PROVO, Utah — A dean at Brigham Young University, which has come under fire for its handling of sexual-assault cases, issued a clear condemnation of victim-blaming and underscored the importance of consent on Tuesday
Victims must never be held accountable, no matter what happened before the assault, Benjamin Ogles said at a devotional speech, The Daily Herald newspaper in Provo reported .
“The perpetrator is responsible for their actions. A victim was deprived of their agency and they are not accountable for what happened to them without their consent — no matter what they were wearing, where they were or what happened beforehand. They did not invite, allow, sanction or encourage the assault,” he said.
Students who have been assaulted, meanwhile, are not damaged or broken by what happened to them, he said.
Clear consent is essential, he said. People who are asleep or intoxicated can’t give it, and those who freeze up or stop resisting sexual contact have not agreed to sex, he said. Marriage should also not been seen as a blanket consent to intimacy, he said.
“Spouses have the same obligation to respect one another’s agency and physical and personal space as in any other relationship,” he said.
He encouraged students to ask if it’s OK before kissing someone, even if it’s awkward. The speech also referenced the Me Too movement and Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints doctrine.
It comes nearly two years after female students said they reported being sexually assaulted but were instead investigated for possible violations of the Mormon-owned school’s honor code, which forbids premarital sex and alcohol, among other things.
The university has since adopted an honor-code amnesty clause in sexual assault cases and taken other steps after an internal investigation that Ogles helped conduct. He is the dean of the College of Family, Home and Social Sciences.
Ogles encouraged students to believe reports of sexual assault, and for victims to get professional help and cooperate with authorities.
Information from: The Daily Herald, http://www.heraldextra.com