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At Brigham Young, a Cost in Reporting a Rape

Before she could move into a dormitory at Brigham Young University or sign up for freshman classes, Brooke had to sign the college’s Honor Code.

Part moral compass and part contract, the Honor Code is a cornerstone of life for the nearly 30,000 students at Brigham Young, a Mormon-run university. It points students, faculty and staff members toward “moral virtues encompassed in the gospel of Jesus Christ,” prizing chastity, honesty and virtue. It requires modest dress on campus, discourages consensual sex outside marriage and, among other things, prohibits drinking, drug use, same-sex intimacy and indecency, as well as sexual misconduct.

But after Brooke, 20, told the university that a fellow student had raped her at his apartment in February 2014, she said the Honor Code became a tool to punish her. She had taken LSD that night, and also told the university about an earlier sexual encounter with the same student that she said had been coerced. Four months after reporting the assault, she received a letter from the associate dean of students.

“You are being suspended from Brigham Young University because of your violation of the Honor Code including continued illegal drug use and consensual sex, effective immediately,” the letter read.

In the past few weeks, Brooke and a handful of other female students have come forward, first at a rape-awareness conference and then in The Salt Lake Tribune, to say that after they made complaints of sexual abuse they had faced Honor Code investigations into whether they drank alcohol, took drugs or had consensual sex.

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