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Owen Labrie expected to testify in the prep school rape trial

The case has revealed a controversial tradition at the elite New Hampshire school. 

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Owen Labrie listens to testimony in Merrimack County Superior Court Tuesday, in Concord, N.H. Mr. Labrie is charged with raping a 15-year-old freshman as part of the 'Senior Salute,' a practice of sexual conquest at the prestigious St. Paul's School in Concord.

Jim Cole/AP

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Owen Labrie, who prosecutors say raped a 15-year-old girl on the grounds of the elite St. Paul's school in Concord, N.H., will testify as early as Wednesday. The trial has thus far brought to light a campus tradition of sexual conquest as rite of passage, and the spectacle alleged victims face when going through the justice system.

The "senior salute" is a St. Paul's tradition, several students have testified, in which graduating students extend invitations to get together with underclassmen, often for sexual purposes, and is seen as a kind of competition of who can "score" the most encounters before graduation.

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One of Mr. Labrie's peers testified that Labrie initially told friends "with a smirk on his face" that he did not have sex with his accuser, but later told him privately that he did.

Labrie, of Tunbridge, Vt., is charged with three felonies, each carrying a sentence of up to 20 years in prison. Prosecutors say he was 18 years old and two days shy of graduating last year when he raped a classmate as part of Senior Salute. The defense says the two had consensual sexual contact.

Last week, Labrie's accuser testified that she twice told him "no" during their encounter and that she felt "frozen" when he became aggressive.

The alleged victim, now 16, last week testified that she had expected to kiss Labrie when she accepted his invitation but no more. She said she did not immediately report the incident as a rape because she did not want to create a scene at a time when her family was at the school for her older sister's graduation.

"I was not about to make this weekend about me," she said. "That was too selfish, that was the thought in my head."

According to the rector at St. Paul’s school, Michael Hirschfeld, the school has brought in a variety of experts and educators over the past year to address issues ranging from substance abuse to violence prevention, The Christian Science Monitor previously reported. In addition, “students have examined and questioned the ‘relationship culture’ ... through their work with the Center for the Study of Boys’ and Girls’ Lives,” Mr. Hirschfeld wrote in a letter to parents June 10. “Living respectfully with one another is a value that needs to be continually taught and nurtured in this community.”

This report contains material from the Associated Press and Reuters.