So much respect is going out right now from me to Daisy Coleman, the 14-year-old girl in Maryville, Missouri teen who has come forward about her mistreatment by the justice system after she was raped by a student athlete — who also happened to be the grandson of a local politician. Last night Daisy and her mother, Melinda Coleman, spoke to CNN’s Erin Burnett about her rape by football player Matthew Barnett, who had all charges dismissed against him. Most recently he has been attending the University of Central Missouri. Meanwhile, the Coleman family has been run out of town — the mom, Melinda Coleman, was fired from her job; their house was set on fire — for daring to demand justice for Daisy.
Amelia blogged about this horrible story yesterday. You can read the full story of Daisy Coleman’s assault at the Kansas City Star, which broke the story this weekend. Here’s the short-ish version. The Coleman family had moved several years earlier to Maryville, a small, tight-knit farming down. In January 2012, Daisy, 14, and her anonymous friend, 13, were having a sleepover and drinking in her bedroom. Around 1am, they snuck out of the house to go hang out with some senior and junior boys from the football and wrestling teams, who gave the girls a lot more alcohol. After this point, as Daisy tells CNN, she remembers nothing that happened the rest of the night.
Both girls were raped at the Barnett house by the boys while drunk (and the guy who raped the 13-year-old friend admitted the girl repeatedly said “no”). According to the Star, under Missouri law, a person cannot to consent to sex if they are incapacitated by alcohol. Another boy, Jordan Zech, filmed Daisy’s assault by Matthew Barnett with an iPhone. Eventually, the girls were taken back to the Coleman house and Daisy, who was crying, was so drunk she had to be carried. The 13-year-old friend made it inside the Coleman house herself, but Daisy was left on the front lawn in her sweatpants, tee shirt and no shoes overnight. When her mom found her lying in frost on the ground around 5a.m. the next morning, her hair was frozen. Upon being put in a warm bath to heat up, her mother noticed redness around her genitals consistent with rape.
Daisy was taken to a hospital; later that day, Barnett’s home was searched for DNA evidence and the boys were arrested. Barnett was charged with felony sexual assault and misdemeanor endangerment of the welfare of a child (presumably for leaving her on the lawn). Zech was charged with felony charge of sexual exploitation of a minor for filming 14-year-old Daisy being raped.
Within a year, the charges against Barnett, whose grandfather served several terms in the Missouri House of Representatives, were dropped. The Colemans, of course, believe that the charges were dropped against him because of his family’s political connections and prominent stature in the Maryville community. Jordan Zech, the iPhone cameraman, eventually had charges dropped against him as well.
Meanwhile, the Coleman family [a mom and four kids; the father died years earlier in a car accident] have been treated like absolute shit by the community. Daisy was called all kinds of slutshaming names online; one classmate was seen wearing a shirt that read “Matt 1, Daisy 0.” Melinda Coleman was fired from her job. Daisy’s brothers were threatened with beatdowns. Eventually, they moved out of Maryville to a town 40 miles away.
In this interview with CNN, Melinda and Daisy Coleman spoke out against the sheriff, who said the charges got dropped against Matthew because two women refused to testify. “That’s absolutely not true,” said Melinda. “They did talk to Daisy that morning. They talked to her in the hospital room. I have the police report. You can see her full story, everything she just now said. I also talked to the sheriff … and told them everything I knew, that’s in the police report. So that’s absolutely not true.”
Indeed, it looks like from the very beginning that the Coleman family has been fighting for justice for Daisy, not shrinking away. They shared all their documents and gave interviews with the Kansas City Star. They appeared on TV, without their faces obscured and under their real names. The family would like to see the case reopened (and for any other alleged victims of Matthew Barnett and his friends to come forward). Daisy has vowed that she will testify.
Melinda Coleman is an incredible mother. Lots of moms would just say, “Well, you shouldn’t have been drinking or sneaking out that night!” and sweep their daughter’s rape under the rug, I’m sad to say. I hope Daisy knows what an strong role model and inspiration she is as a survivor of sexual assault who is demanding justice. I hope she knows that there are people who care for and support her. No teen girl should be raped by a peer who gets off scot-free, let alone run out of town.
In the CNN, the part where Daisy explains the harassment she’s been suffering as a rape survivor going up against her rapist breaks my heart:
“Whenever you hear so often that you’re all these different things, you start to believe it. And I really did start to hate myself.”
It’s time for justice for Daisy.