Rape victim advocate calls yearbook photo incident ‘unacceptable’

Posted at 10:59 AM, May 29, 2014
and last updated 2014-05-30 00:14:14-04

SALT LAKE CITY -- The Rape Recovery Center, an advocacy group for victims of sexual assault, decried the decision by Wasatch High School to edit yearbook pictures of girls for "modesty."

In an interview with FOX 13 on Thursday, Rape Recovery Center Executive Director Holly Mullen called for an investigation into Wasatch High's administration and sensitivity training over the situation.

"Say that you don't want lingerie showing, underwear showing, all those things. But a sleeveless shirt? Is that really immodest?" she said. "Is that really going to send messages to others and be hard to control? It's just a bit too much."

Mullen accused Wasatch High administrators of "modesty shaming."

"I think the message is there that it's women's jobs to control the way they look, it's males to look the way they want," she said. "I say this all the time: short skirts, bare arms -- they don't cause rape. Rapists cause rape. It's a continuum and that's where we end up when we take this to the extreme."

Mullen said administrators, however well-intentioned, reinforce a "theme" that women must be controlled and directed, "so as not to inflame male sexual appetites."

"If people out there sat with clients who come to the Rape Recovery Center for services, they would hear very often that this sort of message starts very early," Mullin said.

"They start saying things like, 'If I hadn't worn that dress. If I hadn't had my bra strap showing, if I had looked different, he wouldn't have done this to me.' That's not OK. That is not the kind of behavior we want to be indicating to our children."

FOX 13 first reported on Wednesday that a number of girls at Wasatch High had their yearbook pictures altered to cover their shoulders or chests without their knowledge. School administrators said the students in question violated the dress code.

Wasatch High issued a statement on Thursday in response to the controversy, defending its decision to edit the pictures.

Read the statement here:

Wasatch High statement

FOX 13 contacted other school districts across the state to see if they altered yearbook pictures deemed inappropriate. While many pointed to their dress codes, all said they would not alter yearbook portraits.

"If there is a question of whether or not the clothes that are being worn do meet our dress code? We handle it right then and there before the picture is taken," said Jeff Haney, a spokesman for the Canyons School District.

Some school districts, like Davis, Granite and Weber, said they would not allow a student to sit for a picture if they violated the dress code. If one gets through, it would be flagged and the student would have to have their picture retaken.

A yearbook photography company said their policy is not to alter pictures and they work with school administrators to make sure students are compliant with dress codes.

Rob Lund, the territory manager for Lifetouch Photography (whose client is not Wasatch High), said his company takes more than 330,000 student pictures every fall for 630 schools in Utah.

"To my knowledge, no schools we work with do it," he told FOX 13.

See a gallery of the altered yearbook pictures here: