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BYU hires new Title IX coordinator, adds victim advocate

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PROVO — BYU has hired two women to fill new full-time positions helping student victims of sexual assault.

Tiffany Turley, who has been the manager of BYU’s Women’s Services and Resources, will be the university’s new Title IX coordinator, the school announced Friday in a news release.

Lisa M. Leavitt, a psychologist in BYU’s student counseling center, is now a full-time advocate for victims of sexual assault.

Turley said her first priority is to protect and help students affected by sexual misconduct.

"My own experiences as a victim of sexual assault have driven me to become thoroughly educated on this topic and created in me a desire to help victims heal and find strength," she said in an interview released by the university.

"I feel I’ll be able to effectively empathize with victims," she added, "and reassure them of the importance of obtaining professional help that will allow them to endure and ultimately heal from their trauma. I also feel I’ll be able to offer hope to victims by showing them through my own healing experience that things can get better and that they have the potential to become stronger as a result."

The moves are part of the university's effort to adopt 23 recommendations made by an advisory committee that called for sweeping changes in the way BYU responds to reports of sexual assault. The comprehensive reforms are designed to encourage survivors to report their assaults so the university can help them with an array of resources.

It will be Turley's job to implement the reforms.

BYU released the 34-page report, available online at news.byu.edu, on Oct. 26, triggering two immediate actions.

First, the school immediately implemented an amnesty clause that shields students who report sexual assault from being investigated or disciplined for Honor Code violations at or near the time of the assault.

Second, on the same day, BYU sent the job description for the new, full-time Title IX coordinator to the human resources office, beginning the process that led to Turley's hiring.

Other recommendations by the Advisory Council on Campus Response to Sexual Assault included the two new positions. BYU’s Title IX coordinator previously had multiple responsibilities, but Turley will be dedicated full-time to the Title IX role. Leavitt's position as a full-time victim advocate is completely new.

"Our first priority has always been to provide for our students a positive, safe and supportive environment," Student Life Vice President Janet S. Scharman, who headed the advisory council, said in a statement. "We believe that the addition of a new Title IX coordinator and a victim advocate is a significant step in ensuring that this will happen."

Statistics show BYU has a safer campus than most, aided by an Honor Code that proscribes drugs, alcohol and extramarital sex. However, some campus procedures had been shown to have a chilling effect on students who needed to report sexual misconduct.

Turley is a certified crisis counselor and has worked on the 24-hour crisis line for the Rape Recovery Center. At BYU, she has created and implemented prevention, awareness and educational outreach programs on women’s issues.

"I believe Tiffany is uniquely qualified for this position, in part because of her leadership in overseeing the programs and services of BYU’s Women’s Services and Resources Office," Scharman said. "She has a clear understanding of all aspects of Title IX and has become a passionate advocate for women and those impacted by sexual violence."

Leavitt has spent 12 years helping victims in the student counseling center.

"I have witnessed firsthand the trauma, confusion and loss of control students experience when they have been the victim of a sexual assault," she said in the interview on BYU's website. "Often, victims are confused as to the type of support available, and they worry about confidentiality and safety. An important part of a victim’s recovery is providing them with a safe and confidential space where they have access to the support needed to begin the process of healing. Having an experienced person on campus who is familiar with the devastating effects of assault and who can help victims navigate that process increases the likelihood of them taking back a sense of control and moving forward in more healthy and positive ways. I believe the new victim advocate position at BYU provides such a space for our students."

Turley's office as Title IX coordinator is located on the first floor of the Wilkinson Student Center. The homepage of byu.edu includes a link to the Title IX website, which has additional information for survivors of sexual assault.

Leavitt's office is in Counseling and Psychological Services, room 1500 of the Wilkinson Student Center. Students can walk in for help between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. After-hours help will be available to students on a 24-hour basis.