- Sheila Pottmother of Audrie Pott, who hanged herself eight days after she was sexually assaulted.
- Daisy Colemanteenager who says she was sexually assaulted while unconscious. She was bullied on social media and urged to kill herself, which she attempted to do multiple times. Her story drew national attention after the hacker group Anonymous targeted local officials in Maryville, Missouri, over their handling of Daisy’s case.
- Melinda ColemanDaisy Coleman’s mother.
[Updated last on December 7, 2020] Broadcasting from the Sundance Film Festival, we look at the story of two high school girls who were sexually assaulted and bullied on social media in cases that made national headlines. A new documentary, “Audrie & Daisy,” examines their lives and the impact of what happened to them on their families, their communities and the national conversation. In Part 2 of our interview with subjects of the powerful new documentary “Audrie & Daisy,” we look at the story of Daisy Coleman, and speak with Daisy and her mother, Melinda.
[Editor’s Note from 12/7/20: Melinda Coleman died by apparent suicide on December 6th, four months after her daughter Daisy died by suicide. Her death was announced by the group SafeBAE. In a statement, the group said: “The bottomless grief of losing her husband, Tristan, and Daisy was more than she could face most days.”]
[Editor’s Note from 8/7/20: Daisy Coleman, a high school sexual assault survivor who was featured in the documentary “Audrie & Daisy,” has died at the age of 23 by suicide. She was raped at 14 by a 17-year-old high school football player with political connections while another student took videos. Charges were initially brought and dropped against the boys accused of assaulting Daisy and videotaping it. When Daisy’s mother, Melinda, began to raise questions, she lost her job. The family’s house in Maryville, Missouri, mysteriously burned to the ground. Daisy says she was suspended from the cheerleading squad and incessantly bullied. She was hounded on social media, called a skank and a liar, and urged to kill herself, which she tried to do multiple times. Daisy Coleman would go on to become an advocate for sexual assault victims.]
AMY GOODMAN: Music composed by Tyler Strickland from the film Audrie & Daisy. The images show Daisy’s posts on social media. Our radio listeners can go to democracynow.org to see them. Yes, this is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman. We are broadcasting from the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, as we return to our conversation with the subjects of the powerful new documentary, Audrie & Daisy.
In early January 2012, 14-year-old high school freshman Daisy Coleman and her 13-year-old friend, Paige Parkhurst, were invited to a small gathering of high school athletes. The girls had already been drinking when the boys came to pick them up. Daisy blacked out at the party. She says Matthew Barnett sexually assaulted her while she was unconscious, while Jordan Zech, a star high school wrestler, took videos. Barnett would later claim the encounter was consensual. Daisy’s friend Paige was sexually assaulted by another teen, who admitted to the assault and was sentenced in juvenile court.
Charges were brought and dropped against the boys accused of assaulting Daisy and videotaping it, raising suspicions the Nodaway County prosecutor was influenced by Matthew Barnett’s role as a football player and his grandfather’s position as a Missouri state representative. When Daisy’s mother, Melinda, began to raise questions, she lost her job. The family’s house in Maryville mysteriously burned to the ground. Daisy says she was suspended from the cheerleading squad and incessantly bullied. People told her she was, quote, “asking for it” and would, quote, “get what was coming.” She was hounded on social media, called a skank and a liar, and urged her to kill herself—which she tried to do, multiple times. A special prosecutor was appointed two years after the alleged assault. Barnett pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of child endangerment. His punishment? Two years probation, 100 hours of community service and $1,800 restitution to Daisy’s family.
So let’s go to Daisy Coleman here at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, along with her mother, Melinda Coleman, and Sheila Pott, the mother of Audrie Pott, who committed suicide after she was sexually assaulted and bullied online afterwards. Again, Melinda and Daisy Coleman met Audrie’s mother Sheila for the first time when they arrived for our interview. We began with an excerpt from the film, Audrie & Daisy, which just premiered here at Sundance. Here, Daisy Coleman and her young friend Paige alternate speaking, beginning with Daisy.
DAISY COLEMAN: We literally jumped out my window. We walked out to the car. They kind of drove to a neighborhood.
PAIGE PARKHURST: We had to walk through like a couple of backyards to get to his house, so you could kind of tell that he was like hiding it from his parents. And so, we had to sneak in through the basement window.
DAISY COLEMAN: There were five guys there—Matt, Cole, Nick, Jordan and a younger friend of theirs that took Paige into Matt’s sister’s bedroom.
PAIGE PARKHURST: Pretty much as soon as we got to the house, we were separated. I was taken into another room.
DAISY COLEMAN: Someone mentioned having me drink out of the bitch cup. If you drank so much, you were this tough or whatever. And since I have three brothers and it was guys kind of taunting me to do it, I kind of almost saw it as like a challenge, like, “Yeah, I’ll show you. I’m not just like a little girl,” kind of thing. Yeah.
PAIGE PARKHURST: I drank all of that and had quite a few swigs straight from the bottle, which probably amounted to like 11 or 12 shots by that time.
DAISY COLEMAN: I remember a dog ran up on the couch and sat on my lap, and I said something really loudly about it, and they told me to quiet down. And that’s literally like the last thing I remember, so.
AMY GOODMAN: That’s a clip from Audrie & Daisy. We’re actually talking here at the Sundance Film Festival to Daisy Coleman, talking about her experience. How did you know these boys?
DAISY COLEMAN: I knew these boys through my oldest brother, Charlie. He played football with them. He was friends with them. They came over to the house once in a while to hang out with him. They were boys I trusted, so.
AMY GOODMAN: How did you end up in your front yard?
DAISY COLEMAN: Personally, I do not know the exact story how I got to my front yard. But from what I have heard from everyone’s story is that they had to carry me out of the basement window and carry me to a car, and that I was throwing up all over the place, and that they just told Paige to go back inside in my room, and that I just needed some air, and that I would be OK if she left me out there.
AMY GOODMAN: January in Missouri. Melinda, you’re Daisy’s mother. You know what happened next, because you discovered her outside. Explain how you discovered Daisy laying in the snow.
MELINDA COLEMAN: It was about 10 'til 5:00 in the morning, and I heard something outside in the yard. At first I thought it was the dogs. I just heard something. I'm not even sure what it was. And my youngest son was sleeping in the living room on the sofa, and at the same time, he heard something. And we both jumped up and ran outside. And Daisy was in the front yard in the grass, and she had no shoes or socks on. She had a pair of sweatpants and a T-shirt. And her hair had—he hair was frozen to the ground. And my youngest son said—you know, Tristan said that he thought she was dead, because she was blue, and she was all kind of sparkly from the frost and everything. So we scooped her up and took her inside, and that was when we tried to—we were trying to figure out what had happened.
AMY GOODMAN: You brought her into the bathroom to put her in a hot tub?
MELINDA COLEMAN: Mm-hmm, correct. Yeah, at one point.
AMY GOODMAN: And what did you discover there?
MELINDA COLEMAN: Well, I had some suspicions at that time, but we still didn’t know anything. You know, we still didn’t even know how she got outside or what had happened. So, I saw some bruising and some really red places on her body.
AMY GOODMAN: On her genital area.
MELINDA COLEMAN: Correct. But I still—I think I was still kind of in denial at that point. We actually took her in to the hospital for the frostbite that was on her hands and feet. And it wasn’t until the doctor did the exam and, you know, told me about the tears. And I said, “I know what that means, but would you just say it for me? Because I’m having a hard time right now.” And he said she was raped. And Daisy and I both burst out crying at that point.
AMY GOODMAN: Were the boys brought up on charges?
MELINDA COLEMAN: Initially, they did press charges, but they dropped them.
AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to go to a clip of the sheriff.
MELINDA COLEMAN: Sure.
AMY GOODMAN: This is a clip from Audrie & Daisy. He’s talking about what happened to you, Daisy.
SHERIFF DARREN WHITE: You know, unfortunately, you have a lot of people involved in this that are running around telling a lot of stories, you know, and without pointing fingers, it serves to benefit people’s causes by making a lot of things up that really didn’t happen and really doesn’t exist. But don’t underestimate the need for attention, especially young girls.
AMY GOODMAN: So, that’s the Nodaway County sheriff, Darren White. Daisy, what’s your response?
DAISY COLEMAN: Well, without using any derogatory terms, I believe Sheriff White is correct when he says that there is a lot of pressure on young females. But in the same respects, what young female would put themselves through that for popularity, when they aren’t even going to gain that? I mean, what kind of logic do you use to come up with that?
AMY GOODMAN: Well, your case certainly got national attention when these boys were charged and then the charges were dropped. Anonymous got involved. And in October of 2013, the hacker group Anonymous joined the chorus of condemnation against Maryville’s handling of your case. This is from the video they posted online, and it’s replayed in Audrie & Daisy.
ANONYMOUS: If Maryville won’t defend these young girls, if the police are too cowardly or corrupt to do their jobs, if justice system has abandoned them, then someone else will have to stand for them. Mayor Jim Fall, your hands are dirty. Maryville, expect us.
AMY GOODMAN: When did you see that video of Anonymous? Did it—how did you feel about it?
DAISY COLEMAN: I was terrified at first. I had no clue who Anonymous was. They were just men in masks to me at that time. But after I kind of figured everything out, I really appreciated their help.
AMY GOODMAN: And you wrote a text. You wrote, “Since this happened, I’ve been in hospitals too many times to count. I’ve found it impossible to love at times. I’ve gained and lost friends. I no longer dance or compete in pageants. I’m different now, and I can’t ever go back to the person I once was. That one night took it all away from me. I’m nothing more than just human, but I also refuse to be a victim of cruelty any longer.” Those are your words, Daisy. Can you continue talking about how you came out of this and how you dealt with what didn’t happen in your community, the whole issue of justice?
DAISY COLEMAN: I almost believe that this whole situation did strip me of being, you know, human and what I used to be. But I believe that as it stripped me of everything that I used to be, I was able to start from a new building block and build on to someone else. And I think that really shaped who I am today. And I feel like—you know, I think I’m a force to be reckoned with, with Maryville now. I don’t think they’re going to be getting away with everything that they do now.
AMY GOODMAN: You went to college on a sports scholarship?
DAISY COLEMAN: Yes, a wrestling scholarship.
AMY GOODMAN: And what advice do you have to young women, and then to young men?
DAISY COLEMAN: To young women, I would say, look out for each other. You know, I know it’s a dog-eat-dog world, but, you know, as females, we kind of have to stick together, because no one else is going to have our back. And to the young males, you know, start learning from an early age what you should do at a situation like that or if a situation does occur where a female is incapacitated. You know, it’s all about the mindset that you create as you’re growing up, so.
AMY GOODMAN: And your thoughts, as you sit next to—you both, Melinda and Daisy, are—you’re meeting Sheila for the first time.
DAISY COLEMAN: Yes.
AMY GOODMAN: Do you feel like you know her daughter, Audrie, or at least know the experience that she went through?
DAISY COLEMAN: I feel like, in some way, I know her, but in other ways, I don’t. I know Audrie from what I’ve heard. And I’ve kind of painted this picture of who she was. I don’t know her like her mom did, but I feel like I know her in my perspective. And, you know, it was really hard for me to come here and meet her, because I kept asking my friends, you know, “What do I say to her?” because, you know, I didn’t speak out soon enough.
AMY GOODMAN: What do you mean?
DAISY COLEMAN: I feel like Audrie would have spoke out, if she would have saw that someone else was there.
AMY GOODMAN: Do you know how many young women you have saved by speaking out?
DAISY COLEMAN: Yeah.
AMY GOODMAN: Have people written to you? Have people come up to you and talked to you?
DAISY COLEMAN: Yeah, I’ve had millions of letters and people come to me publicly and over Facebook and—
AMY GOODMAN: Do you feel like you have saved lives?
DAISY COLEMAN: Yeah.
AMY GOODMAN: How old are you?
DAISY COLEMAN: I’m 18 right now.
AMY GOODMAN: What year are you in college?
DAISY COLEMAN: I’m a freshman in college.
AMY GOODMAN: Melinda, how do you feel about Daisy taking this stand? As we heard from the filmmakers, it is extremely rare in this country for a young woman Daisy’s age to stand up.
MELINDA COLEMAN: I’m really proud of her. I think she’s been incredibly strong. And I just think she’s a great person, and I’m so happy she’s in my life. And she’s my hero.
AMY GOODMAN: Sheila, as you meet Daisy and Melinda for the first time, what are your feelings today? What do you have to say to Daisy?
SHEILA POTT: I’m so proud of what you’ve done. I mean, it’s really amazing. And you are—you are the hero. I mean, you have saved so many lives. And don’t ever doubt yourself. You’re strong. You’re a survivor. You are an example to so many girls, you know, that all struggle with. And there’s not a minute that I don’t—I don’t think that—you know, if Audrie survived, I don’t know that we could have come forward with her story. She was so private, I don’t know that she could have done it like you did. It’s amazing. It really is.
AMY GOODMAN: And, Sheila, what do you say to parents of young women or young men today?
SHEILA POTT: I really feel in my heart that it has to start with conversations in the home, you know, parents talking to their sons about the way they treat women and, you know, about being responsible, about being men, you know, being the example. And I feel the same way about young women. It’s not about being popular. It’s not about having boys like you. It’s about being true to yourself and taking care of your friends. There was something that one of the probation officers said to us in our criminal trial, and she said, “Audrie needed a hero that night, and no one stood up.” And so, when—we speak to high school students through the foundation, and I ask these young people, you know, to be the hero.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, Sheila Pott and Daisy and Melinda Coleman, thank you so much.
AMY GOODMAN: That’s Sheila Pott. Her daughter Audrie hanged herself after she was sexually assaulted. Sheila met Daisy Coleman and her mom, Melinda, for the first time at this interview about the documentary Audrie & Daisy.
That does it for the show. Special thanks to Amy Littlefield and Laura Gottesdiener. I’m Amy Goodman, from Park City Television in Utah.