Notre Dame: Second sex assault complaint follows suicide

Notre Dame

Notre Dame University has been hit with a second charge of under-investigating sexual assault. Image: Flickr / paul_everett82 / CC-BY

Notre Dame is a prestigious Catholic University. However, for the second time in a few months, Notre Dame has a sex assault complaint, and the families are claiming it was under-investigated. The Education Department has stepped in to investigate Notre Dame’s actions.

Suicide follows first Notre Dame sex assault complaint

The Notre Dame police department is a service that covers all of Notre Dame, Indiana. The city is home to both Notre Dame University and St. Mary’s University. On Sept. 10, 2010, 19-year-old Elizabeth Seeberg committed suicide after complaining that Notre Dame was not “aggressively” pursuing her complaint of sexual assault. A second family, who has asked to remain anonymous, has spoken out against Notre Dame. The family members claim that their daughter’s complaint has been “buried” in order to protect Notre Dame University. The United States Department of Education has opened an inquiry into the investigation processes of Notre Dame.

The second sex assault complaint against Notre Dame

The second complaint of under-investigated sexual assault was made to the media only recently. The alleged attack took place on Sept. 4, and the victim met with police and indicated she wanted to press charges on Sept. 11. Within the last week, Prosecutor Michael Dvorak announced that the case would not be prosecuted. Dvorak indicated that there was simply a lack of evidence in the case. In both cases, the accused attacker was not interviewed for almost two weeks.

Sexual assault in higher education

Higher education institutions — colleges and universities — face a very difficult challenge with sexual assault. Notre Dame’s second sex assault complaint includes an admission that the victim had been drinking before the attack. Though drinking in no way justifies or excuses sexual assault, it often complicates the question of consent. In both of the Notre Dame sex assault complaints, the alleged attacker indicated that the encounters were consensual. A statement released by Notre Dame indicated:

“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.”


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