This US documentary delves into the experiences of several teenage girls who were sexually assaulted by school friends while unconscious and the repercussions for them, their families and the perpetrators. It highlights a ‘rape culture’ in the US that shifts blame from male perpetrators to the victims. If you have teenage sons, I recommend you watch this film with them.
Audrie and Daisy never met but they shared similar experiences of assault, the distribution of photos and video of the crime and then their vilification by school friends and community members through social media and the justice system. We learn about Audrie first, a 15-year old from California who hanged herself a week after she was assaulted and pictures of her unconscious body covered in obscene graffiti were sent around her school. Her parents talk with painful honesty and we see video testimony from the two teenage boys who assaulted her, although their identities are hidden. They received little punishment and seem to think they didn’t do anything really wrong.
Daisy Coleman is the shining light of this film. At 14, she and a friend were raped while unconscious by 17-year old friends of her brother. Charges were filed against the four young men who raped her but were dropped due to insufficient evidence. Where this film really gets interesting is when we hear the Sheriff of the County she lives in talk about how hard it has been for the boys and call into question the use of the term ‘rape’. His denial that having sex with an unconscious person could be deemed a ‘forcible action’ along with the avalanche of social media hatred directed toward Daisy shows how suicide might seem a reasonable choice. It also shows why the voices of the young women are rarely heard and the courage of Daisy to withstand the hatred and blame.
There was only really one point where the behaviour of boys is discussed, albeit briefly. Daisy’s brother, now coaching little league baseball, talks of overhearing two of the young players talking disrespectfully about girls and intervened, his realisation that this is how he can make a difference.
It is frustrating to see how much focus is placed on the behaviour of the girls and I can see this stems from an erroneous assumption that men have uncontrollable sexual urges and it is up to women to modify their behaviour so that men don’t overstep the line. I have linked to this blog article by Dominique Matti on Medium before but it’s a good read and relevant to this subject – Why Erykah Badu’s Opinion is Dangerous.
The film ends with six young women speaking at a public conference, telling their story, and it’s a moving coda to this sobering film.
Bechdel test – pass