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Sexual assault survivor slams Biden’s judicial nomination – The Independent

Mar 19, 2023

Sexual assault survivor Chessy Prout has slammed a judicial nomination by President Joe Biden.

She was 15 years old when she was assaulted by an older student at St Paul’s School, an elite institution in New Hampshire in 2014.

She anonymously testified against the perpetrator, Owen Labrie, at his trial, but she and her family were still the subjects of threats. She also faced off against the school as it tried to reach a settlement in a civil suit. The school’s strategy enraged Ms Prout to such an extent that she chose to share her story with the public, according to The Boston Globe.

Despite how it changed her life, Ms Prout told the paper that she feels like it has been worth it to speak out.

The lawyer who utilised the tactic that angered Ms Prout has now been nominated to be a federal judge, prompting her to speak out yet again.

“I am determined to have some sort of good, or some sort of change, come out of all the horrible things that have happened to me and my family,” she said.

Mr Biden nominated the former New Hampshire Attorney General Michael Delaney to take a seat at the US First Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston.

Chessy Prout speaks at a Bloomberg event

(Screenshot / YouTube / Bloomberg Television)

When Mr Delaney was in private practice, he represented St Paul’s in the civil lawsuit and filed a motion rejecting Ms Prout’s request that she remain anonymous in the event that the dispute went to trial.

The strategy was controversial and criticised as being intended to force a settlement.

Ms Prout and her family ensured that the Biden White House and the senators representing New Hampshire were aware of Mr Delaney’s actions when they became aware that he was being considered for the role last year.

But Mr Biden still proceeded to nominate Mr Delaney.

“I feel like bad actors get rewarded all the time,” Ms Prout told The Globe, which reported earlier this month that the family opposition has created problems for Mr Delaney’s nomination.

“I’m pretty jaded, even at the age of 24 … but at the same time, I did have higher hopes for this White House,” she told the paper.

Ms Prout was inspired by Mr Biden’s efforts to fight sexual violence, such as the “It’s On Us” programme launched by the Obama White House in 2014 following her assault when Mr Biden was vice president.

“To see this issue be brought up in a really public and noticeable way right when I was going through this issue personally, it felt like kismet, it felt like it was meant to be,” she told The Globe. “I felt like the tides were turning.”

She added that she took part in a conference call in 2017 with Mr Biden after he left the White House during which he said he would continue to work on the issue.

Ms Prout now says she’s “extremely disappointed” by Mr Biden’s nomination of Mr Delaney.

“It is really disheartening that it’s this political party that has been so vocal about supporting survivors, and the fact that they now are throwing their wholehearted support behind a nominee who basically practiced … victim intimidation tactics,” she told The Globe.

“It just blows my mind that there isn’t a better option,” she added.

The White House said last month that the administration “expects senators to take Mr Delaney’s full record into account when considering his nomination”.

New Hampshire’s two Democratic Senators, Jeanne Shaheen and Maggie Hassan, have said they support the nomination but they also voiced support for Ms Prout, something she said is meaningless if Mr Delaney’s nomination succeeds.

“There’s so much talk you can do, there’s so many posters you can hang, so many social media posts you can do to support survivors, but that means nothing – nothing – unless you support them … in real life,” she told The Globe. “It’s been a lot of talk and not so much action.”

“I know that judge appointments are totally political and it’s all about … how many judges the president can appoint,” she added. “I just wish that it didn’t have to be this way, which is pretty naïve and idealistic of me to say.”

Mr Delaney told senators at his confirmation hearing last month his motion wasn’t intended to intimidate Ms Prout and he asked the committee to “consider the totality of my record over nearly 30 years as it reviews my qualifications”.

The Independent has reached out to the White House, Mr Delaney, Ms Hassan, and Ms Shaheen for comment.

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