An undergraduate student who reported to police that she was raped last year filed a federal complaint against Brigham Young University after the school began to investigate the incident as a potential violation of the the honor hode signed by all students.
The honor hode at the Mormon university bans, among other things, premarital sex. The BYU sophomore, Madi Barney, says she was sexually assaulted by a non-student.
Barney, 20, filed the sexual discrimination complaint with the U.S. Department of Education Monday, saying BYU denied her services available to victims under Title IX, the Salt Lake Tribune reported.
“We have received information that you have been a victim of behavior that is addressed in the university sexual misconduct policy,” a Title IX coordinator at BYU told Barney. “We have also received information that you have engaged in behavior that violates the BYU honor hode. I would like to meet with you and provide you with the information that we have received and give you an opportunity to respond.”
The Office for Civil Rights states “Title IX protects people from discrimination based on sex in education programs or activities that receive Federal financial assistance.”
“They’re telling me that they can’t prove that a rape occurred,” Barney said.
The school said it is reviewing the relationship between its Title IX department and its honor code office. However, the federal education office has yet to begin reviewing BYU as of Tuesday afternoon, a spokesperson said.
In addition to filing her federal complaint, Barney started an online petition last week. In the petition, Barney asks BYU to give victims of sexual crimes immunity from honor code investigations. The petition has already garnered 90,000 signatures.
“I am a survivor of rape, and now BYU has put my academic future on hold due to their allegations that I broke the honor code in the circumstances of my assault,” Barney wrote in her petition. “I want victims of sexual violence at BYU to have an immunity clause from the Honor Code so that they don’t feel afraid to report.”
BYU President Kevin Worthen maintained the assertion “a Title IX investigation is never conducted to harass or re-traumatize a victim.”
“A victim of a sexual assault will never be referred to the honor code office for being a victim of sexual assault,” Worthen said in a statement. “Sometimes in the course of an investigation, facts come to light that a victim has engaged in prior Honor Code violations.”
If BYU is found guilty of sexual discrimination toward Barney, the university must take steps to prove its compliance with Title IX to the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, the Salt Lake Tribune reported.