A former student of an elite New Hampshire boarding school who was sexually assaulted when she was a teen has criticized U.S. president Joe Biden for nominating a lawyer to the federal bench whose hardball tactics forced her to reveal her identity.
Chessy Prout, 24, was a 15-year-old junior at St Paul’s boarding school, a $58,000-a-year, 162-year-old Concord institution, when she was sexually assaulted by Owen Labrie, in 2014.
Labrie was convicted of misdemeanor sexual assault and child endangerment, as well as using a computer to lure the girl for sex, a felony requiring him to register as a sex offender for life. He ultimately served less than eight months behind bars.
Michael Delaney, who represented St. Paul’s in the civil lawsuit filed a motion opposing Prout’s request for anonymity if the case went to trial, the controversial tactic publicly criticized as a way to force a settlement.
Sexual assault survivor, Chessy Prout, 24, has criticized U.S. president Joe Biden’s nomination of Michael Delaney to the federal bench
Delaney has vehemently disagreed with Prout’s claims saying that he was merely representing the elite New Hampshire boarding school and to look at his 30 plus career
The move angered Prout so much she decided to go public with the story revealing her identity during an interview with Savannah Guthrie on the Today Show in 2016.
In the past year Prout, who turned to advocacy on behalf of sexual assault survivors, told the Boston Globe that she started to feel like coming forward had been worthwhile, until Biden appointed Delaney to be a federal judge.
‘I am determined to have some sort of good, or some sort of change, come out of all the horrible things that have happened to me and my family,’ she told the outlet.
In January, Biden tapped the former New Hampshire attorney general for a seat on the US First Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston.
After hearing about the news, Prout and her family alerted the Biden administration and New Hampshire senators to Delaney’s actions, but the information fell on deaf ears.
‘I feel like bad actors get rewarded all the time,’ she said of the nomination.
‘I’m pretty jaded, even at the age of 24 but at the same time, I did have higher hopes for this White House.’
Prout told the outlet that Biden’s history of fighting sexual violence against women, including active participation as vice president in an Obama administration program called ‘It’s On Us,’ had once inspired her.
The launch of the initiative in the wake of her own sexual assault empowered her she said adding that it ‘felt like the tides were turning.’
‘To see this issue be brought up in a really public and noticeable way right when I was going through this issue personally, it felt like kismet, it felt like it was meant to be,’ Prout said.
Despite Biden’s continued work on ‘It’s On Us’ after the Obama administration Prout said his nomination of Delaney left her ‘extremely disappointed.’
‘It is really disheartening that it’s this political party that has been so vocal about supporting survivors, and the fact that they now are throwing their wholehearted support behind a nominee who basically practiced victim intimidation tactics,’ she said.
‘It just blows my mind that there isn’t a better option.’
In January, Biden tapped the former New Hampshire attorney general for a seat on the US First Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston
Owen Labrie, 23, was released from Merrimack County jail in 2020 after serving less than six months out of an expected 10 months behind bars. He’s pictured left in December 2018
Prout first shed her anonymity in 2016 (pictured) during an interview with Savannah Guthrie on the Today show
The White House remained steadfast with their decision telling the Boston Globe that it ‘expects senators to take Mr. Delaney’s full record into account when considering his nomination.’
New Hampshire’s Democratic senators, Jeanne Shaheen and Maggie Hassan who recommended Delaney also stood by the nomination.
Prout, who noted that both senators had pushed legislation to support sexual assault survivors, said they were doing people like her an injustice with Delaney’s appointment.
‘It’s been a lot of talk and not so much action,’ she said.
‘There’s so much talk you can do, there’s so many posters you can hang, so many social media posts you can do to support survivors, but that means nothing, nothing, unless you support them in real life.’
The 24-year-old and her family have written a letter to members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which is considering the nomination, with copies sent to Biden and U.S. vice president Kamala Harris.
At his confirmation hearing last month, Delaney said he was simply representing St. Paul’s School and denied Prout’s intimidation claims.
‘Consider the totality of my record over nearly 30 years as it reviews my qualifications,’ he said.
Prout called into question his ‘ability to be a judge’ after filing the motion against her.
‘This was his action as a member of the bar in the state of New Hampshire. He knows the system better than St. Paul’s School does,’ she said.
Delaney has faced fierce opposition from several Republicans and at least two Democrats who revealed their concern about the nomination, which is awaiting committee vote.
Prout has tried to find a way forward after the attack.
Prout said she had ‘higher hopes’ for the White House after hearing of Delaney’s nomination
The 24-year-old has since become an advocate for sexual assault survivors
‘My journey as a survivor was all about regaining control and power over my autonomy, my body, my story. I was so angry, but just wanted to take away any sort of leverage or power that they had over me,’ she said of her response to Delaney’s legal tactic.
‘I really do think it’s my duty and my job, and my family feels the same way, to make sure that these tactics stop being weaponized against young survivors.’
Speaking out publicly and writing her memoir ‘I Have the Right To’ were important steps for Prout as she sought to rebuild her identity.
‘I wanted to reclaim my name, reclaim my story,’ she said in an interview with Today in 2018.
‘Because it is difficult for a survivor to come forward like this. And I had the support of a family and the support of a community to return home to, which not a lot of survivors have.’
In her memoir, Prout said ‘rape is not a punishment for poor judgement’, which she hopes prompt people who expect from survivors of sexual assault to behave in certain ways to reconsider their standpoint.
‘I just want to emphasize that there is no such thing as a perfect victim,’ she said.
‘People can be able to pull us apart, tear us apart, tears us down, try to poke holes in our stories, but at the same time we are human, we make mistakes, and we’re not perfect.
‘That’s what I wanted to show through writing this book — show my vulnerabilities, show my weaknesses, and be able to say you can be strong through those.’
When Prout first spoke publicly about her attack, she told Savannah on Today: ‘I want everyone to know that I am not afraid or ashamed anymore, and I never should have been.’
The student told the host at the time that she sometimes suffered from panic attacks after the assault, which would cause her to hide in her closet, rock on the floor, and punch her legs.
She reiterated that standing up for herself and shedding her anonymity felt like the right thing to do, stating: ‘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.’
In 2020, Labrie was released from prison.
Although he was acquitted of rape in 2015, a jury found him guilty of misdemeanor sexual assault charges and endangering the welfare of a child. He also was convicted of using a computer to lure an underage student for sex, requiring him to register as a sex offender
He’d already served two months behind bars for flouting his curfew – a transgression revealed by a VICE journalist who bumped into him on a train and conducted an impromptu interview – and was due to serve a remaining 10 months during this stint but his attorney confirmed his release to ABC News.
Labrie, of Tunbridge, Vermont, was convicted in 2015 of sexually assaulting Prout as part of ‘Senior Salute,’ a game of sexual conquest at St. Paul’s School in 2014.
In ‘Senior Salute’, a group of eight boys in a dorm at St. Paul’s School competed to have their names put on a crown in a game of sexual conquest, whereby a senior would email a girl to see if she would meet up with him.
It is reported they targeted younger students.
Labrie, then-18, met with Prout and was subsequently accused of sexually assaulting her in a school building on May 30, 2014 after Prout’s sister found out about the encounter.
Her parents were notified and the school contacted the authorities. The victim later claimed Labrie raped her.
The accused claimed they never had sex but fooled around.
However, after it emerged his DNA had been found in her underwear he claimed he may have prematurely ejaculated.
Semen found in her underwear couldn’t be definitively matched to Labrie.
Although he was acquitted of rape in 2015, a jury found him guilty of misdemeanor sexual assault charges and endangering the welfare of a child.
He also was convicted of using a computer to lure an underage student for sex, requiring him to register as a sex offender.