Let’s do this together - Observer Viewpoint

Featured in the April 28, 2015 Observer

Sexual assault has no place at Notre Dame, where we value the dignity of each person, and pride ourselves in creating a community that cares. Regrettably, Notre Dame isn’t immune to sexual assault, as our annual crime reporting indicates. In fact, we’ve seen spikes in reporting in recent years, which may be an indicator of a courageous willingness of survivors to come forward. These are not instances where assailants are strangers who jump out of the proverbial bushes, but in which students are known to one another. A review of conduct hearings over the last decade shows that all students who have been found responsible for non-consensual sexual intercourse were permanently dismissed from the University. Still, combating sexual assault is an ongoing concern and a priority of mine.

I have asked Erin Hoffmann Harding, Vice President for Student Affairs, to write separately and in greater detail to all students to remind them how to report sexual assault, what support services are available and what more we can do collectively to prevent it.

Meanwhile, in encouraging students to report criminal conduct to the police and/or administratively through the University’s conduct process, we want to support them fully in the process. That’s why we have hired more investigators and more professional staff to walk students through the process and to support their decision-making throughout. It’s also important to me that investigations of sexual violence are conducted without fear or favor.

As important as is support for survivors, prevention is critical. That’s why the University has expanded bystander intervention training and other strategies to deter sexual assault in the first place. Our student leadership is to be commended for being in the forefront of these and other education efforts including “One is Too Many” and “It’s On Us,” in which I was privileged to participate recently.

There was a time when sexual violence committed by an acquaintance or family member was rarely, if ever, reported to authorities. Fortunately, with better support for survivors and their increased willingness to come forward to identify their assailants, society has the opportunity to better combat these crimes. As an extended family itself, Notre Dame is committed to the well-being of all. As shaken as we may be by reports of sexual violence among us, we are also unashamedly resolved to address it head on, in the hope one day of eradicating it.

Let’s do this together, Notre Dame.

Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C.
President, University of Notre Dame