A star student athlete at Phillips Exeter Academy accused of sex assault has been given an unusual punishment that advocates say could have harmed his alleged victim even more.
According to an email received by necn late Thursday afternoon, an alleged cover-up has alumni outraged.
An open letter to the Board of Trustees, essentially a petition, was signed by almost 700 Academy graduates who pledge to withhold financial support until the school makes some changes.
The explosive allegations hit newsstands this week in the Boston Globe.
A 17-year-old recent Phillips Exeter Academy graduate claims she was sexually assaulted by a fellow senior, 18-year-old Chukwudi Ikpeazu, while they were in school together last fall.
"The punishment in this case is outrageous," said Lyn Schollett, the executive director of the New Hampshire Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence.
The alleged victim says Ikpeazu touched her breasts even after she told him no.
The encounter allegedly happened inside the Phillips Church basement, so she went to the school minister first. Reverend Robert Thompson allegedly suggested Ikpeazu perform an "act of penance." The alleged victim told the Globe that instead of going to police, she let Ikpeazu bake bread and deliver it to her once a week - a solution that Schollett says was likely more traumatizing than the abuse itself.
"Forcing the victim to interact over and over with the offender is not only unjust, but quite possibly terrifying for this victim," Schollett explained.
Before graduation in June, the alleged victim went to Exeter Police - a decision she says academy leaders tried to avoid.
"We have a concern that perhaps they are more interested in public perception of the school than justice for individual victims," Schollett said.
That concern is being echoed by hundreds of Academy alumni who are pledging to withhold financial support from Phillips Exeter, signing a letter to the Board of Trustees calling this incident, "one of total systemic failure at the highest level."
Phillips Exeter Academy Spokesperson Robin Giampa issued a statement Thursday saying, in part, "We approach this investigation with humility, openness and a sincere desire to improve wherever we can in matters of student safety and well-being."
After reaching out to Rev. Thompson and Ikpeazu's lawyer, necn hasn't yet heard back from either party.
Ikpeazu will be arraigned on a misdemeanor sex assault charge in August.