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Alleged BYU Sexual Assault Victim Transfers To The University Of Utah

The federal government is investigating Brigham Young University for potentially violating federal equity laws related to sexual assault reporting. Meanwhile, another alleged sexual assault victim has withdrawn from the school.

The U.S. Department of Education’s civil rights office opened the investigation on August 4th, roughly five months after former BYU student Madi Barney filed a federal complaint against the school for mishandling her rape case. Madeline MacDonald, like Barney was investigated for violating the school’s Honor Code after reporting her alleged sexual assault. MacDonald announced Tuesday, she’s transferring to the University of Utah. She cites hostility on BYU’s campus toward victims who speak out.

“These are people I know. These are people that, you know, should have known me and should have responded with some empathy. I just realized this is not a community that I feel comfortable being a part of.”

BYU Spokeswoman Carri Jenkins declined to comment on MacDonald’s departure or the case that spurred the federal probe, citing federal privacy restrictions.

According to the U.S. Department of Education, BYU joins a list of 260 colleges and universities currently under federal investigation for how they handle sexual violence. That list includes The University of Utah and Westminster College. Madeline MacDonald says nearly every school she applied to has been criticized for mishandling sexual assault cases.

“I hope to still be able to be involved in activism and still be able to work towards a better community and more awareness at the University of Utah, just like I’ve been working at BYU. I’m hopeful that the community there is going to be more open to it.”

In May, BYU officials announced efforts to study and improve its sexual assault reporting process. BYU has set up a website to gain feedback from the public on how it handles those reports.  

Whittney Evans grew up southern Ohio and has worked in public radio since 2005. She has a communications degree from Morehead State University in Morehead, Kentucky, where she learned the ropes of reporting, producing and hosting. Whittney moved to Utah in 2009 where she became a reporter, producer and morning host at KCPW. Her reporting ranges from the hyper-local issues affecting Salt Lake City residents, to state-wide issues of national interest. Outside of work, she enjoys playing the guitar and getting to know the breathtaking landscape of the Mountain West.
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