The St. Paul’s School rape trial is in full swing. The victim in this case is a 16-year-old girl, who was a 15-year-old freshman at the time of the alleged incident, which took place on May 30, 2014, just days before graduation. The victim has stated she was a virgin at the time of the alleged attack.
The alleged perpetrator is Owen Labrie, a 19-year-old who was a member of the 2014 St. Paul’s School graduating class. Labrie was charged with three counts of aggravated felony sex assault, four counts of misdemeanor sex assault, endangering the welfare of a minor and using a computer to set up the alleged attack. Labrie allegedly used email and the social networking site Facebook to lure the victim to an isolated location at the school.
The sentence for the each felony charge is up to 20 years in prison.
St. Paul’s School, located in Concord, New Hampshire, is an elite prep school where the tuition exceeds $50,000. At the heart of this rape trial is the St. Paul’s tradition of the “senior salute,” in which graduating senior boys attempt to score sexually with younger girls. The goal is to take the virginity of young girls, the younger the better. Labrie himself has stated that the senior boys kept an online scoreboard of these sexual encounters and that he “wanted to be number one.”
Labrie’s defense attorney, J.W. Carney, Jr., commented to the media that “…the senior salute has been a tradition for so long at St. Paul’s School that it would be entirely unfair to put the blame on a single student for engaging in it.”
Let’s stop right there, Mr. Carney, because that logic is simply ridiculous.
Personal responsibility is something we all, despite varying social backgrounds, start to learn in kindergarten that continues to build throughout our childhoods into our teenage years and then on into our adulthoods. We are given the opportunity to vote, smoke cigarettes and serve our country through military service once we reach the age of 18 and, in most states, the opportunity to legally consume alcohol at the age of 21.
At the time of the alleged attack, Labrie was definitely old enough to know the definition of the word “no,” which his victim stated she told him several times during the alleged sexual assault. The victim testified in court that after she resisted Labrie’s efforts to remove her underwear that he pushed them aside and had sex with her anyway. Labrie is old enough to know that such a gesture of physical resistance means “stop.”
Labrie had been a dorm prefect at St. Paul’s School and was therefore considered a role model for other students, which should make him more responsible and accountable for the safety and well-being of the students around him. Labrie had attended classes about sexual harassment and sexual assault while enrolled at St. Paul’s School. Basically, Labrie knew better than to sexually assault another person, especially a young girl.
No one should be able to use tradition as an excuse for sexually assaulting or raping someone, especially a minor.
Statutory rape laws have existed for decades and were designed to prevent adults from having sex with minors. These laws vary from state to state, and many have morphed into more sophisticated sexual assault laws in which the age of the perpetrator in relation to the age of the victim is taken into account more often than not to help distinguish between cases of teenage sexual exploration and cases of sexual abuse or assault between an adult perpetrator and a victim of minor age.
The age of consent differs from state to state, with a few states making the age of consent as young as 13-years-old. New Hampshire’s age of consent is 16-years-old, making the victim in this case too young at the time of the alleged incident to have given legal consent to any sexual encounter of any kind.
The New Hampshire criminal code defines felonious sexual assault as engaging “in sexual penetration with a person other than a legal spouse who is 13 years of age or older and under 16 years of age” or engaging “in sexual contact with a person other than a legal spouse who is under 13 years of age.” This type of crime is considered to be a class B felony in New Hampshire.
New Hampshire’s criminal code takes things even further by defining felonious aggravated sexual assault as a great many situations, including “when at the time of the sexual assault, the victim indicates by speech or conduct that there is not freely given consent to performance of the sexual act.” In essence, the sexual assault charges are more severe when the victim says “no,” which is most likely why Labrie is being charged under this law in this case.
Labrie maintains the victim is lying about him raping her. When asked by a Concord police detective why the victim would lie about the encounter, Labrie stated that “some freshmen feel a sense of pride over losing their virginity to a senior.”
When asked about rejecting Labrie’s advances, the victim stated that she was “worried she might offend him or draw scorn” if she refused him. She was afraid he would spread rumors about her on campus that would paint her in an unflattering light.
In court, several of Labrie’s own friends, including his former roommate at St. Paul’s School, testified that Labrie denied having sex with the victim when in a group setting, but then told each of them in private that he had had sex with the victim.
After seven-and-a-half hours of deliberation, the jury, consisting of nine men and three women, acquitted Labrie of the felonious sexual assault charges. The jury found that the victim and Labrie had sexual intercourse, but rejected the victim’s assertions that she did not consent to that sexual intercourse.
Labrie was convicted o one felony count of using a computer to set up the sexual encounter, three counts of misdemeanor sexual assault and one count of child endangerment. As a result of these convictions, Labrie will register as a sex offender.
Released on bail under a 5 p.m. to 8 a.m. curfew, Labrie will be sentences on October 29. He faces a maximum of 11 years in prison, where tradition will take on an entirely different meaning for the teen offender.