PROVO, Utah (News4Utah) – Sexual assault and Brigham Young University. A few years ago, this conversation was the topic of scandal. Students said they were being punished by the Honor Code after they reported an assault. Since then, the University has worked hard to change the narrative and new data shows their hard work is paying off.
A few weeks ago, students at BYU were using chalk to spread a message: awareness about sexual assault. This is one of many on-campus awareness events put together by the BYU Title IX Office.
It’s an office, Jessica says, changed her life. News4Utah is keeping Jessica’s identity hidden.
“I was stalked by a registered sex offender,” says Jessica.
Jessica was the first student into the new Title IX Office last year, “I literally walked in and I said ‘Hi! this is Title IX, right?’ And I said, ‘I’m here for help,’” she explains.
For years, she’s suffered from anxiety attacks, isolation, and depression. She eventually talked with a professor about her situation and he encouraged her to contact the new office. Jessica says this decision has helped her throughout her time at BYU.
Tiffany Turley, the Title IX Coordinator at BYU, says “For us I think the most important thing is that someone knows when they come though our door, they are going to be respected, heard, and valued by us. That we are going to do whatever we can to assist them, whatever end of the spectrum they’re on.”
The office is responsible for overseeing the University’s response to any discrimination related to sex sexual misconduct and gender equality.
Turley says, “Our big focus lately seems to be sexual misconduct because that seems to be what is most pressing and what we need to address in the immediate.”
Research shows their work is paying off. The new office opened in January of 2017. Now, in a different building than the Honor Code Office. Since that change, data shows reporting rates have sky-rocketed, increasing by 400 percent.
“A lot of people ask me ‘Do you think it’s cause of the amnesty policy?’ Absolutely. ‘Do you think it’s cause of the Me Too Movement?’ Absolutely. ‘Do you think it’s cause you have a physically separate office space?’ Absolutely. I think there is so many good things that have happened over the course of the year that led to this increase,” explains Turley.
Students we spoke with at the chalk art awareness event recognize the change.
Daniel Hilton, a student at BYU says, “I would say that the conversation is much more open than it has been a few years ago.”
Jessica says it’s more than just lip service. Thanks to the team at the Title IX Office, she’s moving forward in her life.
“I’m gonna be going to law school and I’ll be able to legally help people who’ve had the experience I’ve had.”
Her only hope is that other victims will reach out for help as well. Moving from statistic, to survivor.
Increased reporting rates don’t just help survivors heal, they help bring down the number of sexual assaults. According to the United States Department of Defense, when reporting numbers increase, sexual assaults decrease because serial perpetrators are taken off the streets.
For more information about the Title IX Office at BYU, click here.