Famous hacker/activist collective Anonymous, known for its online activism and trademark Guy Fawkes mask, has once again shed light on a town overrun by victim blamers.
Last week, Anonymous drew attention to the questionable judicial practices of prosecutors in the Maryville rape case when they released a statement calling for a closer look at the small Nodaway County, Mo., town.
Melinda Coleman found her 14-year-old daughter Daisy lying outside her home in below-freezing weather after Daisy and a 13-year-old friend snuck out one night in January of 2012. Both girls had been raped that night, and cellphone video of the assault began to circulate. The accused were all older boys from the local high school, including football player and grandson of a former Missouri state representative, Matthew Barnett.
Sadly, this family’s story is a familiar one: In the months that followed, the Coleman family found heartache and persecution instead of justice. The boys were charged with felonies–some even admitted to having sex with the intoxicated, underage minors–but all were released and charges dropped. Melinda Coleman was fired from her job without explanation, her children were harassed and her daughter–encouraged by an outpouring of viral bullying (especially from her accused rapist’s sibling)–tried to kill herself. So Melinda packed up her family and moved them 40 miles away. Still, that wasn’t enough for some Maryville citizens: The vacant family home was burned to the ground earlier this month.
Thanks in part to an article by the Kansas City Star, news of what happened in Maryville began to spread until it reached the attention of Anonymous, the computer-nerd collective turned cyber-superhero group. Last Tuesday, the organization released this statement, promising retribution if justice wasn’t served in Maryville and trending at #Justice4Daisy:
We demand an immediate investigation into the handling by local authorities of Daisy’s case. Why was a suspect, who confessed to a crime, released with no charges? How was video and medical evidence not enough to put one of these football players inside a court room? What is the connection of these prosecutors, if any, to Rep. Rex Barnett? Most of all, We are wondering, how do the residents of Maryville sleep at night?
Nodaway County prosecuting attorney Robert L. Rice, who dropped the charges following the arrests of the alleged rapists, announced last Wednesday that he is asking for a court-appointed special prosecutor to take a second look at the facts and possibly re-file charges. This request came the day after the threat from Anonymous and after wide media circulation of interviews with the victim and her family. Missouri Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder has also made a public appeal for a grand jury investigation into the case, reported CNN.
This isn’t Anonymous’ first foray into social justice. The group famously became involved in the Steubenville Rape Case, publishing photos, videos and messages as well as threatening to reveal the identities of student suspects. They issued similar threats during the Halifax Rape Case in 2011.
Although Internet vigilantism seems to get the job done, why has it become our last recourse for holding our justice system accountable to rape victims? Hopefully, someday we can rely on agents of law enforcement to prosecute rapists, as well as those who would bully and further punish their victims, without assistance from masked cyberheros. Until then, it’s comforting to know that Anonymous–and plenty of outraged feminists–are here to help.