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Talking to the Teens Behind this Year's Most Important Documentary

Talking to the Teens Behind this Year's Most Important Documentary

Every two minutes another American woman is sexually assaulted. Two minutes! And chances are, you know someone affected: your classmate, your cousin, even yourself (plus, the all-too-relevant stories on the news, from Brock Turner to Owen Labrie). This is why the new documentary Audrie & Daisy needs to be next in your Netflix queue.

The movie follows two girls —Audrie Pott and Daisy Coleman—who are both victims of rape, yet their stories end differently. Audrie tragically committed suicide a few days after she was assaulted, and Daisy overcame a media firestorm and online bullying in order to become an advocate for survivors (although she’ll be the first to tell you that the recovery process never really ends).

Then there’s Delaney Henderson, a connector of sorts between the two. She was raped by a classmate when she was 16, and now she’s an advocate for PAVE, the non-profit that helped her a few years ago. Just in time for Audrie & Daisy’s debut, we spoke with Daisy and Delaney about overcoming trauma, taking back the narrative, and real ways to make change.

What was your initial reaction when you were approached about the movie?
Daisy: When they originally came to me, I didn't know Audrie’s story. I was super hesitant about doing the film, because my case had already been done with and I had been through the whole media whiplash spiral. So I wasn’t sure, but I decided to go for it. About four or five months in, I connected Delaney with the filmmakers, and she serves as this bridge for the story.

Delaney: I had found out about Audrie’s story shortly after it happened to her, and I immediately wanted to reach out to her and tell her that I’m a survivor too. My dad told me that I couldn’t get in touch with her because she had committed suicide. So when I heard about Daisy, I stalked her on Facebook, like, immediately. I sent her a message and we started talking and I told her about PAVE, which is the organization that we’re involved with. A few months later, we met in Washington D.C., and then I learned that the movie was about Audrie, too. Audrie brought Daisy and I together.

Both of your cases had lots of media attention. What was your experience with cyberbullying after that?
Daisy: Receiving so much negative feedback after my case went viral was awful. I’m actually a human being, and this is actually affecting me. So once I realized the power of social media, I decided to use compassion instead of negativity to connect with other people. And humor.

Delaney: Both of our stories went crazy viral, and it turned into this whole catastrophe of negativity. We decided to take it back. There are so many ways for social media to be used in a positive way, like reaching out to survivors and raising awareness. We wanted to take back the narrative and use it to promote change.

It seems like we hear about a new sexual assault case every single week. What’s something that others can do to actually make a difference?
Daisy: It’s about opening the conversation about sexual violence, since it’s something that has been pushed under the rug for so long. The change has to be within us as a society. The court system is not ready to make the change yet, so we have to start it.

Delaney: It’s important to emphasize that you don’t have to take the stance that Daisy and I did and go public with your story or your cousin’s story that you know about. Just bringing the conversation to light means all the difference in the world. It’s statistically known that everyone knows someone who's been the victim of sexual assault. So just knowing that someone’s not alone, that’s the only way that change is going to happen.
 

“We wanted to take back the narrative and use it to promote change.”


You're advocates for victims, which is amazing. How difficult is it to balance that with being a normal college student?
Daisy: It’s hard, because as advocates, some women will see us as these glorified heroes, but we have to explain that we’re really no different than them. It’s almost insane because you want to help people and support them, but in reality you're not different. You’re not a superhero.

Delaney: We were at this premiere in Toronto and this girl came up to us afterward and she just started bawling. She was like, “I’ve never told my story to anyone.” It’s hard to know how to manage that emotional impact. We want to help so many people, which is why we emphasize reaching out to your local crisis centers.

What’s the number one thing people should take away from Audrie & Daisy?
Daisy: Start a conversation—whether it’s with a friend or your parents or your kids. I also think it starts with something that Delaney’s mom said that really resonated with me which is that you just need to believe them. If someone comes to you saying “I had a tragedy,” you don’t ask what they were wearing when the tragedy happened. You just believe them.

Find out more about PAVE: Promoting Awareness, Victim Empowerment.

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