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Student government hosts sexual assault prayer service

| Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Student body president Bryan Ricketts, vice president Nidia Ruelas and the Gender Issues department hosted a prayer service last evening in response to a Notre Dame Security Police (NDSP) crime alert email the University community received early Sunday morning. The email said that a sexual assault had occurred in the late hours last Friday in a South Quad men’s residence hall.

Campus Ministry director Fr. Pete McCormick led the prayer service, which took place at the Grotto, and Folk Choir led the group in the Alma Mater.

Senior Erin Stoyell-Mulholland delivered a reflection, in which she pondered the intrinsic beauty of humans because “we are made in the image and likeness of God.”

“It is our job to remind victims of sexual assault, as well as ourselves, of the beauty that each of us holds,” she said. “We are all called to build people up, affirm them of their beauty through our actions and our words. We need to be that hope, so that they can begin to see beauty again, begin to rebuild trust and begin to heal, because there is so much beauty in healing.

“Healing can be one of the most beautiful processes, filled with God’s grace and love. It is in the recognition that God loves all His creation that He hurts when you hurt, that healing can more easily be found. We have a responsibility to manifest God’s love and hope for others.”

University President Fr. John Jenkins and Ann Firth, his chief of staff, were also in attendance at the service. Ricketts said he especially appreciated the presence of the University administrators.

“A sexual assault on campus is always hard, but it is especially difficult in the midst of our discussions on ‘The Hunting Ground,’” Ricketts said in an email. “The prayer services are an important first step in the healing process, and I’m thankful to those who joined us.

“It was especially heartening to see Fr. Jenkins and Ann Firth in attendance, standing with our community and supporting survivors of the sexual assault.”

The prayer service is the first the Ricketts-Ruelas administration has planned; the policy of planning prayer services after sexual assault crime alerts began in fall 2013 under then-student body president and vice president Alex Coccia and Nancy Joyce.

Ricketts said his administration hopes to promote open and honest discussion about sexual assault on campus during their term.

“We are always open to carrying on dialogue about sexual assault and are committed to preparing for fall programming involving our partners in the Committee for Sexual Assault Prevention and the Gender Relations Center,” he said.

Ruelas reflected on Gender Issues department director Danny Funaro’s call to action that closed the service.

“Danny’s call to action also stood as a firm testimony that our work in combating sexual violence is not done and that it is up to us to go beyond our comfort zones to prevent violence on campus and in our society,” she said. “As Erin in her reflection said, ‘Apathy is the antithesis of beauty.’

“We are committed to combating apathy and rising together to actively stand against sexual violence.”

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About Margaret Hynds

Margaret is a senior Political Science major and the former Editor-in-Chief of The Observer. She hails from Washington, D.C., and is a former Phox of Pangborn Hall. Follow Margaret on Twitter @MargaretHynds

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