A rape victim reveals her identity

Forced to do so by the Legislature, Minnesota police departments report that there are thousands of untested rape kits in their possession and the Star Tribune reported this week they’re in no hurry to test them.

The Legislature mandated the inventory report in a recent law but it did not require the investigators to test the evidence for use in rape trials.

Particularly surprising is the reason a third of the rape kits have not been tested: the victims didn’t want to report the assault or pursue a case of rape.

Can we blame them? No other crime involves systemic punishment for its victim as rape does.

This morning, a rape victim came forward to reveal her identity. Her name is Chessy Prout, and she’s the woman who says she was raped at the prestigious St. Paul’s school in New Hampshire, a case that became a symbol for the difficulty rape victims have in pursuing their attackers, and the propensity of institutions of learning to cover for them.

chessy_prout_vidgrab

“I want everyone to know that I am not afraid or ashamed anymore, and I never should have been,” Prout told NBC’s Today show.

Owen Labrie, accused of rape in a senior ritual at the school, was convicted of misdemeanor charges.

“They said that they didn’t believe that he did it knowingly, and that frustrated me a lot because he definitely did do it knowingly,” Prout said. “And the fact that he was still able to pull the wool over a group of people’s eyes bothered me a lot and just disgusted me in some way.”

She tried to go back to school at St. Paul’s. But she was shunned.

“Everybody pretty much knew,” she said. “None of my old friends that were boys would even talk to me. They wouldn’t even look me in the eyes … and nobody was talking about the issue itself. They weren’t trying to prevent it from happening to anyone else.”

Prout said only her family’s support helped her survive her ordeal.

“Somebody’s got my back, and somebody’s going to believe me, and somebody’s going to help me,” she said. “And even when I get my panic attacks and I lock myself in my closet because I don’t want my little sister to see me like that, she comes into my room sometimes and she’ll come into my closet when I’m rocking on the floor and punching my legs trying to get myself to calm down, and she’ll try to give me the biggest hug and she’ll say ‘Chessy you’re okay.’”

“And I just can’t imagine how scary it is for other people to have to do this alone.”

  • Mike

    I understand that there’s a historical legacy of inattention to sexual crimes that can increase the burden on rape victims. That being said, the fundamentals of justice still have to be met. The burden of proof is still on the accuser, the accused has a right to face his/her accuser, and the accused has a right to trial by jury. To the extent that we believe we can short-circuit due process in the name of a higher good, we do a profound disservice to anyone who is falsely accused of a crime.

    • He had a trial. She testified. But the system is gamed against rape victims.

      And women know it.

      • Mike

        Yes, and he was convicted of misdemeanor sexual assault charges. Apparently the jury didn’t believe it rose to the level of a felony. Do you know better than the jury?

        • You mean the jury of nine men and three women? Yes. I know that women are raped and juries, especially those in which men are disproportionately represented, have a tendency to say, “oh, no, you’re mistaken. He didn’t mean it that way.”

          And so do women who are raped and don’t report it.

          LaBrie was convicted of having sex with someone under 15.

          What do we call that in Minnesota?

          The sole witness that the sex was consensual was — surprise — Mr. LaBrie.

          The prosecution called 16 witnesses, including the woman herself.

          But all you have to do to beat a rape charge in the system is to say it was consensual.

          Interestingly, the jury appears to have decided that she did not deny consent.

          BTW, he also is required to register as a sex offender, an interesting requirement.

          http://qz.com/537671/the-st-pauls-rape-trial-was-horrific-and-exactly-what-american-women-should-have-expected/

          • Mike

            So should a jury just take the accuser’s word for it? Convict someone of a felony charge because of one person’s testimony with inadequate proof? I’m sure the Duke lacrosse team is happy the bar was higher than that.

          • I think you described the problem. The jury didn’t think her assault under the law “rose to the level of a felony.”

            But this case wasn’t about “just believing her.” His defense was that he didn’t have sex with her. The prosecution put multiple people on the stand who said he told them he did. Then it became a question of consent and New Hampshire is one of the “No “no” (or not a strong enough “no”) means “yes” states.

            Rapists know that it’s easy to skate on the charge. Just as women know they don’t stand a great chance of getting a jury to believe them.

            People either think that’s a problem or they think it’s not.

            The climate here, of course, is the “Senior Salute” climate in which it’s all a game.

            Because boys will be boys is still the law of the land in many places.

            There’s a really good 1,000 Takes at the STrib today in which a man talks about the catcalls of his daughter on Hennepin Avenue, and how when she was telling him the story, he was fighting the male urge to not believe her.

            http://www.startribune.com/what-one-man-learned-when-his-daughter-was-harassed-on-hennepin-avenue/391624001/

          • Mike

            I think I stated in my first post that the cultural lens we put on these things has contributed to the problem. I’m wondering what the solution is besides watering down standards of justice to make it easier to deprive someone of his liberty based on the accusations of one person. People either believe in due process or they don’t.

          • Maybe we can start by having women better represented on juries.

          • Al

            I’m spitballing–are they more often dismissed from rape trials because lawyers presume they’d be more sympathetic to the prosecution?

          • Kassie

            That happened to Taylor Swift today. The judge determined she couldn’t be impartial on a rape case because she has a sexual harassment case pending in another state. If they ask all potential women jurors “have you ever been raped, sexually assaulted or sexually harassed?” they would be able to remove 99% of all women from jury pools.

          • Al

            99.9%. Ugh.

          • Jeff C.

            At first I thought that you shouldn’t exaggerate and say 99% because the exaggeration would allow some people to dismiss your comment all together. Then I did a little research and found that your 99% is probably correct. One study found that ONLY THREE of the 800+ women who responded to the study had NOT experienced harassment on the street! That’s 99.6%! So, rounding up, 100% of all women could be removed from jury pools. I’m sorry, women, that you have to be subjected to this. http://www.stopstreetharassment.org/resources/statistics/sshstudies/

          • Kassie

            It is true. I don’t know a single woman who hasn’t had unwanted sexual comments/gestures/touches on the street. But it isn’t just on the street, it is also at work, in school, at the gym, and other places that are “safe.” I would guess by the time I left junior high, I had been the victim of inappropriate and unwanted touching at least ten times by male classmates while in school. That doesn’t count all the times a boy threw something at my chest or ass or made a rude or unwanted sexually explicit comment. It happens ALL THE TIME and many men just pretend it doesn’t.

          • Rob

            The arbitrary aspects of the voir dire process are part of the problem. Attorneys are allowed to have a given number of prospective jurors removed from consideration without having to give the judge a reason as to why they want them removed.

          • Mike

            Fair enough. But the decision still has to be unanimous.

          • JamieHX

            Some women are no more informed or sensitive about rape than men are, and two or three women (and a few of the men too) could feasibly be pressured or cajoled by a majority-misogynist/male jury. Or just plain old group-think could take over. Unanimity doesn’t mean justice is served.

          • JamieHX

            No standards of justice needed to be watered down in order to convict the rapist of FELONY rape (as opposed to the misdemeanor he got). There was plenty of evidence for it, and the rapist got his due process. The only watering down of justice that occurred was in the jury’s not taking her seriously and in not bothering to try to understand the predictably complicated feelings and actions of a rape victim.

    • kat

      And another perspective beyond the disposition of the jury- when it comes to rape, a woman has to convince a jury that the sex was not consensual. In other crimes, it is assumed that the victim did not want to be robbed/beaten/shot and the intentions of the perpetrator are judged from that angle. Men have to understand one thing- women do not want to be raped any more than you want to be shot.

  • I wanted to learn more, so I pasted Chessy’s name into Google and before I could even search, it suggested “chessy prout liar.” WTF GOOGLE!?

    • Kassie

      Me too. Now imagine if you are the person reviewing her resume for an internship or scholarship. She is totally marked for life and her name ruined by the person she accused. Look at what happened to Jamie Naughright if you want to see a woman who had a career and life completely ruined by a man who harmed them.

  • Kassie

    To the Rape Kits issue, I’d like to see Minnesota test those kits anyhow. Even if the woman, at this time, doesn’t want to pursue charges. They may change their mind with time or with persuasion, especially if they find that they have a serial offender.

    • Al

      Even if the statute of limitations has passed on some, the tests can contribute to prosecution of more recent crimes.

      • Kassie

        And after reading the article, I’m even more disturbed.

        First, there is this:
        “But law enforcement gave other reasons for declining to test, such as that a case was unfounded, or prosecutors rejected it because the suspect said the sex was consensual and there wasn’t enough evidence to prove otherwise.”

        This should not be a decision by law enforcement. My understanding is that the victims is now supposed to be believed until there is evidence to not believe them. I thought this changed in the past few years. These should all be tested.

        Second, there is this:
        “The Burnsville Police Department said that six of its 63 old kits were never tested because the suspects were convicted without it.”

        Those should absolutely be tested. They may show a pattern that previously wasn’t known. Plus, I feel that just could lead to wrongful convictions. We know DNA evidence has cleared tons of people of rape charges. If you have the evidence, it should be tested.

      • DavidG

        Would that evidence be admissible? I know there are a lot of rules involved in admitting evidence of past crimes.

  • Al

    My first instinct is to laud her bravery for publicly coming forward, which frustrates me. Does that mean women who don’t or can’t report rape aren’t brave? (The answer to that is, obviously, hell no. They’re brave for facing each day while a huge portion of the world heaps shame, guilt, blame onto them.)

    She’s right, though; it’s terrifying to face the aftermath of rape on your own. How many people do you have to tell for it to be brave, when the dominant narrative in society is that you could easily be lying to save face, or it’s revenge for a slight, or you secretly didn’t mind it happening, or…?

  • Al

    Why are rape kits $1000 to test? Is it staff time? Lab equipment?

    • John

      My guess is that since it’s a DNA test, the equipment/overhead is high, and there’s a lot of staff time involved.

      Full disclosure – I don’t know how the test works, but I speculate that the different DNA’s in the sample (the submitter’s DNA, the potential rapist’s DNA, any other random bits that have gotten onto the submitter) have to be separated.

      Then the DNA has to be analyzed – still a relatively challenging analysis.

      Finally, the reporting has to be done, and the documentation/chain of custody work that goes with court admissable evidence. And I would guess enough of the sample has to be retained, because the defense has to be given access to the sample as well for their own analyses – should a court case come out of it.

      It’s not just the test (which is probably expensive on its own) – it’s also all the paperwork that goes with it that I think probably makes it $1K.

      • jon

        I don’t know about rape kits, but every time I’ve had to take a drug test for work they take two samples, one for the test, and one for the re-test incase something is contested, I’d suspect rape kits are the same, where two samples are taken, one for the test, and one for the defense should it come to that…

        I also wonder if the price was set a long time ago and never updated to reflect the improvements in technology for dna sequencing. Those prices have dropped tremendously in the last 10 years…

        • John

          My intuition as an analytical chemist is that $1K is certainly not highway robbery for that level of testing and tracking. Just having the amount of chloride measured in water will cost over $100, and that’s about as simple a test as you’re likely to find – with no biohazard, special handling, or tracability required.

          I seem to remember that it wasn’t long ago that DNA testing cost $10K, and that was for testing a person’s DNA – not having to extract and separate the sample from a potential mixture of other people/things DNA’s.