Seventeen-year-old Chessy Prout sat on the stage of NBC’s “Today” show Tuesday and revealed for the first time that she was the victim of the high-profile rape case that took place at St. Paul’s School.
“I want everyone to know that I am not afraid or ashamed anymore, and I never should have been,” she told “Today” host Savannah Guthrie.
During the sexual-assault trial of Owen Labrie, the senior at the elite boarding school whom Prout accused of raping her, she remained anonymous. Now, she felt ready to reveal her identity.
“It’s been two years now since the whole ordeal, and I feel ready to stand up and own what happened to me and make sure other people, other girls and boys, don’t need to be ashamed, either,” she said.
In 2015, St. Paul’s, located in Concord, New Hampshire, was at the core of a criminal trial which gained national attention. Prout, 15 at the time of the incident, alleged that Labrie had sex with her without her consent in a mechanical closet. Labrie claimed that the interaction was consensual and that it ended short of them having sexual intercourse.
Allegations also arose that Labrie participated in a ritual among boys at the prep school called the “senior salute,” where senior boys compete for the most sexual exploits with girls at the school and keep score.
Last August, Labrie was found guilty of three misdemeanor sexual assault charges related to the girl’s age, one felony charge of using a computer to entice a minor, and lastly, endangering the welfare of a child. He avoided a conviction for the most serious charge, felony sexual assault, meaning jurors believed the sexual contact occurred but remained unconvinced that it was nonconsensual.
The verdict was difficult for Prout.
“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. “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.”
Labrie was sentenced to a year in jail, but after short stints behind bars, he’s currently living at home, pending an appeal verdict.
Prout’s family has also filed a civil case against St. Paul’s for failing to protect children at the school. The school provided “Today” with a statement on the pending suit:
“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. 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.”