Students: BYU Honor Code leaves LGBT victims of sexual assault vulnerable and alone

Source: The salt lake tribune


Andy wanted a blessing.

He had awoken in a haze after a suicide attempt with painkillers and began to panic. He didn’t want to die. But he didn’t know if he could live. Andy’s first, secret boyfriend had raped him and dumped him, he said. Simultaneously traumatized by and lonesome for the one person who accepted him as a gay man, Andy floundered for months in shame and dread until he finally turned to the bishop of his Mormon student congregation at Brigham Young University.

He expected some reproof for acting on his “same-gender attraction,” as LDS leaders have termed being gay. But Andy also hoped for some comfort and counsel.

Instead, he said, his bishop offered an ultimatum: Andy could turn himself in to BYU’s Honor Code Office to be disciplined by the school, or the bishop himself would report Andy for the violation of “homosexual behavior.”

While multiple current and former students have told The Salt Lake Tribune that rape victims at BYU may be investigated for potential discipline, a half-dozen LGBT students described unique challenges they faced when they were assaulted while attending the flagship school of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

BYU’s Honor Code forbids homosexual behavior, which the school defines as “not only sexual relations between members of the same sex, but all forms of physical intimacy that give expression to homosexual feelings.” Holding hands and kissing, while allowed between men and women, are widely understood to be subject to discipline; BYU spokeswoman Carri Jenkins said the language of the Honor Code “speaks for itself and relies on students to use good judgment.”

But advocates for LGBT students say coming out brings such scrutiny that even people who have no intention of dating tend to seek support in secret, often online.

That has created an underground social scene in which predators can take advantage of silent and largely inexperienced victims, according to several LGBT students who have told The Tribune they were raped while enrolled at BYU. LGBT students who are assaulted by a member of the opposite sex say they fear their orientation remains a liability should they try to report the crime.

These student accounts come as BYU faces new scrutiny on two fronts: Federal officials this month added BYU to a list of more than 200 schools under investigation nationwide for how they respond to student reports of sexual assault. Meanwhile, more than 20 LGBT advocacy groups have asked leaders of the Big 12 athletic conference to eliminate BYU from consideration for membership, alleging the school “actively and openly discriminates against its LGBT students and staff.”

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