Why Maryville Citizens Defend Rapists

Screen Shot 2013-10-17 at 10.39.36 AMFourteen-year-old Daisy Coleman was raped and left for dead in freezing temperatures. Despite strong evidence, charges were dropped. And, large parts of her community bullied her. Some told her to apologize to men involved in the attack.

What’s wrong with these folks?

I’ll get to that question in a moment. First her story:

Nearly two years ago, Daisy went to spend the night at her 13-year-old friend’s house. The two were sneaking booze and watching scary movies when Daisy texted a 17-year-old friend of her brother’s – a guy her brother had warned her about. She says,

I was not interested in Matt romantically. I considered him my older brother’s friend. I trusted my older brother. I trusted Matt.

Matt Barnett came over and helped Daisy and her friend sneak out of the house and into his basement. Then Matt and four friends offered her a tall shot glass that they called the “bitch cup.” She drank and passed out. Evidence strongly suggests that she and her friend were then raped.

Daisy didn’t regain consciousness until she awoke on her snow-covered front porch in the middle of the night. She was weak and could have died, but she meekly scratched at the door. She recalled,

I had to be carried into my mother’s bedroom, in complete and total confusion. I was freezing and sick and bruised, my hair in icy chunks weighted against me. When my mom gave me a bath, she saw that I was hurt down in my privates.

Before the rape, life had been great. She was a varsity cheerleader, competed on a dance team and had lots of friends. After the rape her community turned on her and life became “a long, reckless winter.” A few lines from a piece she wrote for XO Jane:

Days seemed to drag on as I watched my brother get bullied and my mom lose her job. Ultimately our house burned to the ground.

I was suspended from the cheerleading squad and people told me that I was “asking for it” and would “get what was coming.”

At a dance competition a girl wore a T-shirt she made. It read: “Matt 1, Daisy 0.”

On Twitter and Facebook, I was called a skank and a liar and people encouraged me to kill myself. Twice, I did try to take my own life.

I sat alone in my room, most days, pondering the worth of my life.

I saw myself as ugly, inside and out… I burned and carved the ugly I saw into my arms, wrists, legs and anywhere I could find room.

The justice system turned on her as well. Bruising, a rape kit, confessions and Matt admitting he’d deleted a videotape all pointed to sexual assault. Yet two months after the incident the prosecutor claimed a lack of evidence:

(The boys) were doing what they wanted to do, and there weren’t any consequences. And it’s reprehensible. But is it criminal? No.

Sheriff Darren White maintained there’s “no doubt” a crime was committed but says Daisy should move on.

Anonymous protesting lack of justice.

Anonymous protesting lack of justice.

Like the Steubenville rape it took Internet vigilantes, calling themselves Anonymous, to bring the case to light, for which Daisy is grateful. Now that the entire community of Maryville, Missouri is being called on the carpet, the case has been re-opened.

Why did so many turn on Daisy? The problem is rape culture.

In a rapist-protecting culture attackers feel entitled, people don’t speak out against them, and perpetrators are protected.

Matt’s family is powerful in his home state of Missouri. His grandfather is Republican Rep. Rex Barnett. Matt was also a popular football player. And a winning team makes the school — and it’s students — look good.

It’s common to attach ourselves to powerful people and against the powerless. Probably because powerful people can help us and the powerless can’t.

Not all of Maryville’s citizens defended the rapists, but too many did. Some even initiated their own attacks on a young girl.

Sucks when our empathy, our morality and our very humanity are so easily thrown out the door.

Related Posts on BroadBlogs
When Rapists are Heroes
Rape Culture and Penn State
Cheerleader Ordered To Cheer Her Rapist, and Other Stories

About BroadBlogs

I have a Ph.D. from UCLA in sociology (emphasis: gender, social psych). I currently teach sociology and women's studies at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, CA. I have also lectured at San Jose State. And I have blogged for Feminispire, Ms. Magazine, The Good Men Project and Daily Kos. Also been picked up by The Alternet.

Posted on October 23, 2013, in feminism, psychology, rape and sexual assault, sexism, violence against women, women and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 19 Comments.

  1. This is truly a sad read for me, I doubted our nation having communities like this, especially at this day of age. Although her brother warned her about Matt, it was still wrong for Matt to do that. I feel as if he believes his power in his community because of his star football abilities, and his dad being in politics played a big role on his power hungry, do what I want mentality. From the looks of how the court case turned out, and the evidence he put on the table like the sex tapes, he doesn’t seem to know that what he did was wrong. I’m glad people outside of this Maryville community were able to shed some light, and open a new case for this poor girl.

  2. People in this town should feel ashamed they are acting this way toward this victim. How could you say she asked for this to happen? Just because she left home without her parents knowing or her friend’s parents knowing does not mean she asked to be raped while she was passed out. She couldn’t agree top have sexual intercourse. She was passed out due to drinking. Yes she shouldn’t have been drinking, but the 17 year old shouldn’t have had alcohol either let alone giving it to over to drink. He knew what he was doing. Once she passed out he knew he was doing something wrong. Then leaving her to freeze outside wow. How can people support this crime? How could you stand by him and bully this young victim? People need to see what are we telling society? If you have money and people know your family you can get away with anything. What kind of message is this? young women should not be raped or get taken advantage of when they pass out. The should be able to feel safe not scared for their life. People need to think if this was their daughter would they react, bully her, and blame her for it? Protect this young victim. She has a life ahead of her, but she will also need a lot of help to get through this. People need to stand by her and know she is not alone. This case needs to show to other this will not be tolerated in the United States by anyone. The people in Maryville need to open their eyes with compassion for this young victim and let her know it is not her fault, and there was nothing she did to ask for any of this to happen.

  3. And this is supposedly a civilised western country? This kind of behaviour is sickening! My heart goes out to victims such as Daisy, who then become victims twice over. When is society going to stand up and be counted against people like this?

  4. This story broke my heart and made me sick to my stomach. I cannot even imagine what this girl and her family are going through. If I have sons, I will drill them on no means no, unconscious means no, underage means no, drunk means no, etc. And if he crosses that line, I will not defend him. I refuse to raise a son who feels that this kind of behavior is acceptable. I would be ashamed to live in a community that feels it is, too. And while I want to have faith in our justice system and I believe vigilantism can be dangerous, I really hope Anonymous shakes this town up and gets some real justice for this girl and her family.

    P.S. I read that the rapists are both in college and playing football? What the hell!? Proven reports of sexual misconduct and abuse should bar one from playing sports in any kind of collegiate or professional setting!

  5. A lot of this is about sports culture. Those guys are idolized and they get to feeling entitled. And the whole cheerleader thing has a strong element of pornifying girls.

    • Agreed. Thanks for bringing that up.

      • I can see you’ve addressed this here before, which I appreciate. It is, I think, inevitably problematic to treat teenagers like royalty. This appears to be about money as well as status, the whole sports thing. I don’t know how to get the rape out of it but it would seem likely that cheerleaders are disproportionately targeted.

      • I wonder if that’s because the men who are most likely to rape are in fraternities, sports teams, and gangs. And cheerleaders have more interaction with sports teams.

      • I’m a bit loath to express an opinion, since I’m not a guy, but I do know there is an internal reinforcement mechanism that goes on within groups of all sorts. So it would come down to what the extant mores were, in this case, and then the endless discussion of how inevitable male violence is. That’s really the big split in feminist thought.

      • Since most men don’t behave this way, and some cultures are even quite nonviolent, I don’t think that male violence is inevitable. In fact, in my own family it is the men who are the more mild-mannered. Even estrogen has been tied to aggression. If a mother mouse fears for her children she will attack. (Some mice that were bred without estrogen lost their aggression.) Also, while women have much less testosterone than men, they are more sensitive to the testosterone that they have. When you add it all up, it’s hard to say that men are naturally more aggressive than women or inevitably aggressive.

  6. What is wrong with Missouri. Arent any of them believers of God. No Christian would think that this type of behavior would be acceptable. And what type of low life tells a girl who was drugged, raped by four guys, and left for dead on her door step that she should kill herself? Who are they? Do they think that they are so important that they can judge people? Are they that back water, insestuous, ignorant that they don’t know the difference between good and bad. I mean it is that simple.

    Now we should let little Mr. Matt get picked up by a some of our low life gang members from California, some of our hardest criminals of course, drug him, and let him get fucked by four guys in some basement. When they decide they are done, (and only then) we can mail his ass back to his back water town in Missouri, and have him delivered in the middle of winter, and drop him on his front door step. It would be interesting to see what Rex Barnett would have to say. He should have investigated, reopened, assisted the case to keep a good reputation. And all those whom mistreated this girl should be taught the err of their ways. What kind of sick fucker thought it would be ok to spread a mentality that is pro-rape? And what kind of weak ass people go along with that without using their brain. Simple thinking, right and wrong, good and bad……..ignorance begets – well you know…..

  7. I think these cases should be used to set examples, in our country we were having some brutal cases like this when people came to protest in large numbers and demanded strict laws and speedy justice which eventually was provided.

    • Yes. And it’s easier to get the problem when it’s other folks doing it, not your own community. Hopefully “getting it” when the phenomenon happens somewhere else will help people get it when it happens in their community.

  8. This story, like so many, makes me sick. Suffering the crime is not enough…having the entire community turn on the victim on top of that is beyond words.

    • I’m still amazed at how communities so often turn on rape victims. Even though I’ve seen it repeatedly and intellectually get the dynamics behind I, it’s hard for me to get it emotionally.

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