BYU Making Strides in Sexual Assault Awareness Campaign

Wednesday , May 16, 2018 - 12:00 AM


As a news industry, we frequently get accused of only emphasizing the negative, to which we emphatically disagree. It is our duty as journalists to shed light on issues that are concerning. Though, we find as much joy in sharing the sweet stories of neighbors, of miracles and of hope as readers do.

And there are things to be hopeful about.

The end of April marked the conclusion of Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and nearly two years since Brigham Young University garnered national attention for investigating students who may have committed honor code infractions in the context of sexual assault. Many student survivors from across decades came forward, and the community demanded the university change.

Since that time, BYU has taken the issue of sexual assault much more seriously. Suggestions for actions that could be taken to improve the campus climate and awareness were made later that year, including amnesty for violations that happened around the time of sexual assault.

But the university did not stop there. In the time since, it has continued to follow up on the formal suggestions made for how the university could improve sexual assault services.

BYU’s Title IX Office disclosed it has seen a 400 percent increase in sexual assault reports since adopting an amnesty clause and implementing new procedures. While our hearts ache for those students and faculty that are a part of that figure, it is reassuring to know there is an increased feeling of confidence in reporting incidents.

Change can take time. We don’t expect BYU’s climate to overhaul in the space of a year or so. Its first campus climate survey in the fall suggested more than half of students disagreed that the university was doing a good job of educating students on sexual assault. But, the changes they’ve put in place and continue to discuss with each new incoming class are strong steps in the right direction.

Benjamin Ogles’ January devotional was monumental at BYU. Every student should hear those words as they enter to study. Subsequent social media campaigns were also a smart and beneficial use of resources to reach students.

For those who are in need of support, the newly created Sexual Assault Survivor Advocate — Lisa Leavitt — can help survivors navigate what resources are available, including law enforcement options.

Like BYU’s Title IX coordinator Tiffany Turley, we believe prevention starts with awareness.

BYU’s action to generate greater awareness gives us hope that prevention is attainable.

Editor’s note: This editorial first appeared in the (Provo) Daily Herald.

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