Social justice, Video reviews

Rape Culture Kills

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

I heard recently the Daisy Coleman, who was in the 2016 documentary Audrie & Daisy, had died by suicide. I had watched the film on Netflix 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 hte 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 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 defense lawyers have a job to do, but shit like this 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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61 thoughts on “Rape Culture Kills”

  1. It is disgusting how the justice system treats the women.
    They are already a victim, then in front of a grand jury they repeat the rape if front of people they don’t even know.
    Then in the trial abused again many times to where the victim is brought to tears.
    Statements like “oh she wanted it”, “look at how she was dressed”, so much more.
    Before all that they go through a horrific exam at the hospital. Yes, it is for the victim’s benefit. For some it is of no avail for they shower because they felt so dirty. They didn’t know not to for that information is not out there readily to find.

  2. I am shocked that that kind of thinking still exists TODAY. I thought (obviously mistakenly) that we’d gotten past the blame game in rape cases, particularly those of vulnerable women. Of course one should take responsibility for one’s own actions, but an expectation of safety when in a group of alleged friends isn’t out of bounds. I’m horrified that the woman who was so strong and did all those amazing things because of her own story, chose to die this long after. But I think that rape has long lasting effects on the victim, their families, and close friends of the victim. Sometimes the pain is just too great to bear.

  3. So very very sad for those girls/women. Totally violated in every way imaginable. I canโ€™t even begin to understand but it is outrageous that there are excuses for human beings that would support such evil and destructive behaviour. They are no better. Unforgivable. Thanks for the post in Daisyโ€™s honour.

  4. Yes, because young girls need attention of this sort๐Ÿคฎ I am so terribly saddened to read this yet I know how important it is to be written about and called out. At 42 years old I don’t know a single woman who hasn’t been harassed sexually or worse….mostly worse unfortunately. Including myself. This kind of treatment and outcome gor women is beyond repulsive. Too many enablers and bystanders in this. I always say the most horrendous crimes in this country and around the world is sexual assault, abuse, trafficking and the like. Mostly to include the powerful and wealthy. The net needs to be cast wide and deep. Thank you for writing about this my friend.

  5. With police and defence lawyers like that, it makes complete sense why many victims don’t report.

    In my country, even in CSA family cases, defence lawyers have blamed the child victim, eg by saying they’re lying to get revenge on their perpetrator for ‘disciplining’ them.

    Every few months, some adult cases go viral because judges themselves let the perpetrators off remarkably easily, citing their “bright future”. It’s a Singaporean meme at this point that being a university student allows you to film women showering.

  6. It’s terrible how misogyny is so ingrained into our society. I’m not sure if you’ve ever heard of Dr Jessica Taylor, she does a lot of work on victim blaming. I really want to read her book “Why Women are Blamed for Everything.”

  7. Nope, when you’re drunk you can’t consent. That’s it.

    Are legal documents still legal when signed under pressure or when you’re totally on drugs? I think it doesn’t work that way. You need to prove it and go through hoops maybe but I know someone who sold his house in a drunk state for a ridiculous price and that was made illegal after a procedure and the buyer didn’t get the house ‘almost for free’.

    I can go to a party. I can have a drink. When someone spikes my drink, I’m not suddenly all in for the sex. Let’s be real here. When I drink too much without anyone trying to get me drunk. Yes, I’ve made a choice to have a glass too much and still no talking about sex here! Fact is that you need to be careful and try to look out for yourself. That doesn’t give anyone the right to take advantage of that.

    I’ve seen a documentary on one of the girls who lost her life. It’s so so sad.

      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. ๐Ÿ˜ข๐Ÿ˜ญ

  8. 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 doesnโ€™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.

  9. Ashley those stories are unbelievably horrific. For that trauma to happen to two young kidsโ€” 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 thatโ€ฆ would be horrible.

    Thanks for writing about this.

    “And itโ€™s not just the perpetrators; itโ€™s rape culture that permits it. This is everyoneโ€™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 thingโ€” 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 apathyโ€ฆ 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 thinkโ€” 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 writingโ€” this is my last point!

      It all comes down to the same thingโ€” to solve racism, sexism, and everything elseโ€” 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.

  10. This is horrible to read about!! What are those people involved thinking to say such thoughtless, idiotic things as that?! Those girls were so young. And they burned down her house?! That’s unimaginable. I get that they’d already moved out, but the level of hatred involved to do something like that is downright sociopathic, and it breaks my heart. I can see why the two years of EMDR didn’t help her ultimately. She was bullied and harassed, and her family was shunned. Why, because she spoke up? Such audacity! [I’m shaking my head.] There has to be a hell for people like that. Well, I don’t believe in hell, but I believe in karma. It’s a pain in the ass, as you said. Times a million. No way would a young teen submit to a rape kit at the hospital and pretend she’d been raped for attention! That’s just ridiculous. Although I read an interesting work of fiction that dealt with the issue (no spoilers). It was called “The Tenth Circle” by Jodi Picoult. Not the greatest book ever written, but it had some really exciting plot twists.

  11. 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 ๐Ÿ˜˜๐Ÿ˜˜

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