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The coverup of my sexual assault at St. Paul’s School: novelist Lacy Crawford

The coverup of my sexual assault at St. Paul’s School: novelist Lacy Crawford

“I went and told my parents about the sexual assault. Mom and Dad called the school, worried and deeply upset, and assumed that the people they spoke to would share their concern: two boys on campus had assaulted their girl.” – Lacy Crawford

Novelist Lacy Crawford attended St. Paul’s School in the late 1980s and early 1990s. She writes of her sexual assault at age 15 at the hands of two seniors on the boy’s lacrosse team, and the school’s response, in a recent issue of Vanity Fair and her in new memoir Notes on a Silencing.

St. Paul’s in Concord, New Hampshire is an elite Episcopal boarding school. It first admitted girls in 1971. The “Senior Salute” trial of Owen Labrie triggered an investigation of sexual assault on campus confirming a widespread pattern of sexual assault and administrative coverups.

From the book jacket:

With her criminal case file reopened, she saw for the first time evidence that corroborated her memories. Here were depictions of the naïve, hardworking girl she’d been, a chorister and debater, the daughter of a priest; of the two senior athletes who assaulted her and were allowed to graduate with awards; and of the faculty, doctors, and priests who had known about Crawford’s assault and gone to great lengths to bury it.
From Vanity Fair:
Only a fool walked into what I had walked into. In my memory of the night, which I experienced in strobes—bright still shots rather than a running tape—I saw myself held against one damp crotch by the arms of the other man. Disposable, flimsy. A damsel, a whore. I hated the girl who had done those things. The last thing I would do was align myself with her needs. I did not think I deserved to get better, but I was a girl with a firm sense of doom. Whatever was going on with my throat was only going to get worse—I could lose the ability to swallow; I could suffocate—and I needed help to make it stop.
The pediatrician [employed by the school] did not talk to me about herpes simplex virus, those “herpetic lesions” meant to be treated with Zovirax. Had he done so, I’d have been floored. Herpes was an STD, and STDs were acquired through sex, and I had not had sex. He did not tell me and he did not tell my parents and he did not tell my doctors. Not then and not ever. That “outpatient report” he referred to from the ENT in Concord was never shown to me or to anyone who cared for me, and it is now lost to time—or, as documents would come to suggest, to more pointed interventions.
The coverup:

School leadership talked to people about me. They had conversations with students, but not with my friends. They talked to the school psychologist, the school’s lawyer, and the physician in the infirmary. I do not know the substance of these conversations, but in the third week of May, the school psychologist, Reverend S., Vice Rector Bill Mathews, and the rector, Kelly Clark, sat down with the school’s legal counsel and arrived at the formal conclusion that, despite what I had claimed, and despite the statutory laws on the books in their state, the encounter between me and the boys had been consensual. They also concluded that they would not abide by state law and report the incident to the police. The authorities were not notified. They remained in the dark.

The boys were informed about the diagnosis of STDs before she was:

The school never said anything to me. They did, however, apparently find reason to enlighten my schoolmates about one thing. Before we all left campus that spring, a vice rector sat down with members of the boys’ varsity lacrosse team and told them that he didn’t want to ask any questions, but if any of them had ever been intimate with Lacy Crawford, he should go to the infirmary right away to get checked out.

I have been told that this happened both on the lacrosse field and in a teacher’s apartment. Where was I, at that moment? Certainly not at the infirmary. I still thought my throat hurt because I was a bad person who had done a terrible thing. Even once I found out a few months later about the vice rector’s bit of patriarchal counsel to his boys, I did not do the math to arrive at the realization made by a detective investigating the school more than 25 years after the fact: “So the students knew about the herpes before you did.”

Read the whole thing.

Related coverage from the Episcopal Cafe:

St. Paul’s School enters agreement with N.H. A.G. over child abuse

St. Paul’s School reports a history of staff sexual abuse of students

The school said it “lacks knowledge or information sufficient to form a belief” as to whether the girl was sexually assaulted by Labrie.

Court filing: St. Paul’s parents helped fund Owen Labrie’s defense

Rev. Howard White accused again, this time at St. Paul’s School

A practice called “the senior salute” encourages young men to pursue sexual conquest as part of the culture of the school.


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Eric Bonetti

Sadly, this approach is still the modus operandi for much misconduct within TEC. Deny, dismiss, blame the person who brought up the matter in the first place. And if you are forced to deal with the matter, deal with it behind closed doors, then decree the whole matter confidential.

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