On the night of January 7, 2012, Daisy Coleman, then 14, and her friend, Paige Parkhurst, then 13, sat in Coleman’s bedroom sipping alcohol from a secret stash and watching TV.
The innocent night took a terrifying turn when the pair sneaked out of Coleman’s house to meet a high school senior, Matthew Barnett, then 17. The girls got in Barnett’s car and he drove them to his home, where he and a small group of high school athletes were drinking and hanging out.
What happened next has been the subject of renewed debate and controversy in recent days after an expose in the Kansas City Star highlighted Coleman’s quest for justice. And now, Parkhurst’s name has come to light after a new interview with Al-Jazeera.
Here’s what you should know about Parkhurst and what her new comments reveal about this disturbing story.
1. The Girls Were Made to Drink Out of a ‘Bitch Cup’
The boys convinced the girls to drink more alcohol, serving them what they publicly referred to as their “Bitch Cup.” According to Daisy Coleman’s mother, Melinda, everyone in the school new about the “Cup,” a tall class with shot glasses stacked inside. The girls were encouraged to “down” the drink, Melinda Coleman told The Daily Mail.
In her first public interview, Paige Parkhurst bravely told Al-Jazeera America about her ordeal that night. She was brought into a room with a 15-year-old boy who she says she did know and was forced to have sex with him despite her protests.
While Matthew Barnett, the boy Daisy Coleman accused of rape, walked free, the unnamed 15-year-old who raped Parkhurst was sentenced in juvenile court for his crime.
2. Parkhurst Explains Why She Left Daisy Out in the Freezing Cold While She Snuck Inside
Parkhurst opened up in the interview, saying:
I was intoxicated before we left the house. She [Daisy] was also, but they gave her even more when she got there. They drug her out of his bedroom window, drug her to the car, and then they were going to drop us off, but they were freaking out, trying to think of how they were going to drop us off without any of her brothers waking up.
And they took her and carried her to the back corner of her house and left her there. And they told me to go inside, that all she needed to do was to sober up, and that she would be okay, and they were gonna be there and watch her.
It was very scary. I was really confused and didn’t understand what was fully going on. I was in shock and really worried about my friend. It was freezing out. I don’t know. There was just a lot of things going through my mind.
Daisy spent the night outdoors and was discovered by her mom in the morning, with frozen hair.
3. She Calls the Renewed Interest in the Case a ‘Miracle’
The case has received renewed public interest after a Kansas City Star feature was picked up nationally. On October 16, the prosecutor in the original case, Robert Rice — who dropped the charges against Matthew Barnett, and another boy, Jordan Zech, who was reported to have recorded the rape on video — reopened the case and will seek to appoint a special prosecutor for the case. Parkhurst says that this was part of the reason she has now come forward:
I felt like I needed the story to come out from me also, and that I needed to be able to voice my opinion, along with my mother. We didn’t have this kind of support when everything happened, but now that we do have a lot of support and we do have people listening, it’s like a miracle. It feels really good that it’s finally getting spoken about. We’ve waited for this day for a very long time.
When Daisy’s case was dropped in March 2012, prosecutor Robert Rice said it “was the right call” and that his office cited lack of evidence. Later it emerged that the charges of sexual assault against Barnett had been dropped before forensic test results had been released. Daisy Coleman’s mother, Melinda, says that she had been told “favors were being called in” in relation to the case. Barnett’s grandfather is Rex Barnett, a longtime Republican state representative for Maryville.
4. Parkhurst Says All She Wants is Justice
Parkhurst has said that she wants something very simple, justice:
I would like justice to be done, and I would like to be able to know that there was something to be done, and that our voice didn’t go unheard.
The main message is to stop sexual assault and to stop cyber bullying and yes, I do love everyone who has been supporting us, but you also have to be civil with them, and bullying them ins’t going to do anything out of this. …
I want other women and girls and men and boys not to be afraid to speak out against sexual assault. It is a very big epidemic in the world, and I just hope that other people can be brave enough to speak up when this happened to them.
And I’d also like to move forward and begin my life again, and to have known that there’s that piece of security of knowing that I at least tried to my best ability to have something done.
5. Parkhurst Called the Bullying the Girls Received ‘Heartbreaking’
After the girls made allegations against the boys, rather than sympathy, they were treated to bullying from their peers. Parkhurst expressed how it felt to be bullied for being a victim:
It was really pretty heartbreaking. It just made you want to hide and not wanna say any more, and made you wanna back down. But I knew that I couldn’t back down, and that something had to have been done. But it is one of the worst feelings in the world to be called all of these things and to not understand why people wouldn’t listen to your side of the story and why they were being so rude.
…It was in various places. People just said that we were liars, that we weren’t someone to be hanging around, that all we wanted to do was get people in trouble for something that was our mistake.