I heard recently that Daisy Coleman, who was in the 2016 documentary Audrie & Daisy, had died by suicide. I had first watched the film a couple of years ago, but I thought I’d watch it again and write a post about it in honour of Daisy. Rape culture was a problem then, and it’s a problem now. Change is long overdue.
Audrie & Daisy begins with the story of 15-year-old Audrie Potts. She was sexually assaulted by three boys while drunk and passed out at a party. They had drawn lewd messages on her body with markers. Photos were taken of her during the incident and circulated amongst students at her school in Saratoga, California. Audrie became the target of slut-shaming at school.
Eight days later, a distraught Audrie called her mom to pick her up from school. When they get home, Audrie went to her bedroom, and when her mom next checked on her, she was dead.
At age 14, Daisy Coleman was reportedly sexually assaulted while drunk and passed out at a party in Maryville, Missouri. She was then dumped on the lawn outside her house half-naked in freezing weather. One of the boys allegedly recorded a video, but authorities never did end up recovering it. Matthew Barnett, who was a member of a high-profile local family, was arrested.
Nodaway County Sheriff Darren White appeared in an interview for the film. He is quite the disgusting specimen of a human being. Unfortunately, he’s running for sheriff again in the election later this year.
Here are some rape culture-infused words that seem to be spoken straight from his ass rather than his mouth.
“You know, unfortunately, you have a lot of people involved in this that are running around, telling a lot of stories. Um, you know, and without pointing fingers, um, it… it serves to benefit people’s causes by making a lot of things up that really didn’t happen and really doesn’t exist. Don’t underestimate the need for attention, especially young girls. There’s a lot of pressure on young girls in our society to be pretty, to be liked, to be the popular one. It’s not fair, but it’s how our society works.”
“One of the parts that people have really blown out of proportion in this entire case is that everybody wants to throw the word rape out there. It’s very popular, the rape, the Maryville rape, the Coleman rape. Nothing that occurred that night ever, ever rose to the level of the elements of the crime.”
“And this is one of the, one of the real fatal flaws in our society is that it’s always, it’s always the boys, and it’s not always the boys, the girls… Girls have as much, much culpability in this world in this world as boys do, so you know everyone has to take their part of it and everybody has to do better.”
The interviewer points out that crimes were committed by boys, and he raised his eyebrows and responds “were they?”
The local prosecutor dropped the charges against the boys. It was only after a special prosecutor was later brought in that Matthew Barrett pleaded guilty to a misdemeanour charge and got 2 years probation.
Daisy’s mother reported that the family received threats and she was fired from her job. They had moved and listed their house in Maryville for sale, but it was burned down, and the fire department was unable to determine a cause. In the new home, Daisy’s mother said that all of the doors upstairs were broken because they’d been kicked in when Daisy had tried to overdose.
Daisy was an active advocate for sexual abuse survivors, and she was a cofounder of the advocacy organization SafeBAE. The SafeBAE website mentioned that she’d been getting EMDR therapy for the past two years, trying to heal from her trauma. She took her own life on August 4, 2020.
Roll Red Roll
Roll Red Roll is a documentary that tells the story of Jane Doe, who was sexually assaulted by two star high school football players while drunk and passed out. This occurred in 2012 in Steubenville Ohio, a football-crazed town. There was evidence up the ying yang from everything that was circulated on social media and via text message both during and after the incident. One of the players was eventually sentenced to a minimum of one year in juvenile detention, while the other who had taken photos was sentenced to a minimum of two years.
Rape culture was thriving in this town. It sounds like almost much the whole town was behind the rapists 100% right from the beginning, and victim-blaming was everyone’s go-to. Two female high school students interviewed for the film dove right into the victim-blaming:
- “She has to take responsibility for the choice she made to go to that party.”
- “When you put yourself in that situation, you have to take some responsibility for your actions.”
Lowering the bar for the legal profession
That paled in comparison to what the lawyer for one of the football players had to say. He suggested that if the girl and boy were both too drunk to give consent…
“…the question becomes, who raped who? The young lady admitted to drinking alcohol, she admitted to drinking a large cup of alcohol. While in the state where she can’t recall events, uh, the victim here gave access codes to her cellphone. Giving someone access to a phone is a form of consent. And this is not a victim-blame, but this young girl consented at one point in the evening to being in the company of these young boys. People would say it’s okay for this young woman to have made this choice, but the moment the choice was wrong, it’s not her fault anymore.”
I understand that defense lawyers have a job to do, but shit like this (known as a DARVO response) really doesn’t make the law profession look good. Anyone who thinks that giving out a cell phone code equates to consenting to have a penis shoved in one’s bodily orifice(s) doesn’t seem qualified to be a decent human being, much less a lawyer.
Rape culture isn’t okay
Rape culture is not okay. Victim-blaming is not okay. Our society needs to stop defending this behaviour.
Being drunk, or being unconscious, is not consent for sexual activity. And for people (like the men involved in these films) who think that it is, I wonder if they think that every time they go to the bar, they’re giving consent for a penis or other handy object (abusers aren’t always male, after all) to be stuck up their ass (an equal-opportunity orifice in this instance). Actually, I wouldn’t be surprised if scum like Darren White are homophobic to boot, and funny how that can make a difference.
Rape culture leads to trauma, which leads to loss of quality of life, or loss of life entirely. It’s too late for Audrie and Daisy, but we need to stop letting society do this. And it’s not just the perpetrators; it’s rape culture that permits it. This is everyone’s problem.
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