There are moments that the words don’t reach
There is suffering too terrible to name
You hold your child as tight as you can
And push away the unimaginable
The moments when you’re in so deep
It feels easier to just swim down. . .
— It’s Quiet Uptown, Lin-Manuel Miranda
On Wednesday, Daisy Coleman’s mother, Melinda, announced on Facebook that Daisy died by suicide on Tuesday, saying, “She never recovered from what those boys did to her and it’s just not fair. My baby girl is gone,”
Daisy was one of the subjects of the 2016 Netflix documentary, Audrie & Daisy.
If you aren’t familiar with Audrie & Daisy, that’s okay. In her memory, I’m going to talk about the film – and what happened to her and to Audrie in their short lives, as well as taking action to protect our daughters from these terrible things.
I’m going to link a Rolling Stone article below that details everything that happened to Audrie in depth.
The short version is that, when she was a sophomore in high school, just 15 years old, she was drinking at house party. While she was severely impaired, three young men she knew well undressed her, drew on her nude body with indelible marker, wrote words, and sexually assaulted her. They took pictures as well.
She returned to school and was subjected to horrible treatment.
Within a week, she committed suicide.
Eventually her parents were able to piece together what happened and two of the young men were convicted of possession of child pornography and sexual battery – but essentially received nothing in terms of punishment as they were also minors.
As such, her parents pursued a civil case. One agreement of that settlement is that they are interviewed in the documentary and accept responsibility for their actions.
Daisy’s story is even more complex.
At 14, she and her best friend – also just 14 – snuck out of her house to meet three older boys for a house party. Upon arriving, they were immediately separated. They were both given large amounts of alcohol and both sexually assaulted. When they were taken back to her house, she was incoherent and was left on her front porch in 20 degree weather in just a t-shirt and yoga pants.
Her mother found her the next morning, unresponsive, and realized she had been sexually assaulted as well.
Where her friend’s assailant admitted to his crime, hers claimed that the sex was consensual. She was harassed in school relentlessly, as people at the school and in the town sided with the popular football player and called her a whore. There were social media hashtags and even t-shirts made. A year later, their house was burned down.
The family moved back to the town they had lived in previously, 40 miles away.
Eventually, her assailant would plead guilty to endangering the welfare of a minor – and would serve no time. Of note, his grandfather was a well connected Republican state senator.
Another young man recorded Daisy’s assault on his phone. He later deleted it so the police in the documentary said there was no video. Of course, before he deleted it, he sent it to friends – so video of her assault circulated around her school as well.
Even in the documentary, the county sheriff indicated that he didn’t believe her and gave a note to the crew filming that said “teenage girls lie.” At least – and hopefully as a result of this – he lost his next election.
(The current sheriff actually started a large sexual assault task force and a recent Facebook post on their site mentions his work to undo the harm done by the previous person in the position.)
Daisy went on to help found a non-profit for survivors of sexual abuse but continued to struggle with her own healing and the ways this changed her life. She had multiple previous suicide attempts and at one point had carved the name of her abuser on her arm.
In addition to dealing with the aftermath of her attack, she lost her younger brother in a car accident in 2018 and was dealing with a stalker at the time of her death.
On the day she died, her mother sent police to her home for a welfare check. She spoke with them for an hour, convincing them she was stable. They left.
Four hours later, she was gone.
She died at 23 years old.
With both young women, after their attacks, they were tormented. They felt responsible. And their attackers were never brought to justice in any meaningful way.
In both cases, the young men are on with their lives – and the victims are dead.
In the documentary, one of the young men was asked about lessons learned and regrets – and his entire answer revolved around how he thinks every day about how it changed HIS life: Not. One. Word. About. Audrie. No regret expressed. No mention of the fact that his bullshit cost HER life.
What To Do.
There are no easy answers.
As I’ve been thinking on this – and it has really cut deep – I also watched the documentary Roll Red Roll on Netflix, another film about sexual assault and toxic rape culture and victim blaming. It was sickening.
So much needs to change.
Teaching our young men to respect women, of course. Teaching all of our children not to victim shame or bully. Education about consent. . .
Cultural changes are necessary that will not come easily. I certainly don’t pretend to have all the answers.
Looking through Twitter in the wake of losing Daisy – who preferred to be called Cat as an adult – I see so many other survivors shaken by her death and it makes me fearful for them also.
One area that MUST be addressed is to understand that long-term support is needed for victims of sexual abuse, not just during the crisis period. Sexual violence produces lasting harm and those who have been subjected to it often require care throughout their lifetimes. Certain events may trigger them or they may struggle with it consistently. Everyone is different – but it is not uncommon for victims to develop post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a result of what has been done to them. Who wouldn’t?
This is happening all around us and we all need to be aware of it – and to speak up and stand with survivors.
Rest easy, Audrie and Daisy. I’m just so sorry. ❤
Be well, everybody. Take care of yourselves and each other.
Grace and Blessings.
If you are in need of mental health resources, please consider:
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 800-273-TALK (8255) www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org
- Suicide Prevention, Awareness, and Support: http://www.suicide.org
- Lifeline Crisis Chat: https://www.contact-usa.org/chat.html
- Crisis Text Line: Text REASON to 741741 (free, confidential, and 24/7)
- Self-Harm Hotline: 1-800-DONT-CUT (1-800-366-8288)
- Family Violence Helpline: 1-800-996-6228
- American Association of Poison Control Centers: 1-800-222-1222
- National Council on Alcoholism & Drug Dependency: 1-800-622-2255
- GLBT Hotline: 1-888-843-4564
- The Trevor Project: 1-866-488-7386 or text START to 678678. Available 24/7/365. Provides crisis intervention and suicide prevention to LGBTQ young people under age 25