Audrie & Daisy: Rape Culture Kills

Poster for the documentary Audrie & Daisy, which exposes rape culture

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

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.

Daisy

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.

The sheriff

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 aftermath

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.”

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.

Consent infographic: consent is clear, coherent, willing, ongoing
Source: SUNO

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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63 thoughts on “Audrie & Daisy: Rape Culture Kills”

      1. Yeah… i was going to rant and rave. Changed my mind and thought how clowns easily wipe away our frowns with just an upside down smile. 😒😭

  1. Sadly, there is an audience for it. I recommend the story by Mary Gaitskill “The Girl on The Plane”.
    As a teen, I was harassed on the verge of assault more times than I can remember. Things going on today as total insanity, I can’t imagine such cruelty.

    1. “I understand defense lawyers have a job to do, but shit like this really doesn’t make the law profession look good”

      Actually I don’t think it being a job does change anything, because you still have the moral responsibility and moral choices to make, when deciding whether or not to take that particular job, and what your defense is going to be. Which applies to all jobs and all areas of life.

  2. Ashley those stories are unbelievably horrific. For that trauma to happen to two young kidsβ€” it’s unthinkable and unimaginable the suffering and trauma that they experienced. Totally heartbreaking for them and for their families. The sadness, guilt, anger whatever you would feel as a parent after that… would be horrible.

    Thanks for writing about this.

    “And it’s not just the perpetrators; it’s rape culture that permits it. This is everyone’s problem.”

    Objectification of people is underlying a lot of this. And a lot of that comes from the sexualisation of everything, porn, and probably violent TV shows, films and games. Too much gratuitous violence, desensitisation. It’s really obvious in how general attitudes towards sex are changing all the time, and most obvious in the young people of any given time.

    Oh another thingβ€” the culture of aggressiveness and put-downs in all this online communication. Scoring likes for putting somebody down or responding in an aggressive/divisive way in comments sections. All of those together are factors, that’s what my intuition feels.

    And you’re absolutely right. We all have the responsibility to combat it by being as patient and kind as we can to all people that we meet.

    1. The online culture certainly takes it to a whole new level. I wonder how much this happened back in the day. There probably would have been fewer opportunities, but I’m guessing rates of reporting would have been lower than they are now.

      1. Yeah I agree, the apparent rate will be a mix of factors like that. I don’t know, these stories described just feel more sadistic. And the level of group involvement and apathy… it’s probably different in character. It’s impossible to compare really, because the number and severity of events, as well as reporting, will all be different.

        It’s like awareness is growing simultaneously as the level of objectification increases? There are in fact reasons for optimism I think, like the MeToo thing and this latest racism awareness. You can find cases of misguided actions/thoughts amongst that probably, but I think overall everyone is more aware of how they’ll be perceived/received. Perhaps the pockets of negativity/violence are more extreme than before? It’s just like with COVID, there’s a proportion of people just totally ignorant and incapable of changing. And how has that proportion changed over time?

        I dunno, the things that people were ignorant to has changed I imagine! I think it’s true to say that people’s behaviours/opinions have become more extreme.

          1. Yeah for sure. But that just made me thinkβ€” see it’s obviously less easy to get away with the flagrant kind of assaults you see in historical recounts in movies etc, because less people would just ignore it if they witnessed it, and there’s CCTV and the whole legal/police system etc. And I do mean less easy, because I know it’s still too easy.

            But the general level of morality in societies has moved on. So the tactics of violent people may have changed but the boundary is still being pushed, people are doing what they can just about still get away with. Is drawing on somebody assault? ‘Was it rape?’ ‘Was the girl or the guy the victim?’. So yeah, it may sometimes look different but the thinking behind it is the same.

    2. Sorry to keep writingβ€” this is my last point!

      It all comes down to the same thingβ€” to solve racism, sexism, and everything elseβ€” there’s a need to promote kindness, patience, generosity, human connection. In fact I think focusing too much on all of these labelled things, is a bit arbitrary and perhaps a case of looking in the wrong direction. It’s like with breaking any bad habit, right? It’s better to focus on a positive habit which gradually replaces it. We just need more positive human connection and shared experiences.

  3. Powerful post Ashley – rape culture and victim blaming still alive and kicking in the 21st century – sounds like power and patriarchy played a part in these sad cases too as it always does – they were 14 yrs old ffs! Agree that pornography and the internet have contributed to the objectification of women even more – I hate to think what kind of partners and fathers these young men will be 😘😘

  4. The attitude of our society is wrong towards this. Same goes with the “that’s what you get for wearing that” comment.
    It’s like you get robbed report the matter to the police and all the police say is”that’s what you get for buying stuff”
    It’s completely pointless and doesn’t help out anyone.

  5. Im in my 30’s and recently was subject to rape by guards and possibly police as i beleive i was gased and dont recall what happened. i havent posted it online as I know people are biased and judgmental its awful when your a victim and scared to speak out. Im kinda trying to reach out for help as Im unsure how to go about my situation. Ive dont the rape kit and am in the process of charging them but its with a cop at the same precint. This has got to stop where is the justice for women, teens and girls as we are all unsafe in todays day and age. Any suggestions would be hugley appreciated.

    1. That’s absolutely horrible that you had to go through that. It might we worth getting in touch with a local rape crisis centre or a charity supporting victims of crime to see what they can do to support you. Fighting the system definitely isn’t something you should have to deal with on your own.

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