The U.S. Department of Education is reviewing how the University of Notre Dame handles allegations of sexual assault in the wake of a student from a neighboring women’s college who reportedly accused a Notre Dame football player of sexual battery and later committed suicide.
The inquiry is looking broadly at the university’s policies, procedures and responses to complaints of alleged sexual harassment, department spokesman Jim Bradshaw said Friday. University spokesman Dennis Brown said the school is cooperating and noted that the review is not related to any particular case.
If you didn’t read the Chicago Tribune last week you may not know about the criticism Notre Dame is facing in the possible mishandling of another sexual assault case. This one involved another St Mary’s student who reported being sexually assaulted.
The woman and her father spoke to the Tribune because they say Notre Dame’s response to her accusations, coupled with the handling of Seeberg’s case, poses a public safety issue on the South Bend campus. The Tribune is not naming the woman because it does not identify victims of alleged sexual attacks except in rare circumstances.
A former prosecutor, the father said he understood the difficulties in bringing criminal charges. The accused said the sex was consensual, and the accuser had been drinking. Still, Notre Dame’s obligation was to treat her allegation with respect and urgency, he said.
“If there was a prompt, thorough and comprehensive investigation conducted and they came to the conclusion in consultation with the prosecutor that they could not successfully prosecute the individual, I would rely on that,” the woman’s father said.
It isn’t just a problem at Notre Dame, many colleges and universities deal with similar reports. What seems to be the issue is the way the campus police followed up on the reports. Both women reported the assaults within 24 hours of their occurrence.
The problem seems to be in the amount of time that passed between the report of the assault and the interview of the alleged assailant by campus police. In the Seeberg case it took 14 days to interview the alleged assailant and 11 days in the most recent case.
Eleven days seems like a very long to time to wait to interview someone who has been accused of this type of crime. They would have plenty of time to get rid of any evidence and to get their story straight if there were reasons to do so.
Notre Dame says that they were following standard protocol in such cases.
If that is standard protocol then the U.S. Department of Education needs to investigate further.
We are not saying that these young men should have been immediately arrested and thrown in jail. We do think that a simple face-to-face interview of the alleged assailant was in order, and should have taken place a lot sooner than a week and a half or two weeks from the time of the report.
We will discuss some of the personal safety measures that students can take to help prevent these types of situations from occurring in our next article.
“Enjoy the article? If you would like to receive email alerts when a new article is available just click the ‘subscribe’ button below.”