Maryville is a county seat town in northwest Missouri. It is the home of Northwest Missouri State University, and as we lived in the neighboring county that is where several of my high school classmates went to college.
Outside of those familiar with northwest Missouri, though, not many people have heard much about Maryville. But that recently changed.
But since the appearance of “Nightmare in Maryville,” the front page article in the Oct. 13 issue of the Kansas City Star, the town of some 12,000 people has been in newspapers as far away as Los Angeles, on national TV news programs, and on prominent websites like HuffingtonPost.com (at least nine times, first at this link).
It all centers on Daisy Coleman, a 14-years-old girl who in Jan. 2012 was allegedly raped by a high school senior. But no one was convicted of the crime against Daisy—mainly, it seems, because the guilty young man was from a prominent family who was able to get the charges dropped.
On Oct. 18, Daisy divulged “what really happened” in an article posted on the Internet, and it seems to be in basic agreement with the Star’s article. It seems clear she did some things she shouldn’t have done.
She shouldn’t have been drinking alcohol with her 13-year-old friend, as that is illegal. She shouldn’t have sneaked out to “have fun” with older boys in the middle of the night. And she shouldn’t have drunk the “bitch cup” when she got there.
But what she did pales in comparison to what happened next. It seems quite clear that she was sexually abused—and then dumped back outside her house and “left for dead” in the freezing cold. None of the foolish things she did can possibly justify the criminal action taken against her.
Neither can anything excuse the crassness of the people in Maryville who turned against her rather than blaming those who grossly mistreated her.
Unfortunately, rape cases are not terribly rare, and if it had “only” been that, it would not have been widely reported in the media. In 2011 there were over 1,450 cases of forcible rape in Missouri, including four in Nodaway County, where Daisy lived with her mother and three brothers.
But in the case of Daisy, the crime against her has been aggravated by what seems to be a failure to prosecute adequately the perpetrators of the crime, as well as by the negative reactions toward Daisy and her family.
A special prosecutor from Kansas City has now been appointed to re-open the case. Several months from now there may be “justice for Daisy,” such as many people locally and nationally are calling for.
In reading Daisy’s own version of what happened on that night 21 months ago and since, I was sorry to see that she wrote, “I quit praying because if God were real, why would he do this?” I can understanding something of the pain and hurt Daisy has experienced, on various levels.
But why blame God? How did God have anything directly to do with her own misbehavior, the criminal behavior of those who abused her, or the failure of the legal system?
I wish Daisy could read the helpful new book with the pungent title “How to Pray When You’re Pissed at God” (2013) by Ian Punnett.
At any rate, I want to say, “Daisy, don’t be so quick to give up on God. You badly need God’s warm embrace and the support of a community of faith. And it is possible for you to find both.”