×

At Concord Sexual Assault Panel, Advocates Encourage Communication and Prevention

  • U.S. Rep. Annie Kuster thanks Chessy Prout for speaking out during "Voices for Change: A Conversation about ending sexual violence in NH," a panel discussion at University of New Hampshire Law School, in Concord on Monday, April 17, 2017. Prout and Kuster were among the panelists. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff)

  • U.S. Rep. Annie Kuster speaks during a panel titled "Voices for Change: A Conversation about ending sexual violence in NH" at the University of New Hampshire Law School in Concord on Monday, April 17, 2017. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff)

  • Panelists clap with the audience for Chessy Prout (second from left) near the end of a panel discussion titled "Voices for Change: A Conversation about ending sexual violence in NH" at the University of New Hampshire Law School in Concord on Monday, April 17, 2017. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff)



Concord Monitor
Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Statistics on sexual violence are overwhelming, with 1 out of 4 women reporting they’ve experienced it.

One out of 20 men have reported the same thing.

But the vast majority of assaults go unreported. On college campuses across the country, 90 percent of sexual assault victims don’t report, according to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center.

It’s a standard New Hampshire Democratic Rep. Annie Kuster has taken a strong stance against over the past year. Kuster has been public about her own experiences with sexual assault, starting when she was a student at Dartmouth College, an institution she called out at a panel discussion on Monday at the University of New Hampshire Law School in Concord.

“There’s a problem on that campus,” Kuster said. “As an alumni, I’ve spoken up. If someone was being physically harmed, beat up at an institution you were paying $60,000 a year for, you wouldn’t put up with that; no one would expect you to.”

While awareness in advocacy is growing, sexual assault and domestic violence experts say there is still a lot of change that needs to happen within institutions, including high schools and colleges, sports teams and the military.

Sometimes, a culture change can start with simply asking a question, said survivor Chessy Prout, who was sexually assaulted while attending St. Paul’s School in Concord.

Prout recalled she was a shy student at school, always nervous to ask questions in her classes. But after her assault and the long trial that followed, Prout said, she learned that she and other survivors should never be afraid to ask questions and speak out.

“Don’t accept the status quo,” Prout said. “I did that for too long at St. Paul’s School.”

Not anymore, she added.

“Some things, I just won’t accept them anymore,” Prout said in a steady voice. “I’m tired of being silenced and ashamed.”

Kuster, Prout and New Hampshire advocates spoke at length about legislation and other steps being taken to make it easier to report and prosecute sexual assaults and to prevent them from happening in the first place.

Last year, Congress passed the Survivors Bill of Rights Act, which then-President Barack Obama signed into law. The legislation established statutory rights in federal law for survivors of sexual assault and rape and changed the way rape kits are processed, protecting them from being destroyed early.

Kuster and three other lawmakers also recently announced the creation of a bipartisan task force to end sexual violence.