Maybe Maryville Will Be Different From Steubenville. Here's Hoping.


When the recent rape case to come out of Maryville, Missouri was first announced, it immediately garnered comparisons to Steubenville, Ohio, and for good reason: many details of the cases appeared strikingly similar. But after almost 500 people attended a rally for Daisy Coleman in Maryville, Missouri outside the Nodaway County Court House on Tuesday, it’s starting to look like the evolving story lines of these cases are moving in different directions.

BuzzFeed’s Jessica Testa attended the Maryville rally, which was labeled a “Rally for Justice“; people who came carried daisies. Testa spoke with a man in attendance, Jason Yarnell, who said, “This idea that Maryville, as a town, has swept this under the rug — that’s not how it is. I’m pro-justice, but please don’t think that means I’m pro-rapist. I just want to know the whole truth.” (Testa also as a fascinating piece about how University of Central Missouri, the school Matthew Barnett attends, has responded to the case; there are rumors he has left campus.)

When the Kansas City Star article came out that prompted Daisy Coleman’s case to be reopened, it alleged that Coleman and her family had been the subject of numerous threats, cyber and non. Maryville was painted as a tight-knit community of people that viewed the family as outsiders (they had moved there only shortly before alleged rape occurred). It looked like the town was standing in support with Matthew Barnett and his well-connected family. But now, members of the community seem hell-bent on proving that they’re more than that – a sentiment that Coleman and her family have been supporting as well.

After Steubenville there were events organized in support of the victim in that case, but they differed from this one, in that they were primarily organized by Anonymous; the Rally for Justice on Tuesday was merely promoted by Anonymous. That being said, rally organizer, women’s rights activist and Missourian Courtney Cole thanked them on the event Facebook page, linking to their page as well:

Special thanks to #opmaryville for all of their work in promoting efforts to find justice in regard to this case. Please “like” the page and follow updates as this case continues to move forward. They are fighting for justice and we should support them.

Members of Anonymous apparently attended the rally as well:

Of the rally, Cole said it was intended to “support to the victims in regard to this case and their families, but on a greater issue, all victims of sexual abuse or domestic assault.” Originally planned as a protest, the event was changed to be a rally so that they could “demonstrate peacefully.” The hashtags #Justice4Daisy and #Justice4Paige were used liberally in the social media campaign to promote the event, as they have been throughout this case. This is because they can be: the victims in this case have fully cooperated with the media to make sure their version of events has been told and they’ve managed to change the narrative of their stories with it.

After Steubenville, the rallying cry became Occupy Steubenville, as demonstrated during the protests there. It created a storyline that the world should be against Steubenville. The victim in that instance was anonymous, which meant that the things that were known about her were from horrible images spread across the internet. It made it difficult to galvanize around her as a person, when so little was known about her actual person. This is in no way a judgment – the decision to speak out for victims of rape and sexual assault is an incredibly difficult one to make, one that has to be made on a case-by-case basis. But a positive byproduct of Daisy Coleman and Paige Parkhurst’s decision to be vocal has meant that the rallying behind them has had a much more optimistic tone: it’s been more about supporting them and less about being in opposition to this particular town and the people who live there.

The other interesting difference in the Maryville case is how the Colemans are working with Anonymous; according to the group, they’ve released this statement in support of the town:

We would just like everyone to know that Maryville is NOT a terrible town. We love so many people there and really were happy there until 1-9-12. Some families there are truly great friends!!! The school was incredible and tried so hard to protect my children…..above and beyond the call of duty. The coaches….even of those boys…..were great and supportive of us. In fact, the wrestling coach and his wife are the best people you could ever know! Truly protected us the best they could. Our horrible experience included a few bad ones that just aggressively went after us……and some people in power that didn’t do their job or protect us. A lot of people did support as much as they were able. To those people I am so grateful! And to the people who tried to defend us but were also terrorized and threatened……I’m sorry you suffered for us but I love you dearly for trying to help us. We wanted to stay in Maryville. We would have stayed if there was a fair investigation and I had felt my children could be safe. I left for fear for our safety from the family that thinks it’s a little mafia….their threats were very violent.

In the case of Steubenville, the Anonymous support was welcomed by the victim but she felt “overwhelmed” by the attention after everything had passed, as Katie J.M. Baker reported. None of the differences between these cases hint at the way the newly appointed special prosecutor will handle it or whether justice will truly be had, but hopefully the support given to these women is galvanizing. Hopefully it prompts the inevitable future women that this will happen to to feel comfortable enough to share their names and faces. Hopefully it prompts people to stop raping each other in the first place.

Image via Orlin Wagner/AP

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