The Daisy Coleman rape case has been at the center of the news for the past three months. Since the hacktivist group Anonymous exposed the Maryland rape case back in October, 16-year-old Coleman has been in the national spotlight, telling her awful, heartbreaking story on national TV and in national magazines and newspapers. Unfortunately, none of it changed the outcome.
Matthew Barnett, the 19-year-old Coleman says took her and her 13-year-old friend from their home two years ago when she was 14, plied her with alcohol, raped her while videotaping it, and then dumped her in the freezing cold outside her home for her mother to find, has only been charged with one misdemeanor count of child endangerment.
Barnett pleaded guilty and will serve two years of probation. He has been forced to pay counseling fees for Daisy, stop drinking, to leave the Coleman family alone, and to apologize. But that's it.
The sad truth is that this is the second time the Coleman family has been met with disappointment. Apparently in a case like this, with minors who were terribly intoxicated, it is very hard to prove a felony. The Coleman family had originally felt that Barnett's connection to the town in Missouri where they lived (his grandfather was a state representative and state trooper) kept him from being prosecuted.
In fact, it was something else. Scott Berkowitz, president of the Washington D.C.-based nonprofit Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network told the AP:
All they know about the case is what they are hearing from the victim and the perpetrator. I think that is the biggest factor that makes these cases hard to prosecute. But when there is alcohol involved, the situation where that most often comes into play is if the victim is saying they were incapacitated and unable to consent, which is often hard to prove after the fact.
It's just a devastating thing to hear, especially after Coleman attempted suicide for a third time this year. Her family has been relentlessly bullied, their home even set on fire. They were forced to move from town and switch schools after she came forward. And for what? For a misdemeanor?
The bullies may see this as a victory, but it isn't. They have been exposed. People know what they did. And while clearly not all cases have enough evidence to prosecute, at least Barnett is not getting off completely. This case will follow him. He is not completely clean.
As for Coleman, one can only hope that with the strength of her family, she is able to move on from this. Her healing is more important than his punishment.
Do you think Coleman got "justice" or that this is unfair yet again?
Image via Sam Howzit/Flickr