The St. Paul’s School Survivor Speaks Out To Help Ensure Other Girls Have The Right To Their Bodies
Throughout the St. Paul’s School sexual assault trial that caught the nation’s attention last year, the girl accusing Owen Labrie had her identity legally protected. Now, two years after the assault, the St. Paul’s School survivor revealed her identity in order to stand up for other girls in her position and make sure girls have power over their own bodies. “I want everyone to know that I am not afraid or ashamed anymore, and I never should have been,” Chessy Prout told the Today show’s Savannah Guthrie.
Prout was a 15-year-old freshman at the New Hampshire boarding school when Labrie, who was a graduating senior at the time, assaulted her. He was convicted for three misdemeanor statutory rape counts, a misdemeanor of endangering a child, and a felony charge of using a computer to “seduce, solicit, lure, or entice a child,” but was not found guilty of the three counts of felony sex assault lodged against him. The 20-year-old returned home from jail in May to await his appeal under GPS monitoring.
“They said that they didn’t believe that he did it knowingly, and that frustrated me a lot because he definitely did do it knowingly,” Prout said in the interview. “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.”
Trying to put the trial behind her, Prout wanted to use her voice to help erase some of the stigma and shame many sexual assault survivors feel. “It’s been two years now since the whole ordeal, and I feel ready to stand up and own what happened to me,” Prout said. “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 teen started a social media campaign using the hashtag #IHaveTheRightTo, and she’s inviting others to share videos, pictures, and posts filling in what comes after the phrase for them. On the campaign’s website, Prout wrote: “#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.”
In her Today show interview, Prout explained how supportive her family has been and that she wants her campaign to offer that same support for others. “I just can’t imagine how scary it is for other people to have to do this alone,” she said, “and I don’t want anybody else to be alone anymore.”