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Rape Culture, Feminism, and BYU...

How I know Rape Culture exists at BYU:

Because my bishop taught about chastity a few months ago in Relief Society, and instead of talking about growing closer to God, he talked about how if you get raped while dressed immodestly, then it’s your fault.

Because after that lesson, my RA had to pull aside the girls on my floor and remind us that rape is never the victim’s fault.

Because my Relief Society advisor’s lesson on Visiting Teaching ended with ten minutes of advice on how to survive college, and instead of talking about how to study or how to do well she gave advice on how to not get raped. She told us to just not go dancing, to not stay out late, to use the buddy system. Instead of teaching the men to respect us and not rape us, she spent a good chunk of our worship service teaching us to protect ourselves and to avoid situations in which men could hurt us.

Because when people commend me for dressing modestly, they’re commending me not because I’m trying to grow closer to God or to show my divine worth as a daughter of God, but because I’m doing my part to keep the minds of the men around me pure.

Because before every date, my RA offers to let me borrow one of her cans of pepper spray (meaning she owns multiple cans of pepper spray).

Because when my mom heard about my RA’s pepper spray, she wanted to buy me my own can.

Because when I go running, I have to be back before dark, but my guy friends often don't start running until after 9. They don’t understand why I feel unsafe running in the dark.

Because when I have to go up Freshman Hill in the dark at 4 A.M. on my way to work, I run as fast as I can, even though the path is well lit.

Reasons I get frustrated when people act like rape culture doesn’t exist at BYU:

Because in a survey from 2003, 90% of rapes in Provo were not reported to the police.

Because there are signs posted around campus reminding women not to walk alone after dark.

Because when I go running in the middle of the day, in very modest workout clothes, I still get cat calls and rude comments from men.

Because last semester, I was studying in the sunshine outside of Hinckley Hall wearing jeans and a sweatshirt, and a group of guys walking past started cat calling me and making rude comments like, “She wants to go out with me!” “Give me your number!” “She wants me,” “Take your clothes off!” and other comments that made me no longer feel comfortable studying anywhere but in the safety of my dorm room. It doesn’t matter what I wear, some men still view me as an object instead of a human being.

Because when I told people about the above encounter, I received comments like, “Were they cute?” “Well did you give them your number?” and “It must feel nice to get so much attention from boys.”

Because some of the campus police have the sole job of investigating sexual assault and rape (meaning that although many people I know think of BYU as a safe campus, there are enough cases of sexual assault and rape for it to be basically the main focus of those police officers)

Why I need feminism and why I need Rape Culture to die:

Because when I was 12, I wasn't allowed to walk literally a block to the library to do my homework without taking my tiny, scrawny 10 year old brother to protect me. The logic behind this was not that he would physically protect me in any way, but that his presence would either deter an attacker or he would be able to run for help if I was attacked.

Because when I walk down the street, some guys will walk right into me if I don't move out of the way for them.

Because I’m already mentally preparing myself to be paid less than my male coworkers when I start my career after college.

Because some people don’t take me and my feelings seriously just because I’m a woman and I’m young.

Because when I go dancing, men assume that I want to dance with them simply because I’m there even though I don’t know them and I’ve shown zero interest in them.

Because when I tell people about my plans to work for Amigos de las Americas after college and how I want to live abroad people ask, “Well what about when you get married?” because not only do they think marriage should be my only goal in life and that I need to sacrifice all my other dreams to get married, but also because it’s my second semester in college at age 18 and already my future husband’s dreams and goals are more important than mine.

Because I don't feel safe on BYU’s campus!


  1. Anonymous9/07/2015

    As a father of a BYU freshman girl, I love this. Thanks.

    We need to do more to not give men excuses for violent behavior. Although having said that ... please be safe.

  2. Anonymous9/07/2015

    Thanks you so much for writing this. As a recent victim of sexual assault on campus, I have to say that it exists. I'm the last person you would ever expect something like that to happen to, but I am proof that it can. I've had friends who've worked security and who hear all sorts of terrible things over the police radio. BYU is supposed to be a place of safety and a refuge from the world. And compared to other places, it is, but that doesn't mean that this isn't still a problem.

  3. Wow! Seriously. I had no idea that rape was so prevalent on the BYU campus. I am so sorry to hear that. All I hear about BYU is that is is such a great school, safe campus, etc.

    Treating women like objects (cat calling, expecting them to move out of the way, etc.) is nothing new. That is just disgusting behavior. Weren't we put here on earth for the pleasure of men? Gag. Honestly, it is just as bad that people responding to your stories are asking if the offending boy was "cute" or if you gave him your number. Really? What kind of a person would that make you if you did?

    I remember my mom giving my little brothers lessons on being a gentleman (they are now in their early 30s). Respect. Respect. Respect. Now as I am a mom, I have done the same thing. Women are not objects. They are daughters of God. They are to be respected. Treated like queens. (Women also need to respect men - don't think I am man-bashing.)

    I could go on and on about what men can do. Women are NOT responsible for a man's thoughts. Regardless of however a women dresses, dances, etc. Self control. Self respect. Respect for women. Respect for human beings.

    I am sorry, but your bishop and RS advisor are completely out of line by telling you (women in general) that you will avoid being raped if only you dress modestly, don't stay out after dark, and don't go dancing. Seriously? I feel like I am reading the script for a sad, sad after school special. I am glad your RA had the foresight to pull everyone aside and remind you that rape is NOT the victim's fault. Funny that she offers the use of one of her many pepper sprays. Too bad she doesn't feel safe enough to go out or on dates without one.

    You go, Girl! Work with Amigos de las Americas. It is your choice whether to get married - when and if you do. (Same with having children...) Never let a man tell you what you should/shouldn't do. It is your life. If you want to make a decision jointly, great.

    Forget carrying pepper spray. Just start laughing and pointing.

  4. Catherine9/19/2015

    I don't think there is anything wrong with stating true and unjust experiences that occur in life, but I do disagree when it is made to sound as if they are absolutes or the general culture of a place. Therefore, I do not agree with this article claiming that BYU is has a "rape culture". I work in the field of mental health and grew up near Baltimore, I feel that I have had much exposure to areas that would be classified similar to "rape cultures". True"rape cultures" are places in which rape/sexual assault is common and accepted. Countries like Colombia, where you could be walking down a street and an anonymous man might take you and sexually assault you and no one would stop him. Or the Czech/German borders where child prostitution may be illegal, but runs rampant. Rape and sexual assault does exist, I know being a victim, but BYU is NOT a place in which it is a culture. I would instead say that these are some unjust things that do happen at BYU and should not be acceptable, but they are also NOT the norm or part of the general culture. So, instead making it sound as if ALL men at BYU are ignorant and rude, how about celebrating the majority that respect our womanhood and try to keep us safe? Make those men the example so that others will aim to become like them. Change more easily happens when one feels positive towards themselves and others.

    One more thing, I am sorry you had an encounter with an ignorant Bishop, Man or Women that is unacceptable what he said. But unfortunately ignorant Bishop's exists everywhere and one RM to a future RM you are about to get a pretty good view of that on your mission. They exist everywhere, not just BYU. Sadly, nobody is perfect....


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