(CBS News) — Hundreds of thousands of sexual assault survivors are sharing their stories on social media about why they didn’t initially report their attack. Chessy Prout and her mother Susan became advocates for survivors after Chessy was assaulted during a game of sexual conquest at a prestigious New Hampshire prep school. She was 15 years old at the time.
Susan Prout joined “CBS This Morning” to discuss the toll it takes on a family when a sexual assault survivor comes forward with their story and what her daughter went through after she spoke out about her assault.
“It’s affected how we live, where we live, where we work, and how we support Chessy, our daughter, as a survivor. … We very much believe that we still have a rape culture and we’d like to try to shift that to a survivor-informed culture where people understand that after murder, sexual assault is probably one of the most egregious, heinous crimes against a human,” Prout said.
Chessy endured bullying upon returning to school and, according to Prout, its board of trustees still refer to it as an “incident” even though Chessy’s attacker, a fellow student named Owen Labrie, was convicted of misdemeanor sex assault charges and a felony charge of using a computer to lure her.
“I’ll never forget the rector at the time’s remarks when we talked about a plan for Chessy to return to St. Paul’s after her assault. He said, don’t worry, people will be too busy to care very much about this, which was actually shocking to us as a family because it had completely upended our lives and Chessy’s life, of course. So they did more than ignore her, they actively supported the perpetrator by raising funds,” Prout said.
Earlier this year, Chessy wrote a memoir about her experience titled, “I Have the Right To: A High School Survivor’s Story of Sexual Assault, Justice, and Hope.” Prout offered advice for how parents can help.
“I hope Chessy has been able to show that through writing her memoir about her experience, I have the right too. That she has not fallen apart. People need to support survivors but not take the lead. Sexual assault is a crime of power. You need to give the power back to the survivors.”
Prout also praised Christine Blasey Ford for sharing her allegations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh in public.
“I thought of her last night as I was trying to go to sleep,” she said. “It’s so important to own your voice when you can because the trauma never goes away. It’s always there. I’ve talked to 80-year-old survivors who have disclosed for the first time. So we are with Dr. Ford today and know she’s already succeeded by coming forward.”
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