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.
Photo from Wikimedia Commons.