Baylor's Conduct Code Reportedly Might Have Silenced Rape Victims
The law firm Pepper Hamilton, which was retained by Baylor to investigate its alleged poor handling and cover-up of sexual assault accusations, found the university's conduct code may have played a role in silencing victims.
Jim Vertuno of the Associated Press obtained the report, which says "'perceived judgmental responses' to victims who reported being raped 'created barriers' to reporting assaults."
A Baptist university, Baylor has long carried one of the strictest honor codes among United States institutions. Vertuno's report notes dancing was banned on campus until 1996, and "fornication, adultery and homosexual acts" were offenses of the code until May 2015. The university still encourages acts of sex to only occur between married individuals.
Sexual assault victims were allegedly told their activities on the night of the alleged rapes would be made public in some cases. The Pepper Hamilton report said some women were silenced by the prospect of their families finding out.
In many cases, Baylor said women would be subject to disciplinary violations regarding their conduct on the nights of the alleged assaults. One woman who said she was raped at an off-campus apartment was later forced to do 25 hours of community service for underage drinking.
"I was told by many Baylor staff that they couldn't do anything for me because my assault was off campus, yet they had no problem punishing me for my off-campus drinking," said the woman, who is suing Baylor.
A federal investigation found that conduct codes such as Baylor's can have a "chilling effect" on women reporting rapes because they fear repercussions. Many universities have amnesty clauses in their codes of conduct, which allow sexual assault victims to come forward and not face penalties for drug and alcohol use.
Baylor did not have an amnesty clause at the time of these sexual assaults, although they are likely to add one soon, according to Vertuno. The university is being sued by a number of former students who allege the university discouraged reporting rapes and were slow in reacting in certain cases involving athletes.
Baylor president Ken Starr and athletics director Ian McCaw both resigned and head football coach Art Briles was fired as a result of the scandal.
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