Things keep getting worse for Daisy Coleman, the young woman at the center of a rape case in Maryville, Mo. Coleman made national headlines back in October when the Kansas City Star covered both the horrifying details of her alleged rape at age 14 and the local law enforcement’s apparent unwillingness to work too hard to bring the attackers to justice. Coleman has written about her experiences and been interviewed on national TV. On Sunday, Coleman was hospitalized after swallowing a bunch of sleeping pills in what appears to be her third suicide attempt.
We can’t know why Coleman tried to kill herself. That said, it appears that Coleman was subject to a bout of extremely nasty cyberbullying right before her suicide attempt, and her mother, at least, fears that was one of the reasons. “My daughter has been terrorized to the point she tried to kill herself last night. She may never be ok,” Melinda Coleman wrote on Facebook, begging the Internet collective Anonymous to help push back against cyberbullies. Melinda told the Daily Mail that she let her daughter go to a party over the weekend, which she says led to a bunch of tongue-wagging online from people who believed this somehow means Daisy is a “slut,” a “fake,” and a “hypocrite.”
Melinda Coleman, who is understandably quite stressed out right now, has taken to arguing online with people who are disparaging her daughter. One woman in particular who seems to have quite a gripe with Daisy exploded all over Melinda’s Facebook page, writing that she’s “tired of hearing” about the rape and complaining, “No one has ever got this much attention for being raped.” This woman also wants everyone to understand that she’s “smart enough not to put myself in those situations” (meaning, the situation to be raped). When other people called her out for blaming the victim, the woman got even angrier, saying, “I didn’t put the blame on her! I said I, MYSELF don’t put MYSELF in those situations!”
Why other women are eager to demonize a rape victim can often be hard to understand. Logically, it seems women especially should want to eradicate this kind of negativity toward victims that makes it easier for rapists to get away with their crimes. But, as these posts show, a lot of women have something to gain with this kind of cruelty. Impugning the intelligence and morality of rape victims allows the bully to characterize herself as the embodiment of all sorts of feminine virtues, from chastity to humility. You know, unlike rape victims, who just want “attention.”
Of course, when women treat rape victims like pariahs, it only adds to the victim’s already considerable woes. It’s not hard to see why a young woman like Daisy would, despite all the hostility she’s been experiencing in her small town, want to go to a party and act like a normal teenager for a few hours. She should be able to do that. That something so simple as going to a party has become so fraught for this young woman shows that our culture has a long way to go when it comes to treating rape victims with anything approaching basic decency.