Coleman’s mother Melinda posted about the death of her daughter on Facebook, writing that police found her body after she requested a welfare check on Saturday night. “She was my best friend and amazing daughter,” she wrote in her post, adding, “My baby girl is gone.”
Coleman alleged she was raped at a party in Maryville, Missouri in 2012, when she was just 14 years old; another boy recorded the encounter on his phone. For hours following the attack, she was left outside in just a T-shirt in freezing temperatures. Her alleged assailant, then-19-year-old Matthew Barnett, the grandson of a former Republican state representative, was arrested and charged with felony sexual assault, which was later dropped and led to a lesser, misdemeanor charge of endangerment of a minor. He was ultimately sentenced to four months in jail, which was commuted to just two years probation, and was forced to pay $1,800 to Coleman in restitution.
“To all those who supported me, I promise that what happened on January 8th, 2012, will not define me forever,” Coleman said after Barnett entered his guilty plea in 2014.
After her allegation was made public, Coleman was relentlessly bullied at school, leading her to attempt suicide when she was 16 years old. Her home was also burned down. “I wish I could have taken the pain from her!,” Coleman wrote in her Facebook post about her daughter’s death. “She never recovered from what those boys did to her and it’s just not fair.”
Coleman’s assault case later received national attention and was documented in the 2016 film Audrie and Daisy, which also told the story of 15-year-old Audrie Pott, who died by suicide in 2012 after being sexually assaulted and having nude photos of her posted online.
Coleman’s experience as a sexual assault survivor prompted her to create the sexual assault prevention organization SafeBAE, or Safe Before Anyone Else, in 2017. “I definitely feel like people have certain views and perceptions about me and about cases like this because they’re uneducated,” she 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.”
If you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255). You can also reach out to the Crisis Text Line, a free, 24/7 confidential text messaging service that provides support to people in crisis when they text 741741.