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Students address sexual violence

Meg Handelman | Thursday, November 21, 2013

Student government hosted a town hall discussion on sexual violence Wednesday to open up the on-campus discussion and instigate activism in students.

Monica Daegele, student government’s gender issues director, said Notre Dame students dedicate themselves to various causes to make the world a better place, but they have failed to connect this effort to sexual assault.

“When we do discuss sexual violence or actively work to put an end to it, it feels as though we are met with earth-shattering amounts of pressure to keep quiet, to focus on how victims prevented it and to not question the existing systems that allow sexual violence to occur,” Daegele said.

It is easy to delete the crime alert emails and to think sexual violence does not occur at Notre Dame, but the right thing to do is almost never easy, Daegele said.

“Silence: it surrounds every situation of sexual violence,” she said. “It keeps survivors from telling their stories. It makes us pretend that nothing is wrong. It propagates sexual violence as it alienates those who have experienced it.

“It is the invisible force field that smothers the sexual violence movement.”

Student body president Nancy Joyce shared statistics from a survey given to Notre Dame students in 2012. According to the survey, 41 percent of students stated they did not know how to report incidents of sexual assault or sexual violence, she said.

The survey also found 64 percent of students agreed the Notre Dame community does not tolerate sexual assault or misconduct, Joyce said.

“I would think that that number would be higher,” she said.

Joyce said sexual assaults could go unreported for a variety of reasons. According to the same survey, 35 percent of students believe people do not report sexual violence because they fear others will not believe them. Another 38 percent feel fear of retaliation hinders reporting, and 40 percent believe the fear that other people will blame them for the sexual assault stops victims from reporting the act, Joyce said.

Joyce said she finds these numbers problematic because so many students at Notre Dame strive for a 90 percent grade in our classes, but the same effort does not translate into fighting sexual violence.

“We don’t feel like sexual violence is personal to us here at Notre Dame,” she said.

“For some reason, Notre Dame is a little bit different, and we don’t think those national statistics will apply here to us.”

Contact Meg Handelman at mhandelm@nd.edu