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Daisy Coleman, subject of Netflix documentary about sexual assault, dies at age 23

Coleman's case grabbed national headlines after she was harassed at school and online for speaking up about her alleged assault.
/ Source: TODAY

Daisy Coleman, one of the young women featured in the Netflix documentary "Audrie & Daisy" chronicling life after sexual assault, died by suicide on Tuesday, according to a post from her mother. She was 23.

"My daughter Catherine Daisy Coleman committed suicide tonight," Melinda Coleman wrote on Facebook. "If you saw crazy messages and posts it was because I called the police to check on her. She was my best friend and amazing daughter. I think she had to make it seem like I could live without her. I can’t.

"I wish I could have taken the pain from her! She never recovered from what those boys did to her and it’s just not fair," Coleman added. "My baby girl is gone."

Coleman was 14 when she said she was sexually assaulted at a house party by Matthew Barnett in Maryville, Missouri, in January 2012. Her case made national headlines when Coleman was harassed online and at school after she spoke out about what happened.

Barnett, who was 17 at the time, was charged with felony sexual assault. That charge was later dropped and he instead pleaded guilty to child endangerment for leaving Coleman drunk and outside in freezing temperatures, wearing a T-shirt. He claimed the sex was consensual. She claimed the charges in March 2012 were dropped due to his family's political connections.

When Coleman's case was reopened in October 2013, supporters held a rally and stood outside the courthouse passing out flowers and holding signs that said "Justice for Daisy."

Barnett later pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of misdemeanor child endangerment in Jan. 2014.

Coleman spent her time after that working as an advocate for sexual assault survivors and bravely told her story in the documentary "Audrie & Daisy."

Audrie Pott, the other teen girl mentioned in the documentary, was assaulted in Saratoga, California in September 2012 and died by suicide 10 days later.

Coleman was a co-founder of SafeBAE, an organization raising awareness about consent and sexual assault at middle schools and high schools. The BAE in the organization's name stands for "Before Anyone Else," something Coleman dedicated her life to after her experience.

“I definitely feel like people have certain views and perceptions about me and about cases like this because they’re uneducated,” Coleman told PEOPLE in 2017. “That’s exactly why I’m going out and trying to educate people on what’s going on in our society.”

Shael Norris, a victim's advocate who worked with Coleman at SafeBAE, told NBC News in a statement that Coleman was in therapy for PTSD from her assault, but "none of us saw this coming."

"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," Norris wrote. "But we want to be mindful of all the young survivors who looked up to her. Please know that above ALL ELSE, she did this work for you. She loved talking to young people about changing the culture and taking care of one another. Much of her healing came from each of you. She was so proud of the work we’ve done and loved seeing so many fierce young activists push for change in their schools and among their friends."

This isn't the only tragedy to strike the Coleman family. In 2019, Coleman's youngest brother, Tristan, died in a one-vehicle crash in western Kansas. His mother, Melinda Coleman, who was in the passenger's seat, survived the crash.

This story discusses suicide. If you or someone you know is at risk of suicide please call the U.S. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255, text TALK to 741741 or go to for additional resources.

Editor's note: An earlier version of this article stated Coleman's age as 20. She was 23.