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St. Paul's School Rape Trial: Accuser Tells Court 'I Felt Like I Couldn't Say No'

"I didn’t want to believe that this was happening to me," the girl said under questioning from Deputy Merrimack County Attorney Catherine Ruffle.
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A 16-year-old girl who says she was raped at a prestigious New Hampshire prep school returned to the witness stand on Wednesday, recounting a secret date with an older boy that turned suddenly aggressive.

The girl described her confusion as he groped her in secluded room of a campus building at St. Paul's School in Concord, New Hampshire in May 2014. "I felt like I was frozen," she said through tears as she described the accused, Owen Labrie, kissing and biting her and trying to pull down her underwear.

As the groping continued, she said, "I felt like I had no control. I felt like I couldn’t say no."

A little later, the girl said, she did say no. But as the alleged attack continued, she said she tried to zone out, looking at the ceiling and trying to ignore the pain. That continued through what she described as unwanted sexual intercourse, she said.

"I didn’t want to believe that this was happening to me," the girl said under questioning from Deputy Merrimack County Attorney Catherine Ruffle.

The girl picked up where she left off Tuesday, when she began her testimony, saying that the encounter at the school was set in motion by a surprise email invitation from Labrie to explore off-limits parts of campus. She said she accepted the date request to be part of a school tradition called "senior salute," in which upper classmen pursued younger students in the days before graduation.

The "senior salute" is expected to play a significant role in the trial, with prosecutors arguing that it was the basis for Labrie's alleged luring of the girl, and defense lawyers saying it helped to show the encounter was consensual.

Labrie, a housing dorm prefect who said he planned to become a minister, is charged with three counts of aggravated felony sex assault, four counts of misdemeanor sex assault, endangering the welfare of a child and using a computer to lure her to meet him via email and Facebook.

The girl, a freshman at the time, declined — but she says she was persuaded by a mutual friend to reconsider. She and Labrie met after dark on May 30 at the Lindsay Center for Mathematics and Science.

"I thought if anything he might try to kiss me," the girl testified. "I thought, 'Okay, I might get to see a cool place and maybe we’ll kiss but that’s all."

But after a brief time on the building's rooftop, he led her into a dark room, where, she said, the attack took place.

It started with kissing, then quickly moved on to more sexual conduct, which she described in detail, crying at some points and at others sounding angry. She said she did not realize they were having sexual intercourse until after it was already happening.

She acknowledged that she did not protest or try to get him off of her. "I felt like I had objected as much as I felt I could at the time," she said. "Other than that, I felt powerless and weak that I couldn’t do anything else."

Labrie, 19, has told police he did not have intercourse with her, and that their encounter was consensual. He has told police that he put on a condom but experienced a "moment of divine inspiration" and stopped himself from going any farther.

He will take the stand later in the trial.

His defense lawyer, Jay Carney, has said the email and Facebook messages between the girl and Labrie show she was a willing participant.

In an apparent attempt to head off that line of questioning, Ruffle had the girl read the exchanges aloud in court and explain why she wrote them.

Her messages to him were not accusatory, and at times seemed playful, as she asked if he would keep the encounter a secret and whether he wore a condom. At times they shared French terms of endearment, like mon chere.

Toward the end of the evening's exchange, Labrie told her on a Facebook message, "You’re a gem. Let me know if there’s anything I can do."

The girl replied, "You’re not too bad yourself."

The girl testified that she was trying to be polite and avoid retaliation. And she said the messages masked what she was actually feeling: scared, vulnerable and that she was somehow to blame.

"I wanted control in a situation where I completely lost control," she testified. "I wanted to tell myself I had the control of the situation. 'I can make it better. I can do this, it's all on me.'"

The girl also testified to passing up potential opportunities to tell friends, and a school nurse, that the felt she'd been assaulted.

"I didn’t want to say anything because I knew they would have to take a legal action," she recalled. "I wasn’t sure I wanted to do that yet. I wasn’t sure I wanted to bring that upon another human being. And I still felt like it was my fault."

Carney began to cross-examine the girl on Wednesday, making several attempts to counter her earlier portrayals of Labrie and her expectations of their meeting.

The girl acknowledged under questioning that she'd told a police detective that before the encounter Labrie was "always very nice to me."

Carney also presented a transcript of the detective's interview of the girl's closest friend. In that transcript, the friend quoted the girl as saying said she might allow certain sex acts.

The girl said she didn't recall saying that.