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Question #89133 posted on 04/20/2017 9:02 a.m.

Dear 100 Hour Board,

After reading Board Question #86477, I'm curious how some of the board writers consider enforcing the Honor Code to be tantamount "victim blaming." The young women in question (such as this student) weren't being investigated for getting raped, but rather for violating the Honor Code by consuming drugs, alcohol, etc. If BYU were investigating rape victims because they were raped, then that would merit public outrage and negative publicity...but that's clearly not the case here.

If anything, the Honor Code protects would-be victims from sexual assault. The young woman mentioned in the CNN article made herself more vulnerable by taking drugs. In fact, according to researchers, roughly half of all campus sexual assaults involve alcohol consumption. Also, if students don't want to face suspension or expulsion, why don't they just do what they agreed to do and obey the Honor Code?

Am I missing something here?

This is a sincere question.



Dear you,

I want to apologize in advance if this seems terse or disjointed - I have a lot of thoughts I want to get out, but I haven't had time to do so, and I don't want to keep this over hours any longer.

It's a documented fact that fear of being investigated by the Honor Code Office discourages people from reporting. Would you rather that the school catch more rapists or more college students drinking?

I think it's important to keep in mind that rape in relationships often occurs in conjunction with emotional manipulation and abuse. It has become a common tactic to pressure women into a minor Honor Code infraction and then use that to discourage them from reporting their rape. 

I read one case where a girl's ex-boyfriend broke into her bedroom through the window, choked her and raped her. The Honor Code office investigated her for the rule violation of having a boy in her bedroom even though it wasn't her fault he was there and assigned her to take a self defense class as part of her "repentance" for "breaking the rules" when a man broke into her room. The system gets abused and does become literal victim blaming. 

Plus, HCO investigations are stressful and can impose serious damage on a person's education and on-campus work, even if they are eventually found innocent. This is at a time when the victim needs stability, support, and professional counseling. Madi Barney had to move home to California and it messed with her court case because of the HCO investigation. 

Keeping the Honor Code may protect some victims from assault, but it also protects rapists who deliberately use the Honor Code office to silence their victims. This is especially true for gay students.

Everyone understands that the HCO isn't investigating them for being raped, but people recognize that there are a lot of problems from investigating concurrent Honor Code violations that are undesirable.

Also, although it may be true that keeping the Honor Code keeps students out of situations where it is more likely that they will be raped, the fact of the matter is that victims are never responsible for being raped. Even students who break the Honor Code do not deserve to be raped and have not somehow brought it upon themselves. Even if a guy sees a girl who's passed-out drunk and unable to defend herself, that guy has the agency to decide to not rape that girl. Because of this, talking about how the Honor Code protects victims does come across as victim-blaming, because it perpetuates the attitude that all or most rapes could be avoided if women would simply do XYZ.