On Sexual Assault: We Are All Audrie and Daisy

"It doesn’t take a lawyer to decide that being unconscious means you can’t consent to sex."

This past weekend, I decided to torture myself as I often do by watching a documentary that makes me want to scream at the top of my lungs and punch the television screen. For some reason, I do this repeatedly thinking the next film will be better, less disheartening, less gut-wrenching. It never is.

However, watching documentaries like the new Netflix original Audrie and Daisy is so important in order for our society to become more aware and hopefully enlightened about issues plaguing our world. The film highlights two different stories about two girls who were assaulted and raped by teenage boys while under the influence. They were taken advantage of while in unconscious states and subjected to harassment and bullying by fellow students and community members after the incidents.

For Audrie, it was too much to bear, and she ended her life a week after her rape by hanging herself in the shower. She was 15 years old. Daisy lived, but only after multiple failed suicide attempts and still struggles to this day from PTSD symptoms. It’s possible her life now would look a lot different, and healthier, if she had received actual justice.

In the film, we are introduced to the sheriff, Darren White, of Daisy’s town of Maryville. He tries his best to portray himself as the small-town, long-term sheriff who can do no wrong and who is loved by all in the community. It doesn’t take long to see straight through to a man, another man, perpetuating the horrifying culture of rape in which so many of us live.

After a swift investigation, the sheriff dropped all charges against Daisy’s rapist and fellow teenage boys involved in the night’s events saying that there just wasn’t enough evidence (even though there was a video) and “nothing that occurred that night rose to the level of the crime of rape.” He also tries to mansplain to the viewer that “whether we agree with this or not, the people of that age, in the state of Missouri, can have consensual sex.”

The sheriff dropped all charges... saying that there just wasn’t enough evidence (even though there was a video.)

Except Daisy was unconscious, and when her rapist was through with her that night in January 2012, he dropped her off in the yard of her mother’s house in the middle of winter. She was barely clothed, and her hair had frozen to the ground when her mother found her outside the next morning.

When asked by the filmmaker if being unconscious constitutes rape, the sheriff stumbles and says that’s something that should be left for lawyers to decide.

It doesn’t take a lawyer to decide that being unconscious means you can’t consent to sex.

Like most small towns, Maryville is known for its athletics and charm. The last thing a sheriff wants is to be known for governing the town where a rape occurred. But the last thing anyone should want is for one of their own citizens to be raped.

“Protect the boys. Neglect the girls” ― a common theme for many judges, sheriffs, coaches, and provosts. “Boys will be boys, after all.” “Maybe the girls shouldn’t have been drinking in the first place.”

We hear these phrases time and time again. What we don’t hear or see is action to prevent rape, action to teach boys how to value women and girls, action to show women and girls just how worthy they are.

Maybe I take it a bit too personally because I was drugged by a bartender, or maybe because I’m a woman, or maybe because I’m human. Regardless, sexual assault and rape cannot go ignored and it cannot be taken lightly.

Victims need to be believed when they say they were assaulted or raped. And when there are witnesses, like in the Brock Turner case, and when there is photographic evidence, like in Audrie’s and Daisy’s cases, there is no acceptable reason for the rapists to not be punished. A mere weeks-long sentence in county jail is not justice; a slap on the wrist is not justice; probation is not justice.

A mere weeks-long sentence in county jail is not justice; a slap on the wrist is not justice; probation is not justice.

Judges, like Aaron Persky of the Brock Turner case, and sheriffs, like Darren White, should be fired and should be considered as guilty as the rapists themselves. They are not performing their jobs properly and they are failing the girls and women of this country, and of this world.

When we shield boys because they are athletes and we deem them heroes of small towns rather than give their victims the justice they deserve, we are allowing the culture and crime of rape to continue. We are allowing the lack of confidence so many young women feel to continue. We are allowing the misogyny that is already so rampant to continue.

Case after case, these boys and men are let off. What makes you think rape will stop when we are telling people they can get away with it?

We need judges and police chiefs and leaders to step up. We need judges and police chiefs and leaders to look into their hearts and ask how they would feel if it were their own daughter being raped. 

Case after case, these boys and men are let off. What makes you think rape will stop when we are telling people they can get away with it?

We need to start young and teach children how to behave. When a boy teases a girl or pulls her hair, we cannot tell her that the boy probably has a crush on her. When a boy gets into a physical confrontation or harasses a female, we cannot say, “boys will be boys.” When a teenage boy has sex, we cannot pat him on the back and say, “Good job, son. You scored.”

Girls are not prizes, girls are not property, girls are not collateral, or currency, or toys, or towels for men to wipe themselves off with, or mattresses to lie on, or flesh to scar.

We need to fight for Audrie and Daisy, and all the other girls and women who have been victims of rape and assault. We are all Audrie and Daisy.

It’s time to step up.

Because monsters are not born; they’re made.

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