Brigham Young Students Say University’s Honor Code Made Them Afraid to Report Sexual Assaults

Two female students said they were afraid they would be expelled if they spoke.

ByABC News
May 17, 2016, 11:48 AM

— -- Editor’s Note: Since “Nightline’s” original report aired on May 17, BYU school officials have announced they will give amnesty for Honor Code violations disclosed by students who say they were sexually assaulted. The school also said it will follow all other recommendations made by the Advisory Council on Campus Response to Sexual Assault, including creating a victim advocate/confidential advisor position, ensuring the Title IX office will not share information from students who say they were sexually assaulted with the Honor Code office without the student’s consent (unless health or safety is at risk), and physically separating the Title IX office from the Honor Code office.

Provo, Utah, nestled between pristine mountains and Utah Lake, is home to Brigham Young University and the Mormon lifestyle it reveres.

The locals call it Happy Valley, but for some survivors of sexual assault, the place is anything but happy.

Margot Crandall, a student at BYU, grew up in the Mormon tradition, which holds a woman’s chastity and virtue as paramount. It’s why, she says, when a stranger got a hold of a compromising photo of her, he was able to use it to lure her into a trap.

“He had stalked me on the Internet, contacted me,” Crandall said, “and more or less blackmailed me into meeting up with him.”

And when she met with him, Crandall said, he brutally assaulted her.

“He had just hit me a lot, and while he was raping me, he had bound me,” she said.

She said she finally managed to escape, but his terrorizing continued.

“After it was over, he told me that he had taken another photo or video” during the attack, to use as blackmail “to make me keep seeing him,” Crandall said.

She said she was scared to go to the police because “if the police find out, then BYU would find out.” Crandall said she didn’t want the university to find out what happened because she said she was “afraid of their honor code.”

“I was afraid that it would be seen as my fault and that I would get kicked out of school,” she said.

BYU’s honor code is a list of strict Mormon-based rules, with stipulations that students dress modestly and that caffeine, alcohol, pornography and premarital sex are forbidden. Students can be expelled for violating the code.

Crandall said her rapist believed BYU students live in fear of violating its honor code, which puts the school’s women at risk.

“If people know that BYU girls are going to be afraid to report something like that ... that really puts a target on their backs,” she said.

Some BYU students say the university’s honor code can shame some rape survivors into silence, which is why they have decided to go public with their stories of sexual assault. Crandall said she wanted to die after the attack.