Imagine coming home one day only to find that your new home has been burned to the ground. The only thing left are heaps of ash and clouds of hazy smoke.
Before your house was burned down, you got kicked off the Maryville, Missouri, cheerleading squad. Your mother lost her job shortly after that, and your family moved to Albany, your new home 40 miles away.
All of this sounds like the plot of a movie, but unfortunately, it’s real. All of this tragedy and more happened to Daisy Coleman, a young teenager.
If you haven’t been keeping up with the news coverage, which has gotten more and more frenzied in the past few weeks, the facts are these: according to The Kansas City Star, a high school senior, Matthew Barnett, had sexual intercourse with the highly intoxicated, then-14-year-old Daisy Coleman, while another boy did the same with Coleman’s then-13-year-old friend. All of this was recorded by a third student. On the evening of Jan. 8, 2012, Coleman was left on the front porch of her home, and was only discovered by her mother after three hours of exposure in freezing weather.
Despite overwhelming evidence — including rape kits, a thorough investigation of the scene, and a BAC test proving Coleman’s obvious intoxication — the hefty charges filed against the boys were dropped by local prosecutor Robert Rice, who cited a lack of evidence. What?
Although the girls received sympathy in the earliest days of the case, for whatever reason people began to stand by the accused student athletes.
Coleman’s case is a symptom of a larger disease: the culture of victim-blaming. Julie Donelon, President of The Metropolitan Organization to Counter Sexual Assault, told CBS that the case is an example of victim-blaming.
“Victim-blaming is a huge issue in sexual assault cases,” Donelon said. “Often times the victims are made to feel as though they have done something wrong.”
“At first … it didn’t affect me as much,” Coleman told CNN last Monday. “Whenever you hear it so often that you’re all these different things then you start to believe it, and I really did start to hate myself.”
What makes me tear out my hair is the fact that Coleman doesn’t just have to deal with receiving victim blaming from her peers. The parent of one of the accused teens told The Star: “Our boys deserve an apology, and they haven’t gotten it yet.” Coleman should apologize for being raped? I guess Coleman had the gall to be sexually assaulted, be suspended from her cheer squad for her involvement in the events, and be harassed to the point of having to move to a different city, only to have her house burn down. Should Coleman apologize for that, too?
Brace yourselves, because here’s the whopper. Recently, Fox News “expert guest,” criminal defense attorney Joseph DiBenedetto, made the case that Coleman was asking to be assaulted. Some of the most shocking dungbombs that slipped between his lips included, “nobody forced her to drink,” and “what did she expect to happen at 1 a.m. in the morning after sneaking out? I’m not saying… that she deserved to be raped, but knowing the facts…” Hate to break it to you, Joseph, but according to Missouri law, felony statutes define sex as non-consensual when the victim is incapacitated by alcohol.
Since that night in January, Coleman has been in regular therapy, and has reportedly attempted suicide twice. However, the Coleman family has recently used the recent overwhelming media attention to pressure officials for justice. I fervently hope that justice will be served.