BYU-Idaho recently released a statement concerning Title IX policy at the university Wednesday, May 4.
“First and foremost, Brigham Young University-Idaho emphasizes that victims are not responsible for sexual assault,” according to University Relations. “Moreover, being a victim of rape is not an honor code violation. The university recognizes the potential tension between honor code violations and the willingness of some students to report sexual assault. BYU-Idaho continues to examine the relationship between the Title IX Office and the Honor Code Office to further enhance student safety.”University Relations chose to offer no further comment.
Margie Harris, the director of the Family Crisis Center, said that one of the places students turn to for help after experiencing sexual violence is the center.
The FCC engages the community and provides safety to members of Madison, Fremont, Clark and Jefferson counties, including BYU-I students, who have experienced domestic violence and sexual assault.
The number of people seeking help from the FCC for cases involving rape or sexual assault quadrupled between 2012 and 2015, according to the FCC’s 2015 statistical report.
Harris said she does not necessarily think the number of offenses has increased that much, but rather that many people, including students, are now coming to the FCC for help.
She said that in her opinion, students still seem to feel more comfortable turning to the FCC first for help.
“I think right now, currently, they would feel safer coming here (. . .) because we have no obligation, we have no policies, we have nothing that says we have to report anything,” she said. “In fact, we have policies that say we can’t.”
Harris said their duty is to listen to those who contact them for help and then present them with options of what to do next. She said they do not give legal advice and are not required to file any reports.
She said she has seen a change lately in the strength of the relationship the FCC has cultivated with BYU-I .
Harris said that while there have been some negative experiences in the past with the school, in which students felt they were re-victimized by the process used by the Title IX office in trying to assist the student, she has seen this improve in the last two years.
“What we see going on now is just different,” she said. “It’s just better.”
Harris said she will sometimes call BYU-I’s Title IX office, explain a student’s situation — never revealing their name — and ask how the Title IX office would respond to the situation. After learning how they could help, she relays that information to the student and lets them choose what they would like to do.
“So far, they’ve chosen to go up there, and the school’s come through,” she said.
Harris said she thinks that for one reason or another, students might be afraid to turn to the school for help for fear of being expelled, but that is not how she sees things currently operating at BYU-I.
“They are there to make this a safe thing,” she said. “They do want to protect the victims. They do want to assist. They’re not just about penalizing and honor code violations.”
Captain Randy Lewis, of the Rexburg Police Department, said that though he seldom receives reports of rape in Rexburg, he does not think that means they are not happening.
Lewis said whenever the police do receive a report, they pursue it to the very end.
“We need to get these people off the streets,” he said. “They need to be held accountable for their actions.”
Lewis said that after a report is filed, police gather physical and forensic evidence, as well as conducting interviews.
After collecting all the available evidence, Lewis said the police department then hands that information over to the prosecutor, who then determines whether or not there is enough evidence to press charges.
District Judge Gregory W. Moeller said the court takes rape cases very seriously once the charges are brought to them.
“They’re some of the most important cases, and they carry with them some of the most severe penalties,” he said.
Moeller said the maximum penalty for rape in Idaho is life imprisonment and a fine up to $50,000 and that the only sentence that is more severe would be a first-degree murder case where the state sought and received the death penalty for the perpetrator.
“By law, charging decisions are left up to the county prosecutor,” Moeller said. “Once charges are brought before it, the court takes every case very seriously and will make sure that the rights of both the defendant and the victim are protected to the utmost.”
Sexual misconduct is against both the Honor Code as well as the teaching of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, according to the BYU-I Title IX Web page.
“The university prohibits sexual misconduct perpetrated by or against university students, university employees, participants in university programs, or visitors to its campus, whether the behavior occurs on or off campus,” according to the BYU-I Title IX Web page.
For students who would like to learn more or who need to report a Title IX concern, please visit: www.byui.edu/titleix