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giovedì 1 settembre 2016

Teen victim in St Paul's rape trial speaks for first time

Prout, a 15-year-old freshman at the New Hampshire prep school when Owen Labrie sexually assaulted her, tells NBC’s Today show the verdict ‘frustrated’ her



A teenager who was sexually assaulted at a New England prep school has spoken out about her experience and the high-profile criminal trial that followed, publicly identifying herself for the first time.
“It’s been two years now since the whole ordeal, and I feel ready to stand up and own what happened to me,” Chessy Prout said about why she had decided to discuss the attack. “I am going to make sure other people, other girls, other boys, that they can own it, too, that they don’t have to be ashamed either.”
The Guardian does not usually identify victims of sexual assault, but Prout has spoken publicly about her experience.

Prout, 17, spoke about the assault in an interview with NBC’s Today show that aired on Tuesday. Prout was a 15-year-old freshman at New Hampshire’s St Paul’s school when her fellow student, then senior Owen Labrie, asked her on a date. Prosecutors said Labrie raped Prout in a tradition known as the “senior salute”, a game of sexual conquest in a which a seniors try to have sex with underclassmen before graduation.
Prout gave emotional testimony during the August 2015 trial about the assault. She said she became “frozen” out of fear when Labrie began to assault her. Prout said on Today that she and her family had been willing to accept a letter from apology from Labrie before proceeding with the criminal charges.
Labrie, now 20, was found not guilty of a felony rape charge, although a jury did find him guilty of misdemeanor sexual assault. Prout said she was frustrated by the jury’s decision not to convict Labrie on three aggravated rape charges.
“They said that they didn’t believe that he did it knowingly,” she told Today. “That frustrated me a lot because he definitely did do it knowingly. And the fact that he was still able to pull the wool over a group of people’s eyes bothered me a lot and just disgusted me in some way.”
After the trial, Labrie had been free while appealing against his conviction before a judge sent him to jail for violating the conditions of his bail. He is serving a one-year sentence. Labrie’s defense team denied that the two had sex.
Prout is working with Promoting Awareness Victim Empowerment, a nonprofit focused on sexual violence prevention, to launch a social media campaign, #IHaveTheRightTo.
“I want other people to feel empowered and just strong enough to be able to say: ‘I have the right to my body. I have the right to say no,’” Prout said.
Prout and her family also spoke to Today about the civil suit they filed against the elite school in June, alleging that Labrie’s attack was the result of the school “fostering, permitting, and condoning a tradition of ritualized statutory rape”, according to the lawsuit.
Prout, who initially returned to St Paul’s for her sophomore year before transferring to a different school, said “nobody was talking about the issue … They weren’t trying to prevent it from happening to anyone else.”
The school has denied the family’s allegations. In a statement to Today, the school said, in part: “We categorically deny that there ever existed at the School a culture or tradition of sexual assault. However, there’s no denying the survivor’s experience caused us to look anew at the culture and environment.”

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