The survivor at the center of the St. Paul’s sexual assault case, who revealed her identity in her first public interview Tuesday, is campaigning to empower other survivors of sexual assault.
Chessy Prout, 17, told Today’s Savannah Guthrie she’s wants to create a women’s bill of rights and is seeking input and solidarity for survivors of sexual assault using #IHaveTheRightTo on social media.
“I want other people to feel empowered and just strong enough to be able to say, ‘I have the right to my body, I have the right to say no,’” Prout said.
— TODAY (@TODAYshow) August 30, 2016
For the campaign, Prout is partnering with national nonprofit Promoting Awareness, Victim Empowerment — or PAVE, which works “to shatter the silence and prevent sexual violence through social advocacy, education and survivor support.”
Prout said on Today it is important to her that other survivors of sexual assault know they are not alone.
“I don’t want anybody else to be alone anymore, I don’t,” she said.
The #IHaveTheRightTo campaign launched with the airing of Prout’s interview Tuesday, encouraging participants to post a photo or short video filling in the hashtag to social media. The website for the campaign offers links to resources for survivors of sexual assault, as well as a message from Prout:
#IHaveTheRightTo find my voice and to use it when I am ready. #IHaveTheRightTo be called a survivor, not an “alleged victim” or “accuser”. #IHaveTheRightTo spend time with someone and be safe. #IHaveTheRightTo say NO and be HEARD. #IHaveTheRight to not be shamed and bullied into silence. #IHaveTheRightTo not be isolated by the crime against me or by people who want to shame me. #IHaveTheRightTo name what happened to me because being sexually assaulted is never excusable or “complicated”. There is no perfect victim. #IHaveTheRightTo be happy, sad, upset, angry, and inspired anytime during the process of my healing without being judged. But most importantly, #IHaveTheRightTo stand with you.
Angela Rose, PAVE’s founder and a survivor of sexual assault, told the Concord Monitor she was inspired by Prout and her idea to use social media to promote solidarity among survivors.
“She really is my hero,” Rose told the newspaper. “She’s bringing something positive to the internet where there’s so much cyberbullying.”
After Prout’s interview aired, people took to social media answering the 17-year-old’s call.
Today & everyday I stand with #ChessyProut (and @paveinfo) for bravely identifying herself as the survivor of the rape she experienced at St. Paul’s Prep on the @todayshow. #IHaveTheRightTo live without the fear of sexual violence. Please continue to show support by taking a picture with the hashtag #IHaveTheRightTo yourselves as well!
I’m doing my post a little late because I had work, but here’s my #IHaveTheRightTo Telling your story will never make you a “slut” or “crazy”; or whatever the naysayers have to say. You have a right to stand for yourself and for those that the justice system fails. Each and every one of you have the right to have a voice and damn well use it ???? #loudandproud #audrieanddaisy #foraudrie #staystrong
#IHaveTheRightTo trigger warnings and to have my triggers respected. Triggers can compromise the mental health of survivors, and they should be respected just as much as the survivor and their experiences. Check out the amazing work I’ll be doing with @paveinfo this semester, starting with the powerful #IHaveTheRightTo campaign at ihavetherightto.org
— PAVE (@PAVEinfo) August 30, 2016
— Alternative House (@AltHouseOrg) August 31, 2016
Chessy Prout is a remarkable, brave young woman. Thank you for sharing your story to change stigma of sexual assault #IHaveTheRightTo
— Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (@SenatorShaheen) August 30, 2016
#IHaveTheRightTo go out alone without being in fear of a stranger harassing me
— madswag (@_swagmadster) August 30, 2016
#IHaveTheRightTo tell a boy I’m simply not interested instead of resorting to saying I have a bf b/c he respects another man more than me.
— Cassie Eley (@Cassie_Eley) August 30, 2016
Prout’s public campaigning follows a year after a jury convicted Owen Labrie of three misdemeanor sexual assault charges in her case. She was a 15-year-old freshman at the time of the incident, while Labrie was 18 and a senior at the St. Paul’s School. The Harvard-bound senior, acquitted of the more serious felony aggravated rape charges, was sentenced to a year in jail. He is currently free on bail pending an appeal.