I Have the Right To
A Memoir by Chessy Prout

Nearly one in five girls ages fourteen to seventeen has been the victim of a sexual assault or attempted sexual assault. This is the true story of one of those girls.

A high school survivors story of sexual assault, justice, and hope.

In 2014, Chessy Prout was a freshman at St. Paul’s school, a prestigious boarding school in New Hampshire, when a senior boy sexually assaulted her as part of a ritualized game of conquest. Chessy bravely reported her assault to the police and testified against her attacker in court. Then, in the face of unexpected backlash from her once-trusted school community, she shed her anonymity to help other survivors find their voice.

This memoir is more than an account of a horrific event. It takes a magnifying glass to the institutions that turn a blind eye to such behavior and a society that blames victims rather than perpetrators. Chessy’s story offers real, powerful solutions to upending rape culture as we know it today. Prepare to be inspired by this remarkable young woman and her story of survival, advocacy, and hope in the face of unspeakable trauma.

About The Authors

Chessy Prout
Photograph by Heather Donlan

Chessy Prout is a high school sexual assault survivor. Raised in Japan, Chessy matriculated to St. Paul’s School—a boarding school in New Hampshire that her father and sister had attended. There, as a freshman, Chessy was the victim of a sexual assault. Chessy’s case and the trial garnered national and international media attention, as her assault was part of a ritual competition at the school called "Senior Salute." Two years later, in Chessy’s pursuit of justice, she decided to step forward publicly. In August 2016 she launched the #IHaveTheRightTo initiative with the organization PAVE, for which she is an ambassador. As a PAVE ambassador, Chessy travels around the country to speak about the importance of consent education in K-12 schools; encourages survivors and others to assert their most important, basic rights; and uses her voice to let other survivors know that they are not alone. Learn more at ihavetherightto.org.

Jenn Abelson
Photograph by Heather Donlan

Jenn Abelson is a reporter for the Boston Globe Spotlight Team. Her investigations have exposed sexual assault at prep schools in New England, sexual harassment at ESPN, and sexual misconduct in the modeling industry. Jenn has also investigated surgeons secretly operating on two patients at the same time and the widespread mislabeling of fish in the restaurant industry. In 2015, she was named a Pulitzer Prize finalist for her work on “Shadow Campus,” a series about dangerous off-campus college housing. Jenn grew up on Long Island, attended Cornell University, and lives in Boston.

Media Coverage

WGN Midday News WGN Midday News interview
People magazine People magazine interview and feature
Bustle Bustle interview and feature
Cosmopolitan.com Cosmopolitan.com essay by Chessy Prout
TeenVogue.com TeenVogue.com feature
Vice.com Vice.com feature
WNYC’s The Take Away WNYC’s The Take Away interview
USA Today USA Today interview
BostonGlobe.com BostonGlobe.com excerpt reveal
Concord Monitor Concord Monitor interview and feature story
Good Morning Washington Good Morning Washington interview
Today Show book announcement Today Show book announcement
Bustle cover reveal Bustle cover reveal

Take Action

#IHaveTheRightTo is a movement that encourages people to use their voices on social media to raise awareness for issues of consent, respect, and safety, and stand together in proud support of victims of sexual violence and assault.

The #IHaveTheRightTo hashtag campaign was first created by Chessy Prout, in partnership with the nonprofit organization PAVE (Promoting Awareness | Victim Empowerment)

Chessy Prout elicits online support via hashtag #IHaveTheRightTo (TODAY Show):

Take a stand on social media with #IHaveTheRightTo.

1
Write down your #IHaveTheRightTo declaration

(Use any sheet of paper you can find, or a template here.)

Chessy with sign
2
Take a photo or short video holding your #IHaveTheRightTo sign

Need inspiration? Check out these examples.

#ihavetherightto wear what I want #ihavetherightto speak out #ihavetherightto use my voice

3
Post your photo or video to social media with the hashtag #IHaveTheRightTo

You can do this with or without showing your face. We will feature select posts in our #IHaveTheRightTo gallery below.

4
Invite your friends to participate

Use these links to invite friends:

Facebook Twitter Tumblr Email

explore #ihavetherightto

Resources

I HAVE THE RIGHT TO

I Have the Right To ihavetherightto.org

HOTLINE SUPPORT FOR SURVIVORS

National Sexual Assault hotline
1-800-656-HOPE (4673) / rainn.org

National Child Abuse Hotline
1-800-422-4453 / childhelp.org

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
1-800-273-8255 / suicidepreventionlifeline.org

LOVED ONES OF SURVIVORS

Paving the Way for Parents
pavingthewayforparents.org

TEEN DATING VIOLENCE

Love Is Respect
1-866-331-9474 / Text “loveis” to 22522 / loveisrespect.org

Break the Cycle
breakthecycle.org

Join One Love
joinonelove.org

LESBIAN, GAY, BISEXUAL

The Anti-Violence Project
212-714-1124 / avp.org

LGBT National Help Center
Hotline 1-800-246-PRIDE (7743) / glbthotline.org/chat.html

Gay Men’s Domestic Violence Project
1-800-832-1901

The Network La Red
617-742-4911 / tnlr.org

GLOBAL RESOURCES

Mukwege Foundation
mukwegefoundation.org

Rape Crisis Network of Europe
rcne.com/links/sources-of-help-for-survivors

International Rape Crisis Hotline Directories
ibiblio.org/rcip/internl.html

Overseas Citizen Services for Americans Living Abroad
1-888-407-4747 from the US or Canada; 1-202-501-4444 from overseas

ACTIVISM

Promoting Awareness/Victim Empowerment
shatteringthesilence.org

It’s On Us
itsonus.org

EROC
endrapeoncampus.org

No More
nomore.org

Survivor Love Letters
survivorloveletter.tumblr.com

Joyful Heart Foundation
joyfulheartfoundation.org

Know Your IX
knowyourix.org

Stop Sexual Assault in High Schools
stopsexualassaultinschools.org
Educating students, families, and schools about the right to an equal education free from sexual harassment.

ENGAGING BOYS AND MEN TO END SEXUAL ASSAULT

ReThink
we-rethink.org

Men Can Stop Rape
mencanstoprape.org

Consent Is Campaign
consentis.org

TRANS+ SURVIVORS AND LOVED ONES

Forge
414-559-2123 / forge-forward.org

MALE SURVIVORS

1in6
Online chat support and online peer support group for men who have had unwanted or abusive sexual experiences at 1in6.org

Male Survivor
malesurvivor.org

MILITARY SEXUAL ASSAULT

Safe Helpline
877-995-5247 / safehelpline.org

Protect Our Defenders
protectourdefenders.com

DOMESTIC VIOLENCE

National Domestic Violence Hotline
1-800-799-7233 / ndvh.org

National Coalition Against Domestic Violence State Coalitions
ncadv.org/stay-connected/state-coalitions

CRIMINAL JUSTICE

SurvJustice
202-869-0699 / survjustice.org

National Crime Victim Law Institute
law.lclark.edu

It Happened To Alexa Foundation
ithappenedtoalexa.org

Office of Victim Services
www.jud.ct.gov/Publications/vs030.pdf

POLICY

National Alliance to End Sexual Violence
endsexualviolence.org

Bipartisan Task Force to End Sexual Violence
www.BipartisanTaskforce.com

Erin’s Law
erinslaw.org

Together for Girls
togetherforgirls.org

CHILDHOOD SEXUAL ABUSE

National Children’s Advocacy Center
nationalcac.org
The NCAC models, promotes, and delivers excellence in child abuse response and prevention through service, education, and leadership.

Darkness to Light
d2l.org
Nonprofit committed to empowering adults to prevent child sexual abuse.

DOCUMENTARIES

Hunting Ground
thehuntinggroundfilm.com
Exposé of rape culture on college campuses.

Audrie and Daisy
audrieanddaisy.com
Documentary following three cases of sexual assault and revictimization taking place in high schools across the country.

BREAKING THE SILENCE

Watch on iTunes
Shines a light on the challenging journey faced by those affected by child sexual abuse, and offers useful information where people can turn for help.

DOWNLOADABLE POSTER

Write down your #IHaveTheRightTo declaration using this template Downloadable Poster

For Educators

"Brave, important, and unforgettable, Chessy Prout’s compelling story of her personal survival from sexual assault is a must read for teens, parents, and educators alike; I Have the Right To demands and deserves the right for a place on classroom and library bookshelves everywhere."
—Dr. Rose Brock, College of Education, Sam Houston State University

Educator GuideDownload the I Have the Right To educator guide for classroom, library, or reading group use.

Author Availability for School Visits

Chessy Prout
Chessy’s speaking engagements include moderated panels, Q&A, and short-to-medium length speeches for audiences of every kind. Specializing in topics such as: her book, youth and female empowerment, middle and high school relationships, and educational safety from a student’s perspective. To request a school or library appearance, please email us or complete the online form.
Jenn Abelson
Jenn Abelson is available for in-person events, conferences, panels, online chats, and virtual visits with students in grades 6-12, educator and adult audiences. Jenn can speak on the topics of investigating sexual misconduct, her life as a journalist and path to becoming part of the Boston Globe’s Spotlight Team, and how to tell important stories. To request an appearance, please email us or complete the online form.
For more information about guidelines and honorariums, please consult the
Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing author appearance kit.

RESOURCE FOR PARENTS FROM SUSAN AND ALEX PROUT

Adapted from letter in the backmatter of I Have the Right To

There is no road map for victims and families surviving sexual assault. And there is no one way to prepare for a traumatic life event or sexual assault, just as there is no way to prepare for the effects of a devastating earthquake or a life-threatening illness.

In the aftermath of Chessy’s assault, we made some good decisions with careful thought, and other actions we took were made by chance—like not questioning Chessy when she called late that night about why she went with Owen Labrie, or demanding to know why she didn’t tell us sooner. We told her we loved her and we would get through this together, one step at a time. Of course, her older sister Lucy had said the most important words of all, right from the start: It’s not your fault. That her sister knew to respond that way was a blessing, pure and simple.

FIND A SUPPORT NETWORK

In the aftermath of trauma, it is critical to find people who will listen, love, and support you. It took us two years to find and speak to another survivor’s parent, and learn about the commonalities all survivors and their families face. The shame confronting many survivors is isolating, and can extend to the family of survivors, affecting every aspect of your lives, from where you live, work, and send your children to school, as you are trying to seek justice and healing.

We tightened and reworked our network of support. We will always be indebted to our family, old friends, several teachers, and other sexual assault survivors who became our new friends and perhaps most inspiring community. We relied heavily on members of our children’s school community in Naples and were grateful for their support.

UNDERSTAND THE CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM

We were given good advice by Chessy’s counselor in Naples not to rely on the criminal justice system for healing, because that was beyond our control.

Laws differ state by state in terms of how crimes are defined and what victims’ rights are. We immersed ourselves in New Hampshire laws surrounding sexual assault and the court process we would potentially face.

So much depends on the attitudes of the police and district attorney in handling sexual assault cases. The Concord authorities cared about what happened to Chessy, about sexual assault crimes, about high school students in their city, as did the district attorney involved. But we didn’t know what they would make of it, and let them do their jobs but remained very engaged in the process, calling, e-mailing, and asking questions.

WHAT WE WISHED WE KNEW

While we knew a lot of information about St. Paul’s academics, sports, and ideals of serving the world, in hindsight, we didn’t really know anything of the daily culture even after having a child attend for three years.

Looking back, we are painfully reminded of the questions we didn’t ask when we sent our daughters to St. Paul’s School, and the assumptions we made:

  • That our daughters’ bodies would be respected and that they had complete control over their sexual interactions and environment.
  • That the school recognized it was important to teach its students how to treat one another, and enforced violations of these standards.
  • That female students are as important to the community as male students.

Those assumptions and unasked questions have had a huge impact on all our lives. We learned the answers in the hardest way possible.

We encourage parents and guardians to take the time to learn what lies beneath the veneer of any institution—whether it’s a boarding school, college, or summer program. Ask the questions we wish we had asked: What traditions does the school culture hold near and dear? How many sexual assaults are reported? What training is provided to administrators, teachers, and coaches? What support is available to victims?

TALK TO YOUR CHILDREN

Sex is a part of the school curriculum, whether it’s official or not: jokes, teasing, social media, and real pressures—along with devastatingly criminal games of sexual conquest and predation. Parents must have conversations with boys and girls from a young age about what consent and healthy relationships mean. It’s not enough to wait for schools to take the lead.

The conversation has to be shifted away from blaming the victim: Why did you drink too much? Why did you go with him? What were you wearing? Instead, we need to talk about changing the behaviors of the perpetrators. In particular, mothers and fathers need to talk to their sons about respect, entitlement, and consent.

We have grappled throughout this journey with how to explain sexual assault in age-appropriate ways to Chessy’s younger sister, Christianna. She was just seven when her sister was assaulted, and we had never discussed sex or sexual assault at that point. It has been very important to us as parents to convey what Chessy experienced and how her sister has struggled and fought to regain a sense of control over her life.

We started with “a young man at school hurt your sister, and the authorities are asking him to take responsibility.” But suffice to say, we were so encouraged by her role in coming up with the #IHaveTheRightTo initiative, and her simple statement: “Sounds like it’s time for a girls’ bill of rights!” It’s a good step in the right direction. The conversation is ongoing.

SUPPORT SURVIVORS

Be there, be present for the survivors in your life.

Some days, it has been easy to figure out what to do to support Chessy. We tried to show her in words and action that her family’s love for her is stronger than the hateful crime against her, against her body.

We bound ourselves together with the things that make Chessy tick and make her an integral part of our family dynamic of three daughters: her incredible love of all kinds of music, food, her sense of humor and distinctive laughter; her encyclopedic knowledge of funny YouTube videos and pop culture; her love of sports, all things Japanese, babies and children, and puppies. Her ever-growing and inquisitive faith. And, more recently, we’ve had much discourse on the political landscape with our children, to engage them in their futures, and what kind of world they want to live in.

Other days, it was and is still difficult to know what to do to help ease her pain, except be with her. Or nearby. We are not perfect and are certainly not experts in any way—just parents who love their children. The journey after sexual assault to survivorship is jagged, not linear. At this stage of our lives, we depend on love and faith to guide us and hold us together. And we continue to educate ourselves on how rape culture thrives and ways to combat it.

KNOW THAT YOU ARE NOT ALONE

No one wants to believe it can happen to them, to their child, sister, mother, aunt, friend. We understand that, and also had that mind-set. But the fact is quite different. It has happened to someone close to you. But they have remained silent, like so many other victims.

To teens and survivors, we parents are often not perfect—but we can be a good place to start. Communicating with a trusted teacher, an adult in your church or religious community, a mature friend, or older sibling can make all the difference. You are not alone, nor should you be. You deserve love, compassion, and support.

You deserve information on what your options are to move forward. Gather more information, not less. Call your local rape crisis center. Find out about the statute of limitations. In many places, you can get a rape kit test done now and decide later whether you want to pursue the case in criminal court.

Every victim and circumstances are unique. Every family’s experience is unique. Everyone has a story, and they are all a little different—but this is what motivates us to shine a light, to recognize you are not alone in searching for your right to justice and healing.