By: KATE SAARI
“U have no idea what it’s like to be a girl” messaged Audrie Potts to an unnamed classmate who was involved with her sexual assault incident. Netflix released a documentary called “Audrie & Daisy” revealing the main stories of Audrie Potts and Daisy Coleman and their journey of healing and fighting for the voices of girls who won’t speak up about being sexually assaulted. This film sheds light on our broken legal system and how empowering traumatized girls aren’t getting fair equity of the crime that has impacted them and their well-being forever. Their stories, like many others, are still being told and being used to lead people to speak up about the wrong. One story led to suicide, but the other developed a motivation to make a change in our world.
This documentary was directed by Bonni Cohen and Jon Shenk, Audrie & Daisy shows the dismal hard truth of what goes on during these situations and the outcomes of it. Both narratives were about teen girls in high school who were taken advantage of. You may think once you report a crime, automatically the offender gets arrested and receives immediate consequences, especially one so incredibly cruel and demeaning, but unfortunately, that is how neither of these cases came out to be and how several end up resulting. It took several tries to get justice, but there were always loopholes where investigators and judges could prorogue their requests and declare there wasn’t enough evidence to put the boys (offenders) into custody. That’s how it always seemed to turn out with these types of crimes. “This is one of the real fatal flaws of our society. It’s always…always the boys. It’s not always the boys. The girls…Girls have as much culpability in this world as boys do. So you know, everybody has to take their part of it” says Darren White, Sheriff of Nodaway County during his interview about Daisy’s case. The interviewer replied with “I absolutely agree. In this particular case, though, the crimes were committed by the boys,” while Sheriff White responds with”Were they?” and then laughs. He said this after the boys confessed and there was DIRECT evidence. Mr. White didn’t want to admit to himself that these boys can make these types of mistakes and be in the wrong. He could always find ways to connect it back to Daisy (survivor) and blame some part of it on her. The case was dismissed, which means the boys faced no charges or jail time for their violation.
Briefly to explain Audrie’s story, she became intoxicated at a party and was basically unconscious. As she passed out, a few teenage boys thought it would be a good joke to draw all over her like “how we’ve grown up, coloring on our cousins, and when someone falls asleep.” What wasn’t so funny was that she undressed, scribbled, and ended up touching her private areas. Audrie’s offenders ended up receiving weekend prison time for 35-40 days, but in quote was “non-consecutive and weekends only.” None of the boys were expelled, nor suspended for any amount of time during their time in high school. “We pretty much knew that, as juveniles, they were going to get a slap on the wrist.” uttered Audrie’s Dad during the interview. Audrie’s parents knew that no matter how hard they pushed for justice for their deceased daughter, not much was going to come out of it. After a week of tormenting, bullying, and being called horrific names after the incident, Audrie Potts committed suicide. I wouldn’t say Audrie lost this battle. She fought a good fight to the best of her abilities and sometimes it just becomes too much. She just couldn’t see a future in which there was light at the end of the tunnel. But, survivors like Daisy speak out against these issues and continue to grow and strengthen women to show there is a light, it may not seem like it at the time, but there is.
In the end, there really wasn’t a true happy ending to the two cases of sexual assault between Audrie Potts and Daisy Coleman. Although, it did spread awareness, not only to their small towns, but the whole nation. Later on, Daisy’s case was brought back up to be looked at for a chance to finally get what she was waiting for all along, closure. There were newscasters left and right, protests, people picking sides whether to be on team Daisy or team Jordan and Matt. All of this exposure and talk just led to probation for Daisy’s assaulters. Daisy’s offenders peer pressured her to drink more and more alcohol and then sexually assaulted her while she was completely drunk and then left her in her own front yard overnight in the snow which all could’ve killed her. This happened when she was 14. The boys, 17. The only punishment those boys received for sexually harassing a minor and were the reason for her alcohol poisoning, is probation. This shows how much power men think they have over women. This type of behavior is unacceptable, but is treated as “no big deal” and “both are to blame.” Daisy was constantly being cyber bullied, received multiple threats, personal home was being vandalized, and ended up having her house burnt down. “Daisy was strong in the beginning, but it just starts to wear you down and she got into a really dark place. She started to really feel like it was her fault…she just internalized all the negativity.” All this apathy caused Daisy to physically harm herself including burning herself and attempting suicide multiple times. At the time believed there wasn’t any hope, until she got a Facebook message from Delaney Henderson, also a sexual assault survivor. Delaney brought Daisy to a group of other teen girls like her who experienced both similar and horrific forms of sexual assault. They bonded together to speak out against the topic at the National Press Club in Washington where Daisy Coleman wisely said “The words of our enemies aren’t as awful as the silence of our friends.”
I was always aware of the issue of sexual assault and men taking advantage of woman, but this documentary took me through the emotional roller coasters of these girls lives after they were abused. I didn’t realize the lack of authority women have during these cases. “It became more important to shield the boys then it did to find justice for the girls” said Paige’s mom, the mother of another survivor of sexual assault who was with Daisy during the incident. These stories bring me such anger and sadness, because it’s the fact people thought they could be lying and also how people had the audacity to SLUT shame these girls after what happened to them, as if they liked or wanted what came to them. The way society teaches girls to “cover up” and be aware of how much they drink or who they are with is absolutely disgusting. Parents and the media teach their daughters to not get raped, but fail to teach their sons not to rape.
This motivates me to research more about this issue and stand with all the women who have experienced such cruelty and not receiving fair treatment for their abusers. Sadly, after years of fighting depression and trauma, Daisy Coleman committed suicide on August 4th, 2020 at age 23. Both survivors still live on as inspirations and signs that their assaults don’t define them and use their stories to support other women and motivate them to use their voice. Before Daisy passed, she gave the girls of her sexual assault group a tattoo of her own design. It was simply just a semicolon, but it represented that their story was never over, like when a semicolon is used in a sentence it represents more to come, so it doesn’t end in a period. Everyone has more to live for and these powerful women taught me, no matter what, I am never alone and to fight for what’s right.