BOSTON -- A young woman who was sexually assaulted by a classmate at a prestigious prep school in New Hampshire is telling her story.
Chessy Prout was just 15 when she was sexually assaulted at St. Paul's School.
"I thought that I could have done more to stop him, but it's so important to remember that sexual assault isn't just something that happens to someone. It's a crime perpetrated by a perpetrator," she said.
Owen Labrie, a senior attending the school at the time, was convicted of assaulting her as part of a ritual known as the Senior Salute.
"I knew what had happened to me and I knew it was wrong. The judge also managed to say in his closing remarks that he knew and understood and believed that I did not consent to any activity and he also called my perpetrator a very good liar," Prout said. "Their intent was disgusting and criminal."
During and after the trial, online searches returned stories putting Prout in a negative light, so she decided to reclaim her name and tell her story in the memoir "I Have The Right To."
Boston 25 News anchor Vanessa Welch sat down with Prout for a one-on-one interview Friday about the book.
Prout said she used to have nightmares and flashbacks about the attack, but after four years she's learning to cope and is focusing on her future.
“I'm 19 years old now. I've moved on from that part of my life, but it still impacts me to this day. I still deal with symptoms of PTSD, but its talking it out in therapy and being able to lean on other survivors,” she said. ”We’re so much more than our trauma, we’re so much more than our assaults. These are tiny bits and pieces of our lives that will maybe shape the way we live the rest of our lives, but they don’t make and they definitely didn't break us."
The focus of the memoir is empowering other victims of sexual assault to speak up, and that's happening through the use of #IHaveTheRightTo.
"I'm very, very, very inspired by all the kids and adults that take part in it because it warms my heart to see people feel empowered because I certainly didn't at the time of my assault," Prout said.
The book highlights what Prout calls a hook up culture at St. Paul’s, a culture she thinks need to change.
“I really believe they're more invested in protecting their reputation than they are in protecting their students,” she said.
While she feels St. Paul's and many of her friends there turned against her for going public, she finds purpose in the pain by giving sexual assault victims a voice.
“It shouldn't be such a taboo topic because everyone will deal with it at some point in their lives and it's starting much, much younger. Consent can be taught at any age,” Prout said.
Labrie’s conviction was for misdemeanor sexual assault, not the felony rape charge he also faced. He is appealing the conviction.
St. Paul’s School issued a statement saying it supports Chessy’s work in giving a voice to sexual assault victims and that the administration did its best to support her.
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. The administration did its best to support Chessy.
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’ve taken significant action over the last few years. 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.
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