Daisy Coleman, Sexual Assault Survivor & Survivor Advocate, Has Died by Suicide
Content warning: Rape, suicide.
In 2012, Daisy Coleman, then just 14 years old, survived a sexual assault encounter that ended with her being left unconscious on her front lawn in the middle of the night, in 30-degree temperatures, wearing just a t-shirt and sweatpants, no socks or shoes, her hair wet. Her assault and the subsequent bullying she encountered from her peers in the small town of Maryville, Missouri, was documented in the harrowing 2016 Netflix documentary Audrie & Daisy. Coleman died by suicide this week at the age of 23.
The other young girl featured in that documentary, 15-year-old Audrie Pott, died by suicide in 2012, just nine days after her assault.
Following Coleman’s assault—during which her 14-year-old friend was also raped—two 17-year-old boys were arrested, one for raping Coleman and the other for videotaping the incident. But the charges were dropped—a move that was presumed to be due to the political family connections of one of the boys, Matthew Barnett, though the prosecutors never gave an explanation to Coleman or her family.
As Coleman’s case started to get national attention, the hacktivist group Anonymous got involved, writing in a press release, “Maryville, expect us.”
“We demand an immediate investigation into the handling by local authorities of Daisy’s case,” the statement read. “Why was a suspect, who confessed to a crime, released with no charges? … Most of all, We are wondering, how do the residents of Maryville sleep at night?”
Eventually, a special prosecutor was assigned and Barnett, who did not deny having sex with Coleman but claimed sex with a 14-year-old could somehow be consensual, pleaded guilty to the lesser misdemeanor charge of child endangerment.
As for Coleman, she went on to found the sexual assault advocacy nonprofit organization SafeBAE, raising awareness to prevent assault among middle and high-schoolers.
“Daisy has fought for many years to both heal from her assault and prevent future sexual violence among teens,” SafeBAE wrote in a statement posted to Twitter.
“We are shattered and shocked by her passing from suicide. She had been in EMDR therapy for 2 years, working on her triggers and healing from the many traumas in her life. She had many coping demons and had been facing and overcoming them all, but as many of you know, healing is not a straight path or [an] easy one. She fought longer and harder than we will ever know. But we want to be mindful of all the young survivors who looked up to her. Please know that above ALL ELSE, she did this work for you.”
Coleman spoke to The Mary Sue’s Charline Jao back around the release of Audrie & Daisy. “I feel like, if anything,” she said, “I want the audience to take this and realize that this could happen to anyone at anytime and that when it does happen it is most definitely not that person’s fault, in that they have the ability to become a survivor instead of a victim.”
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If you’re experiencing thoughts of suicide, the Suicide Prevention Lifeline is a great resource: 1-800-273-8255
If you’re experiencing or have experienced sexual violence, the National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline connects you with RAINN affiliate organizations in your area: 1-800-656-HOPE (4673). The RAINN website also has a chat function.
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