The rape case in Maryville, MO is quickly becoming a national story, now that graphic details surrounding the incident are coming to light. Fourteen-year-old Daisy Coleman says she was sexually assaulted by a member of the high school football team — a young man who belongs to a prominent political family in the state — and left semi-unconscious in her front yard in the middle of a January night. Despite the evidence supporting Daisy’s recounting of the rape, the case was dropped two months later.
And now, as Daisy and her mother Melinda are speaking out about the case, they’re suggesting the issue is bigger than what happened to Daisy that night. Daisy says the 13-year-old friend who accompanied her to the party with the football players was also raped. And in an interview with CNN on Monday, Melinda Coleman said she believes more teens may have been victimized by the same football players who assaulted her daughter.
“My concern was that some other girls came forward and told me that the same thing happened with this same group of boys,” Melinda explained. “When I had talked to the Sheriff initially, he told me that there had been girls who had come forward and that there had been maybe even 10 other girls that were also assaulted.”
But, according to Melinda, Sheriff Darren White later said those girls were all lying. He told Daisy’s mother that those accusations were part of a larger effort to “crucify” the innocent football players.
According to the Kansas City Star, which initially reported on Daisy’s case, that was the reaction that many members of the community had in the immediate aftermath of the assault, as a “sizable contingent stood by the accused athletes.” Even before the case was dropped, Daisy and her older brother were subject to intense harassment and online threats. They ended up transferring schools, and the whole family eventually moved out of the 12,000-population town. After the charges were dismissed, the father of one of the football players involved in the case put up signs in his front yard comparing the local school board to Hitler because it had suspended his son over the incident.
If Daisy’s story is any indication, any potential additional rape victims may not see any justice, either.
“So my concern is: What is it going to take for them to do something here?” Melinda Coleman told CNN. “Is one of these girls gonna to have to die? Are they going to end up freezing in their front yard before they’ll do something?”
It’s not necessarily hyperbole. Other high-profile rape cases have ended in those type of tragedies, as young victims like Rehtaeh Parsons and Audrie Pott committed suicide after being bullied by their peers. Daisy herself has attempted to commit suicide twice. “I really did start to hate myself,” she told CNN, explaining that the cyber-bullying took a toll on her mental health and self-esteem.
From everything that we know about sexual assault, the possibility that there may be additional victims in this case isn’t far-fetched. A sweeping international study on rape found that repeat offenses are very high among rapists. A Harvard University study that focused on young men who commit sexual assault in college found that those men are likely to become serial offenders. And a recent investigation into sexual violence among U.S. youth found that most of the adolescents who have violated someone else’s consent don’t take responsibility for that crime, and 50 percent actually believe their victim was at fault for what happened. Sexual assault prevention advocates agree that these issues are exacerbated by the fact that many teens don’t actually understand what consent is, and have never been taught how to have a healthy relationship with sexual boundaries.
The hacktivist group Anonymous, which exposed many of the details surrounding the infamous Steubenville rape case, is vowing to get involved to deliver justice to Daisy and any other alleged victims. “If Maryville won’t defend these young girls, if the police are too cowardly or corrupt to do their jobs, if the justice system has abandoned them, then we will have to stand for them,” the group wrote in a letter published on Monday. “Maryville, expect us.”