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The family of a teenager who says she was raped at an elite New England prep school has been pushed out of their community but remain adamant about pursuing charges, a representative for the family said Wednesday.
“They want to focus on getting justice in this case,” said Laura Dunn, executive director of SurvJustice, an organization that helps fight sexual violence.
On Tuesday, the teen took the stand to identify her accuser, 19-year-old Owen Labrie, a graduate of the prestigious St. Paul’s School. Labrie is accused of raping a 15-year-old freshman on the school campus last year as part of a secret senior-year ritual.
The trial has brought a harsh spotlight on an alleged St. Paul’s tradition called the “senior salute,” where seniors try to seek as many intimate encounters with younger students before graduation. Any conquest was referred to as a “slaying.”
The prosecutor in his rape trial said Labrie competed with his friends to “slay the largest number of girls,” including the alleged victim.
Dunn said “this is a tough time” for the accuser, who feels the rape case has isolated her from the community in which she grew up.
“In a small town in a small community, often when these cases arise, people do choose sides. It really has pushed the family out of that community. They’re no longer at that school or living in the area," she said. "But they have some strong supporters. They are supporting each other at this time and they’re doing what they believe is right, which is speaking out against sexual violence."
The case has brought national attention to an alleged underground culture at St. Paul's School, but Dunn said the family of the alleged victim wants to concentrate on the defendant.
"Their focus is mostly on making sure the perpetrator is accountable," she said. More could have been done to have curbed the culture, "but at that this time, their focus is solely getting through the trial one step at a time."
Labrie has pleaded not guilty to 10 counts, including three counts of aggravated felony sex assault and four counts of misdemeanor sex assault. He has denied having sex with his accuser and said their encounter was consensual.
In addition to his accuser, Labrie also plans to testify during the trial.
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