At the weekend, I watched Audrie & Daisy, a documentary on Netflix that examines the ripple effects on families, friends, schools and communities when two underage young women find that sexual assault crimes against them have been caught on camera.
I’ve spoken openly about something that happened to me when I was a teenager. A lot of alcohol, a dark, secluded clearing, and a persistent, expectant boy. We regularly hooked up on Friday nights, when everyone was having sex with everyone, it was easy to buy cheap booze and get hammered. But one night, after too much Apple Sourz (vile stuff), I just wasn’t into it. I tried to stop it. He carried on anyway.
At the time, I didn’t have the language to describe what happened to me. I knew it felt wrong, that I’d done something I didn’t want to do, but rape? No way. You’re joking. Not long after, we had a Citizenship (pretty much PSHE) lesson. The teacher, an ex-military man, slammed his hand on the desk as he shouted at a group of fifteen-year-olds that rape was rape. It was more than no means no – it was the absence of an enthusiastic yes.
You have to understand, this was a brand new concept to us, way back in 2006. We were brought up with the “no means no” rhetoric; we had no idea we could change our minds during sex. It was a revelation. We were called “frigid” if we didn’t put out, and a slut if we did. We had no idea that being too drunk to say no meant we hadn’t consented. Almost every girl I knew had a story about a boy putting his hand up their skirt while the girl was too drunk to move, or something similar. Having a boyfriend meant having a boy who constantly pressured you to do this, do that*. Everyone’s doing it. There was no dating (at least, not where I could see); there was “linking”, seeing each other, getting drunk in the park and seeing how far you could get. Such a dangerous culture.
I watched Audrie & Daisy at the weekend. Within the first 30 minutes, I had to pause it and collect myself. I had a little cry, made myself a cup of tea, then went back. Audrie was sexually assaulted by at least two boys while she was passed out at a party. After falling asleep, some boys thought it would be funny to draw on her with marker pens. A harmless joke, right? They lifted her clothes, exposed her body, and drew nasty things on her private parts. At least two boys then “fingered” her. The attack was filmed, and shared around the school. Audrie committed suicide.
Daisy had been drinking with her friend, Paige, when someone her brother knew texted her and asked her to meet up. They could hang out in his basement, he said. They picked the girls up, sneaked them into the basement, and immediately separated them, with one, younger boy taking Paige into a bedroom, and the other boys feeding Daisy shots of alcohol. By the time Daisy was taken into the other bedroom, she was unconscious, limp, unable to respond. She was raped by at least one of the boys, then thrown into the car, and left in her front garden, face-down in the snow. She remembered nothing.
None of the attackers, in either scenario, went to prison. Let that sink in for a moment. One girl killed herself because of the sexual violence committed against her and the resulting humiliation of the video of the attack being passed around. The other girl pressed charges, and when they were dropped due to “insufficient evidence” (told by a smug sheriff who deserves a kick in the bollocks), spent years depressed, withdrawn, and attempted suicide multiple times. She was called a liar, a slut, hounded on social media. Her house was burnt down.
These horrific stories are, sadly, infuriatingly, familiar to so many women. If I’d spoken out about what had happened to me, attempted to press charges, what would have happened? Thanks to my degrees in Policing & Criminology, I’m well aware that there wouldn’t have been enough forensic evidence. I would have been asked, what were you wearing? Why were you so drunk? Why were you out so late? Have you slept with him before? Do you do this often? Do you have a lot of casual sex? What did you expect?
My life would have been ripped apart. People would have been divided. Who would have believed me? He was popular, a bit of a lad, always had a lot of girls around him. I would have been called a liar, jealous, attention-seeker. At 15, I wasn’t strong enough to go through all of that. I’m not sure I would be at 24 either.
I’ve talked a bit about the book I’m working on, “Some Girls Do”, which has such a similar story to Audrie & Daisy. Jess, a teenage girl, is sexually assaulted by a guy she knows. She’d been drinking, she went off with him willingly, but changed her mind when things started heating up. The guy ignored her body language, and continued to rape her. She shuts her eyes and her mind against the attack, and wakes to him nudging her with his foot. They go their separate ways, but when they go back to school the following week, she discovers there’s a photo circulating around school, on social media. A photograph of her.
I’m writing this book to share my own story in a safer way, through fictional characters, but I’m also sharing because it’s so important that we discuss these situations, especially since they happen with such frequency. We need to know we’re not alone. For Audrie & Daisy, & Vikki & Jess, & all the other survivors, we need to stand together. Audrie & Daisy is a powerful film, very triggering and emotionally-charged, so watch with caution. But I think it should be required viewing for young men, in schools and colleges, and it should be learned from.
As before, if you want to talk or share your story in a confidential manner, feel free to email email@example.com. Your privacy will always be respected. All I can do is listen, but if that’s all you need, please get in touch. I’m also looking for beta readers for when “Some Girls Do” is closer to being finished.
AUDRIE & DAISY is an urgent real-life drama that examines the ripple effects on families, friends, schools and communities when two underage young women find that sexual assault crimes against them have been caught on camera. From acclaimed filmmakers Bonni Cohen and Jon Shenk (The Island President, The Rape of Europa), AUDRIE & DAISY — which made its world premiere at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival — takes a hard look at American’s teenagers who are coming of age in this new world of social media bullying, spun wildly out of control.
Audrie & Daisy is available to watch on Netflix now.
*Yes, yes, not all men. But enough. And yes, all women.