Last week, Phillips Exeter Academy notified alumni about a sexual assault investigation that had been kept under wraps for several decades. The case, which dates back to the 1970s, involves a distinguished faculty member who recently admitted to sexual misconduct in his relationship with multiple students.
While Andover and Exeter primarily interact as rivals, we are also sister schools, founded on similar values and principles. Events on Exeter’s campus call attention to our own campus, as it is impossible to ignore that an identical incident could have transpired here. As boarding school students, we leave our families and, in our new “home away from home,” turn to the adults on campus as our support system. We trust our teachers, coaches, and house counselors without question. It is deeply alarming for us to know that this same type of trust was violated at Exeter.
But the disturbing nature of the story comes not only from the abuse of power clearly exercised by the teacher, but by the reminder that sexual assault occurs more often than any of us would like to acknowledge. Every 107 seconds, someone is sexually assaulted in the United States, according to the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN).
RAINN also lists that 68 percent of sexual assault cases are never reported. The majority of sexual assault cases are not made public; they disappear beneath layers of silence, shame, and fear. We may not hear about most sexual assault cases, but that does not mean that they do not exist. It is time that we stop treating stories of sexual assault on prep school campuses like they are anomalies or aberrations.
In a community of over 1,100 teenagers, we must be mindful of the prevalence of sexual assault that involves our peers, as 44 percent of sexual assault and rape victims are under the age of 18. And these instances of assault do not only occur between an adult and a child. Specifically on prep school and college campuses, the majority of sexual assault occurs between students. While it is easy to see the atrocity of the sexual misconduct in Exeter’s story, it is difficult to imagine that perpetrators of sexual assault may be students just like us.
We must acknowledge that Andover is not immune to incidents of sexual assault and rape and that this issue is not out of our control. Committing sexual assault is not passive; it is active, violent, and insidious. We must stop treating incidences of sexual assault as though they are inevitable.
April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. We cannot let it pass without truly recognizing the presence of sexual assault – and its impact – in our lives.
This editorial represents the views of The Phillipian, Vol. CXXXIX.