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Student government hosts sexual assault prayer service

| Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Last night, student body president Bryan Ricketts and vice president Nidia Ruelas led a prayer service at the Grotto due to the recent recurring appearance of crime alert emails in every Notre Dame student’s inbox. This past weekend, Notre Dame Security Police (NDSP) sent two out emails reporting three separate allegations of sexual misconduct.


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Ruelas began the prayer service by talking about the various ways students could get involved on campus to raise awareness on sexual awareness. She suggested GreenDot training, a program run by an organization that aims to implement strategies of violence prevention in certain communities.

“Get involved, sign up,” Ruelas said. “What’s important for you to carry on from today is that the conversation does not end here. It is up to us to make sure that we end sexual violence on this campus.”

Rose Walsh, a senior and resident assistant (RA) in Lyons Hall, gave a reflection and talked about her freshman residents’ disbelief at the sudden influx of sexual assault allegations. Walsh said her residents asked her the question, “Does that actually happen here?”

“I was horribly embarrassed that during their first week of class here at Notre Dame, they’d already received three notifications that this new home we’re trying to bring them into and create still has a serious problem keeping students safe,” Walsh said.

Walsh said the emails stood as proof that Notre Dame had yet to overcome its history of violence and that she could not help but worry that the freshmen in her hall, its newest residents, would become afraid of a place that she loved.

“Have we tolerated or even created an environment that causes our newest students, our youngest brothers and sisters, to be afraid of Saturday nights?” Walsh said. “While prayer and reflection and awareness are so important, absolutely nothing will guarantee the future safety of the students of Our Lady’s University besides a sincere and relentless effort by each and every student, and classmate and roommate to step in, to speak up and to respect one another.”

Pierce Witmer, a sophomore and member of Men Against Sexual Violence (MASV), displayed his worry that the recurrence of the sexual allegation email has caused some people to view it as spam from NDSP. Witmer then delivered a statistic from the U.S. Department of Justice that states 1 in 4 women on college campuses would be affected by sexual assault during their college years.

“When we think about the entire Notre Dame community as our brothers and sisters, even one case in our entire student body is far too many,” Witmer said.

Witmer said Notre Dame’s impressive image is an amalgamation of each member’s collective efforts and participation in the community but that sexual violence threatens Notre Dame’s ability to work in faith, justice and integrity.

“Sexual violence and other forms of power-based violence have no base on the Notre Dame community,” Witmer said. “We all have the power to step up and take action as a united community.”

The prayer service ended with attendees singing the ‘Alma Mater’ and lighting a candle in solidarity with survivors of sexual assault. In the closing of her reflection, Walsh referred back to the question her freshmen asked her pertaining to if sexual assault was actually a reality at Notre Dame.

“One day we will be able to answer confidently it absolutely does not,” she said.



About Selena Ponio

Selena Ponio is from Dallas, Texas and is currently a senior at the University of Notre Dame. She is the Associate News Editor for The Observer. Selena lives in Breen-Phillips hall and is majoring in International Economics with a concentration in Spanish and is minoring in Journalism, Ethics & Democracy.

Contact Selena