Update 10/5/2013: The Coleman family spoke to CNN on Monday night. Here's the latest on the case.
Original: A story in the Kansas City Star is rippling across the Internet as a post-Steubenville example of how communities still circle the wagons and protect student athletes who commit sexual assault.
A pair of sexual assaults that occurred one day last year in Maryville, Missouri, weren't much different from ones that happen every day: there were teenagers, there was alcohol, and there were rapes that the perpetrators claimed were consensual.
As reported by the Star, on Saturday, January 8, 2012, Maryville High School freshman cheerleader Daisy (whose identity has been made public by her mother) had been having a sleepover with her 13-year-old friend. The girls were drinking liquor hidden in her bedroom and texting Matthew Barnett, 17, a football player and acquaintance of her older brother. Daisy had a crush on the older boy, who had been at the Coleman home just days earlier watching TV. That night around 1a.m., the two girls snuck out of the house to meet up with Barnett and a group of his friends, sneaking through a basement window at Barnett's house.
There, Daisy was handed two glasses of booze, one after the other. She doesn't remember being raped by Barnett, while one of his friends, a 15-year-old boy, raped her 13-year-old friend as she said "no" multiple times. One boy who was there that night, Jordan Zech, 17, a football player and wrestler, captured Daisy's assault on on iPhone video.
Daisy was so drunk she had to be carried out of the Barnett home; multiple kids confirmed that as she was being taken back to her house, she was crying. Daisy's 13-year-old friend found her way back into the Coleman house, but Daisy was left in a tee shirt and sweatpants on the front lawn overnight. When her mother, Melinda Coleman, found her the next morning after she heard noises from outside, Daisy's hair was frozen.
Melinda brought her daughter indoors and warmed her up in a bath. That's when she noticed physical signs of sexual assault and immediately took her daughter to the hospital.
Police hauled in the young men, who admitted to drinking and "sex" with the girls. Barnett insisted what happened was consensual; under Missouri law, sex cannot be consensual if the victim is incapacitated by alcohol. Barnett was charged with felony sexual assault and misdemeanor endangerment of the welfare of a child. Zech, who had filmed the encounter, was charged with sexual exploitation.
Retribution against the Coleman children was swift. Daisy was suspended from the cheerleading team (presumably for drinking) and slutshamed by her peers. Melinda Coleman was warned about chatter online saying her sons would get beaten up. Daisy's older brother heard Zech's video of the assault was being passed around school. Then Melinda Coleman lost her job at a veterinary clinic. (Her boss admitted to the Star to having "ties" to one of the boys involved.)
This is where the story takes on a Steubenville-level of absurdity in how the perpetrators walked free. In March 2012, prosecutor Robert Rice dismissed the felony cases against the boys. Barnett's misdemeanor charge for child endangerment (for leaving Daisy out in the cold) was later dropped as well.
In an interview, Rice was quoted as saying, "They were doing what they wanted to do, and there weren’t any consequences. And it’s reprehensible. But is it criminal? No." How did Rice come to such a conclusion? Barnett, it turns out, was a grandson of former MO State Representative Rex Barnett. Rex Bennett denied any meddling to the Star.
Because the charges were dropped, rape kit results and witness interviews are now sealed. A Change.org petition by a friend of the mother of the 13-year-old girl is asking for Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster to step in to investigate Rice's mishandling of the rape case.
In the mean time, the Coleman family has moved 40 miles away. Six months ago, they learned their Maryville home had been burned to the ground. Daisy, according to the Star, has attempted suicide at least two times.
It's a story that calls to mind not only Steubenville, but Rehtaeh Parsons and Audrie Pott, two teen girls in Nova Scotia and California who killed themselves after they were raped by peers and then harassed for being victims. As is all too common, these young women were blamed for their own assaults while their rapists receive a slap on the wrist (at most). Daisy is still alive today, thankfully. Here's hoping the national focus on her story will bring more attention to both the slutshaming and abuse she and her family suffered, rather than magnify it.
[Image of alcohol via Shutterstock]
This post previously appeared on The Wire.