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Prayer service examines perceptions of assault

| Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Just one day after the campus-wide launch of GreeNDot, an initiative committed to replacing violent and sexual injustices on campus with positive acts, students received an email Nov. 7 alerting them to a reported sexual assault. Students and other members of the Notre Dame community prayed for healing at the Grotto on Monday evening after this most recent report.

20151116, 20151116, Grotto prayer service, Kathryne RobinsonKathryne Robinson | The Observer

“We are privileged to attend a school whose campus is beautiful in every season,” junior Natalie Vos said during the service. “But I think far too often people are in denial. They see the beauty of this campus and feel the sense of family on football weekends and focus on the positives of this campus. They feel so safe and at home that they cannot comprehend that such disgusting acts occur on this campus.”

Vos said due to the busy lives many students lead, many find it hard to take a moment to put these issues in perspective and look at the situation around them.

“We forget to look up at Mary in awe; we forget to look down at the rainbow of colorful leaves. We forget to look around at faces of people that we share this beautiful campus with,” she said.

She said that the hectic nature of study and work at Notre Dame means the email alerts can be in danger of getting lost in the flurry of notifications that students are already receiving.

“However, as we are sitting with our friends, we receive a notification on our phones and suddenly the Dome doesn’t shine as bright and the colors of the leaves seem a little more brown than red,” Vos said. “Too often we choose to ignore the pain because we don’t need any more stress in our lives … because we feel that the email does not affect us personally.”

She said although many times people will not know the victim personally, there is a solidarity that comes with the victim being a person one has never met before but shares the same experiences as a Notre Dame student.

“Sexual assault is more than that crime alert. It does not simply happen and then get forgotten. It destroys trust and hope,” she said.

Senior Nicole McAlee said every occurrence of sexual violence on campus is a gross violation of the University’s values, and there is still more to be done.

“It might take years, and it will require the conscious effort of every person on this campus,” she said. “Legislations, policy and rules will not fix this — people will.”

Members of this shared community must stand in hopeful support of all survivors, McAlee said, and one step towards healing is reframing the conversation around sexual assault in a way that places responsibility on the whole of the community.

“We are Notre Dame, and we are a powerful force of good in this world. We can change this. Be hopeful, be angry, be courageous,” McAlee said.

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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