Students marched on the sidewalks near campus, holding signs that read phrases like “Women are not walking pornography” and “Stop victim-blaming.” A few cars honked in support as students walked and chanted “No means no.”
On May 5 at the Beehive Pavilion in Porter Park, over 40 BYU-Idaho students and community members gathered to march near campus to raise awareness of sexual assault.
Halie Lewis, a sophomore studying nursing, organized the march. Lewis said that she got the idea earlier in April and reached out to others over social media to raise awareness for the event. She wanted to inspire others in the community to “stand up and be heard.”
“You are powerful,” Lewis said to the crowd. “You are not powerless, even if you feel like it.”
The group met at the park before marching down West 2nd South and then down South 1st West to their stopping point, where they participated in chants. They yelled out phrases like, “We want justice,” and “Stop suspending survivors.”
After chanting, the group headed back to the park, where Lewis and other students shared their stories with the crowd.
Lewis said that she was sexually assaulted by a student on campus last fall. She was scared to report to the school because she wasn’t sure if she would get kicked out. After reporting her case to the police and the Student Honor Office, she was able to get a restraining order on her assaulter.
“I realize that sharing my story can help other people because there are so many other people who can relate,” Lewis said. “I just want people to know that they are not alone and it happens so often and that they shouldn’t be afraid of getting in trouble or getting kicked out of school for reporting.”
She said that the people who handled her case were very kind and supportive throughout the process and that they assured her she wouldn’t get in trouble or kicked out of school. However, she felt that she didn’t receive enough justice in her case.
“When it came down to them actually doing something about it, the answer that I got was ‘So the guy said he didn’t do anything. We’ll have him talk to his bishop, and he’ll repent,'” Lewis said. “I think that the atonement and repentance is such a great thing, but in the case of sexual assault, it’s an actual crime. So just referring them to their bishop, to have them use the power of the atonement is great, but there needs to be other actions taken.”
Lewis said that she lives in fear every day of her assaulter because he is still allowed to attend classes and work on campus . She said that she thinks the school could work better with the police when it comes to finding evidence to help victims of sexual assault.
Spencer Belnap, a sophomore studying general education, was driving by the march and decided to stop by out of curiosity.
“I always heard about sexual assault happening at BYU-Idaho,” Belnap said. “I believe the stories of these people and believe that something needs to change. There needs to be action and accountability held.”
Belnap feels that the process for dealing with these cases needs to be improved and that the victim shouldn’t ever be or feel at fault for being assaulted. He hopes that the march can start a conversation and open the eyes of people who need to be aware of the problem.
“Part of the education needs to come from the Church,” Belnap said. “I think that in some ways when it comes to talking about sex and what it entails, as a church culture we aren’t open to discussing it and discussing the pros and the cons, and the dos and don’ts. That can lead to people who go off into college unaware of what sex, rape or consent is.”
Many of the students who shared their stories expressed how hard it was to work up the courage to reach out for help. A common topic mentioned by students was the importance of reporting.
Lewis said it is important to report so that police can find patterns amongst assaulters. When it comes down to one person’s word over another’s, a victim’s case will be stronger if other victims have reported assault by that same person. Many other students shared their personal stories of reporting and speaking out and how it helped them with their healing process.
Lewis hopes that the march can encourage the community to come closer together in supporting sexual assault victims and that students can learn more about the resources available to them.
Students can learn more or reach out to these sources for help:
— The RAINN website for hotlines and crisis help.
BYU-I did not wish to make a statement on the march at this time.