Today, sir, I watched a documentary on Netflix. The film was titled, "Audrie & Daisy." In it, you appeared as the sheriff who questioned a few young men about a certain night back in 2012. The questioning included talking to those boys about specific details that had occurred that night; details about two different rapes including two teenage girls, ages thirteen and fourteen.
The details of that cold January night were blurry due to the underlying fact that the two young girls were under the influence and the four boys that were involved seemingly believed nothing was wrong. It may have started out as a few underage kids drinking, but it turned into something much worse than that. On that night in January of 2012, one of the two young girls, Daisy Coleman, received a text message from a boy three years older than her asking to hang out and drink. Daisy and her friend, Paige, then left her home to be picked up by the boy and his three friends to go back to his house. At this boys house, Daisy and Paige were immediately separated and the details of the night unfolded. Paige was, unfortunately, the victim of sexual assault almost immediately after arriving at the home, and Daisy was convinced to drink enough alcohol to make a grown man drunk. While Paige was helplessly stuck in a room with her attacker, Daisy blacked out and was led into a bedroom by a 17-year-old male where he then, without consent, had sex with her. After this boy was finished, Paige found Daisy limp and unable to walk let alone even speak. The four boys then took the two girls back to Daisy’s house where Daisy was left in the 22-degree weather on her front lawn. While Paige’s attacker completely and willingly admitted to his wrongdoing, Daisy wasn’t as fortunate.
Sheriff White, let me tell you something I found appalling about your part in this film. Not only were you introduced to us as the sheriff of Maryville, Missouri, but you were introduced with your two daughters. Your first appearance had shown not only you getting into your police car, but it also showed your two beautiful young girls getting in the back of your car as, what it looks like, you drove them to school. Keep that image in the back of your mind, please.
As the story unraveled, it became clear that you were a beloved figure in the town of Maryville and you, in fact, took great pride in that. I do not doubt your ability to protect and serve your community as someone the citizens can turn to for help. What I do doubt, sir, is this - how can you protect and serve your community to the fullest when you are undeniably unclear as to what consent and rape mean?
In the documentary you stated that the people involved in the case were, “running around, telling a lot of stories.” This made me think that although you were on the case, you didn’t believe much of what was going on. You then continued to say, “It serves to benefit people's causes by making a lot of things up that really didn’t happen and really doesn’t exist,” and let's not forget the infamous line, “But don’t underestimate the need for attention – especially young girls.” During this part of your interview, the woman questioning you stated that the boys in Ms. Coleman’s case were, in fact, guilty, you answered her by snickering and saying, “Were they?”
Sheriff White, it seems to me that you are unaware of the fact that you are raising two “young girls” in today’s society and you are supposed to be their safe house before anyone else. It saddens me to say that I know if I was your daughter, I would be deathly afraid of telling you something that could potentially make or break my well being simply based on the fact that you believe that young girls strive for attention.
One of your statements that upset me the most was, “One of the parts that people have really blown out of proportion in this entire case is that everybody wants to throw the word ‘rape’ out there. It’s very popular, ‘the rape,’ ‘the Maryville rape,’ ‘the Coleman rape.’ Nothing that occurred that night ever rose to the level of the elements of the crime of rape.”
You, Sheriff White, are the reason why nothing that night was ever given the title “rape,” because you, the trusted figure, pushed all signs of rape to the side and made sure the boy that committed the crime at hand was given a slap on the wrist. While I could be giving you props for taking on such a challenging task of a case so difficult to adhere, I am shaming you for brushing something so devastating under the rug. The final words of yours that stuck so clearly in my mind were, “As far as I can tell, the boys are the only ones who want to put this behind them and try to move on with their lives and try to make things of themselves.” Sir, this nearly made me throw up. It is only obvious that the boys, who had received no more than a stern “Don’t do that again,” were able to move on and make something of themselves, seeing as though they weren’t the unconscious one being unknowingly assaulted.
Remember when I asked you to hold the image of your daughters riding in your police car as you drove them to school in the back of your mind? Well, now I’m asking you to please bring it back to the clearest part of your head. Assuming that your relationship with your daughters is a good one, it is only right to assume that they look up to you, that they come to you for advice, and that they confide in you. Correct? Well then Sheriff White, excuse me when I tell you I am sorry for them. I hope that after seeing the way you reacted to a young girl's plea for justice, they can forgive you. I hope that they are able to find someone who will actually listen to their side of the story and believe it. I hope that your two girls are given chances to voice their opinions and to be heard, whether you stand by them or not. I also hope that they never experience something as horrific as Daisy Coleman did, because if it were to happen, I’m not sure you’d see them as anything more than a “young girl” craving the “need for attention.”
Daisy Coleman may have absolutely no idea I exist, and I may never get the chance to meet her, but I do know that she deserves now, just as much as she did then, an opportunity to be heard and believed, not tormented and made fun of. Because of a situation, you took leadership in, sir, she is yet another woman forced to live with the fact that her attacker was set free while she was shamed for “doing it to herself.” The rape culture in today’s society is something so prominent and it is a shame that people like you sit oblivious to it.