New Hampshire sex victim says school didn't take attack seriously

Reuters News
Posted: Aug 30, 2016 9:24 AM

BOSTON (Reuters) - A girl who was the focus of a high-profile criminal trial last year after accusing a fellow student of sexual assault has said their elite New Hampshire prep school did not take the incident seriously.

In an interview broadcast on NBC's "Today" program on Tuesday, Chessy Prout identified herself publicly as the victim in the case and said she would not have pursued criminal charges against Owen Labrie had she received a letter of apology following the May 2014 incident.

"There was just no recognition that I had gone through something like this," said Prout, 17. She returned to the St. Paul's School in Concord after the incident but said she was given the cold shoulder and subjected to jokes by male students.

"I tried my best to go back to my school and try to have a normal life again," she said. "But if they're going to treat this topic as a joke, this is not a place I want to be."

Labrie was found not guilty in August 2015 of raping Prout, who was 15 at the time of the incident, but he was convicted of lesser charges, including using a computer to seduce a minor and three misdemeanor counts of having sex with a person under the age of consent.

The case shone a harsh light on the culture of St. Paul's, which Prout's family said turned a blind eye to an unofficial tradition known as the "senior salute," in which graduating students sought out younger students for sex.

Prout's family has since sued the school, charging it with not doing enough to protect her. St. Paul's is fighting the lawsuit and said in June that it rejected any allegations that it has an "unhealthy culture."

Prout spent three days on the witness stand during the trial, acknowledging she had accepted Labrie's invitation to meet but testifying that she expected to kiss him and not go much further.

Defense lawyers said Labrie and the girl had a mutually flirtatious relationship and went on to have a consensual encounter that stopped short of intercourse.

Prout was not publicly identified at the time of the trial, but told NBC on Tuesday that she came forward in hopes of giving other sex assault victims the confidence to do so.

St. Paul's officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

(Reporting by Scott Malone; Additional reporting by Laila Kearney in New York; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn)