A former student at an elite New Hampshire boarding school on Wednesday described being sexually “violated” by a popular senior and testified she initially remained friendly with him to avoid making a scene during graduation weekend.
The trial of Owen Labrie, 19, who has been charged with multiple counts of rape stemming from the May 2014 encounter at St. Paul’s School in Concord, saw its first full day of testimony on Wednesday.
The trial is shining a light on the culture of St. Paul School’s, which was founded in 1856 and whose alumni include powerful U.S. business and political figures, including U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.
The girl, who was 15 at the time of the alleged incident, described initially rebuffing Labrie’s invitation for a “senior salute,” a longstanding tradition at the school in which younger students agree to have sexual encounters with seniors. She relented days before graduation, with the expectation that she and Labrie might kiss in a secluded part of campus.
“I thought I might get to see a cool place, and maybe we’ll kiss, but that’s all,” said the teen, who is now 16. Afterward, she added, “I felt gross, I felt violated.”
Labrie brought the girl to the roof of a remote building and then to a mechanical room below, where he repeatedly attempted to remove her underwear and bit her breast, the teen testified. Asked by county prosecutor Catherine Ruffle if she had asked Labrie to stop, she broke down in tears.
“I didn’t say anything,” she said. “I was thinking, ‘Ow, I’m in pain,’ but I couldn’t think of anything else. I felt like I was frozen.”
The teen said she had kept up civil e-mail exchanges with Labrie after the attack as a way of trying to assert control over the situation.
Defense attorney J.W. Carney asked whether the teen’s expectations were as innocent as she had made them out to be, and cited a transcript of a police interview with one of the teen’s friends in which she discussed the possibility of having a sexual experience with Labrie.
The teen said she had “no recollection” of saying that.
Carney has contended that the encounter was consensual but that no intercourse took place.
St. Paul’s has said the alleged attack did not reflect its culture.
Carney said that Labrie, who is from Tunbridge, Vermont, was raised by a single mother and was only able to attend St. Paul’s on a scholarship, and had become a student leader who hoped to attend divinity school.
Labrie has pleaded not guilty to three felony sexual assault charges, which each carry a sentence of up to 20 years in prison.
The teen testified that she had not immediately reported the crime because she did not want to create a scene at a time when her family was at the school for her older sister’s graduation.
“I was not about to make this weekend about me,” she said. “That was too selfish, that was the thought in my head.”