Parents of alleged ND sex assault victim speak

December 21, 2010 6:03:39 AM PST
The parents of a Northbrook college student who took her life after accusing a Notre Dame football player of sexual assault spoke publicly about the case.

Lizzy Seeberg, 19, a freshman at nearby Saint Mary's College, filed a complaint with the university in September and committed suicide about a week later.

Following the investigation, prosecutors decided not to file any charges because there was insufficient evidence.

"We are not blaming the university for Lizzy's death or the player. That's not what this is about," said father Tom Seeberg. "The university is a serious institution that has a tremendous history of leadership. It has really a well-written code of conduct that's serious, and then you have a response that just isn't."

Lizzy Seeberg battled anxiety and depression. Her father appeared on "Good Morning America" Tuesday on ABC.

In her statement to university police, she wrote, "I don't feel safe in his room. He proceeded to grab my face and started to kiss me. Tears started rolling down my face because I didn't know what to do. I felt so scared, I couldn't move."

The following day, her parents say, Lizzy Seeberg got a text from the friend who had left her alone in the player's room saying, "Don't do anything you'd regret, messing with Notre Dame football is a bad idea."

Fifteen days later, police questioned the football player, after Lizzy Seeberg's death.

The victim's parents say they ran into roadblocks trying to get answers from the storied university, attended by 11 members of their family. In a written statement, Notre Dame maintained, "We kept the Seebergs informed throughout and at the same time, honored their request to keep this matter private. We have great sympathy for a grieving family that may believe our investigation was insufficient. But we also respectfully and wholeheartedly disagree with that contention."

Prosecutors decided not to file any criminal charges, citing inconsistencies in cell phone records and partly because Lizzy Seeberg was not alive to testify.

Tom Seeberg said he wanted to speak out because his daughter did all the right things by reporting the alleged crime in a timely, thorough manner and got an inadequate response.

"The concern we have is that what happens to the next young woman who does this? I think this is a case where these things largely go unreported. Or there's a serious underreporting of these incidents because women don't want to go through this," Tom Seeberg said.

He said he feels betrayed by Notre Dame.

"We spent a lot of time hoping that they would live their values in this case, live their values in sharing with us what they could about the investigation, and live their values by trying to give Lizzy a voice in the university of Notre Dame disciplinary process," Tom Seeberg said.

He said the university "lawyered up" from the beginning.

"They hunkered down, like they were afraid of us," Tom Seeberg said. "We are on record with them saying, we're good people. We don't want to sue anybody. We're not after anybody's blood. We're after truth for its own sake, as it is exactly outlined in the code of conduct, Notre Dame's stated code of conduct and disciplinary procedures."

Notre Dame said it takes issue with the idea they weren't thorough, saying "No matter how thorough, careful, timely and judicious any investigative process, we understand it may never be enough for a family that has lost a child."

"I'm insulted by the tone that, because we're grieving, that somehow we're not rational, that we're not intelligent," Tom Seeberg said. "Anybody looking at the facts of this timeline has to reach the conclusion that this wasn't a serious investigation."

He said it took the university too long to contact the accused player, indicating that the university told the family they couldn't "find" him.

"If you look at that two-week period of time... you'll see that this football player took the field twice; 80,000 people, times two, 160,000 people saw this individual before the police did," said Tom Seeberg.

The player continues to take the field for Notre Dame.

"We started this, as a journey of two people, a simple trip from Chicago to South Bend, to find out, like any parent would, what the status of the investigation is," Tom Seeberg said. "What we could learn about the process, and to carry on what Lizzy wanted to do, which was to pursue something in the disciplinary code of conduct at the University of Notre Dame. She was never, at the point that she died, pursuing a criminal charge. She hadn't made that choice yet."


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