After an unprecedented communitywide protest for justice, a male student at Norman High School in Norman, Oklahoma, was belatedly arrested and charged with raping at least two female students.
The case began in September 2014, when a 16-year-old girl awoke in a lot of pain the morning after a party, with no memory of what had happened until she checked her phone and saw it: a video of her being raped, apparently in Tristen Kole Killman-Hardin’s vehicle.
She and two other accusers reported Killman-Hardin to authorities. While the boy was suspended from school immediately, criminal charges were slow in coming – and in the meantime, the girls said they suffered merciless bullying and emotional abuse at school, while administrators did nothing to protect them from Killman-Hardin’s friends. They say they were victimized anew by local attitudes holding that any sexual abuse or harassment they had suffered must be their own fault. Neither police nor school response was adequate, in the girls’ eyes.
Frustrated and angry, the girls and their supporters took to social media, specifically a Twitter campaign using the hashtag #YESALLDAUGHTERS. The Twitter account summarized the cause: “Standing for and with victims of sexual assault, rape, and bullying. No more silence. No more shame.”
Parents, students, and friends stood silently outside the school, holding signs bearing the hashtag. The Twitter feed quickly acquired hundreds of followers, while the Yes All Daughters Facebook page accumulated thousands of Likes. Though corporate media beyond Norman were slow to pick up the story, Anna Merlan of Gawker Media’s women’s-issues blog Jezebel covered it well, and the protests grew. Hundreds of Norman High students staged a walkout in November 2014 to show solidarity with the girls.
Principal Scott Beck, put on the defensive, assured parents that “the school has taken the strongest disciplinary action against the alleged assailant permitted by Oklahoma law” and that “despite what rumors on social media may indicate, we have not – and would never – discipline a victim for being a victim.”
On Tuesday, December 2, 2014, police finally took Killman-Hardin, age 18, into custody. He was charged with two accounts of rape. Yes All Daughters continues its online activism, in its believe that justice for young women would not have occurred – and will never occur – without social-media scrutiny.
Anna Merlan, “Why Were Three Teenage Rape Victims Bullied Out of School in Oklahoma?” Jezebel, November 24, 2014, http://jezebel.com/why-were-three-teenage-rape-victims-bullied-out-of-scho-1659721302.
Anna Merlan, “After Protest, Alleged Serial Rapist Teen Arrested In Norman, Oklahoma,” Jezebel, December 2, 2014, http://jezebel.com/after-protest-alleged-serial-rapist-teen-arrested-in-n-1665787711.
Lindsey Robertson, “High School Students Silent Rape Protest Is Making a Lot of Noise,” HelloGiggles, December 12, 2014, http://hellogiggles.com/high-schoolers-protest-assault/.
Student Researcher: Katie O’Neill (Frostburg State University)
Faculty Evaluator: Andy Duncan (Frostburg State University)