An elite boarding school is accused of allowing a track star to bake bread for a female student as penance for sexually assaulting her in the church’s basement. The school told the girl that since there was no penetration, she should not call the police and instead take the cinnamon monkey bread the male student would bake for her weekly as penance and offer forgiveness.
The Daily Mail reports that 17-year-old Michaella Henry was sexually assaulted in a church basement at the elite boarding school Phillips Exeter Academy. The teenage girl was reportedly groped on the breasts and buttocks by the track star Chukwudi Ikpeazu last October. Following the unwanted sexual assault, Henry reported the incident to school officials.
A Phillips Exeter student said she was assaulted. Her alleged attacker’s punishment was to bake her bread. https://t.co/v9GCwpHOa2
— The Boston Globe (@BostonGlobe) July 13, 2016
Michaella claims that she suffered from panic attacks following the incident, and after two months of struggling to deal with her emotions, she finally agreed to meet with the school’s minister and her assaulter. The teen says that she met with Reverend Robert Thompson and Chukwudi “Chudi” Ikpeazu in the church, where they discussed what had happened. Michaella notes that Chudi did not deny the allegations and admitted to groping her against her consent. However, instead of reporting the incident to police, Michaella says that Reverend Thompson encouraged her to accept monkey bread baked by the offender on a weekly basis.
The teen was praised for her acceptance of the bread by the minister who allegedly told her that she “did a great service for Chudi. You gave him an opportunity to express his regret and to take responsibility for what he had done.” However, the Phillips Exeter Academy student says that the weekly penance bread delivered by Chudi only made things harder.
“I was so ashamed of it. I was being reminded once a week that he assaulted me.”
According to the Boston Globe, Michaella’s parents were not informed of the sexual assault incident. The teen says that she later learned that Chudi may have been involved in other sexual assaults in the church basement and that the school should have known about the other incidents. When speaking with a friend, Michaella learned that Chudi had groped another girl in the basement and that “if you’re a girl doing work alone in a church basement, it means you’re willing to have sex with someone.”
— The Boston Globe (@BostonGlobe) July 13, 2016
Realizing there was an ongoing history of assault in the basement by Chudi, the girls went to A.J. Cosgrove, dean of residential life, and Melissa Mischke, dean of students, to report the incidents that took place. The deans thanked them for coming forward and scheduled a meeting. However, Michaella says she realized the school wasn’t on her side when she was informed that there was “good news” about her assault by Cosgrove.
“The good news is you don’t have to report this to the police because there was no penetration.”
The school official had informed the girls there was no need to get the police involved because penetration did not take place. The school detailed that what Chudi did was “sexual harassment” according to school policy so did not need to be reported to police like “sexual assault.” Therefore, Michaella says that Reverend Thomas approached her about “what she wants” from Chudi as penance. The teen says she joked about wanting to try the athlete’s monkey bread because he was known around campus for making delicious baked goods. She says the reverend immediately seized the opportunity to close the sexual harassment case by having Chudi agree to bake Michaella a large order of monkey bread each week, free of charge.
When Michaella’s mother was finally informed of the assault, she says she was furious but was scared to make a big deal out of it as her child was under the school’s care and she didn’t want them to retaliate against her.
“I was beside myself. But I didn’t want Exeter to retaliate against her either. You don’t know what to do. My child was in their care. I was worried about her life.”
Eventually, dean Mischke contacted Michaella’s mother via email to let her know that she and dean Cosgrove were not thrilled with the bread penance and thought it was doing more harm than good.
“This actually was more harmful than good since it caused Chudi and Michaella to intersect on campus more regularly than necessary and did not really serve to rebuild anything. Dean Cosgrove and I were disappointed to learn of this arrangement.”
Despite being unhappy with the penance, the deans reportedly did nothing to Chudi, and eventually the bread deliveries stopped. Meanwhile, Exeter was under media scrutiny when it was uncovered that teachers from the school had engaged in sexual misconduct with students, leading to the resignation of a beloved teacher who had admitted to relations with two female students and the firing of a second teacher who admitted to sexual misconduct with a student decades ago. Administrators were blasted for failing to report the misconduct to authorities and parents.
Michaella says she was immediately enraged as the focus was on incidents that happened in the past and disregarded the students suffering from sexual misconduct in the present. Therefore, the teen decided to report the incident to police. However, she says that the school who was charged with her care told her that she should speak with school investigators instead and to stop spreading rumors about Chudi if they couldn’t be proven. Michaella says they were proven and that two deans were present when Chudi admitted to the misconduct. However, her pleas were not heard, and she made the bold decision to call Exeter police. Michaella secretly met with an investigator at a nearby coffee shop that she walked to on foot.
The investigators staged an intervention and the girl was picked up by an unmarked police car behind the coffee shop just two weeks after filing her report. She was taken to the Child Advocacy Center of Rockingham County in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and the police are now investigating how Exeter Academy handles sexual assault claims and what can be done to ensure students are protected in the future.
— Jason Schreiber (@Schreibernews) July 13, 2016
Since the report, police have confirmed that there is enough evidence to move forward with sexual assault charges against Chudi. He has been charged with misdemeanor sexual assault and is free on $5,000 personal recognizance bail following his arrest in early June. He is slated to appear in court for his charges next month.
What do you think of Michaella’s harrowing story and the Phillips Exeter Academy’s response to the sexual assault claims? Should the school be punished for not reporting the alleged sexual crimes?
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