Tonight, the University of Notre Dame’s football team will play Alabama’s in Miami. I don’t know anything about sports (other than girls’ high school cross country, it’s a vicious world) but I get why a clash between the two top ranked college programs in the country would be a big deal. But I’m still confused why we care more about the game than the many women who found rape and administrative cover-up at Notre Dame.
Dave Zirin has a strong piece at The Nation on why the response to Penn State and Notre Dame’s cruel responses to sexual violence on campus have been so different. He writes:
As unbeaten Notre Dame prepares to play in tonight’s national championship game against Alabama, the sports media has chosen not to discuss the fact that this football team has two players on its roster suspected of sexual assault and rape; two players whose crimes have been ignored; two players whose accusers felt harassed and intimidated; two players whose presence on the field Monday night should be seen as a national disgrace.
The main reason this is taking place is because their accusers are not pressing charges. One cannot, because she is dead. 19-year-old Lizzy Seeberg, a student at neighboring St. Mary’s College, took her own life after her claims of being assaulted in a dorm room were met with threats and indifference. The other accuser, despite description of a brutal rape, won’t file charges “absolutely 100%” because of what Seeberg experienced.
…But the cone of silence that surrounds a company college football town is not enough to understand why Penn State’s rape scandal was front-page news the second the Sandusky scandal went public and Notre Dame has been largely protected by the press. The only answer that makes sense is that raping women has become “normalized” in our culture while raping little boys has not.
The masses of fans across the country rooting on the Notre Dame team place a disconcertingly similar burden on the victims and allies at the school as was placed on cheerleader Seeberg: celebrate your team or lose your community. This celebration is doubly devastating as a statement of support for these particular alleged rapists and a general acceptance of the status quo, the normalized epidemic of college rape that extends well beyond the Notre Dame campus, that we simply cannot tolerate for the sake of a good game. Keep the TV off tonight, and maybe spend those hours figuring out how we can support college survivors rather than the administrations that silence them.