A Letter to Notre Dame Students: Sexual Assault Prevention and Support in the Year Ahead

Author: Erin Hoffmann Harding and Erin Oliver

Dear Notre Dame Students,

Each summer, the University of Notre Dame evaluates the programs, policies, and procedures we use to prevent and respond to sexual assault, sexual misconduct, dating and domestic violence, stalking, and other instances of sexual harassment. As we welcome new students and launch a new academic year, we write today with a reminder of the resources available to members of our community and highlight recent changes to our efforts. 

Acts of sexual violence, discrimination, or harassment are not tolerated at Notre Dame, for they are antithetical to the kind of community we want to build. Even one instance is too many.

As the University’s president, Rev. John Jenkins, C.S.C., has stated:

“Sexual assault, discrimination or harassment have no place at Notre Dame, where we value the dignity of each person and pride ourselves on being a community that cares. We know that Notre Dame is not immune to sexual violence. Most often, instances of sexual misconduct involve people who are not strangers but who know each other and are part of this community. We must acknowledge this reality as we strive to eliminate sexual violence on our campus. " 

We are especially mindful of these issues as the University continues its examination of the sexual abuse crisis in the Catholic Church and seeks to find ways to help with healing and reform.

Prevention Efforts

Students, faculty, and staff have long collaborated to prevent the occurrence of interpersonal violence, and we encourage new students to become involved in these efforts. A full list of Notre Dame’s prevention and education efforts are available here.

The Committee on Sexual Assault Prevention (CSAP) is comprised of over 30 faculty, staff, and students from Notre Dame as well as colleagues from Saint Mary’s College, Holy Cross College, and local community partners. Appointed annually by the Vice President for Student Affairs, CSAP is co-chaired by Erin Oliver, Assistant Vice President for Institutional Equity, and Christine Caron Gebhardt, Director of the Gender Relations Center. The goals of CSAP are to offer advice and guidance on how to assist and support victims of sexual assault, to spearhead assessment efforts to understand the needs of our students, to recommend a variety of prevention initiatives, and to facilitate collaboration among departments and student groups to address sexual violence. 

Now entering its fifth year at Notre Dame, Green Dot is a nationally recognized violence prevention strategy predicated on the belief that individual safety is a community responsibility and not just that of the victim or perpetrator. The goal of Green Dot is to attract a force of engaged and proactive bystanders campus-wide to communicate that violence will not be tolerated in our community and that everyone has a responsibility to help. All incoming ND students are introduced to Green Dot bystander intervention strategies, and further comprehensive training is available for students, faculty, or staff. Last year, Notre Dame undergraduate leaders added GreeNDot training participation as one of the four criteria required for residence hall of the year.

Support for Survivors and Reporting Options

The University and our local community offer a variety of options to support survivors of interpersonal violence. The most important thing to do immediately after an incident is to get to a safe place and seek appropriate medical care. A variety of confidential medical resources are available either on campus through University Health Services or locally. Students can also seek confidential counseling support either on campus at the University Counseling Center or through local or national agencies. Confidential, pastoral resources are also available from priests, deacons, and religious sisters and brothers working within Campus Ministry. 

In addition to seeking confidential support, we strongly encourage students to report instances of sexual assault, sexual misconduct, dating and domestic violence, stalking, and other instances of sexual harassment to the University and/or local law enforcement agencies. We know from our climate assessment surveys and student feedback that students are sometimes hesitant to report instances of interpersonal violence because they are concerned about implications for other policy violations, such as parietals or alcohol use. It is important to reiterate that the University’s interest in addressing these harmful incidents outweighs concerns about those other violations - survivors and witnesses will not be referred to the University’s Conduct Process for these lesser violations, as stated in du Lac. Students who feel unsafe in a residence hall after parietals should leave the hall, regardless of the time, without concern for a parietals violation.

Please note that faculty and staff members who are not specifically identified as confidential resources must share any reports of interpersonal violence that they receive with the University’s Title IX coordinator

University Response to Reports

After receiving a report of sexual assault, sexual misconduct, dating violence, domestic violence, stalking, and/or sexual conduct that creates a hostile environment, the University’s Title IX Coordinator in the Office of Institutional Equity (OIE)[1] will gather information about the reported conduct and respond to any immediate health or safety concerns. Depending on the timeliness of a report and any ongoing threat to the campus community, the University may issue a Crime Alert. Every effort is made to draft crime alerts in a way that protects the confidentiality of survivors.  

OIE will assess the nature and circumstances of each report to determine whether the reported conduct is within the scope of this policy and whether the reported conduct raises a potential policy violation. At the conclusion of the initial assessment, and in consultation with the survivor involved, the University will refer the report to the Alternative Resolution process, refer the report to the Administrative Resolution process, refer the report to another appropriate entity, or close the matter. 

If a matter is referred for resolution, a variety of support services are provided to all students involved, including the survivor as well as the respondent. Alternative Resolution is a voluntary, remedies-based educational process that is not intended to be disciplinary in nature. Administrative Resolution involves continued investigation and could result in disciplinary action against a respondent. The University’s objective is to proceed with its resolution in a fair, impartial, and timely way for all participants.

Violations of these policies are taken extremely seriously, and disciplinary outcomes for sexual assault have resulted in permanent dismissal.

The Year Ahead

We are so grateful to the many students, faculty, and staff who care passionately about this issue and share our aspiration to be a campus free from violence. We invite you to get more involved in prevention efforts, discuss and challenge climate issues that contribute to instances of harm, intervene on behalf of friends who may be at risk, encourage impacted friends and colleagues to seek support, and keep informed of the support services and response efforts offered at the University. 

No single individual or group – whether students, faculty, or administrators – can solve the deeply troubling issue of sexual violence alone. Together, though, we can continue our efforts to fulfill our mission to honor the human dignity of each individual and create a community where we all can flourish. Thank you for joining us in this important effort.


Erin Hoffmann Harding
Vice President for Student Affairs

Erin Oliver
Assistant Vice President for Institutional Equity


[1] Beginning this summer, Student Title IX Services, which until recently existed as a support service within the Division of Student Affairs, is now a part of the Office of Institutional Equity. This change, we believe, will continue to provide the support our students need to care for themselves and one another. OIE will provide coordinated and consistent oversight of the University’s response to all faculty, staff, and student reports of sexual assaultsexual misconductdating violencedomestic violencestalking, and/or sexual conduct of a sexual nature that creates a hostile environment.