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Ask more of each other

| Friday, September 25, 2015

Two weeks ago, my little sister spent the night here at Notre Dame with one of her friends in BP.

Caroline is a senior in high school and I’ve been pushing Notre Dame on her for about 18 years, so to say I was excited when she told me she wanted to stay the night after the Texas game is an understatement. All too quickly, however, that excitement turned to fright.

It wasn’t because I feared she wouldn’t have a great time at the football game, or she wouldn’t find our campus pretty enough or she wouldn’t fall in love with Notre Dame in the way I did and continue to do every day.

I was scared because it took this community one week, five hours and 44 minutes after move-in to receive news of sexual assault on campus. Not 48 hours later, another email hit our inboxes, reporting two acts of sexual violence. Compound this with the two reported sexual assaults in my first few weeks of freshman year, and suddenly, I was scared the place I love so dearly wasn’t good enough for my little sister.

Having shared a home with my sister for 18 years, it is humiliating to feel uncomfortable inviting her into what I consider my second home. It is embarrassing that, after weeks on end of describing my unconditional love for this place to her, something so egregious could occur. It is unacceptable that the community I consider a family could let this happen.

We are better than this. Forget the U.S. News and World Report Rankings, the extraordinary academic caliber of our student body, our storied athletic programs, our medals, trophies and awards, the fact remains that the heart of the community here is nothing short of exceptional. We are kindhearted, driven, resilient, caring, ambitious and loving. Yet, we barely made it a week without a report of sexual assault. We are better than this, and we need to start acting like it.

We need to start asking more of each other, challenging one another, engaging in the issue through dialogue, not perpetuating dangerous environments prone to sexual assault and certainly not waiting until the next email to regret not doing more. The prayer services and the pledge cards mean nothing if they never impel us to action. We demand excellence from ourselves every day, whether in class, in practice or in our activities, and this is no exception. There is no excuse to be anything less than exemplary.

I should not feel humiliated, embarrassed or scared to invite my sister into my home. Yet, the current state of sexual violence here is so remarkably unacceptable that I feel frightened for her safety before she’s even applied to the school.

Let’s change this, one conversation, one person, one day at a time. Let’s step it up, so that in four years, when my youngest sister applies, Caroline won’t feel the way I did four weeks ago. Let’s ask more of each other, because there is not a shadow of a doubt in my mind that we are better than this.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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About Rachel O'Grady

Rachel O'Grady is a senior Political Science major living in Ryan Hall. She most recently served as Assistant Managing Editor. Hailing from Chicago (actual Chicago, not the suburbs) she's been a Cubs fan since birth.

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