By EMMA ROGERS, staff writer
This week, in honor of Sexual Assault Awareness Month (S.A.A.M.), the Haverford College Women*s Center hung a clothesline of t-shirts between Hall and Magill library containing both general statements concerning and personal quotes from survivors of sexual abuse.
The t-shirts, which are vibrantly-colored and, from a distance, deceptively upbeat, were put up as a stark reminder of what college life can and does entail for members of not only the Bi-Co community, but colleges and universities everywhere.
After working for the center as an intern during their freshman year, Liz Parente is an employee at the Women*s Center.
“I think the clothesline is really important because there’s a culture at Haverford that assumes that everyone has the best intentions and that we all follow ‘Haverford principles’ and that we’re good people,” Parente said. “But they don’t get that ‘Fucked Up Shit Happens Here Too,’” a reference to an event put on last year by Haverford’s Feminists United concerning the same issue.
“People just don’t see it,” they continued. “There’s this one shirt that was made last year about how someone was sexually assaulted by their customs person. Someone from administration saw it and approached our boss, Qui Alexander, and said, ‘this kind of makes us look bad for people on tours or people walking around.’ And that’s kind of the point.”
The Women*s Center–which has recently included an asterisk in its name to indicate
gender inclusivity–was first established in the 1980s when Haverford started admitting women. It works to provide support for anyone who has questions about reproductive health or may be struggling with issues concerning gender. The center holds open hours to answer questions or offer guidance, passes out condoms and provides informational books that the community can check out.
“I feel like Haverford needs the Women*s Center,” Parente said. “It’s not a [majority] women’s college like Bryn Mawr, and these discussions [about gender] aren’t as inherent. There are plenty of people on Haverford’s campus who don’t have to think about their gender, which is just how it is for some people. But it’s also important to think about it too.”
As for their experience at the Women*s Center, Parente said, “Working at the Women*s Center has really provided me with a strong support network of people who care about each other. It’s a space that grounds me, and it’s important to me that we bring this kind of awareness to the campus. We’re fighting the good fight!”