A Statement and Open Letter to BYU from Sexual Assault Survivors and BYU Alumni
Recently, BYU named two internal hires as the new Title IX coordinator and Victim Advocate in response to the recommendations of an advisory council after victims of sexual assault revealed that they were being targeted by the school’s Honor Code after reporting their assaults. However, these hires have been met with criticism by many, including a group of sexual assault survivors & BYU alumni. Their concerns were published in the Salt Lake Tribune yesterday, along with an open letter sent to BYU President Kevin Worthen. With their permission, we’re posting both a statement from this group and their open letter in support of their efforts to hold BYU accountable for these hires and to provide additional training so that substantive, not superficial, change can be enacted.
Here is an introductory statement from the victim advocates’ group:
This last summer, we as BYU Rape Survivor banded together in an effort to urge BYU to revise the way they handle victims of rape and sexual assault on their campus. Following much coverage by the media, BYU commissioned an Advisory Council that provided BYU with a report in October of last year. Last Friday, BYU announced the hiring of a new Title IX coordinator and a brand new position hire of Victim Advocate. Together, a group of strong survivors and I drafted a response to BYU’s decision to hire internally for the positions of Title IX Coordinator and Victim Advocate. This decision reflects a gross failure on the part of BYU to commit to and act in a way to bring about change in the way BYU handles rape and sexual assault. We feel it does nothing but reinforce a systemic error in collective thinking at BYU. We are outraged.
As recently as May of last year, Tiffany Turley (newly appointed Title IX Coordinator) was against an Amnesty Clause, or an immunity for victims of rape and sexual assault to be pursued for circumstances surrounding the attack. This demonstrates to us that she will not be loyal to victims. This is an egregious failure. The “chilling effect” that BYU needs to overcome will only be perpetuated by appointing an individual who believes in this way. Victims will continue to fear punishment at the hands of the Title IX office.
Many of us in the BYU Survivor community, when we turned to BYU for help, were shamed, threatened and absolutely wounded by the treatment we received. By simply moving around existing personnel within an already offensive organization, BYU has shown they have not understood the true spirit outlined in the Advisory Council Report that they committed to follow.
Please, hear our outrage! Feel our pain! We need your support as we continue to fight for a safer place for our sisters and brothers at BYU.
Here is the text of their open letter to BYU President Kevin Worthen:
President Worthen of Brigham Young University,
This letter is in regards to the recent announcement identifying the individuals you have hired for the Title IX and Victim Advocate positions. We are thankful that you have moved forward with filling the positions, accepting amnesty and separating the Honor Code Office from the Title IX office. However, we have some grave concerns regarding the choices that were made and have been unable to reach you to discuss them. We recognize and respect the education, experience and passion that these individuals possess, but our concerns are as follows:
First, you filled the positions with current employees who were both working at BYU during the times that university policies and practices failed to support victims of sexual crimes. It is vital to make sure that external voices contribute to organizational change. Hiring from within is not only a missed opportunity to bring in new ideas and attitudes that could affect real change at BYU, also runs the risk that said persons will be seen by survivors as being as loyal to the university’s interests rather than to the victims they serve. A Title IX Coordinator should also be impartial from university allegiance when investigating and enforcing the law. A Victim Advocate is a liaison with the police department, someone who knows the court process and who knows the resources to get the help they need.
Our second concern is that the hired individuals have no prior experience in these positions. The sexual assault victims at BYU need strong and experienced personnel to build new policies and procedures separate from those conducted in the past, which are now the subjects of both civil and criminal investigations. A Title IX Coordinator needs to understand and enforce sexual assaults as the crimes they are, not simply as misconduct. For the Victim Advocate you have hired a psychologist, which is a resource, not a victim advocate.
We, as informed and concerned members of this community, recommend the following to help ensure these individuals will make informed decisions and carry out policies that are in the best interest of the victims.
- Provide the BYU Victim Advocate with a minimum of 100 hours of advocate training by September 1, 2017 and volunteer with a local advocate agency for the first six months of her position.
- Require the new Title IX Director to attend the Four Corners of Title IX Compliance and the Trauma-Informed Sexual Assault Investigation and Adjudication Institution.
- Require the new Title IX Director to shadow a currently effective Title IX Director, such as that at UVU.
- Have the Advisory Council on Campus Response to Sexual Assault evaluate progress of The New Title IX Director and BYU Victim Advocate and their training. If they are unable to fulfill their responsibilities, replace the individuals or take immediate steps to make sure qualifications are met.
The university has a responsibility to make an unequivocal statement that sexual assault is not only illegal but pure evil. Rape is not sex, and all forms of sexual assault are criminal acts. The university also has the responsibility to victims of sexual assault in comforting, aiding and protecting them.
President Worthen, some of us were raped at BYU. We fight with nightmares, anxiety, depression, and shame every day because of the felony criminal acts committed against us. We fought through our own shame and confusion to come forward and ask BYU for help. We were told we were to blame for the criminal acts committed. We were threatened with expulsion and given academic holds. And we were not provided with resources for our physical, emotional and spiritual healing. We do not want anyone to suffer as we have. To feel so alone, worthless and hopeless as we have. We plead with you to love your students. Give them the best support and resources available. Show them that Heavenly Father loves them and Jesus Christ has never left them. Please make BYU a place that stands up for victims and recognizes that we are all children of God.
Hailey Allen (BYU Alum – BYU Rape Survivor)
Colleen Payne Dietz (BYU Alum – BYU Rape Survivor)
AFB (BYU Rape Survivor)
K.S. (BYU Rape Survivor)
K.L. (BYU Rape Survivor)
M.C. (BYU Rape Survivor)
S.M. (BYU Rape Survivor)
Heather Moore-Farley (BYU Alum)
Jess Mikel (BYU Alum)
Jackie Daniels-Brown (BYU Alum)
Jackie Fielding Sarager (BYU Alum)
Kalli Hiller (BYU Alum)
Katrina Cummins (BYU Alum)
Erin K Shaw (BYU Alum)
Michelle Welsch (BYU Alum)
Bailey Collins (BYU-I Alum)
Brad Allen (BYU Alum)
Madeline MacDonald (Former BYU student)
C.A. (Rape Survivor)
Eve (Rape Survivor)
A.B. (Rape Survivor)
Judy Larson (Rape Survivor)
Tryann Aughenbaugh (Rape Survivor)
Ranette Moore Kinnard (Rape Survivor)
Kristi Carter (Rape Survivor)
Kathleen McKenna (Rape Survivor)
Lisa Pous (Rape Survivor)
Courtney Black (Rape Survivor)
Jori Hodges (Rape Survivor)
Rhiannon Laoch (Sexual Assault and Stalking Survivor)
Elizabeth Keenan (Sexual Assault Survivor)
The Exponent stands behind survivors of sexual assault and urges BYU to take the measures detailed in this letter.