Guest post: lazy reporting on the BYU rape scandal

This is a guest post by Michael Davidson.

Madi Barney, who up until recently was a BYU student, was completely unknown to me until last month. It was then that she publicly announced that she had been raped and proclaimed that BYU was punishing her for this. News headlines from around the world proclaimed: “Student: BYU used Honor Code to punish me for getting raped” (CBS News); “Brigham Young Students Say University’s Honor Code Made Them Afraid to Report Sexual Assaults” (ABC News); “BYU erupts in protest as student is suspended for violating the school’s honor code by ‘reporting rape to local police’” Daily Mail (UK); and “BYU Punished a Rape Victim for Breaking Their ‘Honor Code,’ Student Claims.” ( However, none of this rung true to me and I just knew that there was more to this story than was being reported.

Below, I am going to endeavor to cut through the spin and fog of political correctness to set forth the facts as they have been reported in the local and national media. I am doing this because the media generally has either decided to ignore the facts, or has been too lazy to get to the bottom of the story. Instead, they are content to spend their collective time advocating for amendment of the Honor Code at BYU. The result of this is that no one is looking critically at Madi Barney or questioning the veracity of her claims. This allows the media to tell a simple story, that Madi Barney is being punished for being a rape victim. But, a fair reading of the facts does not support this conclusion. This is why the facts have been so hard to come by … because the facts simply go against the narrative and lead reasonable minds to conclude that Ms. Barney was violating the Honor Code well before her alleged rape.

According to this report in the Daily Herald on Tuesday, September 29, 2015, an unnamed 19-year old woman accused Nasiru Seidu of rape. Based on the subsequent reporting, the 19-year old woman is no doubt Madi Barney. According to this newspaper account, which cited to police reports, on Friday, September 25, 2015, Ms. Barney and Mr. Seidu were engaged in “sexual activities,” but “at some point, [Ms. Barney] told Seidu she didn’t feel comfortable and she wanted to stop.” At this point, Ms. Barney “began to get dressed.” Ms. Barney then alleges that Seidu “pushed her onto the bed and continued to have sex with her.” Emphasis added. Ms. Barney reports that she screamed and said no, but that Seidu continued, which is what constituted the alleged rape. The news report indicates that Seidu admitted having sex with Ms. Barney, but that he stopped when she asked him to do so.

It is interesting to note that NONE of the news media that have been covering Ms. Barney in April and May have ever mentioned any of this, including the Daily Herald which produced the report mentioned in the previous paragraph. The Salt Lake Tribune, which has literally published more than a dozen articles on this topic, has not mentioned this at all. I know that I must be expecting too much, especially considering that when I googled “Nasiru Seidu” this morning the Daily Herald report quoted above was all the way down at fourth place in the first page of search results. You can’t expect professional journalists to do that kind of digging. Instead, in various reports, Ms. Barney denies that she never even invited Seidu into her bedroom on the evening of September 25, 2015, recognizing that this would have been a violation of the Honor Code. Unfortunately, this is contradicted by the reported facts.

Ms. Barney has been reported in many places as saying that she initially didn’t want to report the alleged rape because she feared getting in trouble with the honor code. However, she has never said which of her actions made her fear honor code repercussions, and apparently none of the hundreds of papers, tv stations and websites that have covered her story have bothered to ask this question. This leaves readers to assume that merely being raped was enough to warrant honor code sanctions. The Daily Mail (UK) reports that Ms. Barney didn’t decide to report the alleged rape until she learned that Seidu “had lied about his identity.” However, recent reporting by the Salt Lake Tribune shows that Edwin Randolph (who is one of the few people that has seen the police report) has alleged that Ms. Barney only reported the alleged rape “after she discovered Seidu had lied about his age and about being married, and that her roommates had threatened to turn her in to the Honor Code Office.” Emphasis added.

While it took us a while to figure out how to find police records online – by the time we did, the actual police report has not, as yet, been made public. I do note that the several people who have had access to it have said little about its contents. Barney has said nothing about the contents of the report, so far as I can find. In quotes provided by Ms. Barney, officials from BYU told her that items in the police report suggested that she had “engaged in behavior that violates the BYU Honor Code.”

In her online petition, which was posted in April 2016, Ms. Barney asserts “when I sought out resources from BYU, the Title IX coordinator told me that there wasn’t enough proof of the assault to grant me those resources.” However, various published reports indicate that Ms. Barney didn’t approach anyone at BYU about the alleged rape and “a woman in the school’s administration” contacted her “out of the blue,” in December, after a copy of the police report had been delivered to BYU. According to the ABC News report, Ms. Barney told this woman, “I don’t recall breaking the honor code,” and was told at that point that BYU had a copy of the police report. Clearly, the police report included details that were of a damning nature, and based on the newspaper report from September this is not at all surprising.

Sometime thereafter, Ms. Barney got a letter from the Honor Code Office which invited her to come to the office to resolve this matter, and which informed her that she would not be able to register for new classes until she did so. Ms. Barney refused to talk to the Honor Code Office. She says that this was on advice from the prosecuting attorney in Seidu’s rape prosecution. This prosecutor went to the press to complain about BYU, only to have his boss contradict him publicly later the same day and to tell him to stop speaking to the press.

Ms. Barney has never responded publicly to the obvious question of whether or not she violated the Honor Code in the events leading up to her alleged rape. The fact that she thinks that she should have amnesty answers this question, though. The stated point of Ms. Barney’s petition is her demand “that BYU amends their practices and create an immunity clause so that victims can come forward without fear of retribution.” Ms. Barney argues that people who are allegedly raped or assaulted while breaking the Honor Code to have complete amnesty from any Honor Code repercussions.

In conclusion, all of the reporting on Ms. Barney’s situation has been, at best, lazy. Rather, it’s more likely that the various news outlets have ignored the inconvenient truth that Madi Barney was breaking the Honor Code’s prohibition on engaging in undressed sexual relations before she even alleged that a rape had occurred. The actual facts that were originally reported last September and which have been presumably included in the police report clearly justify her removal from BYU. In the law, we often talk about bad cases making bad law. The same principle applies here. If you are looking to reform the honor code process at BYU, pick a poster child that hasn’t engaged in activities that justify her expulsion.

85 thoughts on “Guest post: lazy reporting on the BYU rape scandal

  1. Many thanks for this. Generally speaking, the press these days is abysmal when it comes to reporting on religion, religious issues, religious freedom, etc. I see errors in articles all the time in the Washington Post, the New York Times, etc. All I can reasonably conclude is that the press corps is today comprised of mostly folks who are not conversant with religion. And yes, laziness could definitely be an underlying reason, but I also think there is hidden — and sometimes, not-so-hidden, animus towards religious faith and religious values in general.

  2. Aaand thank you for writing this. That’s all I’m going to say, because this has made me very mad. ***See my second comment for more clarification on this.

  3. Joyce, it was not my intent to make you mad. 🙂 It was my intent to connect some of the dots that one would usually expect the news media to connect. But, since they haven’t, I used google and found these things. That is why I have used only facts reported in established news sources, with a sprinkling of my own analysis.

    Michael W. Towns, I agree with you on this. It is clear that the SL Tribune has an ax to grind and they won’t let the facts get in the way. The rest of the world loves the headline and has gone along for the ride.

  4. It’s clear that the press in general, and the SLTrib in particular, simply want to paint the LDS Church in the worst possible way. They portray Madi as a “victim” when, in fact, it seems pretty clear that she got caught up in an affair with a married man, and then ran to the press to cry “rape” when her roommates threatened to out her for her actions that were clearly in violation of the Honor Code. No wonder she wants immunity…..

  5. Oh, Michael Davidson, you did not make me mad … sorry, the internet is terrible, isn’t it? No, the whole “Trial By Media” that BYU has received from this — should have been more clear on that I went to BYU, I loved it. In my experience as a RS Pres, of a student ward, I know for a fact that BYU goes out of it’s way to help rape victims. I also know that BYU goes out of its way to provide due process for everything: honor code issues, academic issues etc. I also know that students should take the honor code seriously — because you sign your name on a contract to take it seriously, and what are we, if we don’t honor our word?

    Throughout this whole issue, I’ve known that BYU was bound by confidentiality rules, and could not comment on the individual’s case, so we were only getting one very lopsided version of the story. I also felt like all of the facts were not being told, and as you’ve said, with a few google clicks you found the facts. I’ve had several friends ready with pitchforks and torches over the last few weeks, who have been happy to jump on the “trash BYU” bandwagon. I’ve tried, without much success, to get them to tone down their rhetoric and to wait for the *whole* story to come out. They really didn’t want to do that. Some of them signed and.or started petitions, have engaged in all of the complaining and shaming etc. It’s been very frustrating. I don’t even know if I want to share this on my facebook because of their expected response.

    So, thank you for writing this, I do appreciate it. As I said, the whole situation makes me mad, because BYU is not the bad guy here. They might need to look at their procedures and make some changes, and that’s fine, but they are NOT the enemy here.

  6. I made this comment on a similar thread on facebook:

    Nathaniel Givens pretty much said what I would say here: “A young girl being brutally raped by football players and then being harassed when she appeals for justice until her family is driven out of town and their house is burned down, that is rape culture. CNN reporters who talk about what a tragedy it is for rapists to be found guilty of rape and deprived of their promising futures, that is rape culture . . . Chris Brown being accepted back into polite society (with a few notable exceptions), that is rape culture. Roman Polanski being embraced by his peers after his crimes? That is rape culture . . . Even if you think the Ensign article [or, I would add – what happens at BYU] is wrong and misguided, putting it in the same category as these (horrifically numerous) examples of rape culture is like comparing every bad thing that happens to the Holocaust. It trivializes real evil and makes you look like a fool.”

  7. Jeff G.: “Could you imagine how horrible it would be if anybody could get immunity simply by crying rape!?!”

    Julie at T&S disagrees – her latest “satirical” post at T&S shows she feels that’s not a problem at all (the real problem with her post is that even if you did follow all that “advice” a false accusation that ruins your life could still happen. There’s no real equivalency there, but if I were to post that in response at T&S, I would have hell and whatnot else rained down on me).

    [EDIT: In light of my moral panic comment below, I should add (because this is a moral panic and if you don’t have disclaimers, you are in trouble) I am not trying to claim there is no rape problem or that rape is less serious than a false accusation – it’s clear actual rape is worse, and rape can happen even when all the “rules” are followed (however, it’s much, much easier to make a false accusation). Some, such as DD below, seem to think I was saying something other than what I meant, but blog comments aren’t essays, and it’s hard to include all the disclaimers, disqulaifiers, and nuance needed in touchy subjects like this.]

  8. Very good clarification. However, I don’t think this will have convincing power for many. How many 19-year-olds could be in a position of unequal power with a 39-year-old? Without more details of the events leading up to the rape, we simply don’t know if this was truly consensual unclothed foreplay or not consensual foreplay.

    Of course, this is precisely why BYU put her records on hold–they wanted to clarify her role in this (if any). And we can see possible contexts where this would be why BYU would need the right to ask questions– amnesty or not, this girl need pastoral care from her Bishop, her relief society president, her visiting teachers and others.

    Amnesty may still be a good idea, to protect people like Madi. But that has to be the beginning of the story, not the end: Madi needs the gospel of Christ. If she broke the honor code, she needs to apply the atonement. And, the great thing about the atonement is it helps rape victims who did nothing wrong as well.

    If an amnesty clause comes to being, BYU still has a duty as a church school to minister.

  9. Ivan Wolfe said, “the real problem with her post is that even if you did follow all that “advice” a false accusation that ruins your life could still happen.”

    I believe that is one of the points of her post. A woman can follow all of this great advice and still get raped, as well.

    Violations of the honor code at BYU are very common. Some are pretty minor, like using the bathroom in an opposite gender apartment. Some are very serious. Most violations are unpunished. They are never known by those in authority. It seems unfair to me to punish a person for a violation that is only known because that very person reported a crime.

    You may disagree, but to me it is more important to make sure that there are fewer people on campus willing to sexually assault someone than to make sure that no one has opposite gender persons in their bedroom, or to make sure that no one drinks alcohol, or even to make sure that no one is breaking the law of chastity. So, I want to see sexual assaults reported regardless of other violations that the victim may have committed.

    Finally, regardless of the questions raised in this post, BYU has apparently decided that there is an actual problem to address. They have launched a website, see here:, to get feedback on how to improve the system to reduce sexual assaults.

  10. I agree that I think there is a systemic issue at BYU that I think can be handled better.

    On the other hand, Barney’s story undercuts the “it-could-happen-to-ANYONE” witch-hunt hysteria that Julie Smith and the rest of the Mormon Left so desperately want to create. The police report may not be public record, but Seidu’s charging documents (which include details drawn from the police report) are. Those documents allege that the pair engaged in consensual sexual relations on the couch in her apartment. She asked him to use a condom, they moved into the bedroom, he put one on, she changed her mind, and he forced her to resume intercourse against her will; a few days later he admitted to her via telephone that he had in fact raped her, and she was able to record that conversation.

    It’s important not to let Barney become the poster girl for all self-identified BYU rape victims, or even just for the women interviewed by the Tribune. They do seem to represent a variety of experiences; and it could well be dumb luck that the only account that gave us enough detail to cross-check it, has turned out to be not entirely trustworthy.

    But the fact is that Barney’s rape–while tragic–was ninety-five percent avoidable. For feminists to suggest that such rapes are inevitable and that common-sense countermeasures are ineffective and unwarranted, suggests that either 1) they live in a world entirely divorced from reality, or 2) they don’t WANT women to take basic protective measures, because they see an increase in the number of rape victims as a key to strengthening their own socio-political clout. I used to think it was 1); but lately they’ve been so cavalier about encouraging women to charge headlong into positively foolhardy situations that I’m starting to wonder which side in this debate is really trying to perpetuate a “rape culture”.

  11. Glad to see more follow-up on this.

    In the meantime I’ve been looking at the reports of what was done to the Saints in Missouri. Mosiah Hancock describes things he saw as a small child, including abuse that caused him to view himself from above the scene taking place, presumably child rape sufficiently violent that he was near death. In another case a baby was torn from the arms of its mother and the baby’s head was crushed. In a third incident mentioned by Mosiah, a young teenage girl was raped by 14 “in human form” who continued long after the girl had passed out. We learn of similar abuse in the testimonies recorded by Hyrum Smith, Parley Pratt, and the autobiography of Alice Merrill Horne, though all these last three was recounting stories they had heard and subsequently confirmed with the victims.

    What these horrific tales of violence brought to me is the reason a culture of silence might have begun. It’s hard to read what was done without becoming intensely angry. Some determined it was better for their souls to avoid dwelling on the abuse, which I could see transmogrifying into a preference to avoid all discussion of rape, resulting in sometimes deciding the victim discussing rape was the one at fault.

    We watched Zootopia last night, which is strangely pertinent to this thread. It doesn’t give spoilers to indicate that individuals can achieve in ways that aren’t immediately obvious.

    Madi can’t claim innocence merely because she is a she.

    That said, Madi and the national press have damaged the trust a victim might have otherwise had prior to this storm. At this point, the most important thing is to protect the victims of tomorrow.

  12. I completely disagree with this:

    ” . . . it is more important to make sure that there are fewer people on campus willing to sexually assault someone than to make sure that no one has opposite gender persons in their bedroom, or to make sure that no one drinks alcohol, or even to make sure that no one is breaking the law of chastity.”

    All of the listed rules are precisely what makes fewer people on campus willing to start with. They come to BYU, at least it is very much hoped, because of the moral atmosphere such rules create. Those who are willing to rape are by definition not willing to follow any of the other rules. You can’t be a rapist and follow the Honor Code, because many rules would need to be broken in order to do such a thing; and if found guilty would be immediately kicked out of BYU along with legal ramifications. What this girl did was clearly in violation of the BYU honor code, and she should be a poster child for what can happen when breaking the rules.

  13. Perhaps, in some cases, a woman has a partial ability to avoid being raped, but the rapist always has 100% ability to avoid raping. Any system that discourages the reporting of a serious crime needs reform.

  14. The problem, DD, is that BYU is not the rapist. The LDS Church is not the rapist. And even with the Honor Code/Law of Chastity, neither institution has anything like a 100% chance of reining in a would-be rapist.

    Preaching is most effective when it’s directed at the people who are the most motivated to listen.

  15. I posted this a T&S:

    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

  16. I would like to encourage commenters to keep to the original point of this post, which was to simply point out some of the reporting that has taken place and is in the public realm that is not being considered in this case.

    The point of this post is not to “blame the victim” or to even defend BYU. The post does not argue that there is no need for reform of the honor code at BYU, and leaves open the possibility that there is need for reform.

    In any rape case the prosecution must prove that a rape took place. So, things that are very unpleasant to think about suddenly become relevant. Was the rapist invited to the victim’s apartment or did he force his way in? Was there mutually agreed upon foreplay going on before the rape took place? When exactly did the victim say no? In these cases you inevitably face a he-said, she-said situation, and a jury must be convinced that a rape took place for a conviction to take place. And the alleged assailant is innocent until proven guilty. Therefore, many of the facts mentioned in the OP are indeed relevant.

    (By the way, I am one of those people who thinks that women who say they have been raped are almost always telling the truth, but I am also one of those people who believe that the justice system *always* presumes innocence on the part of the attacker until it can be proven he is guilty. These two ideas are not mutually exclusive.)

    In any case, I would encourage commenters to stick to the point of the OP rather than go off in tangents. Thanks.

  17. If I wanted to create an environment where rape victims were not believed, I’d be doing precisely what the media has been doing for the last couple of years: Repeatedly whip up a frenzy over stories that turns out to be false in some crucial aspect. It’s getting tiresome, to the point now where I default to “Well that probably didn’t actually happen”. And that scares me!

  18. Let’s make sure of another fact: the man in the story was not a BYU student, right?

  19. As we have seen in other media situations that involved the Church or even biblical Christian beliefs, there is far more heat than light generated. Like Joyce I find myself becoming frustrated and angry when I read such things and as a result, as Meg suggests, I tend to turn aside and spend my time reading other things, yet even, or particularly, in the scriptures we find those who abuse and ravish, or set a snare. Potipher’s wife, Lot’s daughters, Judah’s daughter-in-law Tamar and Delilah provide examples of various means and motives women have exercised to ensnare or falsely accuse men. Set this against the multitude of assaults on weaker or younger victims. Parental rules and honor codes are meant to help both men and women avoid situations where abuse is more likely to take place. More than 50 years ago as a student at BYU I understood the risk I took when I disregarded such rules.

  20. JimD,

    I never meant to imply that BYU or the Chiurch are rapists. I’m not sure how that could be read into my comments. However, BYU has inadvertently created a system that creates an incentive for victims to hide crimes committed against them. To tie this into the original post, this is the story that is important to most people, not the details of a particular student’s sins. It is not laziness on the reporters’ part that prevents them from giving those details. They just are not relevant.

  21. I think people on different sides of this issue are basing opinions on different definitions of rape. Based on California’s “yes means yes” law, this case was rape. But many feel the details of the case make it not really rape.

    I do find it interesting that we have come so far in our laws and discourse that prosecuting a guy for adultery is a non-start. We’re only allowed to punish sexual misconduct categorized as rape. It is no wonder that there are so many kinda-rape cases. We are to the point where there is no real barrier to every other kind of sexual villainy beside rape, and so many who wish to help victims of sexual exploitation feel they must make it possible to put all kinds of sexual misconduct into the rape category.

    How would the case change if the guy had given her a ring, and had set a date for a wedding, and the sex were completely consensual, and then he dumped her after he’d had his fun. In my view, such predation is even more complete because of the predators play on a woman’s desires, using her heart as well as her body.

    The Honor Code is there as a barrier to all kinds of sexual predation, not merely the rape ones.

  22. If she said she didn’t want to go further and he forced then yes, that is rape. The OP certainly stated the facts but here is my concern. Why was the police report given to BYU? The officer in question wasn’t assigned to the case and initially said he sent the report be taste she broke the honor code and that upset him. He backtracked on his original statement when it looked like it could get him trouble legally. Ms. Barney’s story is one of many. The BYU honor code is great but not if it is going to be used in retaliation to a report of rape or as a way to blackmail a victim from coming forward. Also, it doesn’t surprise me that some rape victims might be struggling with certain issues. It seems there is some overlap between rapist and child predators in that it’s much easier to target victims who are less likely to be believed or sympathized with. That’s just an observation.

  23. I think part of the problem is that our society as a whole (or at least, among the chattering classes) is in a moral panic about rape, especially campus rape – similar to the moral panic about child abuse in the 80s that ruined so many people’s lives with false accusations and fake “recovered” memories (see Dorothy Rabinowitz’s “No Crueller Tyrannies”).

    As Megan McArdle wrote:

    “When people are in the grip of a moral panic, going up against them to question the extent of a threat, even by doubting so much as a single case, can become dangerous. Questioning any expression of the panic is not seen as a logical debate over statistics or the details of a particular instance, but as somehow defending the threatening behavior. Note how careful many people who wrote skeptically about the UVA case were to say that they believe campus rape happens, and it is terrible. People who write that they think an accused murderer may be innocent rarely feel compelled to affirm that yes, they sure do believe that murder happens, and boy, are they against that. This ought to go without saying, and unless we are in the middle of a moral panic, it usually does.

    Yet once moral panic sets in, an accusation can also become sufficient evidence unto itself to trigger a severe response: no need to see what the brothers might have to say, or to wait for a police investigation, before you write that op-ed article about rape culture — or start throwing bricks.”

    Unfortunately, pointing this out does nothing, and the moral panic will continue unabated, and out of control, until it burns itself out (but the lives ruined in the process will just be considered collateral damage. Janet Reno’s role in pursuing aggressive prosecutions of accused molesters that were clearly innocent but still wound up convicted and jailed only helped her career, even if they were acquitted or released years later).

  24. So, to follow up on that previous comment of mine, expect people to call us monsters, horrible, rape apologists, etc. when it’s nothing of the sort. Rape is serious and deserves to be taken seriously (required moral panic disclaimer), but the moral panic means people will come in and attack BYU and the church and anyone who defends them, and feel righteous and justified.

    I even run a risk posting anything here. I could lose my job, since I know there are lefty academic types (such as those at the FPR blog) who have no qualms about trying to destroy the careers of conservative academics (due to our wrongthink thoughtcrimes).

  25. And wow – just after I posted my last comment, I checked the moderated comments only to find out I am apparently a prophet. I’m not going to approve the comment, since it attacks me directly and implicitly threatens my job, but I basically called it. I’ll leave the approval (or not) to other bloggers here at M*, since I can’t fairly judge a comment that personally attacks me.

  26. “I even run a risk posting anything here. I could lose my job, since I know there are lefty academic types (such as those at the FPR blog) who have no qualms about trying to destroy the careers of conservative academics (due to our wrongthink thoughtcrimes).”

    Someone should probably warn Michael M. Crow about the Mormons. Crow seems to be spending far too much time participating in LDS activities and consorting with its local and world leadership.

  27. “The Honor Code is there as a barrier to all kinds of sexual predation, not merely the rape ones.”

    Very well said.

    This is not unlike the role of many commandments. Put in place to protect (a barrier) and guide us, but can be discarded, mocked, and/or ignored via our own agency and our hubris of how we know so much better.

    Is it perfect? Of course not. And it cannot adequately cover every conceivable situation. But, as with the commandments, we generally come out far better by adhering to it rather than trying to tear it apart.

  28. I’m too far down the totem pole for Crow to notice me. Also, he may be friendly to the Church, but ASU as a whole is all in on the current moral panic.

  29. The moderated comment mentioned by Ivan Wolfe (which is definitely NOT going to be approved) is a classic case of lazy supposedly “progressive” outrage that calls people names and threatens the jobs of other people who dare to disagree. The person who made that comment should be ashamed of him (or her) -self.

    So, let’s go back to what the OP says. The OP, using articles that are in the public domain as proof, raises issues that are not being raised in other venues. That is it, ladies and gentlemen. So, yet another reminder to readers that if you want your comment to make it through moderation you need to keep on-topic and address the OP, not the fevered imaginations of the SJWs.

  30. Actually, the reporting hasn’t been lazy. (edited).

    The main point of the news reporting and public interest in this case (and the many cases like it) is this: without a safe harbor for reporting rape and sexual assault, meaning amnesty for other honor code violations, reporting by victims is suppressed. And when reporting is suppressed, predators thrive.

    The news reporting on this case has not suggested that victims of sexual assault are all innocent of any violations of the honor code. It has, rather, suggested that investigating those violations should not get in the way of investigating sexual CRIMES.

  31. @Keith Henderson, Madi Barney made it a part of the story. She claims that she is being punished for being a rape victim. This is demonstrably false, and it is disappointing that no one in the media has questioned this very fundamental part of the story.

  32. @Keith Henderson:

    The Tribune’s headlines (and an editorial cartoon) have repeatedly implied that BYU is punishing rape victims for being raped. Naturally, they provide no evidence.

    The articles themselves carefully avoid making this accusation, but the impression is made nonetheless.

    The Tribune would serve the public interest better if it told the truth.

  33. Despite lots of sex ed, most women do not understand male sexuality when it comes to the event horizon. It’s a bit like pushing a boulder over the cliff, and then changing your mind. Men understand women don’t understand this, which leads good men and bad men in different directions.

    Women are generally very supportive of calling it rape if a woman changed her mind at any time, but good men know this is not a workable solution, that the guardrails need to be present much earlier on. Bad men are the winners when rape loses its meaning and becomes normalized. But women like to feel a sense of community in their experiences, even the terrible ones, and so they feel like stats saying that 1 in 5 women are raped help women feel okay coming out in accusation against rapists. On the other side, good men are horrified by the push to normalize rape that women believe is necessary for them to feel safe making accusations.

    Thought experiment: What if just one woman a year were raped in the whole state. That would be great, right? But for many women it would feel like a terrible burden for that one woman to have to come out and make an accusation because of how ashamed she would feel. Much better, then, to have many women carry the burden with her. And so you can see how women feel righteous even in kinda-rape accusations because of their emphasis on making others feel safe and mutually understood (I would like to point out that this tendency to create an environment of safe and accepting communication is sort of a necessary trait for good motherhood, which is why so many men seem conflicted about how to deal with it.)

    And to me, this seems the root of the problem. Those, like Barney, who promote risk-free rape accusations don’t see how such programs make things easier for actual rapists by demoralizing the men most capable and interested in helping prevent real rape.

  34. “Lazy.” That’s a rather unorthodox spelling of “malicious.”

  35. A few thoughts

    (1) regardless of the details of the case it’s completely inappropriate and apparently illegal for the honor code department to have the police file. That alone means there’s a huge problem with the honor code department.

    (2) the claim that the honor code department has lots of due process seems quite dubious to me as I’ve seen how it responds to people. Maybe things have gotten better of late since my interactions with it, but I’m skeptical. (Note my interactions were reporting people when nothing was done or even really followed up on)

    (3) the idea that it’s better in a cost/benefit analysis that honor code breakers don’t get expelled if they are rape seems defensible. I worry that too many discount unintended consequences. (Such as incentivizing false reports – but there’s no way to know how much that would happen) However if the choice is between letting a person who fornicated “off” versus putting a rapist in jail it seems an easy decision. If the question was over murder I think people would see it quite differently.

    (4) I find it really unseemly to go into the details of this case. I’ve no idea whether the person in question is guilty or not, but that’s for the courts to decide. Even if she was sleeping with a married man, it seems that’s a completely separate issue from whether she was raped, even if it would make it harder to prosecute. That people think going through these details illuminates the issues in question really bothers me. From what I can see it makes zero difference to the question of cost/benefit of not prosecuting people for honor code violations if it helps elimination of rapists. Certainly it illuminates nothing regarding the possible illegal sharing of police files.

    (5) maybe I’m misreading but the OP really comes off as suggesting she’s lying about the rape. If I’m wrong I apologize, but man that just strikes me as ugly. Again, if we take the honor code seriously, shouldn’t we want people to back out from an inappropriate act even if they had started? Isn’t what she did what we want people to do? Certainly if my daughter was doing something inappropriate I’d want her to stop when her conscience prompted her. Again, I find the OP fairly depressing on all these accounts. I’m really disappointed by all of this, and I say this as someone who thinks Title IX proponents have gone overboard especially on due process issues. This just comes off as ugly.

  36. @Clark, To address a few of your thoughts.

    1. There’s nothing illegal about BYU’s possession of the police file. The file was properly given to the defendant in the case, who had an absolute right to it. There is nothing inherently illegal about it being provided to BYU. The question was whether or not this amounted to witness tampering, but the authorities have declined to prosecute that. The fact that it was alleged that someone had committed a crime in providing the report does not make it illegal for BYU to possess it.

    2. Ordinarily legal “due process” requirements are completely inapplicable to discipline at most universities. BYU does do a good job of being fair, more than fair, but we aren’t talking about courts of law.

    3. It’s not an either/or proposition. Rapists can be prosecuted concurrently with the Honor Code being enforced. It’s happening in this case.

    4. Madi has made the details of this case relevant. She is alleging that she is being punished for being a rape survivor. This raises the important question of what precisely is she being punished for? That question cannot be adequately answered without looking at what actually happened, and frankly there is ample evidence that she engaged in plenty to justify removal from the university before the alleged rape even happened. The university was being lenient in letting her finish the winter semester, IMHO. By making the arguments she made, she put her Honor Code related innocence or guilt at issue.

    Likewise, it is actually an issue in the criminal trial as well. There is a significant issue of consent here, and it will boil down to a “he said / she said” argument. All of the things that were said and done leading up to the alleged rape are relevant to that question.

    Again, the county attorney has weighed in on whether the files were shared illegally, and has declined to prosecute.

    5. Madi is clearly lying about what precipitated the Honor Code investigation. I can’t tell whether she is lying about the alleged rape or not, those facts are in dispute. It is not disputed that she was willfully engaging in sexual contact. It is not disputed that she told him to use a condom. It is not disputed that she invited him to her bedroom and disrobed. But that is why I said alleged rape. No proof one way or the other.

    And no, she didn’t do what we want BYU students to do. We don’t want BYU students to engage in sexual activities with people they don’t even know. We don’t want BYU students to completely disregard one of the big conditions of attending the University. We don’t want BYU students to put themselves in such a compromising position. At some point she alleges that she wanted to stop, which is better than nothing I suppose, but she had already broken the code at that point.

    At the end of the day, though, the ugly thing is that Madi’s lies have been used to tarnish the reputation of BYU without any question by a gullible or complicit local, national and international media.

  37. Lucinda, the statistic of 1/5 or 1/4 women being raped in their lifetime (or by age 21/22, i forget the exact detail) is likely correct for a US nationwide statistic for all races. That is actually an estimate of all rapes and child sex abuse, not just reported rapes. And it’s not “in college”, but the 1/4 or 1/5 figure is supposedly for “by the age of college graduation”, ie, 21 or 22.

    (Btw, the rate of -reported- rape in Canada is higher than the US.)

    The generally accepted figure (actual rapes, not reported rapes) for African American women (all ages) is 66%, and for African American males (all ages) is 25%. Among social workers in the African Amercan community, those statistics are generally accepted, with most events occuring before age 21/22. My contacts tell me that the Hispanic/Latino rate is somewhere in between the AA and fhe caucasian rate.

    1/5, 20%, is likely the actual rate for caucasian women, in order to get the overall 25% rate.

    It really is an epidemic that doesn’t get much mention in polite society. It likely happens more among lower socio-economic classes, but it does happen in all classes. Case in point, the daughters in the Five Browns family, who eventually reported on their father. In other news, the Hollywood pedophile scandal, and in Britain, the Jimmy Saville scandal, and other elites being accused of child sex abuse, all point to how wide-spead sexual abuse has been.

    I know it’s hard for white people in the professional upper-middle classes to wrap their heads around the idea that 20 to 25 percent of white women nationwide, and well over half of all black women nationwide are sexually abused/raped at some point in their lives. But based on my conversations with professional counselors, and informal conversations with acquaintances, I can fully believe that.

    Clark brings up a point that Meg mentioned in a previous post, that expelling the alleged victim over an honor code violation may be jeopardizing the case against the alleged rapist. Though I think he stated the dichotomy wrong. Ie, should BYU expell a student for fornication if doing so means (or even increases the likelihood) that a rapist is going to escape justice?

    Police and prosecutors make the small-criminal/big-criminal decisions all the time. Street cops are not supposed to make drug busts unless the crime is overt or in combination with something else, because the narcotics divisions of police departments want to go after the big distributors, not the small fry or the users.

    There are two jurisdictions and authorities, BYU on one hand, and the county prosecutor on the other. If it were one authority, there would be a sole decision-maker in the cost/benefit analysis, akin to granting immunity to a smaller criminal in order to convict the bigger criminal.

    Perhaps a decision needs to be made at a higher level than the Honor Code Office: which would BYU and church authorties rather have, one less fornicator on campus, or one less rapist in town?

    At the least, I think the HCO should have kicked this up to a higher authority (within BYU or within the church) before suspending her. Or maybe they did, and we’re just not hearing about that.

    Jettboy, my understanding is that the alleged rapist is not a BYU student, merely a resident of Provo, or of the area.

  38. Perhaps a Utah-based lawyer can check this out, but when I was a reporter police reports were public, so anybody could have access to them simply by calling the police station and asking for it. Again, I was a reporter in California, Florida and Massachusetts, not Utah, so it is of course possible that Utah law is different. It seems completely uncontroversial to me that BYU would have access to a public document.

    Clark, I gotta say I’m really disappointed in your comments 4 and 5 above. I don’t think you have thought the issue through at all. Who made this issue public and immediately began blaming BYU? It was Madi, not BYU. It is completely appropriate, therefore, to look at the details of the case given that she made it a public issue of her own free will and choice.

    It is completely relevant to the case, and indeed central to the case, to discuss the details of whether she was raped or not. As I said way up in this thread, the details will ALWAYS be relevant in any rape case.

  39. Geoff, as a Utah based lawyer who tried to get a copy of the police report to cut through the fog of the press, I found that there is limitations on who can request a copy while there is still a legal proceeding going on. Once the case against Seidu is resolved, as I understand this it will then be available to whomever asks. However, JimD’s comment above, which looked at the charging documents, do give a great window to the facts being alleged by the authorities.

  40. Michael Davidson, OK, makes sense. I guess I would add that police reports — even if they are sealed — are regularly leaked. That is where a lot of the news comes from, folks. Because they are often public (meaning anybody can call and get a copy), it is not a big deal for BYU to have a copy. Copies of police reports get passed around all the time. It would seem to me normal procedure for a university to want to know about police reports that involve students. Several people have commented on this and seem upset that BYU has the police report, and I don’t think they understand the public nature of police reports.

  41. Bookslinger-
    I don’t doubt what you say about the sheer amount of sexual abuse, etc. The question I think most people fail on is how to effectively solve the problem. Bad guys are very good at exploiting careless categorization about consent and a generally confused population of women.

    I, personally, am fine with considering all non-marital sex as rape (and no, I don’t think marital sex is automatically not rape.) But I don’t think I have many cohorts in this idea. The issue of consent is a big deal, and things like the yes-means-yes law point to the fact that people really are struggling to understand when women really are consenting, especially when women are young and naive. Widespread consensus is not in the foreseeable future, which is too bad. Having to get married first is a planned event that often gives a woman many opportunities to back out, identities legally recorded, and all before the clothes come off. (And even with all this, women often need to be rescued from poor marital decisions.)

    The good guys are having a heck of a time figuring out the consent vs. rape dilemma in a way that doesn’t really anger a bunch of women, but I do hope they can think of something. For this exchange, I think making it clear to women that the Honor Code should not be cast aside tends in the right direction. If you complicate with amnesty rules, I’m pretty sure that will be a win for the predators overall.

  42. “I, personally, am fine with considering all non-marital sex as rape”

    By the man, in every case?

    Having seen at least one case up close where the woman was clearly the predator, I have a really serious problem with this.

  43. Michael (6:23) Reports were that BYU obtained the information illegally. If that’s not true then I have less problem with it although it still seems extremely inappropriate.

    Due process is of course not required by universities legally. However the lack of due process has been in the news a lot the last year or two due to many cases of obvious injustice due to the lack of anything like due process. While BYU isn’t required to have due process any more than any of these kangaroo courts deciding false rape cases that have been in the news. However I think it entirely fair to consider how on earth justice could be served if a person can’t defend themselves properly. While being expelled isn’t the same as going to prison, let’s not kid ourselves that it doesn’t have a huge effect on people’s lives.

    And please note that I say this as a big defender of the idea of the honor code. I simply don’t think people unwilling to live the honor code should be at BYU when others who want to go can’t.

    I simply disagree that the debate about whether the person in question is being punished for reporting the rape requires going into all the ugly details of the case. The issue is purely whether honor code violations should be enforced upon people who report rape. The details of this case are irrelevant to that discussion. The principle would apply equally if all she had done wrong was drink and be in a room with someone alone. If we decide the broader issue on the basis of how much we like or dislike the details of this case then that is a huge problem in how we are thinking through the issues. We start deciding issues out of a basis of emotional disgust rather than reason. (And sadly I think far too many on both sides are doing that)

    So your argument on that point doesn’t hold up in the least.

    Bookslinger (7:14) I’d say that people’s argument isn’t that expelling someone threatens the case against their rapist. Rather that the perception that they could be expelled means people are less likely in general to report rape. That in turn means that there’s a larger incentive for serial rapists to target BYU students breaking the honor code or even for less reporting in general of rape. So it’s a cost/benefit analysis of what is worth more. I think that giving a break to anyone reporting rape is worth it to catch more rapists and lower the incidence of rape. However I also think it provides an incentive for false reports. But I strongly think the increase will be minor and can be dealt with by better due process in the honor code office. Still such things should be monitored to ensure they don’t become a problem. But our primary focus should be on significantly decreasing the scourge of rape.

    Geoff (7:25) what’s in the OP goes well beyond what was necessary. To say that just because the person in question blamed BYU that therefore anything goes is inexcusable in my view. I also think it unseemly to discuss whether or not she was raped when we simply don’t have enough data, aren’t cross examining witnesses or the like. There’s a reason we have law courts rather than a court of public opinion. That such things are tried by relatively ignorant people is one reason why people are less likely to report rape.

  44. I have nothing much to say to Clark specifically, since I mostly agree with his latest comment (a few quibbles not worth going into here).

    However, I would like to point out Clark as a good way to disagree and even call people to task without doing things like the name-calling and threats that many of the deleted comments so far have done. Far too many comments have been submitted that use terms like “monsters” or “despicable” or “rape enablers.”

    Anyway, if you feel like submitting a critical comment, take Clark as a good example of how to do it, rather than vent and rant and troll.

  45. Kent,

    How about we consider that all extra-marital sex is inappropriate? As to whether it is the older, more mentally acute, or otherwise privileged partner who is held more (or entirely) accountable, I trust God to make the final judgement.

  46. To be fair Ivan, I can completely understand people infuriated by this post. If she was indeed rapes then this is a paradigm case of attacking the victim in public discussion.

  47. I’m not sure I agree it’s victim blaming (this is an overused term – are the signs in the campus library telling you to never leave your laptop unattended for even a few seconds because theft is rampant victim blaming? They shouldn’t be, but when similar logic is used in these cases, suddenly you are a monster, evil and worthy of destruction and threats on your job) – but I also acknowledge I’m not really qualified to make any real calls in this area.

    This is a subject that makes people furious just for not toeing the current moral panic line. Any attempt to discuss false accusations results in a social excommunication for apostasy from the current moral panic’s apparent truths.

    But I should never have commented. The one comment implicitly threatening my job has me quite disturbed. I’m half tempted to delete all my comments on this thread. The moral panic is too great and too powerful and I really don’t want my family to suffer because some liberal bloggers decided M* was evil and we deserved it. The virtual mobs have no charity and can be relentless.

  48. Clark, in the abstract I would be tempted to agree with you. However, there has been nothing abstract about this controversy. There has been nothing abstract about the public case put forward by the SL Tribune and the worldwide media that has been parroting them. Their entire public case has been guided by emotional appeals based on a complete misrepresentation of reality. Regardless of how you think the debate should be handled (which I would personally agree with), one needs to meet the challenge that has been put forth.

    When Madi alleges that she doesn’t recall breaking the honor code and professes an ignorance of why they would even want to talk to her, she is framing the question in terms of BYU is persecuting me, revictimizing me, for reporting a rape. She claims that she would never have been in trouble with the Honor Code Office if she hadn’t reported the rape because she didn’t do anything else wrong. How else do you suggest challenging that narrative aside from actually mentioned the details sufficiently that she did, in fact (and by her own admission) violate the Honor Code?

    Madi knew from the outset that her lying on this front had a good chance of succeeding. BYU would predictable not say anything on the subject, and the press would be willing accomplices in keeping her secret. So, if I was to engage them, what was I supposed to say? “Hey everybody, I did some internet research, and take my word for it, she broke the honor code.” I had to meet them on the field they chose.

    The point of this post wasn’t to engage in some abstract exercise of pondering the relative good or evil of granting people amnesty from the Honor Code in order to catch the really big fish (as if raped college students were nothing more than blameless and helpless bait in traps to catch the real monsters). Rather, this post was intended to engage the actual debate, to show that the core assumptions being put forward by a great majority of the press (that BYU punishes innocent girls who report rapes) aren’t so cut and dried. Sometimes ugly truths are necessary tools in that debate, particularly when one is fighting against an even uglier falsehood.

    That is sometimes the unfortunate reality of public discourse, and the reason I lamented the choice by the SL Tribune to anoint Madi as the poster child of this issue. Bad facts lead to bad law. When such a flawed example was thrown up front and center, the SL Tribune killed any chance that this public discussion could be done on principles alone. But … they probably realized that they couldn’t win on principles alone in any event, so the emotional argument was the only one to instigate in the first instance.

  49. Nathaniel Givens put it fairly well here, I think:

    “But let’s try the basic logic for some other crimes. There’s been lots of news recently about iPhone thefts where folks basically walk up to you on the street, bunch you in the face, grab your iPhone, and run away. Part of the response has been to urge people not to have their iPhones in their hands or other visible locations, but to keep them in their pockets. So… is this apologizing for “theft culture”? Are we secretly saying that everyone who got punched in the face and had their iPhone stolen deserved it? Are we implying that iPhone thieves are just helpless to their base instincts? They can’t resist the sight of a deliciously tempting iPhone, and so we can’t fault them for grabbing it and running?

    No. We’re saying that: “Hey, if you don’t want your iPhone stolen, you should probably be careful. Not that this excuses theft but, you know, thieves exist and you should watch out.” . . .
    Can you imagine a poster with lines like:

    If you are unable to stop yourself from robbing banks, ask a friend to stay with you when you go to deposit your paycheck.
    Don’t forget, it’s not borrowing from someone who isn’t home when you come by and take away their TV, it’s THEFT!
    Carry a handgun! If you are worried you might mug someone by ‘accident’, you can hand it to the person you would have mugged, so they can shoot you in the face instead.”

  50. Quotes from the fallout of a previous moral panic:

    “the Amiraults’ trials were held amid a wave of child-abuse prosecutions – a time when it would have taken a rare juror to resist the reigning imperative to “believe the children,” the children who had so bravely stepped up to the witness stand, and “children don’t lie” . . . In such a time and atmosphere, in courtrooms where such standards for witness credibility prevailed and jurors were repeatedly reminded by the prosecutors of how much courage it had taken for these children to come forward, jurors voted to believe the children. In such ways did the false facts delivered by child witnesses result in convictions”

    We are in a similar moral panic now. The fact the danger is real and serious (but child abuse was real and serious back then as well) does not mitigate the fact that discussion is nigh impossible, heated emotions rule the day, and any attempt to restore a bit of sanity to the debate is ignored and/or squashed.

    There are some signs of pushback. Many colleges are starting to lose lawsuits where they punished students without due process, but it’s a trickle vs. the stream of moral panic out there.

  51. Meg,

    “How about we consider that all extra-marital sex is inappropriate?”

    That was never in question.

    The question was whether we should regard all extra-marital sex as rape.

    Which, frankly, is so absurd that I’m still slack-jawed that someone asked it.

  52. However, BYU has inadvertently created a system that creates an incentive for victims to hide crimes committed against them.

    But that disincentive stems from the fact that students are held accountable for their sexual choices. No matter how we try to soften that policy, the bottom line is that to some degree the disincentive will exist as long as the demand for accountability exists. It’s one thing to talk about compromises and trade-offs; it’s quite another to insist on facilitating disclosure to the expense of all other priorities.

    To tie this into the original post, this is the story that is important to most people, not the details of a particular student’s sins. It is not laziness on the reporters’ part that prevents them from giving those details. They just are not relevant.

    Relevant to whom?

    By virtue of her enrollment at BYU in conjunction with her LDS membership, Barney is getting a private university education at roughly one-sixth the going rate; with the LDS Church covering the other 5/6 of that cost. In return, the Church and BYU reserve the right to discipline students who cross a certain threshold of expressing contempt for the Church and its teachings. In this case, if the charging documents are correct Barney chose to get undressed, voluntarily participate in sexual relations of some sort, willingly brought her partner into her bedroom with the intent to continue relations, and ensured the availability of a prophylactic. That, of course, has nothing to do with whether she was actually raped–indeed, the perp seems to have confirmed that he did subsequently rape her. But all of this does have a great deal to do with whether Barney respects the Church and its teachings enough to deserve a continuing Church educational subsidy worth over twenty thousand dollars per year.

    And while discussing the Church’s subsidy of BYU’s tuition rates, it may be worth noting that if BYU charged $34,000 per year (like Baylor) or $49,000 per year (like Tulane) instead of the $5,300 per year it actually charges as tuition, no one would be grousing about the university and its honor code–they’d be fleeing the “Zion curtain” and enrolling in other schools before you could say “caffeine”.

  53. Michael, two wrongs don’t make a right. The Trib may have done sloppy reporting and done things wrong but that doesn’t justify what you’ve done.

    Ivan, there’s no doubt that fear and panic lead to bad policy. I’m convinced that particularly in university settings that’s going on far too much today. However simultaneously we shouldn’t let ourselves become beset by fear and panic in a backlash. Which also is happening with far too many ignoring the many ways in which we unnecessarily make it harder to have victims report rape or other crime. (And again I think this post is part of that unfortunate unnecessary backlash)

    I should once again also note that there are some eery similarities between lack of due process in the honor code office and what we decry at other universities.

  54. Well, I am not going to defend the honor code office. The honor code, yes. The office? No. It’s not as bad as some people portray it (generally the ones who don’t like the honor code in the first place), but it needs some serious overhauling/reform.

  55. Kent G. Budge,

    Unless the good guys can come up with a good solution about how to deal with the deceivers who are the vast majority of the sexual misconduct problem ruining the lives of so many women and children, as long as rape is the only legally enforceable category, yes, I support categorizing non-marital sex as rape. It’s not like I think this idea has much chance with most men, but look at how lazy men are about assessing the character of the women they choose to associate with. It’s unreasonable. Feminism has portrayed the most valiant men as prudish sissies, while pushing large numbers of men into being outright scoundrels. From my perspective, marriage makes almost no sense from the perspective of the majority of men. How would that change if the only legitimate situation for sex was in marriage? A LOT.

    And it would solve the false accusation dilemma. Men are quick learners, once they had the clear understanding of what actually constituted rape, men who got caught with their pants down would have some actual understanding of what they did wrong. Currently many false accusation victims have absolutely no idea what they could have done better.

    “Consent” is not a workable definition, it is way to subjective. Men who are falsely accused under “consent” laws are right to be upset because many of them really have no reliable way of knowing what constitutes rape. Under the yes-means-yes law (I know, I keep bringing that up) a man must receive affirmative consent at every next phase (which I guess means we must also have legal definitions for first base, etc.) The reasoning goes that it is often too intimidating to actually say no to a man who is right there and actively engaged. This is unassailable logic if you consider ‘consent’ your only test.

    It has pushed some Mens Rights Activists to calling for the legalization of rape on private property (a very bad idea.) And yet, I can understand their frustration if we are going to keep up this futile endeavor to zero in on this ‘consent’ idea for defining rape.

  56. For what it’s worth, Madi was not the poster child of outrage for people in the East. The poster child in the National Press was Madeline MacDonald, who two years ago had bodily fluids cast upon her by fellow who wasn’t a BYU student. For two weeks after reporting the matter to the Title IX office, Madeline was worried she might be disciplined by the Honor Code. However the Honor Code Office determined that she had not done anything wrong.

    The other two stories that have come to the fore are Madi’s story (discussed ad nauseum above) and the story of a young lady who was doing drugs and had already had sex with the fellow who subsequently raped her (I think they were also doing heroin the second time they interacted). But these stories where the victim was doing silly things (heavy foreplay, drugs) are not the stories the National Press pushed in their soundbites about BYU and the Honor Code. At least not where I live.

  57. When I was a child, I would go running to my mother to claim I had been ill used by a sibling.

    Mother always responded by telling me that I, as the older party, was the one at fault.

    So I see Lucinda’s point. Knowing that I had to set an example due to my relative maturity and help bad things to not happen was a factor in how I subsequently conducted myself.

    I think it is interesting, Kent, that you jump to the conclusion that the instances of sex Lucinda would categorize as “rape” would necessarily be heterosexual and involve a couple, and that the man would necessarily be considered the dominant (and thus more culpable) individual.

    In the old days I recall hearing that this was taught at the military academies, and blame extended beyond the individuals actually doing wrong to the responsible (if innocent) parties who had learned of the bad actions and not been sufficiently harsh. A friend who was a Midshipman at the time was punished because he hadn’t adequately punished more junior students who had done something wrong (something involving booze, if memory serves).

    You can be sure that if one of Lucinda’s children were to be involved in consensual extra-marital sexual activity, there will be no lack of clarity on where Lucinda stands. I don’t think that necessarily means Lucinda will forever bar the child from her presence. I do think if that child were to be attending college on a family scholarship, that child might well find themselves without family funds.

    By the way, my research into the stories led me to believe that the behavior of other students, not Madi, were the reason the officer turned the report over to BYU. However if these other students have been called to account, they haven’t made their story known. It may well be that Madi’s report, though partially implicating herself, has in fact allowed BYU to get rid of other students who were more clearly predators.

    Alas, this kind of illuminating information is not the kind of thing BYU would feel at liberty to reveal. So all we’re likely to get is what the Deputy Sheriff said, which I think was in a press release on the part of the Police Department.

  58. Lucinda,

    I can only imagine what kind of horrible experiences you have had that have led you to feel you cannot distinguish forcible rape from illicit but consensual sex, or that hve caused you have such a low opinion of men in general. I doubt whether I, or anyone else, can say anything here that is likely to be helpful.

    I hope you can find the help you need. I mean that most sincerely.

  59. The long hidden epidemic of rape on college campuses needs to be addressed by administrations with openness and with offerings of classes and forums to help educate students about sex and understanding the opposite sex.

    Since reporting rape is so scary, so personal, so humiliating, so often not done at all, the first reaction of those hearing a report should be, “I believe you, I am sorry this happened to you, and how can I help you?”

    Young LDS women feel shameful, guilty, unlovable, worthless, and ruined if they “lose their virginity.” Whether it is consensual before marriage, or when they have been raped, sex holds for them an awful, dirty, sinful stigma that they think they must keep secret. This is a huge deterrent to reporting sexual assault. Young women should be taught that whether by consent or not, sex is not life-ending, and that even if they did something to put themselves at risk, rape can only be prevented by rapists, and it is the rapist’s fault, not the victim’s.

    A recent study has shown that the frontal lobe of the brain which controls decision making and judgment does not fully develop until around age 25. I question that most college age women can be capable of wisely judging men, their wants, needs, motivations, character, or intentions. Most young women who grow up in a sheltered, religious environment are naive and ill equipped to move into adult situations at age eighteen. They need to know that there are male predators out there who do not respect them as equal or as human beings, but simply as vulnerable prey. They need to be aware that even LDS young men who seem like nice guys won’t necessarily be protective or respectful of them as are their brothers or fathers. Young women need to be educated to the fact that traditional male attitudes of entitlement, superiority, or conquest can lead men to use tactics of clever deceptive persuasion, emotional pressure, relentless insistance, intimidation, aggression, or physical force, which they do not have to accept.

    Young women need to know that their own developing sexual desires are a normal part of human development and they should not be ashamed of it. Young women also need to know how strong this drive is in men, and on how difficult it can be for men, good ones or bad ones, to “turn off” intimate contact, particularly once intercourse has begun. Even so, they also need to know that any sexual act at any point is their choice to reject or accept.

    I don’t think college age men are capable of judging women wisely on their wants, needs, motivations, character, or intentions either. In addition young men are more prone to risk-taking behavior, and are more sexually driven. In order to treat young women with respect and restraint, young men first need to see them as equals. They need to know that women need them to be patient, that they take much longer to reach sexual intensity, and that given the guilt involved, women are capable of and likely to stop on a dime at the most inconvenient time. Young men need to be taught that true consent in sexual relations has to be equal, mutual, and unimpaired. Consent can be defined as a drug free and alcohol free, high-five with an enthusiastic “yes” during each step of the way, including the right of a woman to stop at any point without having to fear anger or violence.

    Young men should be forewarned that if they succeed in getting sexual gratification from young women by deception, emotional manipulation, or physical coercion, that does not quality as true informed consent in the mind and heart of a young woman. If she never verbalizes a “no” and never gives a lot of physical resistance, it is not consent, because she may have frozen out of fear and or may have been made to feel she had no choice but to give in. If she was tricked, manipulated, or forced in any way at any point, he shouldn’t be too surprised if later, once she can gather herself together, she cries “rape.”

  60. JimD said, “Relevant to whom?”

    The details are not relevant to the public that is interested in this story. It was pretty clear that violations of the Honor Code accompanied this particular rape. But most people interested in the story don’t care what those violations were. They only care that a student was afraid to report a rape and those fears were realized. (That last sentence oversimplifies a complex situation, but I don’t want to go on too long.)

    The details are also not relevant to the federal officials who could determine that BYU is in violation of Title IX. BYU not only receives significant funds from the Church. It also receives significant funds from the federal government. (I am sure, based on the tuition amounts, that the Church contributes far more than the federal government, for what it’s worth.) Those federal funds come with requirements for the school, though. Any disincentive to reporting rape is going to get looked at by the public and by the government to see if it violates the law.

    I stated before that it is more important to me to reduce the number of people willing to commit sexual assault than to make sure that everyone is keeping the law of chastity. If a student gets themself into a bad situation, they still should be able to report a crime without fearing for their future in my opinion.

    Clark’s opinions on this are very close to mine. I will not repeat them.

  61. Kent G. Budge –
    That may be taking things a little too far in your response to Lucinda.

    She is, whether she realizes it or not, sharing a rather common (if nowhere near universally accepted, in fact it’s a minority view) theory (in academic and chattering class circles anyway) that since society and culture is so male dominant, it’s impossible for a woman to every truly consent to sex, so in some sense all heterosexual relations are a “kind of” rape.

    We read a few essays on this in my critical theory class at BYU, and the basic idea was endorsed by my professor (of course, as a good progressive liberal man, he was exempt from this charge).

    I know that online, there are lots of feminists who claim this theory doesn’t really exist, but I know what I read and was taught at BYU. I should dig out my old graduate school files and see if I can find the actual essays we read back then.

    The “yes means yes” laws, which some state legislatures are trying to apply to the general populace and not just colleges, will likely turn nearly all sex (married or not) into rape.

  62. I’m genuinely curious here, if it’s not too much of a threadjack:

    To call on-campus rape an “epidemic” implicitly concedes that on-campus rape has not been endemic–it is, theoretically, a relatively new problem. So, for those insisting on using the word “epidemic”, I would ask two questions:

    1) When did this “epidemic” begin?
    2) What contributory factors in this “epidemic” did not exist ten years ago, or twenty, or fifty?

  63. Since I correspond with Lucinda, I think I understand her argument.

    She isn’t saying that all extramarital relations are violations of the individuals involved, but that they violate society. And therefore, Lucinda asserts, such extramarital relations should be punished as though they were as heinous as rape. This is admittedly a rather Old Testament view, but it is a view that has actually been rather common through the period of human history that didn’t have access to easy birth control.

    Because she used the term “rape,” folks are imposing a “violent heterosexual rape committed by a man” interpretation. I’m pretty sure she disagrees with all extra-marital relations and with inappropriate relations within marriage.

  64. DD, “the public that is interested in this story” includes a substantial number of people who believe that BYU should have the right to enforce its student code of conduct–including evaluating whether a defense of “But I was raped!” has merit. And if the details of this case are only relevant to the Department of Education’s Title IX investigators, then one wonders why the Tribune bothered to report the issue at all.

    No, it’s not that most of the public doesn’t care about Barney in fact violated the honor code. It’s that the Tribune decreed that people shouldn’t care, so they made a conscious choice to withhold that information in order to steer the debate in the direction they wanted it to go.

    If a student gets themself into a bad situation, they still should be able to report a crime without fearing for their future in my opinion.

    Up to a point, I agree; and I think most of us on some level understand that rape is enormously traumatic and triggers all sorts of psychological responses. To that end, I can see granting amnesty for relatively minor or one-off offenses that happened incidental to a rape–a single incidence of drug use, for example.

    On the other hand, if a student has a sustained pattern of problematic behavior, or if a student plans and initially consensually participates in a sexual encounter: I know there are a lot of Mormon progressives who think that fornication shouldn’t be a big deal; but theologically and socially–it is. BYU’s culture of chastity and sobriety is going to be ill-served if students are routinely able to engage in Barney-like behaviors and then forestall University discipline or even investigation by alleging rape; and the erosion of that culture may well create a spike in the number of on-campus sexual assaults. So while there’s definite room for improvement in the way the Honor Code Office has approached various situations; on the whole I think any reform effort needs to proceed very carefully.

    And incidentally, I wonder whether Title IX might also at some point be interpreted to say that the Church’s ecclesiastical discipline structure is itself a violation of Title IX, and that BYU must stop letting student wards meet on its campus (or sever its affiliation with the Church completely).

  65. I think at some point that BYU will have to either give up all federal money (grants, loans, funding, etc.) or else stop being a Church school. Even that may not be enough, though. A lot depends on who is President and who is on the SCOTUS.

  66. Talking with my husband and later with my brother, I’ve decided to go back on my assertion that I’m fine with categorizing all non-marital sex as rape, but I do still think non-marital sex should be various degrees of illegal. My guess is that because no-fault divorce removed the necessity to accuse the other person of criminal behavior, reporting the crime of adultery maybe became less of a concern. And I guess fornication just didn’t matter to people as much once birth-control became widely accepted.

    I really do want the men to get rid of the rapists, and that means hashing of details, but would it also be okay to work on holding adulterers and scoundrels legally accountable too, according to their degree of harm?

    I have no desire to be frustrating to the men who are so key in promoting the well-being of women, and if I have been, I apologize.

  67. If adultery is made illegal, Lucinda, then a lot of women will be going to jail.

  68. ji,

    You might be trying to get me to ease up out of compassion for women, or just stating a fact? I’m not sure which.

    I don’t really have a problem with a law that sets out the unacceptability of women committing adultery, and punish it according to what the jury will bear. That’s the purpose of trials, and usually juries will be hard-pressed to separate a mother from her young children except when they have been convinced that her children will be better off without her physical presence to allow for prison-time. It is difficult to solve the problem, but it doesn’t follow that the problem doesn’t need to be solved.

    I’ve heard some new-generation equality-feminists call for equalization of the laws to make it so women/mothers are incarcerated in proportional numbers for similar crimes, and I don’t think that’s a good solution. Traditionally societies motivate women through social status/stigma. I’ve noticed this is something modern Christian communities find untenable since ‘we are all sinners’, but I would say that one of our modern sins is an unwillingness to effectively demonstrate to women the importance of virtue and chastity. A commenter above advocated teaching women not to feel ashamed about sexual mistakes, that it’s not a fate worse than death. But that kind of teaching invariably creates more of the problem it is trying to solve. The pain of losing virtue to scoundrels is not socially constructed. Increasing depression among young women is likely related to this. The more we say, “Your virtue is no big deal” the more women get caught up in accidentally losing it to various degrees.

    How much better are the sentiments expressed in Moroni 9: “depriving them of that which was most dear and precious above all things, which is chastity and virtue—”

    Even in Pride and Prejudice, which I watched the other day, the producers made fun of such an idea, even though the storyline of the book is a demonstration of the need for women to be careful. There is always this idea in our society that the real enemy is social discord, intolerance, etc. It is not often considered that sin carries negative consequences other than social stigma, and that the stigma is established by loving communities to guide young people toward making good choices, good because of their tendency to produce good results impervious to social manipulation.

  69. Douglas,

    1. This seems an odd comment for you to make. I looked through a couple of hundred news reports to gather the sources I ultimately used. The reporting in the SL Trib may not have been lazy in all accounts, but they haven’t even attempted to tell the whole story, they’ve just been pushing a specific narrative. The laziness followed from everyone else in the world picking up this story and trusting the SL Trib was telling a story that resembled real life. As I’ve stated elsewhere in this thread, Madi made the sordid details relevant because she (and her accomplices at the SLTrib have pushed a narrative that she shouldn’t be facing HCO sanctions because of her alleged rape. That’s a nice clean argument in the abstract, but she wouldn’t have seen the groundswell of support if a more truthful picture had emerged.

    Plus, she made her situation the point. It’s not out of bounds to question the underlying assumptions and facts supporting her contention that she should have been given an exemption.

    And I do question whether she was actually raped. There are a lot of instances in the few facts reported that indicate a willingness on her part to lie in an attempt to avoid HCO problems. One point of the article is that these facts were not terribly hard to find.

    2. Madi Barney has done more damage to the rape prosecution by her current campaign of international press engagement than she would have ever caused by talking to the HCO, so I really don’t buy it. In like manner, the SL Trib has done more to jeopardize the rape case than anyone else. They won’t be able to get a good jury in this case as a result of their reporting. Period.

    3. I did do investigating. I used Google. The obvious conclusion is that the rest of the media lining up to tell the story the SL Trib packaged for them didn’t even do that much. My assertion about BYU’s fairness in such situations comes from personal knowledge and experience. I worked for an office on campus at BYU that was closely related to the Honor Code Office as a student. I was privy to much that went on there, and was involved in peer-to-peer support for people going through the process. Far from being “off with her head” types, the HCO (in my experience) is dedicated to helping the kids involved.

    Madi’s experience bears this out. BYU had more than ample cause to simply expel her, but they let her finish fall semester, register and take classes winter semester, and has not even expelled her now. The fact that she was in school in January at all demonstrates BYU’s leniency.

    I tend to disagree with your black and white thinking in your conclusion. There are plenty of situations in which leniency may be warranted, while others that do not.

  70. I have a friend who has a great deal of wisdom. She was a grade school teacher all her life. The first day of school, her first question to her class was always, “Who’s in charge here?” Most of the children answered, “You are!” Her reply to them was, “No, it’s not me! I only have two jobs here . . . one is to teach you lots of wonderful things, and the other is to protect each of you and keep you from getting hurt.” The children would ask, “So, who IS in charge here?” She would answer, “You are! Jimmy’s job is to control Jimmy. Mary’s job is to control Mary. Each of you is in charge of just one person . . . yourself!”

    She handled misbehavior matter-of-factly, and as a result the children learned tolerance for one another. She reacted to misbehavior as a mistake, a normal part of the process of living and learning, not as if it were a disaster. When problems arose, my friend would always ask the children, “Who’s in charge here?’ and the answer was always, “I am!” Then she would ask, “How are you doing with that right now?” If the answer was, “Not so good,” the next question was, “Do you need some time to think about this problem and how to solve it?” The children were allowed to separate themselves from the group and from the other child they had a conflict with, go to the back of the room, and return whenever they were ready to rejoin the group. They would discuss what happened and come up with what they thought would be a better way to handle things the next time. If a child struggled to find a solution, she would give him a couple suggestions, and ask if he thought any of them sounded like a good idea. Usually the children came up with good solutions by themselves. In this way, the children were empowered, learned to stop and think about what they were doing, to come up with solutions, and in the end they felt successful, good about themselves, and confident they could overcome problems. She did not use fear, blaming, or shaming to control a classroom. She found a better way. It required much more time, effort, patience, wisdom, and love, but it was worth it.

    If stigmatization, shame, fear of consequences, and punishments stopped college age people from having sex outside of marriage, then there would be no problem at BYU. Trying to dictate and control who can have sex, when, with whom, and how is like trying to herd cats. Making this such a focal point and such a taboo makes it even more of a temptation and an obsession. There are many young LDS people who rush into marriage too soon, or who marry a bad match just because they cannot hold off any longer. I have heard many sad stories of people who ended up divorced, or have been miserable all of their lives because they are eternally trapped in a marriage with someone that they never would have married if they had been older and wiser, if they had first lived together long enough to really know each other, or if they had the opportunity to find out that they were not sexually compatible.

    At some point, young people are going to make decisions for themselves on what to do about sex, and it would be better for them to do so if they were first armed with all the best, most practical information on the subject, pros and cons, and if they first openly discussed and debated the subject and had a chance to discover the feelings, ideas, and attitudes of the opposite sex.

    As for handling the problem of campus or date rape, it is complex, and solutions will be complex. The church culture of stigmatizing, blaming, shaming, and penalizing students for bad choices is certainly a deterrent to victims reporting and can be a reason for false reporting, but there is another problem inherent in the church culture that influences both male and female attitudes and also contributes to the problem.

    My five year old grand daughter listens to NPR on the car radio and knows all about the Presidential election. Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are household words. One day she heard me refer to Hiliary as “her.” My granddaughter said incredulously, “Wait, wait, is Hiliary Clinton a woman!? Really? She can be President?” I was shocked that she was so shocked. This is 2016, not 1916! Then I realized that maybe it is still 1916 in the church. Little girls see only males at the top, most powerful, and most visible positions in the church. In the ward the bishopric is sitting up front and conducting meetings, young men administer and pass the sacrament, male family members bless babies, baptize and confirm children, and in the home fathers or male home teachers bless the sick We can tell a little girl that she has the right to override male authority or demands, that she has the right to take charge of any situation in which a man is going past her comfort zone, and making her feel uncomfortable or unsafe, but do those words sink in and stick with her if the idea of female equality is not reinforced by what she sees?

    In the church, great emphasis and focus is put on looking up to and following the prophets, the brethren. The top leaders are all males, and they decide for us what we should think, believe, say, do, not do, eat, drink, wear, etc. Children, especially girls, are not getting an important message . . . that it is their job and their right to think for themselves, to take control, make decisions, and take responsibility for the consequences of those decisions. Young people cannot show up on a college campus and make good decisions, if up to that point they have had little practice in taking charge of themselves, deciding for themselves what they think is right or wrong, or internalizing self control, but instead have always been externally controlled.

  71. To illustrate Lucinda’s point, the approach where society attempts to eliminate stigma in pursuit of ending distress is like giving someone analgesics to avoid physical pain.

    Nature has already demonstrated to us what happens when pain is not felt at all. It is called leprosy. Without an ability to feel pain, one is unable to avoid damaging interactions or realize that an impact has resulted in an actual wound.

    This is to Lucinda’s point. Are we as a society so busy telling people there is no harm that individuals are damaging themselves based on a fraudulent promise?

    We know this occurs with respect to birth control, which was supposed to eliminate reproduction as a result of inappropriate sex. Yet birth control has instead led to the presumption that women were “protected,” corresponding to a net increase in the number of our out of wedlock births and arguably increasing the actual rate of rape.

  72. Michael Davidson,

    Am I the Douglas you are talking to? If not, moderators, please delete this comment.

    1. I disagree. I think Madi’s story and the other stories that have been shared invoke sympathy from most people, including active members, regardless of the details.

    2. I am not a lawyer. I don’t know if her actions have hurt the prosecution. Possibly they have. However, if her actions lead to reforms that give confidence to more students to report assaults made against them, her actions will have been successful, in my opinion.

    3. I never had to deal with the Honor Code Office during my days at BYU. I think it was called “Standards” back then. But I heard stories that were scary. Maybe they were not fair; however, this particular story and others like it are disturbing to me. I hope substantial reforms are made.

    I think we are both using “black and white thinking.” We just disagree on the location of the border between the colors.

  73. Lucinda,
    You have no problem with laws to punish women for adultery? Seriously? I think Christ set the example for us of how to handle adultery. He stopped those who wanted to stone to death a repeat adulteress, and forgave her. He praised her because she had a good heart (“loved much.”)

    If virtue and chastity are the most dear and precious of all things, where does that leave a person once they have lost it? Seems like we might be better off remaining celibate all our lives, but then that would make replenishing the earth difficult.

    Do we really want to send the message to young girls that their value, their worth is based upon their innocence? Do you agree with Spencer W. Kimball that it is better to lose your life fighting against rape than to lose your virtue? Do we really want people to be killed, depressed, or suicidal over this? What good does it do to make someone feel like a worthless piece of dung with nothing left to live for? I think the answer to that is it is a form of manipulation. Wayward people are stigmatized, punished, sacrificed, in an attempt to control the rest. They are being used as an example to instill fear in others.

    It is a little confusing that consensual sex outside of marriage causes you to lose your virtue and chastity, but the same act inside of marriage does not. There is an irony here that girls must be sweet, innocent, pure virgins until the wedding, then a few hours later they must do an about face. With forcible rape inside marriage, have you lost your virtue and chastity? What about forcible rape outside marriage?

    I am so tired of the obsession with sex . . . masturbation, premarital sex, extramarital sex, birth control, abortion, homosexuality, polygamy, polyandry, same sex marriage, good grief. The sexual things that the church should have been most concerned about all along, but has given little attention or handled poorly are rape and child molestation, women’s and children’s issues. Hmmmm.

  74. Voltaire,

    Sex makes babies. That makes how we handle it an important issue for helping children and their mothers.

    Christ told the adulteress “sin no more”. Why would he have said that if it didn’t matter.

    The problem with telling women that their virtue is no big deal is that in a rape scenario, for instance, if you do not fight back, and as if your life depended on it, you have not actually convinced the rapist not to finish the job by killing you. Indeed, you have likely sent the message that you would not fight too hard for your life either.

  75. Lucinda,

    —-Unprotected sex creates babies.

    —-Of course, Christ looked upon adultery as wrong, but that is not to the point. The points I see in this story are
    (1.) Christ stopped the stoning, so he must have thought that a woman’s life is more important than punishing her for giving up her virtue.
    (2.) Christ showed that sometimes religious law should be overridden in the interest of forgiveness and mercy.
    (3.) Christ’s message to those who want to judge and make an example of others is that they should be ashamed of themselves.

    [I apologize for an error: The woman whose many sins were forgiven by Christ because “she loved much” was in a different story, in Luke 7:36-50. That was the woman who anointed, washed, and kissed Christ’s feet and dried them with her hair.]

    —-I would say that a woman’s virtue is a big deal, that before she gives it up, she should first become educated and informed about the ramifications and consequences, and should be very careful and thoughtful about when and to whom she gives it away, but once she does, she should not be so looked down upon and so guilt ridden that she feels of less worth as a human being and wants to kill herself. A woman’s life is more important than the status of her hymen.

    —-Are there studies showing that most rapists are more motivated to kill a victim if she does not resist, than if she does? If a woman is being sexually assaulted, I think she should do whatever she can to prevent rape and to survive. How much she resists and if she is even able to resist will depend upon the situation. I can’t claim to know what goes on inside the mind of any rapist, but isn’t it the general consensus that rape is more about power and control for the men than about sex? If that is true, then I would think that the more a rapist has to fight with a victim to get her under his control, the more angry, forceful, frustrated, and violent he would get.

  76. Meg Stout,
    —-You think In addition to the natural consequences we suffer from the hard lessons learned in life as we make mistakes, we need religion to pour salt into our wounds too? I think Christ would have us salve the wounds. You think churches and society must apply pain in the form of shaming and stigmatization because that is the curative that will prevent sin? So, how well has that been working out for them do you think? Religions have been dishing out this medicine for centuries, so why then do we hear all the time from religious alarmists that the world is getting more and more wicked every day? Have you noticed that the most wicked of all people, those who are wreaking havoc across the world right now, are true believers in the most conservative, fundamentalist, male dominated, patriarchal, controlling, violent, and sex repressed belief system in the world?

    —-Are we now “blaming” women for getting raped, and for getting pregnant out of wedlock, because they have access to birth control, and because men are moronic enough to assume they use it all the time? There is so much so wrong here on so many levels, I hardly know where to start.

    Even if this claim by men is true, it would not be the availability of birth control to women that is the problem; it would be the failure of men and women to communicate about whether it is in use. Maybe the reason for the out of wedlock pregnancies is because these people wanted a baby, even though they weren’t married, in which case it is their decision, not the availability of birth control, that is to “blame.”

    I think your conclusion has no validity because it is based on the false premise that men accidentally get women pregnant because they assume women are using birth control. Hogwash. If a man is not asking a woman if she is protected, it is because he does not want to know, does not care if he gets her pregnant, is in denial and wants to take no responsibility, would rather risk getting her pregnant than wear a condom, or wants to have a baby. If she is not letting him know they are having unprotected sex, then she wants a baby.

    As for rapists, considering how driven and desperate they must be to do what they do, I seriously doubt that many would think at all about whether a woman is using birth control or not, or would have any concern about their victims getting pregnant. If they were to think about it at all, a much greater concern for them would be leaving behind their DNA profile (sperm) to be filed in a criminal database and used to identify them later, and were they that concerned about this, they would use condoms.

    If we were to take accessibility to the means of birth control away from women, how would that correct these problems? Would men be happier dealing with nervous wives and partners who become less spontaneous, less interested in, and less enthusiastic about sex because they are worried about the higher risk of an unwanted pregnancy? Would men behave more responsibly and be willing to wear condoms or abstain from sex until their wives or partners want a baby? Perhaps so, if they are of low libido, but for the majority, I would say the answer to all these questions would be a resounding “no!”

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