In yet another horrifying suicide story, a freshman at St. Mary’s College, a private Catholic liberal arts school near Notre Dame, died earlier this semester in what appeared to be a suicide, nine days after reporting being raped by a Notre Dame football player. Two months later, the player remains on the field, and Notre Dame is refusing to publicly acknowledge the case.
Lizzy Seeburg, the young woman who was assaulted, died in her room of an apparent overdose on prescription medication during the third week of classes. She had battled depression in the past. Campus authorities did not mention the fact that she had reported sexual assault when police began to investigate her death, nor did they refer the case to the county’s special victims unit.
“She was so excited and so enthusiastic about starting the year off right,” said one of Seeburg’s close friends. “She had a whole plan about what she was going to be.”
According to the Chicago Tribune, Seeburg suddenly became self-conscious on Notre Dame’s campus following the assault, fearing that “people would dislike her for accusing a Notre Dame athlete of a sex crime and that she would wear the incident ‘like a scarlet letter’ throughout her college career.” According to the death invesigation written by the county police department, she had gone to a counselor and expressed suicidal thoughts between the attack and her death.
Both Notre Dame and St. Mary’s are dodging the story, which does a serious disservice to the effort to end sexual assault on both campuses. Writing for Jezebel, Anna North points out, “Both are acting like the investigation and coverage of an assault are embarrassing to them, when the exact opposite should be true — institutions should be ashamed of themselves when they hide sexual violence, when they pretend it never happens, when they act like they are somehow above all that.”
The fact that her friends and counselor didn’t see the warning signs is alarming, too. As a college student, it reminds me of the desperate need for better mental health counseling, as well as a campus climate that does not stigmatize victims of sexual assault as well as people suffering from depression. It seems that Lizzy Seeburg was one of the terrible victims of a campus climate of silence, one that certainly doesn’t only exist at these two Indiana colleges.
Photo from Flickr.