Andover Sexual and Domestic Violence Awareness Club Hosts “Clothesline Project” to Inform Community

White t-shirts scrawled over with messages of support against women’s violence covered the Den floor on Friday, May a 6, as part of at Andover Sexual and Domestic Violence Awareness club’s (ASDVA) first “Clothesline Project” event.

The event was modeled after a national group called the “Clothesline Project,” which brings together victims of sexual or domestic violence to express their thoughts by writing them on t-shirts.

“Date rape, sexual assault, and partner violence are things that people have to contend with starting in high school, maybe less so at Phillips Academy, but still, it is present in our communities and when people go home. It’s an issue for all of us,” said Abigail Burman ’12, Co-Head of ASDVA.

“We wanted to send out the message that consent is paramount and it’s never the victim’s fault.”

Attendees decorated their shirts with a variety of designs that emphasized the right to stand up for women’s violence. Charlotte Doran ’13, decorated a “private square”, which was a vibrant painting of a square encircled by the words, “My body, My choices.”

“It’s no one else’s [body] but yours and you can protect it if you want to and no one else has the ability to get inside it,” said Doran.

Theo Agbi ’13 said, “I am much more informed on date rape. Usually we make jokes about it but this is more real than it seems. If I were a girl, some stranger could possibly take advantage of me. It’s kind of scary.”

One attendee, said Graydon Tope ’14 said, “I thought [the event] was a noble cause because it was supportive of all the women in the world who are sexually assaulted and raped everyday. It showed that we, as women and as a group, want respect from the opposite sex.”

Burman said, “I’m thrilled by how many people were intrigued by the issue and came out to decorate shirts. We just had a really good response and it’s been great to see everyone come all exited ready to talk about this issue.

With the support of the Student Activities committee and a grant offered by Parents of Students of Phillips Academy (PSPA), ASDVA provided students with blank multicolored t-shirts and art supplies.

Students who attended also learned more about domestic abuse, receiving an informational flyer with domestic violence statistics and “Have you ever wondered?” questions at the end of the meeting.

MJ Engel ’12, Vice President of ASDVA, said, “Students on campus may not realize the beginning signs of an abusive relationship. There are many levels of abuse and I think it’s important for people to recognize them.”

According to Burman, one in four women will be sexually assaulted in college and only one in six rapists will be convicted. This is in part due to low reporting rates, and indecisive juries because of the culture of victim blaming.

“Partner abuse is something that doesn’t shift statistically from community to community. You see it in [both] high and low income communities. It’s really everywhere,” said Burman.

Since ASDVA launched this past year, its primary goals have been provide support to understaffed and underfunded women shelters in Lawrence and to raise awareness about the issue.