Friday, 9 August 2013

No Justice for Rehtaeh

At the tender age of 15 Rehtaeh Parsons was allegedly raped by four boys about her age. As a father of two girls (aged 15 and 16) I doubt I'd be able to contain my rage or impulse to commit violence against those who harmed my children. I am, however extremely thankful that justice is not left to enraged fathers and lynch mobs, we aren't known for our reflective objectivity, our rationality, our dispassionate evaluation of the evidence. There is a process, in theory, that exists called justice, the rule of law which is to negate the rule of passion and impulse.

In an ideal world justice would not be punitive, designed to inflict pain and discomfort in order to gain compliance, but rather restorative and healing. Rather than locking criminals in cages at the expense of taxpayers criminals would be held to account for their crimes. Being accountable means fixing what you broke, restoring a victim to a future you took from her, it means restoring your credibility as a citizen through acts of virtue and value. Sitting like a lump in a rape cage on the tax payers dime is the opposite of accountability. Those who took from Rehtaeh what was not theirs to take need to be held to account.

In this case there is no justice for Rehtaeh. She was let down by everyone who had a duty to protect and nurture her. Real justice might have looked at all the red flags, all the symptoms indicative of underlying suffering. Social media feeds like Rehtaeh's proudly depicting drugs, alcohol, partying, and failing grades don't occur for no reason. I can understand that perhaps there was not enough evidence to proceed with a rape prosecution against these boys, however there was certainly enough evidence to suggest something inappropriate, unhealthy, and psychologically damaging occurred. Boys raised in healthy, attached and nurturing environments don't participate in this kind of activity consensual or not, and this kind of activity, consensual or not should raise the alarm that these boys need treatment at the very least. Lack of accountability by those who hold themselves up as authorities is demonstrated by their failure to acknowledge their responsibility in creating the environment these kids live in.

In a culture where peer attachment matters more than parental attachment to many teens, there seems to be a kind of distorted, pornographic view of sex that is worth bragging about. How many people commentating on this tragedy even stop and think about what they do to encourage or discourage a culture of peer attachment that is killing kids? I don't see any reflection from Rehtaeh's parents, the RCMP, the hospital where she was treated for 6 weeks prior to her suicide, or her school about things they did or didn't do that may have contributed to putting that precious life at risk. What I am looking for is not an acknowledgement of blame but rather an acknowledgement of learning so that more tragedies can be prevented. I have made my share of mistakes as a parent and I'll be the first to point out the things I did that put my child at risk, the actions that are mine to own that created an environment that made my child see certain unhealthy choices as preferable to others. I don't see any learning, or accountability, all I hear are cries for blood and so I can reasonably predict that this destructive culture of institutionalizing our children in government schools where they attach to their peers, giving no thought to a child's preferences or needs, and working three jobs to pay for our idea of success will continue and children will suffer mental anguish and some will take their own life.

The boys that allegedly raped Rehtaeh and then harassed and bullied her are now charged with child pornography. Yes children can be charged with child pornography in Canada. A 14 year old boy was recently charged with child porn in Nova Scotia after video taping a 15 year old girl giving him oral sex and then posting it on social media. This type of prosecution seems to cheapen real victims of child pornography and pedophilia. If consent was not given then a crime was committed. There currently is no law against distributing intimate images without consent, perhaps there should be, or perhaps there should be civil recourse to collect damages caused by distribution of these images. The fact that there exists no law that can currently be used to prosecute these boys for damage that they did to Rehtaeh does not mean that we should be cavalier with our justice system, subjecting it to the passions of the lynch mob and manufacturing nonsense crimes in our bloodlust. Justice is not served by ignoring our own accountability in creating a system that breeds bullying and peer attachment.

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