By Senior Editor Kadia Goba – October 4, 2016
This Netflix film documents the excruciating stories of Audrie Pott, 16, of Texas, and Daisy Coleman, 14, of Missouri, who were raped by teenage boys. Reports and accounts of the sexual attacks were spun in a vortex of lies, accusations, hearsay and gossip fueled by small town parochialism, news media accounts and, especially, the voracious power of social media.
The girls and their families were targeted for hate and worse. Pott killed herself. Coleman and her family dealt with a gauntlet of horrors: The social ostracism of her and family members, loss of employment for her only living parent, a mysterious house fire that left the family temporarily homeless.
The teen rapists? After their arrests, they received the equivalent of a rap on the knuckles.
The documentary by married couple Bonni Cohen and Jon Shenk was unsparing. The screen shows scrolls of displays of Facebook Messenger and text message correspondences, offering an intimate look at the play by play interaction between the victims, perpetrators and cyber bullies. But nothing drives home the small town parochialism more than Nodaway County, Missouri, Sheriff Darren White’s “Girls have as much culpability in this world as boys do,” a reminder of the injustice and cruel realities of life after rape.
When White’s interviewer reminds the Sheriff that “the crimes were committed by boys,” you’ll be surprised at the Sheriff’s response.
Audrie & Daisy’s narrative highlights social media. While social media are a vehicle for cyber bullying throughout the film, that same vehicle serves as a tool to unite Daisy to other victims with similar stories. Delaney Henderson, another sexual assault survivor, made a valiant attempt at reaching out to Daisy via social media so that she could share her experience and offer words of wisdom regarding her efforts as a survivor. Despite the barrage of antagonistic posts and emails from cyber bullies, further victimizing the victim, the two connect and ultimately form a group, Safe Bey.
This reviewer spoke to Coleman after the screening of AUDRIE & DAISEY and asked how her organization, Safe Bey, would have reacted to a recent incident at Hunter about a female student groped on a subway train and stalked on campus by the attacker. The incident started August 29, about 9:30 a.m. aboard a southbound IRT 6 train at the 68 Street station, according to the police. The suspect grabbed the buttocks of a 19-year-old female as she exited the train. Then he followed her up to a classroom. He fled when the victim saw him.
Daisy and Shael Norris, the organizer assisting the efforts of Safe Bey, informed me that the organization would be touring New England colleges to promote awareness about sexual assault and encourage female students to go back to their alma maters to educate high school students on the issue as well.
Their hopes, through peer-to-peer mentoring, are to motivate high school females to become aware of outlets that will support sexual assault awareness by them “knowing who their people are in those schools, who is the feminist club advisor, who is the assistant principal that’s going to be receptive to this.”
AUDRIE & DAISY now streaming on Netflix
Senior Editor Kadia Goba can be reached at Kadia.Goba09@myhunter.cuny.edu