A teenager who was the victim of sexual assault at a prestigious prep school, an encounter that led to a high-profile trial, revealed her identity this week during a televised interview, saying she wanted other victims to know that they didn’t need to be ashamed.
Chessy Prout appeared in an interview that aired Tuesday on NBC’s “Today” show, about two years after the May 2014 incident at St. Paul’s School in New Hampshire. Accused in the case was Owen Labrie, a former student at the school who was 18 at the time.
Labrie, of Tunbridge, Vt., was convicted of misdemeanor sexual assault in 2015, though he was acquitted of felony sexual assault charges.
“It’s been two years now since the whole ordeal, and I feel ready to stand up and own what happened to me, and I’m going to make sure that other people — other girls, other boys — know that they can own it too, and they don’t have to be ashamed either,” Prout said in the NBC interview.
Prosecutors had alleged that Labrie raped Prout as part of a tradition at the elite school, which reportedly involved sexual encounters between older students and underclassmen, and was known as the “Senior Salute.”
Prout, who NBC reported has since left the school, was a 15-year-old freshman at the time. Labrie was arrested days after he graduated, according to the Associated Press.
According to the AP, Prout is “about to start her senior year at a different school.”
In addition to the conviction on misdemeanor sex charges, Labrie was also found guilty of illegal computer use, a felony. He had to register as a sex offender and was sentenced to a year in jail, followed by probation.
“I hope he learns,” Prout said. “I hope he gets help. And that’s all I can ever hope for in any sort of process like this. Because if he doesn’t learn, he will do it to another young woman.”
Labrie is free pending an appeal of his conviction, AP reported.
Prout testified against Labrie during the court proceedings, as the prep school — which has alumni that include Secretary of State John F. Kerry, former members of Congress and ambassadors, as well as Prout’s father and older sister — became the focus of national attention and scrutiny.
“Although it was scary and although it was pretty difficult, I wouldn’t be where I am today without having been able to speak up for myself during that time,” Prout said.
Prout’s family has filed a lawsuit against St. Paul’s School, alleging that the institution fostered, permitted and condoned “a tradition of ritualized statutory rape,” Reuters reported.
“As was the case when the survivor was a student here and subsequently, the School admires her courage and condemns unkind behavior toward her. We feel deeply for her and her family,” St. Paul’s said Tuesday in an emailed statement to The Washington Post. “We have always placed the safety and well-being of our students first and are confident that the environment and culture of the school have supported that. 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. This fresh look has brought about positive changes at the School.”
Prout said in the NBC interview that she still suffers from panic attacks, and at times tries to hide away in a closet, where her sister attempts to comfort her.
“Somebody’s got my back. Somebody’s going to believe me, somebody’s going to help me,” she said. “Even when I get my panic attacks, and I lock myself in my closet because I don’t want my little sister to see me like that, and she comes into my room sometimes. She’ll come into my closet when I’m rocking on the floor, and punching my legs trying to get myself to calm down. And she’ll try to give me the biggest hug, and say ‘Chessy, you’re okay. Chessy, you’re okay.’
“And I just can’t imagine how scary it is to for other people to have to do this alone, and I don’t want anybody else to be alone anymore. I don’t.”