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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Audrie & Daisy is a 2016 documentary that explores the way both the criminal justice system and society punish teenage (usually female) victims of sexual assault, sometimes blaming them for inciting sexual attack, sometimes depicting them as morally deficient, and sometimes labeling them liars. At the same time, attackers, usually male, are treated to wrist slaps and benefit-of-the-doubt leniency. Graphic narratives recount sexual assaults of 14-year-olds and subsequent ostracism and cyberbullying so vicious as to discourage other victims to drop charges, leave town, and sometimes commit suicide. The enormous role social media plays in escalating the victims' pain and suffering is outlined extensively. Language is explicit, including "f--k," "s--t," "d--k," "crap," and "bitch." Young teens drink alcohol in excessive amounts, making them vulnerable to bad judgment and sexual predators. Note: In August 2020, one of the central subjects of this film tragically died via suicide.
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What's the story?
Too drunk to consent to sex, 14-year-old Daisy was raped in 2012 by a 17-year-old football star in their small Midwestern community. The boy claimed it was consensual, even though he dumped her, unconscious, in front of her home afterward, where she lay until morning. When her mother found Daisy outside, her hair was frozen to the ground. Her blood alcohol level was later determined to have been near lethal level. The boy wasn't convicted of rape, but Daisy and her family were relentlessly abused online, and her home was burned to the ground. The filmmakers pursued several stories around the country about teenage girls sexually assaulted by friends or acquaintances, finding remarkable similarities in the events and their aftermath. In the case of Audrie, 15, whose post-rape naked body was covered in drawings made by her assailants in permanent ink, photos of her ordeal went viral online. The humiliation drove her to suicide within a week of the attack. Others with similar stories band together seeking strength and comfort in numbers and to publicize their horror stories. The hope is to bring public attention to the widespread problem and save victims from depression and worse.
Is it any good?
AUDRIE & DAISY is a well-intentioned exploration of the all-too-familiar story of rape victims who are victimized a second time by both society and negligent law enforcement authorities. Although the film has a great deal of educational value, peers of the sexual assault victims depicted here -- teens age 14 and up -- may find this movie too emotionally challenging to benefit from or even take in its message. The filmmakers don't judge, but it’s pretty hard to argue with their conclusion: that irresponsible teen drinking plays a large part in terrible, life-changing sexually violent situations. Older Daisy says that going to the home of an older boy after she'd been drinking (thinking that others might think she was "cool" if she did so) wasn't a good idea. The implication is that 14-year-olds may not make the best decisions on important matters -- and, since judgment is further impaired by alcohol, that teens who drink are exponentially worse off.
Daisy also learns too late that sexual crimes turn justice upside down, as girls who are assaulted are routinely branded as sluts, and in some cases even their families are ostracized, while the assailants may be let off due to supposed lack of evidence and the leniency of male-dominated law enforcement agencies. This documentary is powerful but best for mature teens who can handle the heavy content. It can certainly be used to start a discussion about drinking, consent, and double standards for girls regarding sexual activity. It's important to note a tragic postscript to Daisy's story: In August 2020, she died via suicide.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the role alcohol plays in these stories. How does alcohol make teens vulnerable to bad judgment?
What is the role of social media in these stories?
Why do you think someone would want to have sex with an unwilling partner? How is that crime different from stealing someone's money or physically hurting someone?
Talk about consent in sexual situations and what that means. Many teens don't understand that a passed-out person cannot give consent.
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