Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Sexual Assault Awareness Week at Notre Dame

This week is Sexual Assault Awareness Week at Notre Dame, featuring events every day to make everyone on campus more aware that sexual violence does occur on our campus and its victims are members of our student body. Sadly, this week the Chicago Tribune has reported another incident in which parents of a St. Mary's College student are upset with Notre Dame police that their daughter's report of a sexual assault perpetrated by a Notre Dame student was not given more careful attention when it occurred in September. The report that has recently come to light was filed shortly after Lizzy Seeberg's own report, the St. Mary's student who tragically committed suicide in September after police action on a sexual assault report she filed was delayed.

Last week the Notre Dame and St. Mary's College Observer reported that the U.S. Department of Education has made Notre Dame the subject of a federal review into the University's procedures and policies related to sexual assault complaints. University spokesperson Dennis Brown claims that the investigation is "unrelated to any specific cases" of sexual assault reported this year. While that may or may not be true, Notre Dame's independent student newspaper, The Irish Rover, highlighted in its issue this week that "Among colleges and universities in Indiana, Notre Dame ranks second only to Indiana University at Bloomington in the number of forced sexual assaults on campus." Phillip Johnson, director of Notre Dame's police force, has confirmed this sad statistic.

During Sexual Assault Awareness Week at Notre Dame, please pray with us that our campus can come to more fully embody our commitment to the dignity of human persons, not just in our policies and procedures, but in the actions of every member of our community and of the administration that seeks to care for its students' pastoral needs.

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