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Prep school rape trial hears details of "Senior Salute" on campus rooftop

Owen Labrie is accused of raping a 15-year-old as part of a school tradition.

Owen Labrie confers with his lawyer before the start of the second day of his trial.
Owen Labrie confers with his lawyer before the start of the second day of his trial.
Image: AP

AN 18-YEAR-OLD graduate of an elite prep school in New Hampshire is charged with raping a 15-year-old girl during a school ritual.

The practice at St. Paul’s School is known as the “Senior Salute” and the New York Times says it involves older students asking younger ones to “join them for a walk, a kiss, or more”.

During testimony yesterday, the girl, now 16, said she didn’t remember telling a close friend about sexual acts she was prepared for when she met up with Owen Labrie, then 18.

The girl told the court that she agreed to go the roof of the campus building with Labrie when he then took her into a maintenance room.

She says they then began kissing and that Labrie began groping her chest. When he attempted a number of times to remove her underwear, the girl says she repeatedly objected.

“I said, ‘No, no, no, keep it up here,’ she said, according to the report, as she signalled above her waist.

She then says that Labrie raped her and that she felt ”frozen”.

She added that she initially felt that the sex assault was her fault for not kicking, screaming or trying to push him off.

I’m thinking how naive of myself, and I never should have left my room that night,” she testified. “I felt like I was out of my body. … I didn’t want to believe this was happening to me.”

Prep School-Rape Trial Owen Labrie’s attorney Jay Carney speaks to the assembled media as interest in the case grows. Source: AP

Labrie’s defence team deny that the two had sexual intercourse. He has pleaded not guilty to a total of 10 charges. They include aggravated sex assault, endangering the welfare of a child and using a computer to lure his victim to him.

He says their sexual contact was consensual and his defence is expected to argue that the two continued to exchange messages after the incident. In their message exchange, Labrie is reported to have said that he wore a condom for a time during the encounter.

The girl went to a school clinic after the alleged attack and requested emergency contraception. When asked was the sex consensual she said that it was was, noting that she said this at the time because she was running late and “it was so much easier”.

Owen Labrie Source: AP

Lawyers for both sides say the case hinges largely on whether jurors believe the accuser. Defence counsel J.W. Carney has told jurors Labrie himself will testify.

Prosecutors have described Senior Salute as “the context for this entire event”.

The case has cast a critical light on St. Paul’s School, one of eight members of a prep school Ivy League of sorts.

Their alumni boasts an international roster of senators, congressmen, ambassadors, Pulitzer Prize winners, Nobel laureates and two World Series of Poker winners.

Testimony continues on Thursday and is expected to run for two weeks on front of a jury of 11 men and three women.

- With reporting from Associated Press

Read: The ‘Senior Salute’ at this posh prep school will be central to rape trial >

Read: Sexual consent needs to be legally defined: ‘Not doing so isolates and silences victims’ >

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Rónán Duffy

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