Aug 30, 2016 5:15 PM
CONCORD - An area victims' advocacy organization is voicing its support for the young woman who was the victim in Owen Labrie's sexual assault case and has now publicly identified herself as Chessy Prout.
Until now, Prout's face and voice were kept out of the media by request. However, she broke that seal of anonymity Tuesday morning when an interview her and her family conducted for the TODAY Show aired on national television.
The New Hampshire Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence is based in Concord and responded to the interview.
"I think this young woman is incredibly brave and poised," said Lyn Schollett, executive director of NHCADSV. "She never asked to be a victim and she never asked to be put in the national spotlight, but as a result of the trial, she was, and I think it's extraordinary how she, in turn, decided to use that spotlight to raise victims' voices everywhere."
Schollett praised Prout for making her interview known on her own terms. It was less than a week ago that St. Paul's School contested Prout's continued anonymity when her family filed a federal civil lawsuit against the prep school. Representatives said if the suit should go to trial, the victim's name should be used.
Schollett said that would be wrong.
"The decision about whether to be public is an individual decision for every victim, and each victim knows what they need to best seek justice and heal," she said.
Instead, Prout's family took matters into their own hands, choosing the national platform to share her side of the story. Schollett hoped other survivors will be inspired by Prout's actions to also do what's best for them.
"Many victims don't have the kind of support that this young woman did, so we would encourage any survivor considering going public like this to have the support of an advocate who can support them unconditionally through the process," she said.
Labrie was convicted of misdemeanor statutory rape about a year ago. Even before that trial started, Prout was referred to as a victim.
Schollett said, again, that's an identification decision that only Prout could make.
"If someone comes forward and says they were sexually assaulted, we should start by believing that they were sexually assaulted," Schollett said. "Individuals are the ones who are best able to identify whether or not they're the victim of a crime."
New Hampshire has 13 crisis centers and both domestic and sexual violence hotlines survivors can call if they wish to seek help. That information is available on NHCADSV's website.
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