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New Jersey Civil Rights Attorney Discusses Punishment By Brigham Young And Other Colleges And Universities When Sexual Assaults Are Reported

One would think that being a victim of sexual assault is one of the most horrible things one could endure. Feeling violated. Feeling helpless. Feeling alone. There are many reasons why victims won't report such assaults. Perhaps they're ashamed because they believe they did something wrong. Perhaps they fear what could happen if they report the assault, or fear that no one would believe them. Yet student-victims of sexual assault should not have to worry about repercussions from their own schools if they report the assault and their school becomes aware of it.

So the blog title might be a bit confusing, no? Well, read on. 

When a woman reports a rape or sexual assault, many assume that alcohol or drugs were involved. From the first moment a woman alleges rape, she must immediately start defending herself. If the case actually goes to court, her entire sexual background will be brought into question, rules of evidence such as the so-called "rape shield law" notwithstanding. Her entire life is put on stage for everyone to judge. Is it any wonder that many victims of sexual assault on campus don't want to report rape? Not only do you have to relive the entire experience again in front of a courtroom full of strangers, you have to defend yourself and your reputation. So what if you were drinking? So what if you drank in the past? So what if you have had several sexual partners? Does that mean you've given anyone permission to rape you?

"Brooke," a student at Brigham Young University, was ejected from the school because she was drinking - a violation of the student rules - when she was raped. Which is tantamount to punishing her for reporting rape. Was she breaking the rules? Yes. But at some point, someone at that University has to think a little. You can't put drinking on the same level as sexual assault. You can't deter other students from reporting a fucking felony by telling them that a minor infraction of a minor rule will result in their expulsion.

Women are the victims of sexual assault at colleges nearly 100% percent of the time, so a policy like this is clearly a policy which, while "neutral" on its face, is nonetheless directed at women. To punish women and intimidate them into silence by threatening them with the ultimate sanction - expulsion - if they violate a stupid, religiously motivated rule - the so-called "honor code" of BYU - while being raped.

How honorable. 

Source: CNN, "Punished after reporting rape at Brigham Young University," by Ana Cabrera and Sara Weisfeldt, 29 April 2016

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