Leaked report says Baylor's strict conduct code may have contributed to silence on rape

Posted August 22

Details emerging from an internal review of Baylor's football rape scandal along with a lawsuit filed on behalf of victims both are now suggesting that the university may have inadvertently exacerbated problems by intimidating witnesses and victims through a strict conduct code.

“A number of victims were told that if they made a report of rape, their parents would be informed of the details of where they were and what they were doing,” Chad Dunn, an attorney for the plaintiffs, told the Associated Press.

The new details are not entirely surprising. Baylor admitted earlier this year that reporting offenses by football players had been discouraged and that in at least one case the university had threatened to retaliate against a victim, as the Daily Beast reported.

Most college campuses have amnesty provisions not only for victims, but also for witnesses who report crimes against others. Johns Hopkins University has such a policy, which states that students and fraternities that cause "repeated or serious medical emergencies" may face consequences.

The Johns Hopkins policy also states that individuals or organizations (fraternities or sororities) involved in a drug or alcohol incident may be required to take "corrective measures," such as counseling or changes in group policies. Failure to complete those steps may result in disciplinary action.

Baylor has such a policy, for precisely such reasons:

"In order to encourage reports of conduct prohibited under this policy, the University will offer amnesty to the alleged victim or reporting witness with respect to any alcohol and minor drug use violations of the University’s student conduct code. The University may also offer amnesty or leniency to the alleged victim or reporting witness with respect to other violations of University policy which may be disclosed as a result of such reports, depending on the circumstances involved."

But that policy apparently didn't come into play for a woman who called police to report a physical assault on another woman at an off-campus party, according to AP. "(Campus) Police demanded to know if she was underage and had been drinking, then arrested and reported her to the school office that investigates conduct code violations, she said. She told Baylor officials her drinking was a result of being raped a month earlier and detailed what happened in person and in a letter."

"She received an alcohol code violation and told to do 25 hours community service, and when she tried to appeal, the woman said Baylor officials urged her to drop it. The school never pursued her rape claim," the AP reports.

Baylor is not the only religious school in the news on this front. Brigham Young University, owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, faced similar flak earlier this year.

Like Baylor, BYU has struggled to balance its strict behavior standards with the imperative to encourage victims and witnesses to come forward. As the Deseret News reported at the time, Mormon-affiliated (but not church owned) Southern Virginia University had already responded to similar concerns with a robust amnesty policy.



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