In recent years, much necessary attention has been focused on the devastating and infuriating sexual assault epidemic at colleges nationwide. Unfortunately, though, campus sexual violence isn't limited to institutions of higher learning — it plagues high schools as well.
At St. Paul's, an elite boarding school in Concord, N.H., students partake in an annual end-of-the-year "dating rite" called the Senior Salute — two days before graduation, seniors reach out to younger students with whom they'd like to hook up before departing for college. During this year's event, a freshman student alleges that she was lead into the woods by Owen Labrie, 18, and sexually assaulted while she repeatedly told him no. According to investigators, Labrie may have been partaking in a competition with his friends to see how many hook-up conquests each could rack up. In related news, this world is utterly terrible.
According to the Boston Globe, Labrie sent a Senior Salute to the freshman student two days before the alleged assault. She declined, so Labrie asked another freshman to put in a good word for him. The young woman then agreed to meet with him; she later told investigators that she was under the impression that she and Labrie would be "kissing or making out and 'that's all.'"
On May 30, according to the Globe, Labrie took her to a secluded area of campus, where they started kissing. According to the affidavit, he began trying to remove her underwear, and she told him no "at least twice" and resisted, but he ignored her protests and sexually assaulted her. Later, "a nurse... found a laceration consistent with sexual assault." (Labrie has denied to the police that he sexually assaulted her.)
The school is currently cooperating fully with the police investigation, which is — depressingly enough — a heartening sign. In a letter sent to St. Paul parents in July, Rector Michael Hirschfeld called the allegations "disturbing":
"I am determined to learn if this alleged violation is an aberration or represents a broader issue," Hirschfeld wrote. "This is as much a question about the nature and quality of relationships our students have with one another as it is about upholding basic standards of respect."
A former St. Paul's student told the Globe that she found the allegations unsurprising and that much of the gross stuff leading up to the assault — the sexual conquest-contest, the male student's thoughtless assumption that he could pressure a young woman into hooking up with him, etc. — was "business as usual" on campus. St. Paul's, formerly an all-male school, has only been admitting female students since 1971, she said, and "many sexual encounters were based on power differentials."
Said another alum, "I'm not surprised by it, to be honest. But I wouldn't be that surprised by it at any college or high school."
And that's the horrifying truth. Shit like this shocks absolutely no one, and, yet, hardly anything is ever done to prevent it. And so it goes.
Image via Wikipedia.