In September, Netflix released a powerful documentary, Audrie & Daisy centered around two young girls who were sexually assaulted while in high school.
Audrie Potts was unconscious at a party where two young men drew all over her naked body with Sharpie. They said it was a prank that they wanted to play on her. Not only did they draw incredibly explicit and lewd remarks all over her, they took pictures and they fingered her “for like a second.”
Maybe I’m confused as to what a harmless prank is but that doesn’t sound like one to me.
Daisy Coleman was 14 years old when she was sexually assaulted by her older brother’s friend while another one of his friends took a video on his phone. She had been drinking with one of her friends when they snuck out to go hang out with the older boys. Afterwards, the boys drove her and her friend home, dropping Daisy on her front lawn. She could have died from hypothermia if her mother hadn’t found her soon enough. Only one of the boys was charged with a misdemeanour for child endangerment which warranted a mere two-year sentence of probation.
Not only did both of them have to live through the trauma of being sexually assaulted, social media played a huge role in how both victims were treated after. The photos of Audrie were placed in a Yahoo account that many students at her high school had access too. The pictures of her spread like wild fire and she was horribly cyber bullied. She started getting Facebook messages from anonymous people saying horrific things. Both of the boys, who were 15 at the time, were charged but only received 30 days and 45 days which were only served over weekends.
Audrie tragically ended her life in 2015 by hanging herself in her bathroom one week after the crime.
Daisy was also a victim of cyber bullying. People were telling her to slit her wrists and that she was a huge liar. She was treated as if she was the actual perpetrator. While Daisy has struggled since her attack, she has gone on to become an advocate for victims of sexual assault. Her story, thankfully, doesn’t have a tragic ending.
There are two factors in both of these cases that get to me.
One, that sexual assault against women seems to be continuously growing. We have someone running in the American Presidential race who said he loves being famous because it allows him to molest beautiful women and get away with it. We see victim shaming on a regular basis. This prevents sexual assault victims from coming forward because of the things that people could potentially say about them.
That’s incredibly sad. That survivors of such trauma are being told that they’re the real criminals or that they’re liars. How can we have come so far in society only to seem as though we’re backsliding? Sexual assault is never, ever justified. No means no. No doesn’t mean ask me 15 more times. No doesn’t mean try to guilt me into sleeping with you. No means no. It’s that simple. If I cannot speak, if I’m unconscious, that’s also a no.
These cases made me think back to all the conversations I’ve had with friends and a number of women over the years. Stories where they said no but then it kind of happened anyway.
It happened anyway.
They were too ashamed to say anything to the person who did it or to anyone else until years and years later. It’s guilt, shame, and worthlessness they’ve lived with since it occurred. They were too afraid of what people would say about them. They were too afraid to confront the person.
They were just too afraid to admit what happened.
Why? It’s because even now, women are made to believe we need to be nice. We need to be nice or we’re going to be called a bitch. Assertiveness is not bitchiness. If you’re out a bar with your friends wanting to have fun and a man grinds on your ass, then that’s your fault for dressing too provocatively. There are many times I hear my friends tell a guy at a bar that they’re not interested by saying they have a boyfriend. Why is that? It’s because a guy is more than likely to respect the that you’re another man’s instead of just not interested. If you’re just not interested, then you’re a lesbian or a bitch.
Sexual assault and sexual harassment are still some of the hardest cases to prove. It usually comes down to a he said-she said which isn’t enough to convict someone to the fullest extent of law. But we’ve also seen cases where the evidence was strong but still ended with the defendant getting a lesser sentence. We saw it with Brock Turner earlier this year.
The second part of this Netflix special is the cyber bullying. When I was a kid, the internet wasn’t as popular as it is now. Facebook wasn’t really a big thing until I was in my last year of high school. We did however have some version of Facebook. I remember reading comments about myself that these girls were sending to each other about how I was an asshole, a liar, a bitch and every other mean word a 16-year-old girl had in her repertoire (which is a lot by the way). I remember crying to my mom. I remember completely shutting down and not wanting to go to school. I remember struggling through the days, wondering if life gets better after high school. Of course, life after high school is always better but you don’t think that at 16.
I couldn’t image if I was sexually assaulted and then all of these people I knew and even considered friends were ganging up to write all these brutal comments about me on Facebook. Audrie didn’t even report her assault to the police but because of the photos, people in her school felt it was their right to tell her how slutty she was. They felt it imperative to tell her that she was a “horny mofo.” She was unconscious.
I struggle to remember a time when the internet wasn’t a big part of my daily life. It makes me wonder what life will be like for the younger generation. I can already see the blatant fact that kids don’t get a break from bullying anymore. They don’t get time to come home and decompress. They don’t have a chance to just be a kid. While bullying is unacceptable, at least when kids got home before they could get away from it. They can’t anymore.
We have an epidemic plaguing our society. Cyber bullying is a real concern. I know as an adult who writes on the internet — I get some pretty terrible messages. I’m also 26 and have a very real grasp of who I am as a person. Kids aren’t so secure in themselves and they don’t have to be. Being a kid and a teenager means finding out who you are. Being a kid means you can be weird, goofy, carefree, and slowly become aware of the adult you want to be.
The sad part is that for women and girls like Daisy, they will live with their sexual assault for the rest of their lives. Daisy will live with the words that were said about her online daily. She will continue to know what people think about her because it’s on the internet for everyone to see. Sadly, for Audrie, she couldn’t see another way out.
If you are a girl, love a girl or even just know a girl, you should watch Audrie & Daisy on Netflix. If anything it will give you more perspective on sexual assaults amongst teenagers and how social media plays a huge roll in bullying these days.
If you’re someone who’s suffered through sexual assault know this, you are worth so much. You are brave. Don’t be afraid to tell your story. You are a survivor and a warrior.
Audrie’s family set up the Audrie Pott’s Foundation to help educate teenagers on cyber bullying, offers scholarships for arts and music programs and grants for school therapists. Click here to find out more.