She isn’t a celebrity in the Beyonce sort of way. She isn’t a model in the Kendall Jenner sort of way. She isn’t an author in the J. K. Rowling sort of way. However, she is one of the most “talked about” celebrities, models, and authors, who is now admired by generations of women for her courage and resiliency. Chessy Prout’s infamy began in anonymity, yet her fame and respect grew with her unveiling.
Although most people do not recognize the name Chessy Prout, many would know her as an anonymous teenage girl who besmirched the reputation of an elitist boarding school in New Hampshire by accusing a senior boy of rape. I would describe her as a naïve 15-year-old girl who evolved into a courageous warrior, after being a victim of a sexual conquest called “the senior salute”. On a Friday evening in the spring of 2014, Owen Lebrie, an 18 year-old star scholarship athlete took Chessy Prout on a date that ended in a dark mechanical room on campus. They began to kiss. From that point forward their stories diverge. She would claim that she said “no” several times. He would claim that she consented, but in a moment of “divine inspiration” stopped short of having intercourse with her.
Owen Lebrie was indicted by a grand jury in August of 2014 on charges of aggravated felonious sexual assault. His acceptances to Harvard and other prestigious colleges were withdrawn. One month later when Chessy returned to St. Paul’s School, her “friends,” peers, and some faculty members shunned her. Four months later, Chessy withdrew from St. Paul’s and completed her high school education in another state. The sexual assault trial began in August of 2015 and lasted for three days. Chessy, while still attempting to remain anonymous to the general public, testified in emotional and graphic detail about the sexual assault. Own Lebrie was convicted on a felony charge of using a computer to lure an underage girl into a sexual encounter, as well as three misdemeanor sexual assault charges and one misdemeanor charge of child endangerment. Labrie has appealed the decision, and asked the Supreme Court of New Hampshire for a new trial. His appeal is still pending.
In 2016, Chessy’s parent filed a civil action against St. Paul’s School for its failure to protect its children. The school countered stating, inter alia, that they felt compelled to reveal Chessy’s identity. In the summer of 2016, Chessy Prout circumvented the school’s threat by speaking candidly on the Today Show. Just two weeks ago, both sides settled the civil suit.
So what makes this he said/she said story unique?
I would hope just the facts themselves, but I am not that naïve. I, like so may others, admire Chessy’s grit and resilience in attempting to hold a popular fellow classmate as well as a 162-year-old institution responsible for their actions. Nevertheless, one issue continues to tug at my heart, head, and soul.
Why would a 15-year-old girl from a privileged family agree to bring charges of rape against a popular scholar athlete classmate who would be graduating within the month?
If I, at age 55 plus, am too reticent or cowardly to reveal my unedited story of harassment with far less at stake, why would a teenager be willing to risk the barrage of enmity she knew she would encounter? Was it her greater sense of self? Was it her protective parents? Was it her innocence about the reaction from the school, parents, friends, the media, etc.?
My guess is that Chessy’s rationale for pressing charges had little to due with justice, fairness, or accountability. These are nebulous terms considered by the judge and jury. She probably has watched enough Law & Order SVU to know that the outcome rarely results in “justice” for the victim of sexual assault. Frequently just the opposite occurs.
I believe that Chessy needed to tell her story, her way, in hopes that Owen Lebrie would sincerely apologize, and perhaps…just perhaps…she could prevent others from becoming victims. Unfortunately, no one can predict the tragic effects of another person’s overinflated ego, even from someone as young as 18.
My hypothesis may be very wrong. I will only know the answer when I hear her speak and promote her new book:
Talk sponsored by Rainy Day Books.
Thursday March 22 at 7:00 PM:
Unity Temple on the Plaza
707 W. 47th St.
(47th & Jefferson)
Kansas City, MO 64112
COME JOIN ME.