Jacobean Revenge Tragedy at St. Paul’s
Feminist Issues, Owen Labrie, Sexual Assault Complaints, St. Paul's School
St. Paul graduate Owen Labrie had his admission and full scholarship to Harvard cancelled and went to trial and was convicted of a felony for arranging a liaison with a three-years-younger schoolmate via computer. Labrie will now be a felon and a registered sex offender for life. He was also sentenced to a year of imprisonment, as the result of declining to plead guilty and accept a lesser penalty.
I think it is pretty easy to form the right opinion of the justice of all of this, just by reading the New York Times‘ account of the victim’s perspective.
Appearing on a video screen, the victim of a sexual assault by an older student at one of the nationâ€™s most exclusive boarding schools asked a judge here on Thursday to make sure her assailant was held accountable for a crime that, she said, had left her numb.
â€œWhat he did to me made me feel like I didnâ€™t belong on this planet and that I would be better off dead,â€ the girl said.
She added: â€œWithout just and right punishment, I really donâ€™t know how Iâ€™ll put one foot in front of the other. I donâ€™t want to feel imprisoned for the rest of my life. I want to be safe again. And I want justice.â€
Caitlin Flanagan, in the New York Daily News, explains that the real reason Labrie’s life is being ruined is sociological.
Young men get away with treating girls badly all the time, but when it’s the poor boy on scholarship who has offended two daughters of a rich and important family and those scorned daughters are determined to get revenge, well, we are getting into the territory of the plot line of a play by Webster.
Labrie was… a star athlete â€” captain of the varsity soccer team â€” at one of the best prep schools in the country, and he was every other good thing you could be there: a prefect, an excellent student, the recipient of one of the schoolâ€™s top awards and of an admission letter to Harvard. As such, in the narrative that gathered quickly around him, he was a monster, the one-man embodiment of white male privilege.
But there was one fact about him that couldnâ€™t be reconciled with the others: He was also a poor kid on full scholarship, the only child of a single mother who says she went years without child support.
He had changed the trajectory of his life and hers when he got into St. Paulâ€™s, but he forgot the first rule of being a scholarship boy at a prep school, which is that you don’t cause any trouble to the rich kids. When he singled out the younger sister of a girl with whom heâ€™d already had a sexual relationship â€” when he created a situation that would either drive a wedge between the two girls or unite them in fury against him â€” he took his life in his hands.
â€œWhat a golden change of heart,â€ he texted the girl when she agreed, at last, to meet up with him. â€œYou took my sisterâ€™s virginity,â€ screamed the older girl the next day, giving him a shiner he wore to graduation. It would have been an excellent time to keep his mouth shut, but he couldnâ€™t help himself and he bragged about â€œslayingâ€ the younger one. …
The jury didnâ€™t like Labrie. They could not convict him of assault â€” not with the accuser saying that during the encounter she had â€œtried to seem cool,â€ had tried â€œnot to offend himâ€ â€” but the relentless scrolling of his plans and plots, typed out in Facebook messages and texts, did him in.
Heâ€™d been a cad, another old-fashioned word, but he hadnâ€™t recognized that he wasnâ€™t like the other boys, didnâ€™t have a rich father who could fly out and stop him from talking for hours to the cops without counsel.
In the time-honored manner of the only sons of single mothers, he had been trying to protect her as much as â€” maybe even more than â€” himself.
Heâ€™d seen men be callous toward women all his life â€” saw his fatherâ€™s child support go in arrears, watched as senior boys tricked younger girls for sex. It is, indeed, a custom there, the â€œsenior salute.â€
At the end of the day, all Labrie was left with were the remnants of those traditions: the herringbone jacket, the tortoise shell glasses â€” and a prison term. …
[H]e was out of his league, toying with the affections of rich girls, leaving a record of his cruelty a mile long. He got caught doing something women have always feared and loathed: tricking them, flattering them, taking sex from them and making a joke of them. And now heâ€™s been crushed for it.
Hat tip to Frank Dobbs.
The judge should have allowed Labrie the option of enlisting in the US military and avoiding trial.