Over the past week, small purple ribbons and posters with domestic violence statistics have been pinned to the walls across campus. Domestic Violence Awareness Week at Andover is from October 7 to October 11, organized by Andover’s chapter of Mentors in Violence Prevention (M.V.P.). The events during the week intend to deconstruct the stigma surrounding gender-based violence through disseminating knowledge regarding respect and consent, sexual assault, feminity and masculinity, and how to be an empowered bystander. The programming started with a forum on Monday from 7:00 p.m. to 7:45 p.m. in the Underwood Room.
Azi Jones ’21 said, “We’re just trying to bring to light things that aren’t talked about openly. We want them to be easier to talk about openly. Violence shouldn’t have to be a taboo topic because it actually happens to a lot more people than we recognize. It should be something we talk about because it is happening to so many people in America.”
In addition to the forum, M.V.P. has also been spreading awareness by setting up a table in Paresky Commons, hanging posters, handing out purple ribbons, and inviting this week’s All-School Meeting (ASM) speaker, M.V.P. founder Byron Hurt.
Jones said, “[We have] a table in [Paresky Commons] set up with stickers, purple ribbons… Purple is the color for Domestic Violence Awareness Month. We also have posters coming up tomorrow – quotes from survivors and quotes about domestic violence and gender-based violence. Our ASM speaker for this Friday is associated with M.V.P.”
The discussion during the forum ended up focusing on Andover’s parietal system. According to attendee Melina Powell ’20, a discriminatory set of norms and assumptions manifest themselves in the parietal system that could engender an uncomfortable atmosphere for female students.
“I imagine asking one of my house counselors for a parietal… If it’s one of those house counselors who’s more old-fashioned or something, there’s a lot of implied slut-shaming that I just don’t see happening to guys,” said Powell.
Powell believes that parietals can also unintentionally go against the values of Andover as an institution.
“The policy of parietals highlight Andover’s hypocrisy as an institution… They’re not allowing for kids to do what kids need to do which is explore gray spaces and figure out what it means to have consensual sexual and non-sexual relationships with people. Andover needs to own up to what they say they’re doing, which is, as an institution, preparing kids for independence and autonomy in terms of consent,” Powell said.
Spencer Diminick ’20 also attended the forum. As request slips for parietals are usually stored in highly visible places such as next to sign-in sheets, Diminick thinks that they manufacture unwanted expectations.
Diminick said, “The very existence of parietals creates the expectation of a sexual relationship. If you need to ask for a specific thing from your house counselor, they need to give you permission, and they need to be present. It suggests that there is going to be something sexual… There’s got to be another system.”
According to Bella Gateley ’20, the current message regarding consensual sexual and non-sexual relationships promulgated by the administration and the Empathy, Balance, and Inclusion (E.B.I.) focus too much on goals and standards that are unattainable for many relationships. By promoting idealized relationships, the wellness curriculum augments the external pressures that students face on campus, according to Gateley.
Gateley said, “I think we don’t talk enough about what real relationships look like. I feel like we talk about what the signs of a healthy relationship are – loyalty, communication. [The administration] could change the E.B.I. curriculum or there could just be so much more being done…to show what real relationships look like and what real unhealthy relationships look like. I think that’s education [that] Andover is severely lacking.”