Today, Chessy Prout, the young woman who spoke out about being a victim of sexual assault during her freshman year at St. Paul’s School in New Hampshire, will debut a memoir recounting her journey and “takes a magnifying glass to the institutions that turn a blind eye to such behavior and a society that blames victims rather than perpetrators.”
Prout, now nineteen, and fifteen at the time of the incident in 2014, enrolled at the prestigious boarding school after her father and sister had both attended. Prout was assaulted during her freshman year by senior Owen Labrie as part of a “ritualized game of conquest” called the “Senior Salute.” She reported the attack to law enforcement, and her parents filed a lawsuit against the institution. Prout bravely testified against her attacker in court but was met with unexpected backlash.
In August 2016, the assault survivor chose to reveal her identity in an attempt to take her rights back by “standing up against a 162-year-old institution with a secret history of rape and cover-up.” Prout launched the #IHaveTheRightTo initiative with the organization PAVE, for which she is an ambassador. In this initiative, she “encourages survivors and others to assert their most important, basic rights, and uses her voice to let other survivors know that you are not alone.”
St. Paul’s School has denied that it could have prevented Prout’s assault and also denies her allegations that the school has an overall culture of sexual assault. The president of the school’s board of trustees, Archibald Cox, said after the settlement had been reached, “Despite the difficulties presented by legal issues and their portrayal in the media, the school continues to thrive. We continue to admire Ms. Prout’s courage and commend her efforts surrounding sexual assault prevention.”
The school has also insisted it has strong, comprehensive programs in place to educate both staff and students about sexual assault prevention. However, in light of the settlement, it has further strengthened these already-established initiatives.
In response to the intended release of Prout’s memoir recounting her side of the story, the institution stated, “We fully support Chessy’s trailblazing work to give a voice to sexual assault victims. Chessy bravely stepped forward to address an issue important not just to schools, but to the entire country. We’re proud of the culture we’ve built at our school and of our care for students. The school’s culture does not condone or tolerate what happened to Chessy. We teach students extensively about sexual assault prevention and have strengthened our robust programs on health, wellbeing, and mutual respect. We are dedicated to our mission of educating students in an environment that is safe and welcoming for everyone, and we are constantly working to improve it.”
Studies have shown that approximately one in five girls ages fourteen to seventeen have been the victim of a sexual assault or attempted sexual assault with 28 percent of youth within this age range being victimized over the course of their lifetime. Unfortunately, most choose not to report or decide to remain anonymous in recounting their attacks.