Nearly 2 years ago, 14-year-old Daisy Coleman* was raped at a party by a high school football star and grandson of a powerful local politician in Maryville, Missouri. But now, he’s walking free while Daisy and her family struggle to survive with what happened to her.1
Immediately after the rape, Daisy and her mother went to the hospital and reported it to police. Matthew Barnett was charged, and he confessed on tape.2
But a few months later, county prosecutor Robert Rice–who has close ties to the alleged rapist’s influential grandfather–dropped the charges. Worse, the town and high school ganged up not on the rapist, but on Daisy and her family. Classmates said they hoped she “gets what’s comin,” calling her terrible names. The Colemans were forced to move out of town, Daisy’s mom lost her job over the case, and their house was even burned to the ground–the cause of the fire still undetermined.3
This is Steubenville all over again. And just like the Steubenville case, if thousands of us speak out and shine a national spotlight on Maryville, we can get justice for Daisy and her family. There’s a lot of national media attention on this case right now, and news just broke that a special prosecutor will be appointed to investigate.4 But this case has been slow walked for years. We need to make sure every single person responsible for delaying justice–including local officials–is investigated and held accountable. Will you sign the petition to demand justice for Daisy?
After the rape, Barnett left Daisy in her yard, barely conscious and wearing a t-shirt. The temperature in Maryville that night was just 22 degrees. When Daisy’s mom found her passed out at her front door at 5 a.m., her wet hair was frozen, and she was injured from the attack. She cried when her mom asked her what had happened.5
The town of Maryville seems happy to move on and forget the rape now that the charges have been dropped and the Colemans have left, but Daisy’s recovery has been slower. She has attempted suicide twice, has been hospitalized multiple times, and spent three months at a residence for struggling teens. “You’re the s-word, you’re the w-word… b-word. Just, after a while, you start to believe it,” she told a reporter about the constant torment. Barnett has gone on with his life, enrolling at Central Missouri University this year.6
Rape is an epidemic in this country–1 in 5 women will be sexually assaulted, but only 3% of attackers ever spend a single day in jail.7 And when authorities ignore attacks on young girls and let rapists go free, it perpetuates a culture and justice system that tolerates rape and blames survivors for the crimes against them.
Prosecutor Rice told the Kansas City Star that this brutal rape was just “incorrigible teenagers” drinking and having sex–ignoring evidence collected from rape kits and bedding from the crime scene, witnesses’ accounts, and even the taped confession of the rapist.8 And if you thought this story couldn’t get worse, since the rape became public, Daisy’s mom has learned that other girls had tried to come forward before–but according to the sheriff, they were “all liars and… just wanted to crucify those poor innocent boys.”9
Horrific cases like this one are becoming too familiar–from Jane Doe in Steubenville, Ohio; to Rehtaeh Parsons in Halifax, Nova Scotia; and Cherice Moralez in Billings, Montana.10 But we can’t let this keep happening. Can you sign the petition to make sure that Daisy’s rapist is brought to justice?
Thanks for all you do,
-Nita, Shaunna, Kat, Karin, Malinda, Adam, and Gabriela, the UltraViolet team
*We wouldn’t normally identify a sexual assault survivor by name, but Daisy and her family have come forward publicly in pursuit of justice, and their names have appeared in the media with their permission.
1. Nightmare in Maryville: Teens’ sexual encounter ignites a firestorm against family, Kansas City Star, October 12, 2013
4. Maryville, Missouri sex assault case: Hack group Anonymous plans ‘Twitter storm’, NBC News, October 16, 2013
5. Nightmare in Maryville: Teens’ sexual encounter ignites a firestorm against family, Kansas City Star, October 12, 2013
7. Nearly 1 in 5 Women in U.S. Survey Say They Have Been Sexually Assaulted, New York Times, December 14, 2011
Reporting Rates, Rape Abuse & Incest National Network
8. Nightmare in Maryville: Teens’ sexual encounter ignites a firestorm against family, Kansas City Star, October 12, 2013
9. Maryville Mom Says More Girls Came Forward With Tales of Assault, Jezebel, October 15, 2013
10. Sexting Scourge, Slate, April 10, 2013
Montana judge criticized for 31-day sentence for ex-teacher who raped teen, Reuters, August 28, 2013