It’s a name I know well. It’s a name I wish I didn’t know because of why I know it. And back in November the world learned the name as well.
I remember it all too well. I was in my senior year at Notre Dame when Lizzy’s name spread like wildfire across a community that suddenly seemed too small.
This is one of those stories that makes me ashamed of my alma mater. I love much of what ND stands for. I loathe the lengths the institution will go to protect what it stands for and more often, its image. And yes, its athletics.
Lizzy was a student at nearby sister school, St. Mary’s. St. Mary’s is an all women’s school, where Notre Dame men once went to pick their wives (a rant for another day. ND didn’t go co-Ed until the 1970s). Lizzy accused a Notre Dame football player of sexually assaulting her. Notre Dame Security Police (NDSP) did nothing. I remember being sick to my stomach reading about the text message another football player wrote to Lizzy warning her “not to mess with Notre Dame football.” The worst part of this story is that the details only came out after Lizzy died by suicide shortly after the alleged assault.
On November 22nd, Lizzy’s dad shared her story with the world when CNN broadcasted the Hunting Ground to millions. I watched as a former NDSP officer spoke of the rules in place prohibiting authorities from approaching athletes at any athletic facilities or through any athletic staff members. A system designed to protect student-athletes.
Others likely remember the Jameis Winston story-line from the documentary. Another prominent example of how a school and a city will do anything to protect a prized athletic program. It came as no surprise that Jameis threatened to sue CNN if they screened the film or that FSU attempted to poke holes in the film but producers had a brilliant response to their allegations focused on factual information of the investigation.
Major props to CNN for showing the film despite those calls to withdraw support.
It was certainly interesting to have my family watch the film on television. While my parents did not attend college, having seen two daughters navigate two very different campuses, it sometimes takes me by surprise how little they know with some of these topics. Hearing the statistics of sexual assault was especially difficult for my mom. Maybe it was better for them to hear these numbers after both her daughters have long since graduated. I can only image how scary it is to know those numbers, kiss your girls goodbye and hope for the best.
I still have no idea what the best way to prepare young women is. We shouldn’t even have to prepare them. Because, if we are being honest, any “preparations” we engage in leads to victim blaming. A fraternity was also featured in the film. As a professional, who recently worked with fraternity men and sorority women, I wish I could say I didn’t encounter students who are unaware of dynamics and factors that contribute to a rape-supportive culture (e.g. short shorts & escort theme party). But I do. Worse yet, is the email that comes from the university (after an assault) with included “tips,” which apparently are to keep people from getting assaulted. After receiving this email, it was only a matter of hours before a sorority woman approached me angry about the language being used. And she was right. Let’s be clear – the only thing that can prevent rape are rapists. I could do nothing but agree with her. I could not validate my employer.
I had suppressed the memory of Lizzy so much, that hearing it again caused me to be incredibly emotional. I think part of that comes from knowing so much more and knowing how common sexual assault is. I think it comes from working with college men and women every day and how much I care for them.
Lizzy’s name is one I cannot forget. She was taken far too early from this world and to this day, no one has been held accountable for what happened to her. I just want it to stop.
On the other side, I cringe whenever I hear Jameis’ name on Sports Center or ESPN. This is rape-supportive culture at its greatest. After evading arrest and prosecution and vilifying a survivor, he was still able to win the Heisman and be drafted into the NFL – constantly lauded for his accomplishments, while a young woman’s life has been irreparably changed. I just want it to stop.