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Advocates petition ABC to cancel airing of Owen Labrie interview

  • FILE - In this Feb. 21, 2017, file photo, Owen Labrie looks at his family during a break on the first day of a hearing in Concord, N.H., on whether he deserves a new trial. Labrie, a New Hampshire prep school graduate convicted of sexually assaulting a 15-year-old classmate, is set to be released from jail, Monday, June 24, 2019, for good behavior. (Geoff Forester/The Concord Monitor via AP, Pool, File)



Concord Monitor
Monday, July 22, 2019

Victim advocacy organizations in New Hampshire and nationally are calling for ABC’s Good Morning America to cancel its interview with convicted sex offender Owen Labrie, less than a month after his release from jail.

The New Hampshire Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence kicked-off its social media campaign last week, the morning after ABC teased the interview with Labrie during a commercial break of its prime-time dating show The Bachelorette.

“Why is ABC giving convicted rapist Owen Labrie a platform to claim his innocence? As the judge in his case stated, Owen is ‘a very good liar.’ As Owen stated himself: ‘you deny until you die.’ #MeToo #NOMORE #OwenLabrie #IHaveARightTo,” a portion of the coalition’s tweet read.

That tweet and a series of other social media posts began a conversation that quickly caught the attention of national victims rights groups including Promoting Awareness Victim Empowerment (PAVE), National Network to End Domestic Violence, End Rape On Campus, National Sexual Violence Resource Center, NO MORE, and Love is Respect. In addition to those organizations, coalitions in Mississippi, Montana and Colorado; several New Hampshire survivors; U.S. Rep. Annie Kuster and state representatives continue to weigh in with their own posts and calls for the network to rethink its decision.

The taped interview with Labrie was advertised July 15 to air on Good Morning America on July 18 but never did. When contacted by the Concord Monitor, a publicity manager at ABC news declined to comment Friday about why the interview did not air as advertised. The network also would not say whether the interview will air at a future date and, if so, when.

Labrie was convicted in 2015 of sexually assaulting a 15-year-old freshman at St. Paul’s School in Concord as part of the “Senior Salute,” a game of sexual conquest in which upperclassmen competed for intimate encounters with younger pupils. A jury found him guilty of using a computer to pursue the girl in spring 2014. He also was convicted of misdemeanor statutory rape and endangering the welfare of a child, but acquitted of felony-level sexual assault.

A year after the high-profile trial, survivor Chessy Prout came forward publicly on NBC’s Today show for the first time.

She has since published a memoir, I Have the Right To: A High School Survivor’s Story of Sexual Assault, Justice, and Hope, which gives readers an unfiltered look into her assault, the criminal trial and her decision to go public. Prout told the Concord Monitor in March 2016, days before the book’s release, that she hoped the memoir would not only aid in her own healing process but let other young survivors know that “our voices matter, and we deserve to be heard.”

In a statement Friday, her parents, Alex and Susan Prout, said they’re thankful to those who have taken a stand against ABC’s Labrie interview.

“As she always does, Chessy sees it through the lens of every survivor and, even in her angriest moments, she’s thinking about what’s best for others and for the movement,” the Prouts said. “There is rarely justice for a victim of sexual assault, which is why it’s all the more shocking that ABC made the decision to give a just-released convicted sex offender free airtime and prime-time publicity.”

“Imagine that you’re innocently watching the Bachelorette and out of nowhere images of your convicted perpetrator appear and the words ‘he maintains his innocence and says their relationship was consensual’ airs in a promo for Good Morning America​​​​,” they continued. “It’s appalling, twisted and shocking that in 2019 survivors are still putting up with this nonsense.”

Dozens of people wrote on the coalition’s Facebook posts that they had called ABC or written letters to voice their concerns about the upcoming interview and request that it be canceled indefinitely.

The Prouts and the coalition said airing the interview would contribute to a culture that silences victims and minimizes convicted perpetrators’ crimes.

“Sexual assault is already one of the most underreported crimes in our society,” said Amanda Grady Sexton, the coalition’s director of public affairs. “Airing this interview sends the message to victims that even after you find the strength to come forward, endure the criminal justice process and justice is finally served, the convicted predator will still be celebrated, valued and given the opportunity to discredit your experience.”

Susan and Alex said their daughter should not have to see the case re-adjudicated on national television.

“Even when there is justice, there’s still a lifetime of healing and trauma for survivors,” they said. “Why should Chessy or any other victim have to speak or answer to what their perpetrators say?

“We hope the pressure on the network continues, not just for Chessy’s sake, but for all victims.”