Daisy Coleman, one of the victims at the heart of the 2012 Maryville, Missouri, rape case—and one of the subjects of the 2016 Netflix documentary Audrie and Daisy, about the near-impossibility of seeing rapists appropriately punished—has died by suicide. She was 23 years old.
Coleman was just 14 when she attended a party where she was allegedly raped while heavily intoxicated by 17-year-old Matthew Barnett, the grandson of former Republican state representative Rex Barnett, as one of his friends reportedly filmed the attacks on Coleman and a friend. Barnett then allegedly dumped Coleman’s barely conscious body on her porch in freezing temperatures, while she was wearing nothing but a t-shirt and sweatpants. What followed was a years-long fight for justice, during which local authorities downplayed and flat-out denied elements of the attack as they blamed Coleman for her own rape. Daisy became the victim of relentless bullying both online and in her small town, and her family home was burned down. In the end, Barnett received just two years’ probation and was ordered to pay $1,800 to Coleman by way of restitution.
Coleman was hospitalized two years after the alleged assault for a previous suicide attempt. “It’s as if over time my body learned to heal some of the ugly, but it will always be a part of me,” she wrote in 2013, of her self-harm scars.
In Audrie and Daisy, she further expounded on the physical and mental toll of surviving a sexual assault, coupled with the abusive way our legal system and our culture treats those who do manage to survive the original assault:
“You begin to believe,” Coleman said, “that all these bad things they’re saying about you are actually true. So your image of yourself completely changes, and you kind of become a shell of yourself.”
Audrie Pott, the other subject of the film who was allegedly sexually assaulted at 15, also died by suicide in the aftermath of the attack.