PROVO, Utah (News4Utah) - Addressing students at BYU's Marriott Center, Dean of the College of Social Sciences Benjamin M. Ogles said sex assault is "one of the most personal and invasive forms of aggression."
The university's weekly devotional address rarely tackles tough social issues like sexual assault, but Ogles said with the prominence of the #metoo movement and the litany of cases involving politicians, celebrities and others involved in sexual violence, he felt students needed to understand more about this important topic.
His address, entitled "Agency, Accountability, and the Atonement of Jesus Christ: Application to Sexual Assault," discussed the spiritual consequences of sexual assault and the effect it has on victims.
"The perpetrator exerts power over another person, disregarding their agency," said Ogles.
Brigham Young University has a complex history when it comes to investigating sexual assault involving students. Recently, the university changed policies on how it handles incidents. Students say relaxed policies have helped quell a "culture of fear" when it comes to reporting sexual violence to school administrators.
University spokesperson Carri Jenkins said administration has seen more students reporting incidents.
"We want to see those numbers increase, that means our students are aware of the resources they have available," Jenkins told News4Utah.
Students said the devotional Tuesday helped them understand more about consent.
"I believe some instances of unwanted sexual contact at BYU occur because one person assumes the other is interested and 'goes for it' without ever checking to see if their perception of hte other person's wishes is accurate. They then may stop when explicitly asked, but only after having kissed or touched without permission," said Ogles.
In an interview with News4Utah after the devotional, Ogles said he believes a revolution is happening around the topic of sexual violence and assault.
Data Ogles shared reported of the 12,602 students who completed the campus-wide survey, "475 reported 730 separate incidents of unwanted sexual contact."
52 percent of incidents were perpetrated by a current or former boyfriend, girlfriend or spouse, according to the survey. Only 6 percent were committed by a stranger, Ogles said.
"It's kind of a taboo topic for a lot of people," said BYU freshman Spencer Sandberg. "It was really brave of Dean Ogles to address something that is so hard for people."
Editor's note: A previous version of this story did not include the fact that there were 12,602 students surveyed. It said 475 of 730 incidents reported involved unwanted sexual contact. The correction has been made above to reflect that "475 students reported 730 separate incidents of unwanted sexual contact."
Additional note: 6.5% of women and 1.2% of men surveyed experienced unwanted sexual contact, according to the survey.
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