Saturday, December 18, 2010

Notre Dame player won't be charged for touching breasts of now-deceased accuser, but he's already been declared the perpetrator in the feminist blogosphere

On September 1, Elizabeth Seeberg, 19, a student of St. Mary's College, reported to Notre Dame police that she had been sexually assaulted on August 31 in a Notre Dame residence hall by a Notre Dame football player. She did not allege that the player raped her but that he touched her breasts.

The following day, Seeberg reported that the player and another Notre Dame student harassed her with text messages after her initial report to police. Specifically, she claimed that a friend of the young man she accused texted her saying the following: “Don’t do anything you would regret.  Messing with notre dame football is a bad idea.”

Sadly, nine days after making her initial police report, Ms. Seeburg committed suicide. Seeberg had suffered emotional difficulties in the past. "[Seeberg] had struggled with an anxiety disorder and depression since her freshman year at Loyola Academy [high school]. She made the varsity cheerleading squad at the school, but started having what first seemed like asthma symptoms that were really panic attacks. She felt better once she transferred to a public school where she was under less pressure. According to the records her family gave me, she'd fought back suicidal thoughts periodically since high school, too."

St. Joseph County Prosecutor Michael Dvorak announced this week that he will not file criminal charges in connection with either the breast fondling or the sending of the text message.  Dvorak said "that an investigation by Notre Dame police, which was forwarded to his office last month, included conflicting witness statements and cell phone records that were inconsistent with Seeberg's allegations.  Also, Seeberg's two statements to police would likely be inadmissible in court because she is no longer alive. U.S. Supreme Court case law does not support admission of hearsay evidence in such circumstances, Dvorak said."

"The content of the text messages does not rise to the level of a criminal act as defined by Indiana's harassment statute," Dvorak said in a written statement. "The student subjectively believed Ms. Seeberg's complaint was false and therefore he had a legitimate purpose for his text messages."

Notre Dame issued a statement in which it noted, among other things, that because of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, the school could not discuss any disciplinary cases. : ". . . in cases where there is no evidence to support disciplinary action, our process guards the innocent from unsubstantiated accusations."

Notre Dame is being criticized for failing to turn the matter over to the county prosecutor until last month, and that it did so only after the Chicago Tribune reported on the story. Notre Dame claims it handled the matter correctly in accordance with its procedures.

It is tragic that Ms. Seeberg felt the need to take her own life.  A writer at Jezebel wrote this: "One of the incredibly sad things about this story is that Seeberg reportedly 'feared people would dislike her for accusing a Notre Dame athlete of a sex crime and that she would wear the incident 'like a scarlet letter' throughout her college career.'"

In fact, no one knows if a sexual battery played a role in Seeberg taking her own life.  Only the young man Ms. Seeberg accused knows what happened between them, and the district attorney explained that other evidence was not consistent with the accuser's allegation. 

While this is yet another in a cavalcade of cases where no one knows for sure what happened, that doesn't stop feminists from using it to point up supposed larger "truths" about rape culture.  In fact, the case can teach us nothing about rape culture, but it can teach us lots about rushing to judgment when it comes to allegations of sexual offenses.

After the story broke, David Haugh of the Chicago Tribune said the player should be removed from the playing field:  "A guy who can discipline a player for missing a meeting should have the autonomy to bench a player accused of what could be a felony in the real world. The player is innocent until proven guilty, to be sure. But football coaches, especially those of the most famous college football program in America, rarely deal in due process."

Did you get that? A writer for a major daily advocates that a big time athletic program rush to judgment in a matter of grave importance.  Nice. You see, we've learned nothing from Duke lacrosse, Hofstra and all the rest.  I wonder if Mr. Haugh would proffer the same recommendation if the young man accused was his son?

A writer named Dave Zirin wasn't happy with Notre Dame's handling of the case.  "It’s a horrible story that shines light on something that occurs on far too many campuses, where sexual assault is part of the culture of entitlement conjoined with big-time men's college athletics," Zirin declared. 

Sorry, Mr. Zirin. A disputed allegation by a witness who shortly thereafter killed herself and who can't be cross-examined by the presumptively innocent young man she accused scarcely shines light on anything, much less a purported "culture of entitlement." It was a tragedy, but neither you, nor I, nor anyone else aside from the young man knows what happened. 

Then Mr. Zirin attacked coach Brian Kelly, and in the process, made sure everyone knew that a sexual assault occurred, and that coach Kelly turned a blind eye to it: "He’s the sort of man who turns his back on a sexual assault involving one of his players and can't bring himself to show sympathy for a 19-year-old woman’s suicide."

Mr. Zirin didn't just rush to judgment, he did a 60-meter sprint in record time.  And he wasn't alone.

A blogger named Amelia Thomson-DeVeaux came right out with it: "Lizzy Seeburg, the young woman who was assaulted . . . "  Thomson-DeVeaux  continued: "As a college student, it reminds me of the desperate need for better mental health counseling, as well as a campus climate that does not stigmatize victims of sexual assault . . . ."

Jaclyn Friedman declared that Seeberg "obviously" was denied justice.

S. Daniel Carter, director of public policy for Security on Campus, a national nonprofit organization that focuses on campus safety issues, was quoted without challenge in a major daily calling the Notre Dame accuser "the victim."

Blogger Pema Levy tried to mobilize her readers: "Tell Notre Dame to apologize for the handling of Lizzy Seeberg’s attack and to re-evaluate their protocol for dealing with sexual assault on campus."

Katherine Orazem wrote the following, in which she referenced Seeberg's "attacker" and declared Seeberg a "victim": "I’m not min­i­miz­ing the tragedy of LGBTQ youth who feel dri­ven to sui­cide by the igno­rance and bul­ly­ing of their peers. And I’m cer­tainly not try­ing to play a game of Who’s-the-Most-Oppressed (note: I would totally lose!) But. I can’t help but think that, while peo­ple may see Megan [Wright] and Elizabeth [Seeberg’s] predica­ment as tragic, they wouldn’t have the same unqual­i­fied dis­dain for their attack­ers that has been shown for the tor­menters of Tyler Clementi. They won’t because in so many ways rape and sex­ual assault on col­lege cam­puses is not taken seri­ously. And all too often its per­pe­tra­tors are given a pass because they are promi­nent men, often sports stars, who bring rev­enue and cov­er­age to the uni­ver­si­ties who were sup­posed to keep vic­tims like Megan and Eliz­a­beth safe."

Blogger Caitie Hawley called Notre Dame's handling of the case "the most disgusting cover up in recent history."

And on and on it goes.  Once again, a presumptively innocent man, now cleared by a prosecutor who said the evidence didn't support a sexual battery, is widely assumed to be a perpetrator for no reason other than the fact that he is male and was accused by a female of a sex crime. 

The lesson this case teaches is far different than the one the above writers think it teaches. Commentator Cathy Young summed it up when she wrote the following several years ago: "The trouble with the feminist position is that it seems to leave no room for the presumption of innocence when a woman accuses a man of violating her."

Amen, sister. Amen.