Brigham Young University Is Punishing LGBT Rape Victims for Breaking School’s Honor Code


Any Same-Sex 'Behavior' Including Being a Victim of Sexual Assault Violates Mormon University's Honor Code

Brigham Young University (BYU), already under federal investigation for its negligent handling of reported sexual assault, is also punishing LGBT students who report sexual assault, blaming them for "inappropriate homosexual behavior," Slate reports.

The Utah-based private university's mission statement reads that it was "founded, supported, and guided by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints [to] assist individuals in their quest for perfection and eternal life." The educational institution then advises that this "assistance should provide a period of intensive learning."

The price of this intensive learning is more than the $2,575 for church-goers or the $5,150 for non-churchgoers per semester. An "Honor Code" is imposed upon each student upon admission. It's the violation of this so-called code which can result in the potential punishment, suspension or expulsion which LGBT students face, should they report sexual assault.

The code's statement calls for students to demonstrate, on and off campus, the "moral virtues encompassed in the gospel of Jesus Christ." These virtues include, but are not limited to: using clean language, living a "chaste and virtuous" life, not drinking alcohol, tea, or coffee, encouraging others to do the same, and respecting others.

This respect does not pertain to "homosexual behavior," it could seem, though BYU's honor code advises that it "will respond to homosexual behavior rather than to feelings or attraction." It further concludes that "homosexual behavior is inappropriate ... [and] includes not only sexual relations between members of the same sex, but all forms of physical intimacy that give expression to homosexual feelings."

Such as, apparently, being the victim of same-sex sexual assault.

The Salt Lake Tribune detailed several such assaults, one of which included a gay male student identified only as Andy. He described his "first, secret boyfriend [that had] raped him and dumped him," and how, "traumatized by and lonesome for the one person who accepted him as a gay man," he eventually turned to his student congregation's Bishop for help and support, after a suicide attempt.

What happened next is heartbreaking.

As the same-sex "behavior" was in violation of the honor code, Andy was given an ultimatum in response. He had only two options: to detail the rape with BYU's Honor Code Office to be disciplined, or for the Bishop to report him for violation of "homosexual behavior" (and be disciplined.)

"It was real that what had happened was going to cost me my education and my job," Andy told the Tribune, revealing that an investigator took notes "furiously" as he inquired about "what kind of sex had occurred, the dates of when it had occurred, [and] where it had occurred."

The investigation into the sexual assault led to Andy's "withheld suspension," allowing him to attend classes but lose his campus job, his campus housing and ability to participate in campus activities. He was given a "folder of religious writings about the dangers of homosexuality" and forced to meet with a counselor on a weekly basis, which led him to unsuccessfully attempt a heterosexual lifestyle.

BYU declined comment on the matter to the Tribune, and Andy has committed to "grin and bear it," in order to obtain his BYU degree, the paper reports.

The Tribune also reports a bisexual woman was raped by a man but was afraid to report it for fear of being interrogated and forced to reveal she is bisexual. She chose to confide in visiting teachers, which the Tribune describes as "companions assigned to check on the spiritual and physical welfare of women within Mormon congregations."

What happened next is also heartbreaking.

"I'm crying and begging them not to tell anybody. The next thing I know, they've told the bishop, who told his counselors, and they told their people, and everybody knows," Aubree told the Tribune. "Having been outed at 19 years old, I went from being the person who never kissed anyone, never wore a tank top, never had a Coke, to being called into the bishop's office and being compared to a drug addict, a kleptomaniac and a person with anger issues."

As NCRM's Claude Summers explains, while "no one is forced to attend such a repressive institution (though, of course, many [students] experience enormous family and community pressure to attend the 'Lord's University.')"

This notion is fueled by the fact that following the legalization of same-sex marriage in the United States, Mormon policy was updated to label married same-sex couples as "apostates," and to bar their children from baptism.

While the federal investigation into BYU's negligence is ongoing, we know that from 2007 to 2014, Utah's youth suicide rate nearly tripled. In January of this year, it was reported that a known 32 LGBT Mormons, aged 14-20, had committed suicide, and five more LGBT youth suicides were reported last month.

"I have been asked what I mean by word of honor," a quote by Karl G. Maeser, considered BYU's founder, reads on BYU's Honor Code website. "I will tell you. Place me behind prison walls - walls of stone ever so high, ever so thick, reaching ever so far into the ground - there is a possibility that in some way or another I may escape."

"But stand me on the floor and draw a chalk line around me and have me give my word of honor never to cross it. Can I get out of the circle? No, Never!"

"I'd die first!"

Image: North Campus, Brigham Young University

Photo by Jaren Wilkey via Wikimedia and a CC license

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