Student government hosts prayer service for sexual assault victims
Margaret Hynds | Monday, March 30, 2015
“‘Welcome home.’ You all remember that on your acceptance letter. We push the home-mindset hard: ‘Home Under the Dome,’ ‘Domesick.’ But when we receive emails like the one we received on Tuesday, I struggle to call Notre Dame my home,” senior Michael Nolan said to about 50 students, faculty and staff gathered at the Grotto on Friday afternoon.
Last Tuesday, the University community received its fourth sexual assault-related crime report email from Notre Dame Security Police (NDSP) this academic year. The assault took place in the early hours of March 20 in a North Quad men’s residence hall, according to the NDSP crime alert.
In response to the alert and in accordance with its policy, Student Government hosted a prayer service Friday afternoon to pray for survivors of sexual violence on campus.
Incoming student body president and vice president juniors Bryan Ricketts and Nidia Ruelas delivered the reflection, in which they contemplated beginnings and endings.
“Why, then, are we gathered here today? What has ended?” Ruelas said. “I suggest to you that we all have recognized that in a single sexual assault, we saw the end of someone’s trust and a fracture in our community.
“We marked the end of almost seven months to the day since the last time we received an alert. We felt an end to our belief that Notre Dame is not a place where sexual assault happens.
“This feeling is not a pleasant one. But it’s important that we are all here, together, to feel it collectively. Here, we can be honest about the pain. We can admit to one another that a breach of our trust has occurred. A breach of our family, of our Catholic ideal of the dignity and respect of every human being, has taken place, and we cannot ignore this,” Ruelas said.
Calling to mind the national “One is Too Many” campaign launched by the White House last year, Ricketts asked aloud how the ending Ruelas described could also be viewed as a beginning for the community as it moves forward.
“I suggest to you that we all recognize that in coming together to respond to a single sexual assault, we see the renewal of our work to build a culture on campus that says ‘one is too many,’” he said. “We mark the renewal of a time period in which we will do our part to be our brothers’ and our sisters’ keeper.
“We feel a renewal of our belief that Notre Dame can be a place where sexual assault no longer happens. This feeling is a hopeful one. And it is crucial that we are all here, together, to feel it collectively. A sense of healing may take days, weeks or months to build, but we believe that it can be done and that it is meaningful to do it.”
Drawing from his own personal experience, Nolan said healing required not only a change in perspective, but reclaiming the University as a home for those who suffered there.
“I’m not happy with us. I’m not proud that this is only the fourth email we have gotten this year,” Nolan said. “Over 20 cases of sexual assault at Notre Dame have been documented each year while I have been here. I know. My sophomore year, I was one of 24. I thought exactly what this person is probably thinking now.
“If I didn’t drink that much, it wouldn’t have happened. If I kicked, screamed or bit him, it wouldn’t have happened. If I didn’t go to that party, it wouldn’t have happened. If I didn’t go to Notre Dame, it wouldn’t have happened.
“What happened to this home? Our home? For a place that strives to be so intellectual and about high achievement and so much better than the rest of the world, we should know better. Notre Dame should be better. This home was extinguished for me and for everyone who has suffered a trauma here. But we’re going to make it a new home.
“ … Notre Dame will be home. It will be a place where you are welcome, where you are looked out for and where you are loved. So please, join me in my call. Welcome home.”