SOUTH BEND—Saint Mary’s College juniors Katelin Penaranda and Meghan Cronin have a rule when they attend student parties.
Since freshman year, the two have made it a point to protect themselves from unwanted sexual advances by traveling in groups. Their group of close female friends now numbers about 15, and that crowd frequently heads off campus to parties together.
“The Lizzy Seeberg case last year sparked lots of awareness,” Cronin said, referring to a case last fall in which a Saint Mary’s student committed suicide after reporting she was sexually assaulted by a Notre Dame football player.
If one young woman wants to leave a party or go back to campus, at least one other woman in the group will volunteer to go with her, they said. No leaving alone or with a guy is the rule.
“I feel like a lot of girls here have common sense about who to socialize with and how not to be in a bad situation,” Cronin said.
If a young woman appears to have overimbibed, a friend will step in and encourage her to stop or escort her home, Penaranda said.
“Nobody wants to be the girl who drank too much,” Cronin said. She said the extent of drinking is nowhere near what is typical at fraternity parties at many colleges.
Rape Road. That’s the nickname students for decades have used to refer to Saint Mary’s Road, the isolated lane between Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s.
But random rapes by strangers are rare on the two campuses.
Most cases of campus sexual assaults reported involve acquaintances, often young people who met at a student party.
For many students, weekend social life revolves around attending parties in student rooms in men’s residence halls. Among upperclassmen, it’s popular to go off campus to socialize in bars or at parties in student houses and apartments.
Both on and off campus, student gatherings usually include drinking.
Reported cases of sexual assault almost always involve alcohol, campus administrators say. In many cases, so much alcohol is consumed that neither the complainant nor the accused student has a clear recollection of what happened.
Three decades ago, liquor of all sorts was consumed openly by students in Notre Dame residence hall common rooms. In those days, no effort was made to limit consumption to those of legal drinking age.
Over the years, Notre Dame has tightened its alcohol policy.
First, drinking in common areas was eliminated and students were told only those 21 and older could consume alcohol in dorm rooms. In 2002, Notre Dame banned student possession of hard liquor on campus. Beer and wine are still permitted for those of legal age.
Saint Mary’s forbids consumption of alcohol on campus by students younger than 21. Students of legal drinking age are limited to possession of a 12-pack of beer, a half gallon of wine or a pint of hard liquor.