Brigham Young University released a video this morning in which the university president discussed improving the school’s response to victims of sexual assault and violence.
The video comes after accusations that BYU’s honor code office prevents victims from reporting sexual assault due to fear of being punished. In the video, Kevin J. Worthen, president of BYU, stated,
First and foremost, our primary concern is the safety and well-being of our students. That’s particularly true for those who have been victims of sexual assault.
Worthen explained that the honor code is meant to provide an environment of safety for the students. However, he also understands that some victims of sexual assault fear reporting the crime, perceiving that the honor code office will take action. Worthen says he wants to minimize that fear as much as possible, explaining that a victim of sexual assault is never responsible for the assault.
“They’ve been through a traumatic experience. They’re vulnerable. They’re looking for help, and we ought to provide that. … Our primary concern is over the well-being of the victim of sexual assault. ”
Worthen has directed the university to closely study any possible needed “structural changes within the university, the process for determining whether and how information is used, and the relationship between the Title IX Office and the Honor Code Office.”
According to a university statement posted to byu.edu, when a student reports a sexual assault, the student is immediately referred to the Title IX Office and has the option to meet with a coordinator. That student receives written information regarding their rights and options as a victim. The statement clarifies that a “Title IX investigation is never conducted to harass or re-traumatize a victim.”
However, the statement also recognizes that sometimes as the Title IX investigation proceeds, it becomes apparent that the student has engaged in prior Honor Code violations.
When the thorough study comes to a close, Worthen says that he hopes that they will have developed a system that people, particularly victims, can trust. Worthen declares that the university has absolutely zero tolerance for sexual assault or violence and that he hopes they can minimize the number of sexual assaults that happen on campus.
“We’re not perfect, we don’t claim to be perfect, we can be better.”
Watch Worthen discuss this important issue in the video, shared above.