This screen shot is from Saturday’s ESPN College Game Day of the Norte Dame vs. Michigan game. To your right, you will see a sign that says “Hi Lizzy Seeberg.” That isn’t someone sending a shout out to a loved one. It’s a sign referencing a 19-year-old St. Mary’s College student who said she was sexually assaulted by a Nortre Dame football player.
Seeberg reported the assault a day after it happened, but started to receive threatening text messages from a friend of the football player. Seeberg committed suicide just 10 days after the assault.
While many have pointed out the hypocrisy between Norte Dame’s response to this case and the drama that was the Manti Te’o scandal, I want to address this poster.
This poster addressed to a woman who committed suicide after she was threatened for filing a formal complaint against the football player who raped her is vile and repulsive — and demonstrates how many people will go to great lengths to discredit and mock victims of rape and sexual assault.
The person holding this sign demonstrates part of what’s all wrong and debilitating about rape culture: our willingness to engage in public shaming of a victim who comes forward with contradictory messages of our beloved heroes (in this case, athletes); our willingness to make a mockery of women like Lizzy Seeberg by turning a traumatic experience into a vehicle for comedic relief; our willingness to protect and defend at all costs those we feel are being vilified by who we view as yet another unstable woman crying rape.
Rape culture indoctrinates us with the belief that the victim, in this case Lizzy Seeberg, must have done something to provoke the attack, so it’s fair game to drag her name through the mud if she’s hell bent on bringing down our collegiate idols.
While some of you people may find the sign harmless and funny, this poster puts women like Lizzy Seeberg on notice. It reminds women like Lizzy Seeberg and other sexual assault and rape victims that you, too, will be publicly humiliated and shamed for placing the careers and lives of our beloved football players in jeopardy with your allegations of rape. It reminds victims of rape and sexual assault that their name, their lives and their reputation are up for discussion if they bite the bullet and file a complaint with the police. It hammers home to victims that they will be tried and convicted in the court of public opinion long before they will obtain any justice in the court of law.
There’s a special place in hell for the people behind this sign, who had the audacity to kick Lizzy Seeberg while she’s down. These rape apologists are willing to continue to mock and humiliate Lizzy Seeberg, even though she’s been dead for nearly three years now. These backers of rape culture are essentially driving the knife further into the heart of Seeberg’s friends and family by callously ridiculing her and other women like her.
I am interested to see how Norte Dame handles this — will they go after the person(s) behind the sign and the student holding it? Or will they just sweep it under the rug as if it’s no big deal that a student who committed suicide after one of their football players raped her was mocked on national television by someone appearing to be a supporter of their institution?
If I were a betting woman, I’d bet on rape culture as the winner of this fiasco.