It was nearly a year ago that Owen Labrie, a former student of elite boarding school St. Paul’s School in New Hampshire, was found not guilty of felony sexual assault charges after he was accused of raping a 15-year-old freshman student.
Labrie was instead found guilty of three misdemeanour sexual assault charges, one felony charge of illegal use of computer services, and a misdemeanour charge of endangering the welfare of a child. He was sentenced to one year in prison, and is currently appealing the verdict, according to the Today Show.
At the time of the high profile trial and sentencing, the survivor of the attack had been shielded in anonymity by law. However, Chessy Prout, now 17, publicly revealed her identity in an emotional interview with Today.
Prout told Savannah Guthrie that she wanted to speak out about what had happened to her, and that she was launching a campaign called #IHaveTheRightTo, to empower other survivors of sexual assault to come forward.
“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 am going to make sure that other people — other girls, other boys — know that they can own it, too, and that they don’t have to be ashamed either,” Prout said.
Labrie was arrested in 2014, just days after graduating from St. Paul’s, and accused of assaulting the freshman as part of a competition known as the “Senior Salute,” in which seniors try to have sex with underclassman. Labrie was 18 at the time of the encounter.
“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 told Today.
Prout, who is now preparing to enter her senior year at a different school, said her family has been incredibly supportive through the “whole ordeal,” and that she “can’t imagine” how tough it must be to face sexual assault alone.
The survivor teamed up with nonprofit PAVE — Promoting Awareness Victim Empowerment — to launch the #IHaveTheRightTo campaign to empower other survivors, and make them feel less alone.
In a statement on the campaign’s website, Prout said:
“#IHaveTheRightTo find my voice and to use it when I am ready. #IHaveTheRightTo be called a survivor, not an ‘alleged victim’ or ‘accuser’. #IHaveTheRightTo spend time with someone and be safe. #IHaveTheRightTo say NO and be HEARD. #IHaveTheRight to not be shamed and bullied into silence. #IHaveTheRightTo not be isolated by the crime against me or by people who want to shame me. #IHaveTheRightTo name what happened to me because being sexually assaulted is never excusable or ‘complicated’. There is no perfect victim. #IHaveTheRightTo be happy, sad, upset, angry, and inspired anytime during the process of my healing without being judged. But most importantly, #IHaveTheRightTo stand with you.”
The campaign hopes to encourage other survivors to share their own stories using the hashtag #IHaveTheRightTo.
Watch Prout’s full interview with Today here.
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