BYU announces major changes to campus sexual assault protocol

KUTV BYU students 102616.JPG
BYU announces major changes to campus sexual assault protocol (Photo: KUTV)

(KUTV) Big changes are coming to Brigham Young University when it comes to how the university deals with sexual assault. The school has adopted 23 new recommendations from a advisory council that formed last spring.

Administrators hope it helps students feel more comfortable coming forward to report when they've been raped or violated.

This comes months after a KUTV 2News broke the story in April about a woman who reported she was raped on BYU campus, then received an email from BYU's Title IX office stating she may have also violated the school's honor code. The issue received national attention and scrutiny.

"This is huge," said Julie Valentine, a nursing professor at BYU and a member of the four-person sexual assault advisory council that has been discussing changes since May. "These really are changes that will benefit the whole campus in the whole community."

One change includes the school adding a sexual assault victim advocate who will work as a confidential adviser to student victims.

"They will have someone confidential that they can go to. Not report, but to help them decide ... do they want to report to Title IX? Do they want to report to police," said Valentine.

The school is also adding an "amnesty clause," to prevent assault victims from being penalized for violating the school honor code; for instance, if a victim was found to be drinking alcohol or taking drugs at or around the time of the assault.

"We want to victims to report. If for any reason the honor code has any kind of chilling effect, we need to make sure that victims clearly know that their name will not be shared with the Honor Code Office."

"The Honor Code is really important to us and has been and will be, but it was a balance," says Janet Scharman, the Student Life Vice President, who served as the advisory chair.

Scharman had a message for student victims who have not come forward:

Our primary goal here is that we care about you. We think you've been through a traumatic situation. We want to help you, but we can't help unless we know about it. We're trying to make it as safe as possible for you so we can help.

Coincidentally, BYU is currently being investigated by the US Department of Education Office for Civil Rights, for how it has handled sexual assault cases in the past.

Was the advisory committee created as a result of the federal investigation?

"No. The advisory Council was appointed in May by president Worthen and we found out in August that the Department of Education OCR was doing an investigation with us," said Scharman.