PROVO, Utah (ABC 4 Utah) – After gathering more than 90,000 signatures, a group of sex assault victim advocates delivered their petition to Brigham Young University and asked officials to adjust the school’s honor code.
Prior to the meeting, dozens of protesters rallied on sidewalks near BYU.
“Please, BYU. Change your policies!” someone chanted.
“If you feel comfortable identifying yourself as someone who has felt victim-blamed and shamed, you can raise your hand now,” said Kelsey Bourgeois, who helped organize the rally.
Wearing teal mouth gags to symbolize their feelings that BYU’s honor code silences victims of sexual assault, the group says student survivors should never have to keep an attack secret for fear of getting in trouble with the Honor Code Office.
“The administration needs to and simply must adapt their honor code. These women deserve amnesty and protection from those that they turn to,” said Rachel Nelson, another rally organizer.
Despite federal Title IX policies that prohibit discrimination based on sex at universities, BYU victims of rape and sexual assault say they have faced repercussions for circumstances surrounding their attacks.
Wendesday, the group delivered a petition begging the school to add a clause to the honor code protecting victims.
“We welcome your concerns, I’ll be pleased to send these to President Worthen,” said BYU Academic Vice President Brent Webb, who met the group on-campus to receive the petition.
BYU President Kevin Worthen is currently out-of-town, but he did release a response to the issues, promising that a study to investigate them further is in the works.
“We’ll look at things like the structural organization of the university about whether and how information is shared and under what conditions… We’re not perfect. We don’t claim to be perfect. We can be better. This is important enough that we owe it to the community to say, ‘This is the very best that we can do, and we’ve thought it through, and we’ve studied it through, and here’s the changes that we’re going to make,'” Worthen said during an interview.
“Thank you for accepting this, and thank you for being so kind,” Bourgeois said while handing over the petition.
BYU officials say they have initiated their study, but no word yet on long it may take.