Is Notre Dame Ignoring Sexual Attacks on Its Campus?

Kim Conte

university of notre dameIt's obvious that there's something amiss with the University of Notre Dame and its handling of sexual assault complaints. Why else would it be under federal review?

For the second time this school year, a family is publicly criticizing the university for its failure to adequately investigate their daughter's report of being sexually attacked in a residence hall.

Their complaints echo those of another family, the Seebergs -- whose daughter, Elizabeth "Lizzy" Seeberg, reported experiencing a similar alleged attack last semester. (Sadly, Elizabeth killed herself last semester nine days after filing the police report.)

Just wait until you hear how the university handled these investigations -- both of which are now under review by the U.S. Department of Education:

In the first case, Seeberg filed a police report within 24 hours of the alleged attack and went to a hospital. Her parents complained because campus police didn't interview the accused -- a Notre Dame football player -- until 14 days after she reported the attack. (Legal experts and victim advocates say that 24 to 48 hours after the alleged attack is the ideal time to interview the accused. Waiting longer than that, you risk compromising the evidence.)

The second woman (whose name has not been released) likewise reported her alleged attack to the campus police within 24 hours and underwent a medical exam. However, no one was assigned to her case until more than 72 hours after the report; and even then police did not start investigating until almost a week later after the woman's father complained.

The reason for the delay? Sources said:

Authorities waited because the department was stretched thin by the first home football game of the season ...

Football vs. sexual assault investigation? Notre Dame made it pretty clear which one is more of a priority. Although its official statements try to convince us otherwise:

We regret that some are critical of our handling of sexual misconduct allegations, and we understand the pain these families are experiencing ... At the same time, we stand behind the thoroughness, integrity, and objectivity of our investigations, as well as the comprehensive services available to students who are subjected to sexual misconduct.

In the meantime, the second woman and her family are making public their frustration with Notre Dame's delayed response to her and Seeberg's accusations because they feel it poses a public safety issue on the college campus.

Though the university seems to be acting in a way that suggests it hopes this issue will simply go away, this woman and her family are determined that it be dealt with head-on.

Do you think Notre Dame is mishandling sexual assault on its campus?


Image via waldopics/Flickr

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