The Observer is a student-run, daily print & online newspaper serving Notre Dame, Saint Mary's & Holy Cross. Learn about us.



For sexual assault, prayers are not enough

| Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Sexual assault prompts: Prayers? Consequences? Change? Action?

In the wake of student government’s inaugural sexual assault prayer service for the year, it seems fitting to evaluate the response to sexual violence proposed by campus leadership. Praising the “great visibility with ‘One is Too Many’ last year,” student body vice president Matt Devine gave Observer readers a glimpse into his administration’s approach: “we’re looking at more action words … if there’s something we can do to incorporate the idea of an active bystander into the title, then we’d like to.”

This word-driven campaign to combat sexual assault with catchy slogans is worse than misguided; it’s insulting.

Ask a victim of sexual violence if lighting a candle changes a culture. Ask a perpetrator if posters would have stuck in his mind. Ask yourself, the unnamed “active bystander,” if anyone remembers the silence of the “sacred Grotto” in between shots and ceaseless fingers. Where unanswered prayers fail and discourse deflates, addressing the roots of sexual assault requires an immediate and un-romanticized policy.

The threats to an incoming class of potential prey will not be prayed away. Devine stated, “[The prayer service]’s the first year students’ first introduction to something like this, and it’s important for them to understand that this is our response.” According to the student body vice president, the importance of the prayer service lies not in the moral bankruptcy it allows, but rather in the feigned solidarity it displays.

When a prayer service continues to be the only visible consequence of sexual violence — a response in name but not in substance — student government sets a precedent of passivity that does little to bolster their own credibility or that of the student community.

If, as Cavanaugh resident assistant Allison Leddy claims, by attending this University we choose “to be more,” student leadership from LaFortune to each residence hall must take a more authoritative role in curbing a beer-swilling culture of frat boy conformity. For it is this cultural mentality, and not student government’s prayer service, that currently represents each freshman’s introduction to educating “the mind and the heart.”

If alcohol is an initiation into dorm brotherhood, is it also an initiation into sexual activity, wanted or unwanted? If we segregate dorms by gender, can we expect a woman to enter a male dorm as anything other than an exciting and foreign object?

Most importantly: Can our student government align itself with dorm leaders to change initiations that anesthetize our self-respect?

We can either acknowledge that this community needs more than a prayer service, or sleepwalk to our self-destruction.


Dylan Parent




Austin Hagwood


Dillon Hall

Sept. 23

The views expressed in this Letter to the Editor are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

Tags: , , , ,

About Letter to the Editor

Letters to the Editor can be submitted by all members of the Notre Dame community. To submit a letter to the Viewpoint Editor, email [email protected]

Contact Letter