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Student government holds prayer service in response to reports of sexual assault

| Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Twenty-five community members gathered at the Grotto at 8:30 p.m. Monday night to participate in a prayer service planned in response to two alleged rapes reported to the University in the last month. The first allegedly occurred Aug. 5 and was originally reported Aug. 16. The second allegedly occurred between Aug. 26 and Aug. 27, and was reported Wednesday. Students did not receive an email alert in response to either report.

Senior Makenna Siebenaler, Campus Ministry representative to the student union, said she believed turnout was lower than at previous similar prayer services because this service was held at a later time, due to the talk given by Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg earlier that evening.

Siebenaler began the prayer service asking those present to gather in front of the podium at the Grotto.

“I just want to take a minute to thank all of you for coming tonight and being present here for these awful things that happen on our campus,” she said. “So thank you for being present here, and for praying for us tonight.”

Fr. Pete McCormick, director of Campus Ministry, led the group in an opening prayer before Siebenaler delivered a reading. McCormick also led those gathered in a prayer for victims of sexual assault or abuse and the people on campus who offer support to survivors.

As part of the service, student body chief of staff Michael Markel read a reflection submitted anonymously by a student. In it, the student called on the community to speak publicly about sexual assault and spoke to the difficulty of acknowledging it as a concrete issue on Notre Dame’s campus.

“It is easier to think that sexual assault happens to people we don’t know, we don’t know who that might be, exactly, but other people,” Markel, a senior, read from the reflection. “Not our friends; not our classmates; not the person who lives down the hall; not that friend who was really drunk but wanted to stay at the party – not her, I’m sure she’ll be fine. And most of all: not at Notre Dame.

“… Yes, at Notre Dame,” Markel read. “Members of our community hurt one another. They hurt one another in so many ways, which we must learn to name and confront and end.”

The anonymous student wrote that the prayer service was an outlet to acknowledge and confront the issue of sexual assault on campus.

“We gather here as a sign of hope. Our gathering here tonight is our way of saying no to the impulse to feel that there is nothing we can do,” Markel read. “It is our way of rejecting the helplessness that we feel when we see a report of another sexual assault here on campus. Helplessness, hopelessness and despair do us no service in building a more just future. … We must say, ‘not at Notre Dame.’ Not a denial of sexual assaults that are already happening here, but as a fierce and convicted vision for a Notre Dame free from sexual assault in the future.”

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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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