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Students and faculty discuss sexual assault

Students and faculty discuss sexual assault
Students and faculty discussed sexual assault at BYU-I in the John Taylor building chapel. Photo credit: Liberty Gonzalez

Students and faculty discussed sexual assault at BYU-Idaho in the John Taylor Building on Wednesday.

Faculty, headed by the university Title IX coordinator Nick Rammell, answered students’ questions and addressed their concerns about sexual assault in a forum-style question-and-answer format.

“The call for everyone on campus is to stop abuse of all forms,” Rammell said. “Not only to react with compassion but to decrease such instances on our campus by spreading understanding.”

The university invited all students to attend the event through an email sent out two days prior to the meeting on Wednesday, March 1.

Research shows that sexual assault increased an estimated 15-fold from 2009 to 2019 — and BYU-I is not exempt.

“We saw more reports of sexual assault last fall semester (2022) than we had seen in entire years previously,” Rammell said.

Rammell estimates that about 70% of the sexual assault cases reported to the Title IX office stem from dating apps.

“There’s nothing wrong with dating apps,” Rammell said. “But you have to be careful.”

Brenton Smith, a sophomore studying virtual design and construction, is concerned with what he thinks is a lack of understanding of sexual consent among students and decided to attend the forum to talk about it.

“I’m very interested to hear what actionable steps our Title IX office is taking to fight against sexual assault,” Smith said.

Another participant asked if something like mandatory consent training for every student at the outset of each semester might be something BYU-I could implement.

Rammell, who answered questions and facilitated the discussion, agreed that he supports the idea but that BYU-I students and faculty need to ask themselves, “What’s that conversation look like? What’s the conversation we need to have?”

Many pre-made curriculums teaching about appropriate sexual behavior and the importance of consent wouldn’t effectively address the unique cultural needs of BYU-I as a church school.

“We all really need to ask ourselves — and I welcome feedback on this — ‘What doctrine and principles do we need to understand to change our behavior and attitudes within dating?’” Rammell said.

About 40 attendees asked questions ranging from whether it’s appropriate for faculty to hug students to how to support someone who has experienced sexual assault.

“The last thing we want to do for someone who’s been victimized is to jump in and take control, even if you’re well-intentioned,” Rammell said. “They already had the experience where they lost control.”

Instead, those trying to help a friend who has experienced sexual assault should listen, take things seriously and avoid asking too many questions that could come across as accusatory or prying. Point them toward resources that could help them, such as the university’s Title IX office and professional counseling.

A second forum is scheduled for Friday, March 3, in the John Taylor Building Chapel. Questions for the event can be submitted anonymously here.

Sexual harassment of any kind is not tolerated at BYU-I and the university urges victims to reach out for help. More information on how the university handles sexual harassment can be found in the Title IX section of the BYU-I website.