MARY SANCHEZ

Blame game in Maryville sexual assault case misses the point

Updated: 2013-10-22T11:42:06Z

By MARY SANCHEZ

The Kansas City Star

One of the most damaging things that can occur to a young girl is for her earliest sexual experiences to become a twisted confusion of alcohol and regret.

A close rival for long-term harm is for those encounters to go viral.

This is where Daisy Coleman sits. The northwest Missouri teenager is on public display, left to be judged by the partial truths, outright fallacies, revisionisms and misperceptions spewing onto the Internet. Strangers are casting most of it toward this young girl and others involved in this sad story from Maryville, Mo.

Daisy upped the ante herself a few days ago by posting on xoJane.com, detailing the 2012 night when she was 14 years old and allegedly sexually assaulted by a teenage male classmate.

But Daisy’s story had already gone viral. One reason is that it resonates.

Many young girls’ first sexual experiences happen only because they drink enough liquor to participate. Sometimes they do so willingly. Sometimes it’s under duress or by outright violence. Daisy contends she was sexually assaulted by Matthew Barnett, then 17, after she was given enough alcohol to pass out. Charges against Barnett were later dropped, a fact that is now rightfully under scrutiny.

The story ought to alarm us regardless of what might happen in court. Muddled memories and a sense that they weren’t in control undercut teens’ chances of developing a healthy view of their sexuality. Yet somehow, lots of booze for first sexual experiences has become a rite of passage.

Watch the online chatter. It is astounding that commentators are using the alcohol consumed by all the teenagers that night to both blame Daisy and excuse the behavior of the boys who were initially charged.

For too many people, Daisy and her girlfriend are completely to blame. Certainly a 14-year-old and a 13-year-old drinking liquor in a bedroom before they sneak out are sending red flags.

But even if a person is plastered drunk by her own decisions, nobody else has the right to take advantage. It’s still a crime if they do. Real men don’t desire the vulnerable. It’s like making a sucker punch.

Other commentators insinuate that because so many teenagers’ sexual experiences are layered with alcohol, it’s an accepted norm, somehow OK.

We’ve strayed from the obvious. When a massive amount of alcohol is necessary to feel comfortable enough to be sexual, it’s a major sign that teens aren’t mature enough for sex in the first place.

To reach Mary Sanchez, call 816-234-4752 or send email to msanchez@kcstar.com.

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