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Daisy Coleman Found Her Voice, But Her Struggle Didn’t Stop

When the news broke about Daisy’s death, I didn’t share anything about it. I, admittedly, was not all that familiar with her story, nor had I seen the documentary. I did some reading on her and her story, and was going to leave it there, but a coincidence pushed me to write about it today.

During Tuesday night’s #SexAbuseChat on Twitter, the topic for the evening was about self-blame, and I picked up on a tangent involving the courts and how many survivors, and others, assume that we can heal by getting justice.

Obviously, I don’t agree, and I’ve said so myself here previously:

Regardless of what happens in the legal system, healing is possible. The two are not tied at the hip. The justice system is about a lot of other people. It’s about what evidence exists, it’s about the decisions of judges, prosecutors, and juries. It’s about whether the abuser is even alive to have some sort of decision made against them.

Healing is about the survivor, and only the survivor. That journey is yours alone, and is not dependent on what other people or systems do. It is only about the work you put in, and whatever resources you may choose to help with that journey.

The issue that I was trying to identify at the time was the leaving a survivor dependent on the justice system for healing meant relying on a whole lot of things going right, that probably won’t go right. Thus, we need to focus on healing first and foremost, and whatever happens with the justice system happens.

Which brings us to Daisy. She did not get her justice from the court system, quite the opposite. But, she did something else that many assume is a sign of “being healed”, she found her voice. She told her story, she had a movie made where she could speak her truth to the whole world. Surely, that is healed, right?

As we now know, that probably wasn’t the case. I assume that many people who watched that documentary went on to become fans of Daisy, admiring her for having the courage to tell her story, happy for her that she was able to overcome, but that had nothing to do with the reality of what surviving actually is.

The coincidence that I spoke of came this morning, when I popped over to Twitter during a quick coffee break, and saw Rachel Denhollander, another survivor who’s made an appearance in a documentary, Athlete A, on her involvement with the Larry Nasser case, talking about this article:

Daisy Coleman’s Death Lays Bare the Myth of ‘Surviving

The very nature of PTSD means that the body is locked in a prolonged state of fight-or-flight response, playing out the trauma in fits and starts. Even the term survivor is inefficient, indicating that the person who has experienced sexual violence experienced it in the past and survived—not that they are currently surviving, day-to-day, an experience that is still happening irrespective of the actual date of the violence.

Now, the article also talks a lot about how the justice system failed Daisy, but again, I don’t think that’s the point. Even if she had been believed and her rapist put in jail, she would still be dealing with the trauma. Real life sexual assault is not a criminal procedure TV show, where they reach a verdict at the end of the hour and that’s it. That’s not how any of this works. In fact, I thought what Rachel had to say about the women who found their voice at Larry Nasser’s hearing was powerful, and so I want to simply give her the last word on this.

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