Flawed system is on full display
Maybe there’s no better solution. Maybe this is the way it has to be, but what a 16-year-old girl endured in a Concord courtroom on Thursday in the name of justice says nothing good about our society.
The 16-year-old girl has accused a former student at the prestigous St. Paul’s School in Concord, 19-year-old Owen Labrie, of raping her in a secluded room at the school. She was 15 at the time and prosecutors say Labrie, a Vermont resident who was days away from graduating, was participating in something called the "Senior Salute," a contest among seniors who try to have sex with younger classmates.
J.W. Carney Jr., Labrie’s lead defense attorney, pulled no punches when he questioned the girl. They talked about oral sex and other equally graphic and personal areas. And according to several media reports, the young girl was not completely intimidated. She fought back, telling Carney at one point, "I was raped. I was violated in so many ways. Of course I was traumatized. I’m sorry."
This has only gotten harder for victims of sexual assault. A case like this one generates more media attention than it once might have and the ugly details are spread further and faster than ever before. The case has received national attention from more than just the New York Times. It’s everywhere, thanks largely to the setting at St. Paul’s School, an elite prep school that boasts alumni of the highest profile, including Pulitzer Prize winners, senators and Nobel laureates.
The attention has grown so intense that the girl’s parents asked the judge on Thursday to bar reporters and others from broadcasting and tweeting from inside the courtroom. The judge didn’t rule on using Twitter but said only approved pool photographers could record and broadcast, and that bailiffs would confiscate other recording equipment.
Not only does everyone know exactly how she says she was violated, they know in real-time.
But it was an exchange between the teenager and a prosecutor – as described by the New York Times – that drove home a small part of what she and other rape victims endure:
"Finally, Mr. Carney said he had no further questions.
"The accuser was left standing alone, behind her microphone, covering her face as her sobs filled the courtroom. As she left the stand, still in tears, she could be heard telling a prosecutor, ‘I’m so sorry.’"
Amanda Grady-Sexton, an advocate and lobbyist for the New Hampshire Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence, summed things up succinctly with, of all things, a tweet.
"People often ask advocates why victims of rape don’t report," she wrote. "This. This is why."
We’re the ones who should all be sorry.