‘Audrie & Daisy’ takes a hard look at sexual assault and cyberbullying
November 11, 2016
"Audrie & Daisy" is a difficult documentary to watch.
The film by Jon Shenk and Bonni Cohen that premiered at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival is about two teens, Audrie Pott and Daisy Coleman, who were sexually assaulted by classmates in separate parties across the country.
It's also about how their assaults were plastered on social media and how the cyberbullying, ridicule and physical threats that the families encountered apparently led to Pott's suicide.
The Park City Community Foundation's Women's Giving Fund mentoring program, a project of the Vail EpicPromise, is partnering with the Park City Film Series, Peace House and Planned Parenthood Teen Council to bring the documentary to the Jim Santy Auditorium on Thursday, Nov. 17.
The screening will be followed by a short presentation by the Teen Council and break-out discussions for youths and adults, said Lauren Vitulli, a member of the Women's Giving Fund Kindness Committee, along with Blayne Harper, Lisa Ingalls, Mare Piper and Melisse Barrett.
"'Audrie & Daisy' is an important documentary for all parents and teenagers to see and discuss," Vitulli said in an email statement. "'Audrie & Daisy' takes a hard look at coming of age in this new world of social media bullying. One of the important themes of the film is the intense impact teens can have on other teens, so we partnered with Teen Council because we feel it is important for their voices to be heard."
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Katharine Wang, executive director of the Park City Film Series, said she heard about the film during the Sundance Film Festival, although she wasn't able to see it until later.
"When I saw the film, I was aware of the topic that also included the repercussions and backlash after the girls spoke out about being assaulted and the boys who had assaulted them," Wang told The Park Record. "I had been paying attention to this topic at a national level anyway, but when I saw the film, I was struck by the social media aspect. The cyberbullying element was so powerful."
Cyberbullying is fertile ground for what is known as the bystander effect, which happens when people witnessing a crime don't help the victim, Wang said.
It's also a catalyst for others to feel they can join in the bullying.
"People feel they are kind of shielded and are able to say things that you would never say to someone's face," she said. "When someone says something, another will say, 'Oh, yeah' and say nastier things because of this shield.
"There is a point in the film when one of the victims says that it's one thing for enemies to be cruel, but it's totally something else when your friends abandon you," Wang said. "That was so shocking to me."
One of the documentary's shining moments is the strength of Coleman's family.
"Her brother speaks about her and describes how the family rallied around her," Wang said. "It gives you hope because it does show how our society is not so devolved that it's not recoverable."
"Audrie & Daisy" also shows viewers their obligation to stand up against things that they know are not right. That's another reason for the screening, Wang said.
"We want to reach out to the young people in our community to say, 'Take a stance. If you see something that isn't right, it's your obligation to stand up for that person, regardless if he or she is a friend or not,' she said.
The post-screen teen discussions topics will include consent, healthy relationships, cyberbullying and bystander effect, which will be addressed in different groups specifically for teens.
"The Teen Council created the post-film conversations because [the Teen Council] said they wanted to have teen-led discussions," Wang explained. "This way the teens can be empowered to speak out freely, without feeling uncomfortable with their parents or friends' parents sitting next to them."
However, there will still be some adults in the room.
"We will have trained counselors on hand just in case someone has an adverse reaction to the film," Wang said. "So, this will be a safe place where both girls and boys can discuss these issues freely."
The discussions will feature
- Evelyn Cervantes, Teen Council facilitator
- Katie Wright, Park City Community Foundation executive director
- Grace Mason, Teen Council
- Caileigh Lydon, Teen Council
- Liz Cantleberry, Teen Council
- Sarah Fosburg, Teen Council
- Abi Kretchmaris, Teen CouncilParents and other adults will also be able to express their concerns during their own Q&A session facilitated by Whitney Leavitt, prevention and awareness coordinator for Peace House, a nonprofit organization dedicated to wiping out domestic violence in Summit and Wasatch counties, and Sam Walsh, a counselor at Park City High School.
"Since the film can be very powerful and can bring up a lot of emotions, I'm sure it will also bring up a lot of worries," Leavitt said. "So, Sam and I want to talk with the parents and give them key conversation starters about sexual assault, cyberbullying and consent they can use to talk with their kids.
"These won't prompt the kids to say what parents want to hear, but rather help open up a line of communication about who they would talk to if they hear of someone who has been assaulted," Leavitt said.
Peace House has a new club at Park City High School called End Violence Now.
"The goal is to be an ally for those kids who find themselves in bad relationships, even if those relationships are just relationships with friends," Leavitt said.
One of three Utah women will experience some form of sexual violence during their lifetimes, according to a study by the Utah Department of Health, Leavitt said.
"However, the majority of rapes, 88.2 percent, are not reported to law enforcement because of the fear of repercussions and victim blaming," Leavitt said. "This event is to show that it does happen and that we need to stand behind the victim and not shame them or blame them. One of girls in the film committed suicide not after the assault, which was a traumatic event already, but after how badly she was treated by the community."
Contrary to popular belief, the majority of victims know their attackers. That means the perpetrators are friends or family members, Leavitt said.
"So, when a lot of people think about sexual assault, they think about walking down a dark alley, but that's not the case," Leavitt said. "Even the perpetrators in the film were the girls' classmates.
"Peace House sees this a lot because sexual assault is wrapped up in domestic violence," she said. "Even if someone is married, they can be sexually abused by their partners, and we provide services to people who have been sexually assaulted."
Wang said she hopes parents and teens will attend the free screening.
"The film is not rated, but we do recommend it for ages 13 and older, but not for every child," she said. An additional parent guide can be found on the documentary's website: http://www.audreyanddaisy.com.
"We are looking forward to bringing this film and the conversation to our community," Wang said.
Jon Shenk and Bonni Cohen's documentary "Audrie & Daisy" will be screened for free at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 17, at the Park City Library's Jim Santy Auditorium, 1255 Park Ave. For more information, visit http://www.parkcityfilmseries.com.