion of the immoral conduct of the rapist who assaults and harms another person.

The moral wrong of rape is that it is an assault on another person’s being that causes harm to that person, denying their freedom and agency. In theological language, rape is a sin, perpetrated by the rapist against a victim. This has nothing to do with chastity or premarital sex on the part of the victim.

The upside about this current situation at BYU is that other survivors have come forward; Barney has filed a Title IX complaint against BYU with the Dept. of Education. There is an online petition urging BYU to “grant rape survivors immunity from honor code violations” related to sexual assaults.  [Maybe they should also request that the “honor code” include “do not rape”.]

The Salt Lake Tribune got it right in its editorial: BYU “has prospered as a univeristy committed to strict standards of morality, and the honor code is the manifestation of that... But when a woman has suffered one of the most violent and brutal crimes imaginable, her life is already turned upside down. It is simply not defensible to make her fear the end of her college career if she speaks up so another woman won’t suffer the same fate.”

This is not over and that's a good thing.

P.S.— Just to prove how pernicious this confusion is, I refer you to my book "Sexual Violence: The Sin Revisited" which I wrote in 1983 (and revised in 2005). I'm sad to say that the discussion is still relevant to our current situation.

 

Rev. Dr. Marie M. Fortune
www.FaithTrustInstitute.org
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Twisted Thinking

Posted by Dee Miller at May 05, 2016 06:43 PM
Thanks for covering this, Marie. You are right, it's not over. We can't let it be.

The greatest violation of all comes out of such convoluted thinking in theologically conservative circles. When we twist issues around one another, the abuse piece always gets lost.

What a group considers sexual perversion gets to be the problem, with the focus so often on what the female "did wrong."

Related to this is another confusion that's common with Mormons and other conservative groups. People who see homosexuality as a "sin to be forgiven if a person will only repent" often twist that idea around a swizzle stick that excuses the sexual offender, who is often more likely to "repent" and ask for easy forgiveness than the homosexual "pervert." So the sexual offender blends right back in without adequate consequences imposed.

I would invite Madi to have a look at my work on collusion at takecourage.org