I Have the Right To: A High School Survivor’s Story of Sexual Assault, Justice, and Hope, by Chessy Prout (ages 13-18)

With the news cycle focusing on Christine Blasey Ford, the woman who accused Judge Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her when they were teenagers, I’ve been thinking about consent and rape culture, especially with high schoolers. This summer I listened to Chessy Prout’s powerful memoir

I Have the Right To: A High School Survivor’s Story of Sexual Assault, Justice, and Hope
by Chessy Prout, with Jenn Abelson
read by Chessy Prout
Simon & Schuster Audio / Margaret K. McElderry, 2018
Amazon / Your local library / OverDrive audiobook preview
ages 13-18

As a freshman at St. Paul’s School in New Hampshire, Chessy Prout was sexually assaulted by an upperclassman. In her raw and honest memoir, Prout shares her experience of assault and the subsequent journey with the tumultuous trial, media attention and search for healing and change.

At the end of her freshman year, a senior by the name of Owen Labrie lured and assaulted Chessy as part of a “Senior Salute” ritual at the school. Prout has cowritten her account with journalist Abelson. I especially appreciated the way she shares about her life before and after the rape, providing context for her experience both at school and with the legal system.

As I read this, I was particularly angered by the way the school resisted Chessy’s search for justice. The case was turned over to the police and the public defender, and Chessy did find important allies. But I was struck by how the legal system does not help our young people find the resolution they need. She was  I so wish that Chessy’s school and community had used Restorative Justice practices.

I’ve been inspired by The Restorative Justice Project at Impact Justice. This practice helps communities “address harm through dialogue among those most impacted. Restorative justice brings together those who have harmed, their victims, and affected community members into processes that repair harms and rebuild relationships.”

Chessy narrates the audiobook, balancing clarity with personal feelings, giving voice to her experience. She conveys her commitment to activism and justice for those who have experienced sexual assault.

I recommend this memoir for both middle schools and high schools, as an important component raising awareness about the importance for consent. Today, I was struck by the podcast The Daily, which interviewed Caitlin Flanagan, a writer for The Atlantic, about her assault in high school. What’s especially notable is that the high school boy apologized to Ms. Flanagan two years after he assaulted her, asking for forgiveness. This enabled her to move beyond this traumatic event.

Chessy’s memoir has an important place in the debate today around sexual assault, consent and our justice system. Please share this with teens in your lives. I highly recommend I Have the Right To for both middle schoolers (especially 8th graders getting ready for high school) and high schoolers. I think that many 13 and 14 year olds are ready to explore the emotional complexities and realities that Chessy describes. The review copy came from my local library, through OverDrive. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2018 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books