It’s impossible not to remember the Steubenville rape when you read about the Maryville rape, but in this case, we hear from the girls.
The Maryville rape case has many of the elements we’ve come to expect. Small town America. Football. Entitlement. Alcohol. Videos. Social media bullying. A teenage girl discarded and left for dead.
What’s shocking in this case (and I wish the shock was simply that it happened again) is that the survivors have gone public.
In case you’ve missed any of the story, here’s what happened in Maryville, MO last January: Daisy Coleman (age 13) and her friend Paige Borlan (age 14) had a sleepover; they drank some alcohol while Daisy exchanged texts with a boy she knew from school. A little drunk already, they sneaked out to meet him and a friend. Once they were with the boys, the girls were separated and given more to drink. Both were sexually assaulted while a third boy video taped one of the rapes.
When it was over, Daisy was too drunk to stand. Paige was out of it and confused. The boys drove them back to Daisy’s, leaving Daisy on her front porch, in the dead of winter, barely conscious, and sending Paige inside.
Named in the case is 17-year-old Matthew Barnett (the grandson of Republican representative Rex Barnett) who allegedly raped Coleman, along with an unnamed boy, and Jordan Zech, who taped the events.
We have the names. There was a tape—so let’s get ‘em, right? Not so fast.
In an unbelieveable turn of events, the case was dropped even though the sheriff’s office agreed that evidence supported the girls’ account of what happened. According to Prosecutor Robert Rice, the rape kits, interviews and Zech’s admission that he deleted the video from that night were not enough to convict Barnett of sexual assault and endangering the welfare of a child, or to convict Zech of sexual exploitation of a child.
I could, and there’s a version of this post were I did, go on a massive rant about the Maryville rape. I could talk about how we need to educate our boys and support our girls. But I am guessing you know all of that.
Instead, let’s look at how Daisy and Paige have handled themselves since this case went public. In the face of the sheriff’s advice to Coleman to “get over it” and articles like Slate’s “Tell College Women to Stop Getting Drunk” — which includes this gem of a quote, “If I had a son, I would tell him that it’s in his self-interest not to be the drunken frat boy who finds himself accused of raping a drunken classmate,” the girls went public with their names and their faces.
Daisy and Paige are forcing the world to look them in the eye and listen to what happened, which is incredibly brave.
Victims don’t owe the public anything, and they shouldn’t have to prove their case in the media. But, when the judicial system fails as miserably as it did in this case, it’s their right to speak as hashtags supporting their attackers stream across their social feeds.
To be clear, it’s their right, not their obligation. The danger here is the assumption that if allegations are true, victims should, and can, step forward. With the support of their families, these girls made that choice. Maybe speaking out is a way to empower themselves in a situation when all power was removed.
For some, coming forward isn’t an option. Maybe they don’t have familial support. Maybe they fear being judged by their religious community. Maybe they know that putting themselves in the line of fire will subject them to even more attacks.
What we do know is that two girls were raped in Maryville, and the evidence was there to prove it. Now, these girls are being forced to rely on the court of public opinion and hope for a small shred of justice.
The good news is that pressure from the public, including protests by members of Anonymous, is actually working. Earlier this week, Missouri Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder released a statement saying recent reports involving the Maryville rape case, “Raise all kinds of questions that it is now clear won’t be put to rest.” And Tim Jones, a Republican member of the Missouri House of Representatives, issued a statement urging officials to re-open their investigation. Thursday, the case was officially reopened. Let’s hope that this time around, Daisy and Paige get the justice they deserve.
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