St Paul's: Rape trial 'reveals culture of sexual conquests' at elite boarding school attended by John Kerry

Court hears how senior students sought sexual conquests of younger pupils

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The Independent US

It was known, said prosecutors, as the “senior salute” and it was a tradition in which students about to graduate sought the sexual conquest of younger pupils. They did so by use of a store room on the campus to which they passed around the key.

This week, a court is hearing claims from a student who was 15 in the spring of 2014 and who says she was raped by a Owen Labrie, a fellow student at the elite St Paul’s School in New Hampshire.

Prosecutors say the ongoing trial has thrown open a window on the culture of rites and sexual conquest at the school, whose roster of powerful alumni include US Secretary of State John Kerry and Cornelius Vanderbilt III, a member of the Vanderbilt family.

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The chapel at St Paul's School in New Hampshire

 

The boarding school, set on 2,000 wooded acres and which only began to accept girls in 1971, denies that.

Previously the school has faced accusations over the ousting of a rector, a bullying investigation, and a drowning in its $24m fitness centre. Its motto, written in Latin, is: “Let us learn those things on earth the knowledge of which continues in heaven.”

In court on Tuesday, the young woman who claims she was raped, wept as she was asked to point to Mr Labrie, now aged 19 and from Vermont. She said she was aware of the tradition of the “senior salute” but did not think it necessary involved any “special expectations”.

Prosecutor Catherine Ruffle described the senior salute as “the context for this entire event”, according to Reuters. She said the young woman unsuccessfully resisted Mr Labrie and told him “no” but was overpowered.

“She’s going to testify the defendant became very aggressive, very fast,” Ms Ruffle told the jurors. “He pulled her bra down, he bit her breast and it was painful.”

The court was told that Mr Labrie and his friends referred to “slaying” girls. He told the police that he was one of many students trying to beat out his peers by seeing how often he could “score”.

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Defence lawyer JW Carney told jurors on Tuesday that emails between the two suggested that the girl was a willing participant. Mr Labrie has pleaded not guilty to a total of ten charges of sexual assault.

His lawyer read to jurors from a string of emails between Mr Labrie and the young woman before and immediately after the night of May 30, 2014, the night when the alleged rape is said to have occurred and two days before Mr Labrie graduated.

He said the young woman had agreed to meet Mr Labrie “only if it's our little secret”.

The rape investigation began several days after the encounter, and Mr Labrie was arrested in July 2014. He has maintained there was no intercourse.

On Wednesday, the young woman is due to return to the witness stand.

A message posted on the website of the school, located in the town of Concord, said: “Allegations about our culture are not emblematic of our school or our values, our rules, or the people that represent our student body, alumni, faculty and staff.”

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