I'd like to tell you a story. It's about a 14-year-old girl who was manipulated by a 17-year-old boy. He and his friends coerced her to drink and drink until she couldn't walk, and then they raped her.
They dragged her, crying, out to the car, and dropped her off in the snow of her front yard in the middle of the night. They left her there, thoughtless about the dangers of the freezing elements and the alcohol in her system.
She could have died. But she didn't.
You might think I'm talking about Daisy Coleman, and you'd be right, I am. But I'm also talking about me.
I was 14 years old. A charismatic and popular 17-year-old sexually assaulted me, and his friend drove me home and left me in my front yard.
Unlike Daisy, I had a sister who just happened to be there and saw me arrive. She helped me go upstairs, into the warm house. If she hadn't been there, I know what I would have done. I would have curled up in the snow on the front steps and cried myself to sleep. Hopefully to death.
Daisy never told her mom what happened. She didn't have to -- her mom figured things out. It's not hard to notice that something is horribly wrong when your drunk 14-year-old is covered in bruises and in pain in her genital area as you try to ease her half-frozen body into a warm bath. Daisy's mom knew right away, and did what any mother would do -- she called the police, to fight for her daughter.
For me, it became a secret. I carried that secret with me for a few days, and then I tried to kill myself. I very nearly succeeded. And I still didn't tell my parents why.
Daisy's mom fought tooth and nail for her daughter. The police arrested the boys who allegedly assaulted her. The boys confessed -- they had it on camera. But the prosecutor dismissed the charges, just let them go.
Maybe because the alleged rapist's grandfather is incredibly well-connected, long-term State Representative Rex Barnett. He is known to be associated with the prosecutor, who filed to dismiss all charges against the boys.
Maybe that's why Daisy's mother was fired from her job -- Barnett was a long-time friend of Daisy's mom's former boss.
Daisy's family had moved to a new house in Maryville, MO to start over after her father died in a car accident, from which she and her brother barely survived. That house has been burned to the ground.
Daisy has been on my mind a lot these last few days.
I think about what must have gone through Daisy's mind as she drank those full cups of liquor. I remember what went through my mind as big red Solo cup after big red Solo cup was forced into my hands, up to my lips, each cup full to the brim with cognac.
I think about what must have gone through Daisy's mind as she lay in the frost and snow on her front lawn in the wee hours of the morning. I remember lurching towards a stranger's car and wondering if I was capable of running away in the snow, knowing as I searched my disoriented thoughts for some sense of distance and landmarks that I would freeze to death on my own before I could get home. I think about Daisy crying, the way I cried.
Nobody ever fought for me, for me to get justice. How could they? I didn't tell anyone.
But somebody fought for Daisy. And the powers that be in her small Missouri town decided that she was less important, less valuable, than their beloved high school football star. The good looking, charismatic seventeen year old.
I have the face of a good-looking, charismatic 17-year-old scalded into my memory forever. I know Daisy does as well. And although I will never have the opportunity to face mine in court, it's not too late for Daisy.
There is still a chance that if we all stand together for Daisy, refuse to accept that this is what happens when a 14-year-old girl is expendable and alleged rapists are "promising young men," that Daisy can have her day. That something will change.
It is too late for me, but it's not too late for her.
Not if we stand up and fight for what is decent, and good, and right.