On May 5, BYU-Idaho students and other members of the Rexburg community marched from Porter Park to the BYU-I campus to raise awareness for sexual assault.
Many BYU-I students fear the process of reaching out to school resources and question what the consequences might be if they speak out about being sexually assaulted.
Nick Rammell, the BYU-I Title IX Coordinator, and Emily Brumbaugh, a sexual assault support counselor at the Counseling Center play major roles in this process. They both want students to be aware of the resources available and are always willing to answer some of the questions students might have regarding the sexual harassment policy.
What does the official notice mean for BYU-I students?
On April 21, an official notice regarding sexual misconduct was sent out to students.
The notice states, “All forms of sexual misconduct (including sexual harassment, dating/domestic violence, and sexual assault) cause significant and wide-ranging traumatic effects for the victim, violate core doctrines of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and destroy the wholesome environment we strive to maintain at BYU-Idaho.”
The notice acknowledges the benefits of dating apps but also emphasizes the risk of using them. It provides several tips to follow for a safe experience with dating apps.
Some of these tips include:
- making your own travel arrangements
- starting out with group or double dates
- avoiding situations where drugs or alcohol are present
In regards to the official notice that was sent out, Rammell and Brumbaugh encourage students to look at its importance.
“Hopefully it’s clear enough and concise enough to not confuse students,” Rammell said. “Because I worry that they read that and think ‘Oh the burden is mine to prevent being sexually assaulted.’ That’s not what we are saying. What we are saying is that we noted a trend for several years that dating apps are a vehicle for people to have access to unsuspecting people.”
He encourages students to exercise caution and care when using these apps. Rammell suggests that students meet in a public place with good lighting. If the person you agree to meet with asks to meet in private, it should be taken as a red flag.
One technique that has seen amongst students is having a conversation on social media about potential dates. This can help students to know if there are any red flags that other students have experienced with certain individuals. However, it is not recommended by Rammell, because it seems to be a poor method in determining red flags.
What first steps can a student take when they become a victim of sexual assault?
Brumbaugh expressed the importance of understanding what makes sexual assault traumatic for those who have experienced it.
“What makes a sexual assault so traumatic is the loss of power and control,” Brumbaugh said. “So when we talk about that first step, Nick and I, in both of our offices, are very concerned about preserving and giving back as much power and control as we can to the student. That looks like us not taking any action unless the student would like us to take action.”
It is important for students to know that not any report has to be made when reaching out to the Counseling Center and the Title IX office, and that they have power over what action, if any, is taken with their case.
Rammell explains that students should recognize that if and when they do reach out to the university, it doesn’t mean any formal investigation will be conducted or that the police will be called without permission from the student.
Is what you share kept confidential?
Some BYU-I students fear that there is an issue with confidentiality and Title IX rights when it comes to students using the school’s resources. Students have expressed anonymously on Instagram pages about their confusion or fear of where to turn to.
Some of the worries include getting kicked out of school, facing their bishop or having to go through with reporting to the police.
Rammell explained that there are many decisions and different processes for students who have experienced sexual assault or violence in a relationship.
Students have the option to reach out to him or Emily Brumbaugh, a Sexual Assault Support Counselor through the Counseling Center.
“Our goal is to help the student to feel as safe as they can and to let them know that talking to either one of us is a confidential place,” Brumbaugh shared.
What does the Sexual Harassment policy say? Can you get kicked out of school for being sexually assaulted?
Both Brumbaugh and Rammell confirmed that there isn’t ever an instance where they have to report a student to the Honor Code office when handling these cases.
“In the sexual harassment policy, it talks about confidentiality,” Rammell said. “And the provisions are that if students who make disclosures, seek support or do whatever inside of Title IX, that their information is not shared with the office unless the student is agreeable to that, and often they are.”
The section of the BYU-I Sexual Harassment Policy that Rammell is referring to states, “Being a victim of Sexual Misconduct is never a violation of the CES Honor Code.”
Rammell said that the only time that making a disclosure with the Title IX office could potentially go outside of the office if there is a concern with abuse of a minor. Rammell and Brumbaugh also share that if that were the case, the student would be informed of any action being taken.
“Coming to both offices they [students] preserve the ability to make decisions,” Rammell stated. “And we want them to by design, that’s not accidental. We want them to retain the ability to make decisions and direct the state of their life, their affairs and how they want to proceed. So, we really become a sounding board to expand the array of options for them to self-select at their own discretion.
So where does this fear come from in students?
“I would say it’s the unknown,” Brumbaugh said. “Say that I don’t have a narrative and I don’t know where to go [as a student], I’m going to start talking among my peers, I’m going to start bouncing ideas and coming up with scenarios.”
Rammell acknowledged the perception that students have with fear of reaching out to the see resources. He expressed that there has been a complicated history, not just with BYU-I but with higher education in general.
“There has been a complicated relationship between the student experience and sexual assault on college campuses,” Rammell said. “We see that with priorities that are evolving and shifting within the Department of Education.”
Brumbaugh also shares that there might be historical misguidance that has been addressed and changed through policy. The policy was changed and approved in early 2018.
“I’ve always told people in confidence and I would still say the same thing, nothing is going to happen to make things worse if you come in,” Rammell said.
Resources for students:
The Counseling Center has provided information through Instagram about healthy relationships, respect and the importance of consent. There are also many resources on the BYU-I website under the Counseling Center tab.