Last year, Elizabeth Seeberg committed suicide after an alleged sexual assault by a Notre Dame football player. Now another woman says that she was assaulted by a Notre Dame student — and that once again, the university didn't take the case seriously.
The second woman hasn't been named — but we'll call her M, for St. Mary's College, where (also like Seeberg) she was a student when the assault occurred. According to the Chicago Tribune (which also assiduously covered the Seeberg case), M reported being assaulted on Sept. 4 by a Notre Dame student in his dorm room. She was drunk and can't remember the night, but her friends found her afterwards "with blood seeping through her denim shorts and running down her legs." M said she was a virgin before the assault "and would never have consented to sex."
Like Seeberg, she quickly went to Notre Dame police and underwent a medical exam. She also said she wasn't sure if she wanted to press charges. So the police did nothing until M's father called to complain. At that point — nearly a week after the attack — detectives made some attempt to investigate, but M said of one of them, "It seemed that protecting Notre Dame was her best interest, not me." Ultimately, county prosecutor Michael Dvorak chose not to file charges because "It would be difficult to convince a jury that the woman was too intoxicated to give consent."
Dvorak said the delay in investigation had no effect on his decision, but the Tribune talked to lots of experts who are critical of Notre Dame's handling of the case. Says lawyer Barry Spector of the police department's decision to wait, "That's not an investigation. The suspects have a chance to get their story straight and to hire a lawyer. If you want to do a real investigation, you talk to them right away." Other experts pointed out that police may not have wanted to pressure M to participate in an investigation during a time of trauma, but there's a difference between giving a victim space and just not following up on her accusations (possibly in the hopes that they'd simply go away). And M and her family feel Notre Dame was guilty of the latter.
What's more, they see a pattern. Recalling the Seeberg case, M says,
Looking back, I'm surprised that they dealt with my case in the exact same way after the loss of another student's life. I thought that would have given them incentive to speed up my case.
Apparently not. In fact, the Notre Dame police didn't even assign M's case to anyone — let alone begin investigating — until 3 days after the assault occurred. The reason: "the department was stretched thin by the first home football game of the season." Presumably some police presence was needed at the game, but, at least symbolically, this sends a disturbing message about where Notre Dame's priorities lie.
Family Criticizes Notre Dame In 2nd Sex Attack Case [Chicago Tribune]