Panel addresses concerns about sexual assault at BYUH following #MeToo movement

Written by: 
Courtney Bow Nielsen

A panel of four members set up by the Title IX office was held in the aftermath of the recent #MeToo movement in order to inform students about policies and procedures for sexual assault.


Held in the HGB on Thursday, Nov. 16, the panelists answered questions from students about what they should do about sexual assault at BYU-Hawaii. The panelists were: Rebecca Vigoren, a BYUH alumna; AnnaMarie Christiansen, associate professor who teaches women’s studies; Rachel Chambers, a sophomore from Utah studying music; and Paul Buckingham, a retired Counseling Center therapist.


Brittania Darrington, a senior from Texas studying communications, said the panel made her rethink instances in middle and high school where she felt uncomfortable.


“I’ve always thought, ‘Oh, I was just young and stupid and didn’t realize that I shouldn’t have hugged those boys for so long,’ or, ‘Oh I was stupid because I shouldn’t have touched their elbow’ or something stupid like that to make them hit on me. But I realized that those incidents actually weren’t necessarily my fault. Those were instances of harassment that I didn’t recognize until going to that panel discussion.”


Rebekah Kay Strain, the BYUH Title IX deputy coordinator, said that the LDS Church board of trustees over the church schools changed their sexual misconduct policies in April 2017 so that Title IX and the Office of Honor would be separated. She said the Title IX office is a support system for students who are unsure of how to report sexual misconduct.


“If you’re not aware of this, Title IX is now totally separate from Honor Code,” Strain said. “If you want to come and talk to us about your experience, everything stays in Title IX. It will not go to the Honor Code office.”


Strain said this is to encourage more reporting and eliminate the fear of being judged or being reported.


“It’s something that’s really hard to carry on your own,” Strain continued. “You do need somebody–a safe place. It’s a safe place where you can go to talk about these things without the fear of ‘I’m going to get reported or judged or in trouble.’”


Chambers said she hoped this discussion made students more comfortable with the thought of reporting sexual harassment. After hearing about a case at BYU where a girl was kicked out after being raped, Chambers researched how BYUH was different and said she “helps out” the Title IX office as a side project.


“The reason why Title IX is here and the reason why we all sat on that panel is we want people to know that it is not their fault,” Chambers said. “We believe them and we want to create a space where people can come forward and feel safe doing so and know that there are people fighting for them.”


Darrington continued, “I realized that when something makes me uncomfortable, I should be able to say something without fearing of being judged or fearing that I might get into trouble. Men and women are equal and if we really want to make it that way, we have to learn to respect each other’s boundaries.


“I loved what one of the girls said on the panel that it starts with ourselves. We can’t give men - or anyone for that matter - excuses to act the way they do. It’s their responsibility to learn what’s okay and what’s not.”


Chambers said the panel didn’t encourage women to think of themselves as better or stronger than men but helped them realize there’s a support group for anyone who’s been harassed.


“If you come and talk to us, you don’t have to do everything by yourself,” said Chambers. “There are resources to help you, and most importantly we want to make sure that this campus is safer.”


Darrington continued, “I learned so much from the Me Too panel and the Title IX program. I feel more comfortable talking to them or going to them with a problem now that I know them better and now that I know it doesn’t necessarily have to be a big deal to go to them. They definitely raised their trust levels among the students and the campus in general.”


The Title IX office is located upstairs in the Lorenzo Snow Building. There will be a follow-up discussion panel on Nov. 30 at 11 a.m. in HGB Room 115.

Date Published: 
Monday, November 27, 2017
Last Edited: 
Monday, November 27, 2017