Proctor Academy says efforts to educate about sexual violence will continue

Monitor staff
Friday, December 02, 2016

Prior to a reported rape on Proctor Academy’s campus in fall 2015, the school had partnered with a local crisis center to engage in a series of open dialogues about sexual violence and the complex process of disclosure.

The relationship between the Andover prep school and Crisis Center of Central New Hampshire is one example of how the school says it has worked to promote healthy relationships and set a positive tone for the future. Proctor Academy has also hosted several guest speakers who have addressed students on social issues such as the “hookup culture,” the negative effects of substance abuse and addiction, and masculinity in a prep school community.

Head of School Mike Henriques discussed Thursday the ongoing initiatives at the school after a Merrimack County grand jury’s decision to indict a former Proctor Academy student on sexual assault charges.

Derek Tillotson, 19, of Bow is facing three counts of aggravated felonious sexual assault, one felony count of second-degree assault and two misdemeanor counts of simple assault in connection with the incident on Oct. 25, 2015. Tillotson, who was a senior athlete at the time, is accused of entering a girls’ dormitory that evening and sexually assaulting a 16-year-old, according to court documents.

“We continue to do everything that we can to learn from this event to improve Proctor and our shared commitment to our core values of honesty, compassion, respect, and responsibility,” Henriques wrote in a letter to parents about the incident. 

In his letter to parents, Henriques wrote that Tillotson left Proctor Academy the same day the sexual assault occurred and was reported to school officials.

By phone Friday morning, he said the school is focused on strengthening its residential life department and policies, and its health and wellness curriculum, which students begin in their freshman year. He added that Proctor has always hosted guest speakers with an expertise in human health and relationship development, and that some of those presentations have highlighted issues of sexual abuse.

The school's partnership with the Crisis Center of Central New Hampshire began prior to the 2015 school year, and Henriques said he is looking forward to continuing it.

The center’s Executive Director Paula Wall said Friday that Proctor has a good response in place to sexual assault and has been working hard to make improvements, both in small ways and on a more policy-based level.

Trained advocates met at Proctor for an all-staff meeting in 2015 and began conversations with the school’s athletic coaches about “coaching boys to become men,” Wall said. They also spoke with members of a young women’s group on campus about dating and sexual violence.

Wall said the people who took part in those workshops were very receptive to learning about the issues and asked a lot of great questions.

“We know that sexual violence happens and I think Proctor is in the middle of trying to change their campus culture, and it’s been a relationship that we’ve been really proud of and want to continue to nurture,” she said.

Once people learn some basic information about sexual violence and the reporting process, she said they are in a better position to understand consent and the circumstances surrounding it. She said advocates have not yet engaged in discussions with the Proctor community about consent, but hope to do so as part of the next step.

Wall also noted that the conversations with the school’s large athletic community only just began toward the end of the 2015-16 school year and will be important to revisit.

Tillotson is scheduled to face a judge Dec. 14 in Merrimack County Superior Court in Concord, where he will be arraigned on the new charges.