Dianne Williamson: High school rape case points to larger problem

Telegram & Gazette

By Dianne Williamson

Posted Aug. 27, 2015

It’s known as the “senior salute,” and a teen on trial for allegedly raping a freshman at the elite St. Paul’s School in Concord, N.H., had written up a list of potential conquests.

Defendant Owen Labrie testified in his own defense Wednesday and denied that he sexually assaulted a 15-year-old girl last year in a secluded campus room, just days from his graduation. Labrie was a prefect at the school and had already been accepted to Harvard, where he planned to study theology.

But prosecutors said Labrie was also an eager competitor in the “senior salute,” a ritual in which senior boys try to score with younger girls. According to an affidavit, Labrie told police he was “trying to be No. 1 in the sexual scoring at St. Paul’s School.”

Whether or not Labrie is found guilty of rape, testimony in this high-profile trial in New Hampshire underscores troubling ideas about sex and consent among young people.

The administration at St. Paul’s School, meanwhile, has said little to nothing about a case that cries out for leadership and action. In a statement Monday, it claims that “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.”

Some would say otherwise. He politely declined to comment when I contacted him yesterday, but Shamus Khan, an alumnus and now associate professor at Columbia University, wrote about the school’s sexual culture in his 2011 book, “Privilege: The Making of an Adolescent Elite at St. Paul’s School.”

He wrote about the annual dance called Screw, where “the sexual desirability of girls is determined by their value on the ‘screw’ marketplace.” He wrote about a ritual in which new female students had to divulge their sexual pasts.

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