Keeping Our Boys Safe

Rover_Boys_College_p006As you are probably well aware, BYU is reviewing its policies related to sexual assault victims and Honor Code violations. One proposal which seems to have a good bit of currency–especially since it appears to be the norm at other schools, including SVU, which have similar Honor Codes–is an “amnesty” for offenses which might have been committed in the context of the sexual assault. The motive here is to remove the disincentive for victims not to report assaults–or for assailants to assault Honor Code scofflaws because they are well aware that their victim is less likely to report the assault in that case.

Of course, this policy incentivizes Honor Code violators to claim that they were sexually assaulted in order to gain immunity from the consequences of their Honor Code violations in cases where sexual activity was consensual–or perhaps when no sexual activity whatsoever actually occurred.

I am a mother of three boys, so of course the prospect of them being assaulted with false accusations hits close to home. Here are some things that we can begin teaching our boys to prepare them to live in a world where their purity is constantly threatened by predators:

  1. Follow the Honor Code with exact obedience. They would avoid virtually all circumstances where they might be assaulted with false accusations if they do so.
  2. Do not walk alone at night. They should always be sure to go with a group after dark (to the library, to and from work, etc.). It is entirely possible that a woman could jump out of the bushes and assault them with false accusations any time they are alone at night and they would be completely defenseless. There is safety in numbers.
  3. Even during the day, isolated places are best avoided (this would include hiking trails, empty hallways, laundry rooms, etc.). There are parts of campus and parts of the city which they should consider off-limits to them if they want to protect their virtue.
  4. Avoid suspicious-looking women: for example, by not getting into elevators with them.
  5. Dating requires extra caution. They should only date women they already know really well. They should avoid being alone with their dates.
  6. Always be hyper-aware of their surroundings: for example, if they break the rules by walking alone through a parking lot after dark, they should scan to see if any women are walking toward them or loitering by their cars, particularly if the women are in a group.
  7. Be sure to always, always, always lock car doors, keep home windows shut and locked, etc., so women can’t sneak in and assault them with false charges.
  8. Avoid being alone with members of the opposite sex, particularly those who are in a position of power of them (including professors, mentors, bosses, etc.).
  9. Take self-defense classes. A variety of businesses have sprung up in the Provo area to teach boys and men tips on how to act and speak so that they can avoid being assaulted by false charges. Many of these classes cost less than $300, so there is no reason not to take them.
  10. Consider carrying a gun or knife. That way, if they are approached by a woman who seems like she might be about to make a false accusation, they can defend themselves.
  11. Communicate very, very clearly with their dates. They need to speak forcefully and unambiguously and make crystal-clear that they would NOT like to be assaulted with false accusations. Otherwise, how on earth could a woman get the message that they did not want this? (Especially if their clothing was sending a different message!) If they aren’t completely clear about this–especially by offering physical resistence–there is just no way for a woman to know that they don’t want to be assaulted. Women aren’t mind readers!
  12. Understand that the clothing they wear sends a message. Girls react differently to clothing than boys do. Boys should be sure that they don’t wear anything which sends the message that they want girls to make false accusations against them. As former YW President Elaine Dalton taught, “Just as one does not hike trails inhabited by rattlesnakes barefoot, similarly in today’s world it is essential to our very safety to be modest.” Some people say that it is not a young man’s problem if a girl is doing something wrong. If he is immodest, it’s not his problem if the girl does something wrong. Well, it is!

Bottom line: “You are vulnerable, every location is dangerous, being alone is dangerous, and you can’t trust anyone.”(cite)

36 comments for “Keeping Our Boys Safe

  1. Julie,

    There is NOTHING any of your boys can do to protect themselves from a date-rape charge. He is automatically guilty upon her denouncement. No evidence is needed except her denouncement. Truth is irrelevant. Right?

  2. Yes, ji, I’ve been considering advising them to live at home and do online college to protect them–at least until they get married and their wives can offer them protection from false assault charges.

  3. There’s plenty a boy can do – never be alone with a woman you don’t implicitly trust. If you’re never alone with an untrustworthy woman you will have plenty of witnesses to counter her false claim.

  4. i would just double up on every suggestion, taking account of “she said-he said” problems of proof and the complexity of a system that means (at BYU at least) that false accusation comes with the extra weight of suspicion of Honor Code violation. In light of your first point about avoiding “virtually all circumstances,” some people will make the contrapositive assumption that every time there is an accusation, true or false, there must be an Honor Code violation in the background.

  5. Wouldn’t it be more straightforward to just stop punishing all students for Honor Code violations?

  6. How often do false rape accusations actually happen? If there aren’t any signs of rape or if there is a long time lag in reporting it, don’t the authorities usually drop the case? Sure there always is a possibility for even the remotest of cases, however, how probable is the false accusation going to stick unless there are visible signs of rape? Doesn’t the above focus on the remote possibility therefore serve as subtle victim blaming?

  7. Great parody, Julie.

    Of course, there are occasions of false accusations of rape. Some make national news. Some just ruin lives.

    There are also occasions (I experienced one personally) when a GIRL sexually assaults a BOY at BYU (with her hands, not with false accusations)! I probably breached the Honor Code by failing to report it. Maybe you should add to your boys’ list: “Don’t go to any BYU Preference events or on any dates if a girl asks you.”

    And then there is the possibility of same-gender assault. Bottom line: “Don’t have social contact with anyone!”

  8. Oh, Julie! Satire is fun. Let’s keep going shall we?

    Don’t you know that false rape accusations almost never happen? Oh wait, I remember how this works: The very fact that the data show such low incidence is in fact proof that it is way under-reported and must be a rampant epidemic.

    Plus, it’s common cultural knowledge that your boys can’t possibly be responsible for any circumstances that precede such an unspeakable trauma. I mean, for heavens sake, how can the fact that he is drinking and having sex with a girl in any way be connected to anything that happens afterward? Being accused of rape is so horrific, that should be punishment enough. We must insist that the University also offer amnesty to any young men accused of sexual assault. Anything short would be re-traumatizing, victim-blaming, and clearly a perpetuation of a rape accusation culture..

    And remember, that no woman’s opinion can be considered on this matter, unless they offer unqualified support of the men. Women can’t possibly understand how devastating a false rape allegation is for a young man, so anything they say can be disregarded as coming from a place of privilege. It may seem unreasonable to claim that men with no experience around false rape allegations have a right to speak on this issue, but women who have been falsely accused should be silenced, but, you know, political correctness, right?

  9. It would be so much easier to just do away with the whole honor code, wouldn’t it. And all the commandments while we’re at it. And why stop there? All laws are just a majority trying to impose their personal values on everybody. Let’s stop punishing people who break the law, too!

  10. You seem to have missed the parody. But in any event false rape accusations can and have been reported to have ruined families, employment, and reputations even when they do not “stick.” In the hey-day of the “recovered memory” fiasco of the 80s they also resulted in convictions, excommunications, etc. Of course, now there are also such recovered memory therapists in jail for inducing false memories of sexual assault. The whole matter is far more complex that victim blaming, subtle or not. The very concept of victim blaming presumes there was a victim; it assumes the truth of the allegation. The possibility that false rape accusations are less common than true rape accusations is no excuse for ignoring the existence of false rape accusations in developing a policy to deal with allegations not yet adjudicated.

  11. You leave to us to discern your point for ourselves. One intended point, I imagine, is to show that one cannot compare the issues girls deal with to boys’ challenges. I agree. The litany of suggestions are humorously absurd when applied to men (take care on elevators, be afraid of a woman jumping out of the bushes, etc.).

    So if not comparable, why compare?

    One problem is that the first sentence of your third paragraph has actual, substantive, non-comedic, merit. There IS a culture of false accusations at BYU against boys that IS concerning. That issue is wholly distinct from how the university should treat victims of sexual assault. And I feel like this parody discounts a very real problem of false accusations and discipline against innocent boys in an effort to demonstrate the severity of completely different problem. And I think that is unfair. The issues each deserve attention, on their own merits.

  12. Wait, what? There’s a “culture of false accusations” at BYU? Since when? I graduated from there quite recently and never heard about this insidious “culture of false accusations”.

  13. I’m not sure what your point is here, so I’m not sure how to respond. If it’s that the whole idea that honor code immunity may incentivize false accusations is ridiculous, then that’s clearly not the case. Estimates for the number of accusations that are false vary widely, but some research has suggested that it’s around 2-10% of accusations (I’ve pasted citations below). Which is small, but it’s hardly insignificant either, especially if it is your son that is a pariah for the rest of his life because of the accusation. Furthermore, research on the motivations for making such claims include attempt to avoid trouble or to provide an alibi, something that would definitely play into an honor code exemption. Of course, this needs to be weighed against the cost in not reporting a rape due to honor code investigations. We have two very big unknowns, so reasonable people can disagree, but jeering at people who hold one side isn’t going to help matters.

    On the second point you seem to be sarcastically mocking preventative measures aimed at the potential victims. I also don’t see what good comes from not using every tool in the arsenal. If I want to go backpacking along the Vietnam/Cambodian border and somebody tells me that’s not a good idea because it’s pockmarked with landmines, I will not accuse them of blaming me for the landmine situation. People lay landmines and people rape. While we should also try to prevent people from raping or laying landmines, there’s potential harm in not disseminating information about avoiding those problems as well. I can’t see why we can’t do both.

    Here are the articles, the abstracts give the basic gist even if you don’t have access:

    Lisak, David, Lori Gardinier, Sarah C. Nicksa, and Ashley M. Cote. “False allegations of sexual assualt: an analysis of ten years of reported cases.” Violence Against Women 16, no. 12 (2010): 1318-1334.

    O’Neal, Eryn Nicole, Cassia Spohn, Katharine Tellis, and Clair White. “The Truth Behind the Lies: The Complex Motivations for False Allegations of Sexual Assault.” Women & Criminal Justice 24, no. 4 (2014): 324-340.

    Spohn, Cassia, Clair White, and Katharine Tellis. “Unfounding sexual assault: Examining the decision to unfound and identifying false reports.” Law & Society Review 48, no. 1 (2014): 161-192.

  14. I’m not being sarcastic – why should girls have to take preventative measures to prevent being raped, but boys don’t have to take preventative measures to prevent being accused of rape? While written in a sarcastic tone, all of her counsel above would pretty successfully prevent any accusation of rape being successful.

    Why can’t boys “use every tool in the arsenal” to prevent being accused of rape? It’s this apparent hypocrisy that makes me doubt your sincerity.

  15. To Jared vdH: Sorry, my response was meant towards the post itself. For some reason the way that the graphics work it looks like my comment was meant as a response to you. Yes, I agree men should also take measures to avoid being accused of rape. The sarcasm comment was directed towards the main post, not your comment.

  16. Important typo correction to my last comment: falsely accused of rape. It goes without saying that if they did it they should be accused.

  17. This was funny, and I understand the point… but, with the exception of women jumping out of bushes and such, I couldn’t help but think most of it is actually very good advice for my sons.

  18. Julie. Not only WILL that work, the daughters-in-law WILL love you unreservedly, even MORE than their own mothers. Prophecy.

  19. KL 5.1
    There is a difference between the Honor Code Office and the commandments of God and to a lesser extent the laws of the land. As this last case has shown, the bureaucratization of morality is itself an absurdity that leads to immorality. The fact that the police expressly asked to have any HCO investigation postponed so that it would not interfere with their own criminal probe, and that request was rejected by the HCO in favor of prosecuting a moral infraction regardless of the criminal probe, shows a remarkably Orwellian morality at play. It is sick. And if our culture cannot distinguish between competing moral imperatives of this kind, than the commandments of God and the laws of the land become an entirely arbitrary set of rules enforced at the whims of mediocre middle managers and the tyranny of committee.

    The HCO should be in the hot seat. The people who ordered the HCO commence with their punitive actions should be fired. And BYU should offer a profound and very public apology to this young woman. And if they cannot do that, then dear God, get rid of the office.

  20. I guess making light of this issue probably has some value. It must be difficult dealing with non-member friends given the negative attention this issue garnered from the press. I guess that’s the price of tying oneself to an organization that seems out of touch on women’s issues.

  21. I got my first girl friend Sophomore year at BYU. Over winter break when she was at her parents house she got a black eye. When she came back to Provo she joked with her roommates that her boyfriend (me) gave her the black eye. She shared with me that she found that sentiment funny, and would continue to say it whenever asked about her eye. I firmly told her that it wasn’t funny, and that she shouldn’t do that. I was terrified that someone in authority, who didn’t know either of us, would hear that, and I’d be in hot water.
    I suspect that she found it funny because 1) to even be possible it meant that she had a boyfriend, and was reveling in that fact, 2) its a polar opposite of how I am, making the thought so absurd, it would usually be humorous, 3) we were in different timezones when the incident occurred, making it rather hard for me to be the perpetrator.
    I know that abused girlfriends are a real issue, and when confronted by authorities the girl will change their story, because they want to keep their man; and I’m really grateful that I did not end up on the wrong end of a guilty until proven less guilty situation.

  22. Poe’s law too, it would seem. I was gasping at Julie’s use of “purity” and “immodest clothing” till I “got” it.

  23. At what point should a BYU student think, “what would Jesus do?”

    1. When he signs the BYU honor code contract.

    2. When he is tempted to break the honor code.

    3. After he has broken the honor code.

    4. After he has lied about breaking the honor code.

    5. When he is angry at BYU for enforcing the honor code.

    6. After he has orchestrated a media event denouncing the honor code.

    7. None of the above.

    Deep Thoughts by Jack

  24. The Lack of integrity in this post is incredible, honest seekers of truth should go to millennial star to read Michael Davidson’s post explaining some of the dishonesty this author has chosen to regurgitate.

  25. laserguy: your comment confuses me. The Davidson post concerns the accuracy–or lack thereof–regarding the reporting of the Barney case. This post does not concern that case; this post concerns proposed changes to the BYU Honor Code.

  26. While I know you meant this as a parody Julie, the sad thing is there’s a lot of truth to this. Further, I think the assumption women aren’t aggressive sexually is itself a product of sexism. There’s lot of of sexually aggressive women and due to social mores they often assume they can do things that would be considered assault if a man did them. And that happens even around BYU.

    Regarding false rape accusations, the figure is not agreed upon since there’s not even agreement on criteria. (i.e. what we mean by false accusation) Wikipedia has a good article with links to the various sources. The US Dept of Justice says the rate is 8% and Canada puts the rate at 10%. A study of universities in the US put the rate at 5.9%. That is low, given the number of true charges. However it also means that false accusations aren’t at all uncommon either.

    I don’t think false accusations should change most reforms, but I do think the presumption of innocence in the US justice system shouldn’t be changed either. Someone mentioned robbery and false charges doesn’t change how we perceive robbery. But of course it does change how we perceive accusations. That is far from being an argument discounting false charges it ought show that false charges are important to be concerned about.

    One big problem with the honor code system is the lack of good due process. I think we should keep the honor code, but the way it is run is just inherently problematic. Both in terms of people getting off who shouldn’t, but also people using it as a way of punishing people they don’t like.

  27. I too have been really concerned about this.

    Here are pointers on how men can protect themselves from false rape accusations, as told through how people prevent rape.
    – Don’t ever have sex or anything like unto it, so you will never be accused of rape because someone regretted having sex with you. Especially not premaritally.
    – Don’t ever be alone with anyone, so you will never be accused of rape. Safety is in numbers. (ignoring gang rape for moment)
    -Don’t ever drink alcohol, so you don’t loose your conscience and so no one can accuse you of being too drunk to hear them say no or drunkingly raping them on accident.
    – Pay child support, so your ex-wife won’t accuse you of raping her just because she is mad.
    – Don’t ever cheat on your partner, so they won’t accuse you of raping her just because she is mad.
    – Give women lots of attention, so they don’t need to say you raped them just for attention.
    – Don’t go jogging alone at night so other joggers can’t accuse you of raping them while on your jog.
    -Wear a 24/7 body camera so you can prove your innocence if accused of rape.
    Lastly, -If at BYU don’t break the honor code, or you may also be accused of rape.

Comments are closed.