The Washington Post

Maryville waits for justice while many rape victims suffer in silence

And now, we wait.

We wait for Jean Peters Baker, the special prosecutor appointed for Nodaway County, and her team in the Jackson County prosecuting attorney’s office to discover what charges should be filed regarding the events of the early morning hours of Jan. 8. 2012 in Maryville, Mo.

People held bouquets of daisies at the rally Justice for Daisy in Maryville Oct. 22. (Diana Reese for The Washington Post) People held bouquets of daisies at the rally Justice for Daisy in Maryville on Oct. 22. (Diana Reese for The Washington Post)

We wait for justice. It’s hard not to have an opinion about this case, especially after reading the investigative report in the Kansas City Star and the essay for written by Daisy Coleman, who was just 14 when she was allegedly raped by Matthew Barnett, a high school senior, after he gave her alcohol to drink. I am trying to practice restraint and not convict Barnett in the court of public opinion for what he may have done to Daisy while she was drunk. Same for his friend, Jordan Zech, also a senior, who is said to have videotaped Barnett and Coleman with his cellphone. (I do blame them, though, and not the town of Maryville, where I grew up, although many find the entire community at fault.)

My best friend, Debra, waits as well. She just drove her 21-year-old daughter, Emily (names have been changed at their request to protect their privacy) from Overland Park, Kan., to Chicago, to a residential treatment facility that treats young women suffering from depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and anorexia.

All of those problems started after Emily was raped by five high school hockey players at a party five years ago. That was before Steubenville and Maryville. Before Rehtaeh Parsons and Audrie Pott, two young rape victims who committed suicide.

It’s been said we have an epidemic of rape in this country. And it didn’t just start in January of 2012 in Maryville or in August of 2012 in Steubenville. It’s been going on for who knows how long, and it’s been covered up and whispered about because victims find it easier to stay quiet.

Except it isn’t really easier.

And it isn’t just the rape.  It’s the aftermath — the name-calling, the cyber-bullying and the “slut-shaming” — that’s humiliated them and discouraged them and chipped away at their self-esteem. It’s like “Mean Girls” on steroids.

“My whole life since January 8, 2012, has been a long, reckless winter,” Coleman wrote in her online essay. She explains why she started cutting herself. “I saw myself as ugly, inside and out. If I was this ugly on the inside, then why shouldn’t everyone see the ugly I saw?

“I burned and carved the ugly I saw into my arms, wrists, legs and anywhere I could find room.”

She also attempted suicide twice.

So has Emily, who slept with a kitchen knife under her bed,  thinking she would use it on herself.

Coleman’s bullying intensified after felony charges were dropped against Barnett and Zech in March 2012; she was taunted in tweets with the hashtag #JordanAndMattAreFree.

I don’t understand how girls can turn on other girls. But they do. Two girls faced charges of making threats against the rape victim after the young men were convicted in the Steubenville case. More shocking: CNN reporter Poppy Harlow told anchor Candy Crowley, “It was incredibly emotional, incredibly difficult even for an outsider like me to watch what happened as these two young men that had such promising futures — star football players, very good students — we literally watched as they believe their life fell apart.”

What about the girls who have to live with the memories of rape for the rest of their lives?

Five years later, Emily is still struggling with the memories of that one night.  Debra wonders if life will ever be normal for her daughter. Therapists told her that Emily could qualify for disability; that’s how severe her emotional impairment is.

Debra and her husband talked to an attorney about pressing charges against the boys who attacked their daughter. She didn’t want them to get away with it. She didn’t want them to do it to another girl.

But it’s too late. Despite Kansas no longer having a statute of limitations for rape cases, there’s no physical evidence. There’s no justice for Emily. Nor is there for most rape victims: Sixty percent of rapes in the past five years were never even reported to law enforcement, and only three out of 100 rapists serve time in prison, according to RAINN.

Debra wants Emily’s story told. It may be the only justice her daughter will ever have, although Debra said she hoped the events of that night would haunt the souls of the young men who raped Emily.  “If they have souls.”

I suggested that when they had their own families, they would understand what they had done as teenagers to hurt Emily.  Maybe they would make sure their sons treated women with respect.

“No,” she said. “I want them to have daughters.”

Diana Reese is a journalist in Overland Park, Kan. Follow her on Twitter at @dianareese.

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