Elizabeth Smart Just Called out Campus Rape Culture

May 27th 2016

Lucy Tiven

On Wednesday, Elizabeth Smart joined Fox TV's "Crime Watch Daily" as a special correspondent, and she delivered a brave segment nailing campus rape culture.

Smart tackled sexual assault at her alma mater, Brigham Young University.

Smart — who became known nationwide when she was abducted in 2002 and held captive for nine months — dedicated the episode to the treatment of alleged sexual assault victims at her alma mater, Brigham Young University.

She interviewed two women who alleged that they were assaulted at BYU, and were investigated for violating the school's "Honor Code" when they reported the incidents. The episode delved into how the university's honor code can shame rape victims and discourage women from coming forward about being sexually assaulted.

When "honor codes" become obstacles for victims.

BYU's honor code was created in 1949, and it punishes students for offenses including "sexual misconduct," and "obscene or indecent conduct or expressions," Business Insider reported.

Both the women Smart interviewed, Hailey Allen and Colleen Dietz, were eventually found innocent of violating the code, but they described the process as extremely traumatic.

“It really makes me feel terrible to think that these women are not coming forward and getting the help that they not only need but deserve, because they’re too worried about the rules that are in place, worried that they’ll get expelled,” Smart said on Fox.

She also got personal.

Smart, who was repeatedly raped by her captors, said she connected with the experiences of Allen and Dietz, and discussed how emotional manipulation and abuse can be even more traumatic than physical violence.

"I have been physically chained up, and I have been, well, 'manipulatedly' chained up," Smart told Dietz. "I can say that that power, that manipulation, is so much stronger than any chain anyone could put on me."

What happened at BYU.

Dietz, who was allegedly raped by a friend's uncle as a freshman at BYU, said her Mormon bishop told her she would be expelled if she got pregnant. Allen told Smart that she was raped multiple times by her ex-boyfriend and was also threatened with expulsion when she told the school about the incidents in 2004.

BYU student Madi Barney recently shared a similar story. As ATTN: previously reported, after Barney was allegedly raped by a man she invited into her apartment, she told the school what happened and received an email asserting that she had violated the honor code.

"I felt re-victimized," Barney told KUTV2 News. "She only said we need to talk about the honor code. It looks like you violated it."

In April, Barney created an online petition asking the school to stop punishing victims of sexual violence, which gathered over 114,000 signatures at time of publication. "I want victims of sexual violence at BYU to have an immunity clause from the Honor Code so that they don’t feel afraid to report," Barney wrote in the petition.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which owns the university, released a statement reported by the Salt Lake Tribune in April. The statement reads:

"Assault of any kind is a serious criminal offense, and we support its reporting, investigation and prosecution to the full extent of the law. Victims of assault or recipients of unwelcome sexual attention should be treated with sensitivity, compassion and respect and should feel that those to whom they disclose the assault are committed to helping them deal with the trauma they have experienced."

Smart's segment also pointed that campus rape culture extends far beyond Brigham Young University, and closed with an inspiring message for victims.

"I want them to know that these things happen, and they don't deserve it, and it certainly was not their fault," she said. "They should not feel responsible or guilty. This was another person's choice."

"They don't need to feel like this is going to define them for the rest of their life," Smart added powerfully. "They can still do everything they want to do."

You can watch the episode below and on YouTube.

[h/t Jezebel]