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Notre Dame Won’t Prosecute Sexual Battery Case Against Football Player

Notre Dame Won’t Prosecute Sexual Battery Case Against Football Player

Less than a month ago, I wrote a piece about the tragic suicide of Lizzy Seeberg, a freshman at St. Mary’s College in Indiana who killed herself early in the school year, nine days after reporting sexual battery by a Notre Dame football player.  When I wrote the initial post, the player was still on the field, and Notre Dame was refusing to publicly acknowledge the case.  Now it’s unlikely that officials will prosecute the case at all.

Seeburg’s parents say they feel betrayed by a school they loved.  Thirteen members of their family, including their daughter, have attended either St. Mary’s College or Notre Dame, and they say that although they have no wish to attack such a beloved institution, they are also deeply disappointed by its failure to act on behalf of its female students. 

“We are parents fighting for our daughter. We’re fighting for our sisters, our nieces and our granddaughters,” Tom Seeberg, Lizzy Seeburg’s father, said. “If not at Our Lady’s university, then where? Where in the world would you fight for women? Where in the world would you fight for a cause like this?”

Their anger increased when the school indicated that it would not give them documents related to their daughter’s accusations.  Notre Dame has also refused to publicly discuss any of the sexual assault allegations and how they handled Lizzy Seeberg’s complaint.

The parents’ lawyer, in a letter to the university in early November, requested three things: “A full and vigorous investigation surrounding the allegations; transparency of the investigative process; and an aappropriate disciplinary response’ from the university.” 

None of this has happened and more disturbing information keeps coming out, including a text message from a friend of the perpetrator, which read,  “Don’t do anything you would regret,” the text said. “Messing with notre dame football is a bad idea.”  This was after Seeberg had reported the attack to officials and consented to a rape kit.

According to the Notre Dame/St. Mary’s Observer, the school has decided not to prosecute the football player accused of battery “based on the evidence from the investigation and evidentiary rules involving hearsay, which make it unlikely that Seeberg’s statements would be admissible in court because of her death.”  They also say that the text message did not constitute harassment.

Clearly, Seeberg’s parents have every right to feel angry and betrayed.  The school is more interested in protecting its image than its students, and the fact that Seeberg is tragically deceased makes it easier for them to claim that it’s simply not possible to move ahead.  It would be one thing if, after a transparent investigation, they concluded that there was not enough evidence.  But the way the university has behaved is inexcusable, and demonstrates a clear disregard for its students’ health and safety.

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Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

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213 comments

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8:41PM PST on Jan 4, 2011

don;t give up fight them all the way

6:35AM PST on Jan 3, 2011

Gina H. says: "It doesn't take just the penis make a physical assault or rape."

Gina, before ranting try reading. Especially the applicable Indiana Statutes. For Rape, it DOES take a penis AND Penetration.

Emotion is a fine thing Gina, but not in the preparation of charges for a trial.
You wanna charge the guy with Rape, you better be able to PROVE Rape otherwise he WALKS!

No where in any of my postings did I defend the athlete. I DID, repeatedly, ask posters to stay ON TOPIC which concerned a Sexual Assault, not a rape. Lizzy's own interview removed Rape as a charge.
No where did I defend Notre Dame. I DID highlight the FACT that they are prevented by Federal Law from releasing any information to the public regarding an investigation AND that they did turn over the product of their investigation to the South Bend PD which was the appropriate thing to do.

IF you have a personal beef with Catholics, or Notre Dame in particular, that's your problem. I haven't seen or heard one identified Catholic on these boards calling for anything but a full investigation.

The truly sad part of this whole situation is the needless death of a young woman.

3:59AM PST on Jan 3, 2011

get a lawyer and demand they open the books to investigate

4:24PM PST on Dec 26, 2010

I don't entirely understand why the university has any say whatsoever as to whether the oung man is prosecuted or not. That would be up to the police department, yes? I do think that the school should investigate the charges, but I also think they have a duty to be honest about the investigation. If the young man is accused of sexual assault he should - as other schools have done - been suspended pending the legal investigation.

1:48PM PST on Dec 26, 2010

You're right John T., no where in the ABC article does it say the word rape. But then they've got a precious jock to protect on the team so I guess leaving such a strong word out of the article along with further details further protects him. But if you go to the Huffington Post, his actions are described as a "sexual assault". "...the player allegedly sexually assaulted Seeberg as she froze, weeping, according to a statement found on her computer after her death". Source: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/12/16/lizzy-seeberg-suicide-new_n_797677.html

Just a matter of what words are used & what news report you read eh John? It doesn't take just the penis make a physical assault or rape. Ever been groped & overpowered by a guy that you weren't interested in, John? Probably not.

Typical "jock behavior" that sports continues to support. Can't be a real man on the team if you haven't performed your weekly rape. Not surprised that a Catholic entity won't push to have it pursued either since they still support that woman is the root of all evil. Maybe some day the male population will finally evolve beyond cave man behavior and treat women with some iota of respect. I don't expect to see it in my life time.

2:50AM PST on Dec 26, 2010

In a realm where sports is everything, a woman means nothing, even if it's her life, because ONE athlete bringing in a win is more important than crime or the lives of other people. Notre Dame should be more like the Green Bay Packers, where if they even have the accusation, they are kicked off the team. Maybe then these aspiring athletes would conduct themselves in a more sophisticated manner, since even the accusation would cost them their spot on the team, maybe even their scholarships and their attendance at the coveted university. When you aspire to be something that great, I expect that they conduct themselves in the appropriate manner. If they can't, because "boys will be boys", then go to a boy level college like your local booze club. You don't go to a prestigious place to act like a slob blob.

8:41AM PST on Dec 24, 2010

unbelievable.

4:53PM PST on Dec 23, 2010

Athletes walk.. guilty or not they need him to play.

9:19PM PST on Dec 22, 2010

Regardless of how much or how little the perpetrator actually did, the fact is the school decided to pretend that nothing at all had happened. It is this unwillingness to take responsibility that angers me even more than the initial assault.

Some Disney lyrics come to mind:

"See there the innocent blood you have spilt
On the steps of Notre Dame
Now you would add this child's blood to your guilt
On the steps of Notre Dame
You can lie to yourself and your minions,
You can claim that you haven't a qualm,
But you never can run from,
Nor hide what you've done from the eyes,
The very eyes of Notre Dame"

Notre Dame in the last instance means "our Lady," referring to the Virgin Mary that so many Catholics turn to in their supplications. It's interesting that the football player came from Notre Dame and Lizzy attended St. Mary's. Whoever it turns out is watching from above will surely be slow to hear when those responsible for such neglect are crying "Kyrie Eleison!"

5:29PM PST on Dec 22, 2010

Michele Woodbury says: ".......a young man is not being held publicly accountable because the institution of learning is showing itself as morally bankrupt on it's face."

Michele, what part of 'Notre Dame is FORBIDDEN by Federal Law to publicly release any information' don't you COMPREHEND?

They turned the product of their investigation over to the South Bend PD AS THEY SHOULD.

Just because you want to read some smut on a young man, not accused by the state of any crime, doesn't mean you get to.

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Julie M. Rodriguez Julie M. Rodriguez is an arts, green living, and political writer based in San Mateo, CA. Her work... more
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