“She would rather kill herself than let this man kill her,” Daisy Coleman's friend tells PEOPLE

By Laura Barcella
August 07, 2020 04:37 PM
Advertisement
Courtesy SafeBae.org

Prior to Daisy Coleman's death by suicide on Tuesday, she had been stalked and harassed by a man for months, two friends of the 23-year-old's tell PEOPLE.

Coleman was a subject of the 2016 documentary Audrie & Daisy, which focused in part on her sexual assault allegation and the ensuing harassment she received. She subsequently became a prominent advocate for sex assault survivors.

One friend, whose identity PEOPLE is withholding, says, "Every media [outlet] is blaming her suicide on her rape, and ignoring that she was going through so much before her suicide, and not putting any blame on this man for harassing her."

“She would rather kill herself than let this man kill her,” the friend says.

Another friend of Coleman's confirms to PEOPLE that Coleman feared for her life before her death.

PEOPLE viewed messages Coleman posted to Twitter and Facebook that were viewable only to her followers. In them, she writes that police knew about her complaints of alleged stalking and harassment by the same man, which, according to her, had occurred since December.

But John Romero, the public information officer for the Lakewood, Colo., police, tells PEOPLE that Coleman did not file any reports to his office until the day of her suicide. When officers arrived at her home to perform a welfare check, Romero says, Coleman filed a report of stalking and harassment.

Romero tells PEOPLE that all indications point to Coleman dying from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

She died after police left, following the welfare check.

PEOPLE is withholding the first name of the man Coleman said was stalking her. His identity could not be confirmed.

On the day of her death, Coleman wrote a Twitter post expressing fear about leaving her house to walk her dogs or go to work. She wrote she was not eating or sleeping well because she was so alarmed by the alleged ongoing harassment.

In a Facebook post before she died, Coleman alleged the man had shown up at her house repeatedly and pounded on her door. She also wrote she believed he had managed to steal keys to her apartment and had tried to directly access her apartment. 

In that Facebook post, Coleman wrote that she was temporarily looking for a new place to live in order to protect her own safety.

"She was so scared, she wanted to move," her friend says.

Coleman also said in her posts that the alleged stalker had created new, false phone numbers in order to reach her, and that he’d posted her phone number on Craigslist, without her consent, offering sex acts for money.

She also posted a chain of text messages between herself and the alleged stalker, noting that she initially thought he was a lonely person who needed a friend.

“All of this is being overlooked and it’s just heartbreaking, because she was begging for help,” Coleman's friend tells PEOPLE.

Target of Small-Town Bullying

Coleman first made headlines when she was just 14. After speaking out about her alleged sexual assault at the hands of a local teen, Matthew Barnett, she became the target of a bullying and "slut-shaming" campaign in her small town of Maryville, Missouri. (Barnett pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of child endangerment, brought because after the alleged attack, he dumped the intoxicated, unconscious Coleman outside her house, where she lay for three hours wearing nothing but yoga pants and a t-shirt in subfreezing temperatures. Barnett was sentenced to two years probation.)

Coleman openly struggled with her mental health after that and she repeatedly attempted suicide. But things began to shift when she was featured as a primary subject of Audrie & Daisy, which focused on her case as well as California's Audrie Pott, a 15-year-old sex assault victim with a similar story.

Want to keep up with the latest crime coverage? Sign up for PEOPLE's free True Crime newsletter for breaking crime news, ongoing trial coverage and details of intriguing unsolved cases.

In 2017, Coleman -- who also worked as a model and tattoo artist -- furthered her advocacy for survivors by co-founding the student-led organization SafeBAE, which aims to end sexual assault among among middle and high school students.

With the other leaders at SafeBAE, Coleman emphasized the importance of consent, and also encouraged bystander intervention and pushed for federal Title IX protections for students.

If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted, please contact the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673) or go to online.rainn.org.

If you or someone you know is considering suicide, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), text "STRENGTH" to the Crisis Text Line at 741-741 or go to suicidepreventionlifeline.org.