Daisy Coleman is quickly becoming a household name now that she’s speaking out about the sexual assault that was perpetrated against her in a small Missouri town. The 14-year-old was raped by a high school football player and left semi-unconscious in her front yard in the middle of a January night — and despite the evidence surrounding the incident, including a cell phone video of the assault, the charges against the boy were dropped.
Victims of rape typically remain anonymous in the media. But Daisy and her mother are speaking openly to bring more awareness to the case, particularly since they faced significant harassment from the Maryville community after the details about the rape were made public. And now, Daisy has written her own account about what happened to her. In a piece published in xoJane on Friday, Daisy explains why she’s not done fighting for justice.
“My whole life since January 8, 2012, has been a long, reckless winter,” Daisy writes, explaining that the “nightmare” didn’t end with her sexual assault. After she was raped, she was bullied by her classmates, who called her a liar and told her she was a “skank” who was “asking for it.” She was suspended from her school’s cheerleading squad because of her “involvement” in the incident. Her peers took to social media to tell her to kill herself, and she did try to commit suicide twice.
Even though the victim-blaming obviously took a serious toll on Daisy’s mental health and self-esteem, the teenager says she refuses to succumb to it any longer:
Why would I even want to believe in a God? Why would a God even allow this to happen? I lost all faith in religion and humanity. I saw myself as ugly, inside and out. If I was this ugly on the inside, then why shouldn’t everyone see the ugly I saw?
I burned and carved the ugly I saw into my arms, wrists, legs and anywhere I could find room. [...]
Since this happened, I’ve been in hospitals too many times to count. I’ve found it impossible to love at times. I’ve gained and lost friends. I no longer dance or compete in pageants. I’m different now, and I can’t ever go back to the person I once was. That one night took it all away from me. I’m nothing more than just human, but I also refuse to be a victim of cruelty any longer.
This is why I am saying my name. This is why I am not shutting up.
Since the details surrounding Daisy’s story first emerged last week, the online hacktivist group Anonymous began pressuring state officials to re-open the investigation into the case. That pressure appears to be having an impact. Several Missouri lawmakers have come out in support of a grand jury investigation. On Thursday, Maryville agreed to bring in a special prosecutor to revisit the evidence in the case.
Daisy is glad to see Anonymous’ impact. “This is a victory, not just for me, but for every girl,” Daisy writes.
Indeed, Daisy’s story isn’t an anomaly. Over the past year, other high-profile rape cases have ended in further tragedy after victim-blaming took its toll on high school girls. Rehtaeh Parsons and Audrie Pott both committed suicide after evidence of their sexual assault spread throughout social media and they were bullied by their peers. And in an interview with CNN last week, Daisy’s mother also suggested that additional girls in Maryville may have been victimized by the same high school football players who raped Daisy.
Sexual assault among American youth is more common than many people may realize. A recent study found that one in ten adolescents has perpetrated an act of sexual violence and violated someone else’s consent. That research found significant evidence to back up the “nightmare” that Daisy faced after her own assault. One in seven teens who has committed sexual violence don’t believe they did anything wrong, and 50 percent actually say the victim was at fault for what happened.
The investigation into the Maryville rape case is showing more signs of progress. On Monday afternoon, CNN reported that a special prosecutor has now been named.