Daisy Coleman, who stood as a role model and advocate for victims of sexual assault after being raped at 14, has died by suicide. She was 23. Daisy’s mother, Melinda Coleman, made the tragic announcement of the death Tuesday on Facebook.
“She was my best friend and amazing daughter,” Coleman posted. “I think she had to make it seem like I could live without her. I can’t. I wish I could have taken the pain from her! She never recovered from what those boys did to her and it’s just not fair. My baby girl is gone.”
Daisy was featured in Audrie & Daisy, a 2016 Netflix documentary that followed her and her family as they dealt with her assault and the hostile reaction of the community in Maryville, Missouri, to her allegations. She acknowledged in online comments that she had tried to kill herself at least twice before.
The documentary won a Peabody Award as “an honest, heartbreaking, and timely tale of sexual assault and social media, and the repercussions it can have on young lives.”
On Jan. 8, 2012, the then-14-year-old Ms. Coleman and a 13-year-old friend sneaked out of the Coleman house and were picked up by Matthew Barnett, who was 17 at the time, and some other boys. They took the girls to a party at Barnett’s house.
She reported to investigators that she was given a clear liquid before being raped in a bedroom while a second boy recorded the assault on his cellphone.
Officials said during the investigation that the video no longer existed. The boys then left her on her porch, where she stayed in freezing temperatures for several hours before she was found.
Ms. Coleman’s case was taken up by advocates for sexual assault victims nationwide and prompted rallies and outrage, particularly after a Kansas City Star report about the residents of Maryville reacting negatively to the Colemans.
Barnett eventually admitted to having sex with Ms. Coleman, but said it was consensual. He pleaded guilty in January 2014 to a misdemeanor child endangerment charge and was sentenced to two years of probation and a four-month suspended jail term.
His sentence came after Robert Rice, Nodaway County’s prosecutor at the time, and Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker determined that there was not enough evidence to pursue a rape charge. Baker was brought in to reopen the case after the Colemans and others criticized Rice for dismissing a felony charge against Barnett.
Melinda Coleman alleged that Rice dropped the felony charge because of political pressure — Barnett’s grandfather was a four-term Missouri state representative who was a state trooper for 32 years. Rice said he dropped the charge because the Colemans stopped cooperating with his investigation.
After the decision, Coleman’s mother said that the family received anonymous threats and that she was fired from her job as a veterinarian at a clinic.
In April 2013, their house in Maryville — which had been vacant and for sale — burned down. The state fire marshal said that “due to the unsafe nature of the structure, a detailed examination could not be conducted and this fire loss is being listed as undetermined.”
Shael Norris, Executive Director of SafeBAE, a group founded to help sexual assault victims, said Coleman was discovered dead in Denver after her mother called police to check on her. Shael Norris, executive director of SafeBAE, a group Ms. Coleman co-founded to help young victims of sexual assault.
“As all of our supporters know, Daisy has fought for many years to both heal from her assault and prevent future sexual violence among teens. She was our sister in this work and much of the driving force behind it,” the organization tweeted.
“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 any easy one. She fought longer and harder than we will ever know.”
The other victim featured in the documentary, Audrie Pott, 15, died by suicide days after she said three boys sexually assaulted her in September 2012 in Saratoga, Calif.
Daisy was the driving force behind the formation of SafeBAE after the documentary, said Norris, who called her death “an irreplaceable loss.”
“She was really, really good at what she did,” Norris said, because teenagers who have been assaulted knew she understood their problems.
“It’s a huge loss for the culture in general because I think it was her resilience that has inspired so many other survivors to get help and speak out,” Norris said.
The Reel 360 Team sends our thoughts and prayers to the Coleman family. She deserved better.
If you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255). You can also reach out to the Crisis Text Line, a free, 24/7 confidential text messaging service that provides support to people in crisis when they text 741741.
SOURCE: Associated Press