Melinda Coleman and her four children escaped to the small town of Maryville, Missouri, to start a new life after the death of her husband left the family feeling broken.
Unfortunately, the family had no idea that the town’s public and private lives played out much like a scene from “Friday Night Lights.” Marysville was a town where the local high school athletes are treated like royalty, and popularity and political prominence could get you out of any situation, including sexual assault.
Years after first moving to Maryville, Melinda’s daughter Daisy Coleman is finally speaking out about the horrors that happened to her and her friend Paige Parkhurst after a group of popular football players forced themselves on the girls and proceeded to rape them.
Coleman and Parkhurst were just 14 and 13 at the time. During a sleepover, they snuck out at 1 a.m. to meet with Matthew Barnett and a group of his friends.
The boys picked up Coleman and Parkhurst and drove them more than three miles back to Barnett’s home after stopping at one teen’s family restaurant to steal a bottle of vodka.
They snuck into the home through the basement window so as not to wake Barnett’s parents. Upon entering the house, the girls were separated. Coleman was offered a drink from a cup the teens referred to as the “bitch cup.” The girl doesn’t remember what happened after that.
Barnett said he had sex with Coleman, pleading that the hookup had been consensual. However, that was not the case. The girl was incapacitated and could not have consented. Barnett’s friend Jordan Zech is said to have recorded the rape. He sent the footage to people from their high school.
Coleman remembers waking up half frozen to death in her own front yard when the boys dropped her off after having their way with her.
Parkhurst’s memory of the night is patchy. Her rapist was still a juvenile during the rape, but forced the young teen to strip off her clothes and have sex with him, despite her saying no.
As news of the case began to circulate throughout the town, both the girls and their families found themselves on the other side of hateful rumors. Coleman's family home was burned down, and they suspect it was done by someone who didn't believe or wanted to cover up the accusations of rape.
Both victims have since been diagnosed with PTSD.
Parkhurst also was diagnosed with conversion disorder, which caused the young girl to suffer from excessive panic attacks. Neither girl was able to sleep in their own bed, relying on the extra comfort of sleeping close to loved ones to cope with the trauma.
After taking their reports to the police, Parkhurst’s rapist confessed his crimes and was convicted in criminal court, while Coleman’s rapist was initially cleared of all felony charges. However, he eventually was convicted of child endangerment after a second investigation of the case.
Now more than five years after the initial investigation into their rapes, Coleman and Parkhurst are moving past their traumatic experiences in very different ways.
Parkhurst found out she was expecting her first child not long after moving to Albany with her boyfriend. She gave birth to a healthy little girl!
Coleman continued her education at Missouri Valley College, where she's now a sophomore.
After finding her voice, Coleman, along with two other female survivors of sexual assault co-founded safebae.org. The young women travel the U.S., sharing their stories with high school and college students as a way to spread awareness of sexual assault.