Sexual Assault & Social Media in Health Class

Netflix's documentary "Shame is spreading: Audrie & Daisy" highlights how use of digital media complicates the lives of two girls.

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In health class, we teach about sexuality and consent, and good decision-making strategies when it comes to our personal health.  In this world where everyone has access to a phone that can photograph or record video and then transmit these, it is important to be aware of how this can impact one's life.  The documentary tells two stories so can be easily broken up so that you can debrief with students as you go.  In our class, it is mainly discussion-based but I can imagine this film could be used as a basis for a media use assignment.

This is the NY Times review of the film:

"The Netflix documentary “Audrie & Daisy” is intended to spread awareness of teenage sexual assaults and how technology can amplify their ramifications.

It focuses on two cases. The first, from Saratoga, Calif., involves Audrie Pott, who committed suicide in 2012, days after an incident at a party when she was unconscious. Three boys later admitted in juvenile court that they had sexually penetrated Audrie while she was intoxicated and possessed lewd photos of her on cellphones.

The other is a widely publicized case from Maryville, Mo., in which a former high school football player, Matthew B. Barnett, was initially charged with the sexual assault of a 14-year-old girl in 2012. (He was 17 at the time.) Those charges were dropped, but after public outrage and a review of the case, he ultimately pleaded guilty to endangering the welfare of a child.

The movie, directed by Bonni Cohen and Jon Shenk, is, among other things, a vehicle for Daisy Coleman, the Missouri victim. She and her family came forward to share the repercussions of the episode. (The family moved after feeling ostracized in Maryville, which then had a population of about 12,000.)

The film’s slick presentation includes visuals of online chatter and a manipulative score. It’s revealed toward the end that two of the defendants from Ms. Pott’s case appeared in the documentary, with their identities obscured, as part of the settlement of a suit brought by her family.

“Audrie & Daisy” is strongest when it investigates what it regards as shortcomings of justice, for reasons technical and implied: The special prosecutor in the Coleman case says certain legal standards can be difficult to meet. In an eyebrow-raising moment, the sheriff for Maryville holds forth on how “girls have as much culpability in this world as boys do.”"

Running Time 1h 35m

Share research or student experiences that informed your idea!

I had read about students being arrested for child pornography and distribution for sharing sexual images on social media or through messaging so when I heard about this from a colleague (Mary Ann Bromer-Kelly), I thought it was a strong contender for our classroom as it touches on so many important conversations.


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Thanks for sharing this Jenna. It sounds as if it could be very powerful. Have you used it it your classroom yet? What did your students find the most interesting aspect of the film?


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