Daisy Coleman and Audrie Pott have a lot in common. When Daisy Coleman was 14 years old, she was sexually assaulted by an older boy at a party. Pictures were taken. She never gave consent. When Audrie was 15, she was sexually assaulted by a group of teenage boys at a party. Pictures were taken. She never gave consent. Nine months separated their assault. Both girls were bullied, online and in person. None of the boys served time in prison. The difference? Daisy is still alive today, Audrie committed suicide days after her assault. In the recently released Netflix documentary, “Audrie & Daisy“, we are shown their stories in an intertwining narrative that paints them on a nationwide canvas, one we all must pay attention to. This documentary not only tells their stories, but serves as an astute examination of the American justice system and the effect social media can have on survivors who tell their story.
The power of social media has become too great to ignore. From hashtags turning into movements to viral videos amassing millions of views, the Internet serves as a platform anyone can use, access and abuse. Audrie and Daisy were exposed to the full extent of this abuse. After Audrie’s assault, pictures were shared among her classmates, on private forums and through text, as she begged her friends to tell her the truth of what happened. She was slut-shamed, in person and over Facebook, to the point where she was convinced her reputation was ruined forever. Daisy, put in a similar situation by a video taken during her assault, was harassed on an ever larger scale when she took her case to court. Many parts of the town turned against her through Twitter hashtags and online threats, and these only increased when it was revealed sexual assault charges would not be pressed for her case. Ostracized and scared, these girls served as a mirror for a problem many teenagers face. Sadly, while social media is truly a double-edged sword, many young girls are left vulnerable and exposed when nude photos are circulated without their permission.
Perhaps the most powerful take away from the documentary was the gross mishandling of Daisy and Audrie’s cases, exposing deeper issues in our justice system. This documentary’s release couldn’t come at a better time, with the recent release of Stanford rapist Brock Turner, and less than a month after the probation of high school rapist David Becket, who wasn’t given jail time because the judge worried it would have “destroyed this kid’s life”. Daisy’s case followed a very similar path, as did Audrie’s. None of their assaulters served any jail time. Their lives were allowed to continue as normal, unaffected by consequences. Audrie’s assaulters were given the excuse that “These boys are not bad boys!”, even after her death. Daisy’s were celebrated when they returned to school, free of punishment, to play football again. And they’re not alone. Far too many cases are treated in a similar way, with boys walking free and girls being forced to deal with the aftermath of their assaults, often times alone and scared. “Audrie & Daisy” shows us that when it comes to the handling of sexual assault cases, too much care is paid towards the livelihood of the boys, and not nearly enough is paid to the victims.
“Audrie & Daisy” is not a documentary to be missed. Serving as powerful commentary on the world we live in, where 1 in 4 girls is sexually abused before 18, this movie reminds us that each of us have a role to play in preventing a culture of victim blaming and slut-shaming from emerging. Today, Daisy travels to high schools to speak about sexual assault. “Audrie & Daisy” reminds us that when she talks, and when other teenage girls talk about the abuse they’ve faced, it is up to each of us to listen.