'She was a warrior': Audrie Pott’s mother pays tribute to Netflix sexual assault activist Daisy Coleman after she died by suicide

Danielle Zoellner
·5-min read
Daisy Coleman at the 'Audrie & Daisy' premiere during the 2016 Sundance Film Festival on 25 January 2016 in Park City, Utah: Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images for Sundance Film Festival
Daisy Coleman at the 'Audrie & Daisy' premiere during the 2016 Sundance Film Festival on 25 January 2016 in Park City, Utah: Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images for Sundance Film Festival

Audrie Pott’s mother, Sheila Pott, has paid tribute to sexual assault activist Daisy Coleman following the news of her death by suicide.

“I always refer to her as a warrior,” Mrs Pott told The Independent. “She was a young, young person to have gone through so much. You know the scars of rape and bullying run really deep. And she would smile even though we knew there was a lot of pain that was beneath the surface. So you can imagine there were so many people that were rooting for her and rallying behind her.

“That’s why this news is so incredibly shocking and sad,” she added.

Coleman died by suicide at the age of 23 on Tuesday, eight years after she accused a high school classmate of sexual assault in her hometown of Maryville, Missouri. The classmate, Matthew Barnett, who was 17 at the time, denied the rape by saying everything was consensual after felony charges were filed against him.

The felony charges were later dropped and Barnett, the grandson of former Republican state representative Rex Barnett, pleaded guilty to a misdemeanour child endangerment charge and was sentenced to two years of probation and a four-month suspended jail term.

Coleman’s mother, Melinda Coleman, revealed her daughter’s death on Facebook, writing: “She never recovered from what those boys did to her ... I wish I could have taken the pain from her.”

Netflix documentary Audrie & Daisy, which was first released at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival before the streaming site acquired the film, intertwined the stories of Coleman and the Pott family.

In 2012, Audrie Pott died by suicide eight days after she was sexually assaulted by classmates at a high school party in California.

Each of the teenager’s stories were told in the documentary while discussing the impact of sexual assault on a young person and how social media can play a part in the bullying culture cultivated in middle and high school.

“The first time I met [the Coleman family] was actually at Sundance, and it was pretty emotional,” Mrs Pott said. “For me, it was lovely to meet [Daisy] because she had the guts to get up, tell her story, survive, and take back the power.

“But yet ... she was so sensitive to the fact that we had lost Audrie. I think it was because she had felt the same way Audrie had felt, and she could see the pain that we felt.”

Coleman used her voice and passion for advocacy by co-founding SafeBAE, a non-profit organisation geared towards ending sexual assault among middle and high school students.

The documentary helped launch Coleman and her advocacy work into the spotlight, but she still openly struggled with her mental health and attempted suicide multiple times. Part of her mental health struggles came from the victim-blaming and abuse she received after alleging she was sexually assaulted.

“[People were] calling me a b***h, a whore, and a slut every single day,” Coleman wrote in a 2013 personal essay for Seventeen.

She relocated to Colorado Springs, Colorado, in 2018 and channelled her efforts into becoming a tattoo artist.

“I thought she was doing so well in Colorado, taking on this incredible life. She was an incredible artist, an advocate. And I think part of that expression was part of the healing for her,” Mrs Pott said.

Coleman was found on 4 August after her mother called in for a wellness check.

SafeBAE, her non-profit, released a statement following her death.

“We are shattered and shocked by her passing from suicide,” the statement read. “She had been in EMDR [eye movement desensitization and reprocessing] therapy for two years, working on her triggers and healing from the many traumas in her life. She had many coping demons and had been facing and overcoming them all, but as many of you know, healing is not a straight path or any easy one. She fought longer and harder than we will ever know.”

It went on to address the “young survivors” who looked up to Coleman and followed her story from the beginning.

“Please know that above ALL ELSE, she did this work for you ... She would want young survivors to know they are heard, they matter, they are loved, and there are places for them to get the help they need,” it continued.

Survivors of sexual assault are 10 times more likely to attempt suicide than those who haven’t experienced sexual assault, according to SafeBAE.

When asked about a prominent memory of Coleman, Mrs Pott described how she would walk into a room and it would seem as though a light was on her.

“It seemed like when she entered the room it was always with a smile and like there was a light coming from her,” she said. “She always had something smart and funny to say. People loved to listen to her and talk to her because she was incredibly smart and witty and they were drawn to her. They were drawn to her light.”

“I think that’s what’s so sad, that someone was able to take that light from her,” she added.

Mrs Pott interacted with Mrs Coleman during the release of the documentary and throughout the film tour. Having lost her own daughter by suicide, Mrs Pott wanted Mrs Coleman to focus on her own daughter’s legacy and how to carry that forward.

“Daisy has this incredible legacy that she helped so many people, and that’s what I would want Melinda to hang on to. She was this beautiful, strong warrior ... warrior for change. And we’re all going to rally behind her,” Mrs Pott said.

“I know they never knew each other, Audrie never knew Daisy, but they will be together in heaven.”

When life is difficult, Samaritans are here – day or night, 365 days a year. You can call them for free on 116 123, email them at jo@samaritans.org, or visit www.samaritans.org to find your nearest branch.

If you’ve been raped or sexually assaulted, you can contact your nearest Rape Crisis organisation for specialist, independent and confidential support: www.rapecrisis.org.uk.

In the US, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1 800 273 8255 or chat online for help.

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Netflix star Daisy Coleman dies by suicide, aged 23