On the loss of young women’s lives

29 Nov

Just 2 weeks after writing about Samantha Kelly’s tragic suicide comes news of two more young women driven to suicide after sexual assault.

First, here is news from the Chicago Tribune about Elizabeth Seeberg, a freshman at St. Mary’s College in Indiana:

According to a Chicago Tribune investigation, Notre Dame is refusing to publicly acknowledge that one of its football players allegedly sexually assaulted a 19-year-old woman from Northbrook, who later committed suicide. Elizabeth Seeberg was a freshman at neighboring St. Mary’s College when the assault reportedly happened inside a dorm room August 31.  She reported it to police the next day and Seeberg was interviewed by police.  Seeberg provided two written statements and pointed out the football player.  The football player remains uncharged and is still on the Notre Dame football team.

And down in San Antonio, Texas, we learn that Beatrice Delgado, a 17-year old, committed suicide after reporting that she had been sexually assaulted.  The girl, who reported that she had been “tied up, beaten and raped” initially sought medical treatment but then asked to be taken home instead, saying that she felt traumatized and didn’t want to face the medical exam alone.  There, she hanged herself in the garage.  The family is blaming the police officer, who they say refused to provide transportation to the hospital after dropping Beatrice off at home.

Let’s just take a moment to sit with that.  3 suicides in less than 3 weeks of young women who said they had been sexually assaulted, turned to systems for help, and were let down.

We have all been saddened — and prompted to action — upon reading in the papers about LGBTQI youth committing suicide under a torrent of bullying and systemic oppression.  The Taskforce is partnering with youth-driven organizations across Chicago to draw attention to real solutions to make schools safer for LGBTQI youth, and to create positive and supporting communities.  Early next year, we will be issuing specific recommendations for the city, county and state.

At the same time as we take action to support LGBTQI youth, we need to challenge the simplified media message that we’ve been presented with.  In all of the analysis of what leads young people to suicide, where is the discussion of the role of sexual violence?  Where is a discussion of intersectionality, of the ways that various forms of oppression intersect in the lives of young people, leading these particular youth to suicide?  And what systems do we need to put in place to combat this oppression and support young people?  If we do not ask these questions, we will never reach the solutions we are looking for.  Instead of solutions that target the root causes of violence, and that look at the complex and interrelated ways that young people experience violence, we will be left only with the message that “it gets better.”

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Posted by on November 29, 2010 in Bullying, Sexual assault, Suicide


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