I don't know the truth of what happened to Rehtaeh Parsons. When I first heard the account of the teenage girl who was allegedly the victim of gang-rape, then bullying and pictures of her being raped shared on the Internet, I was as outraged as anyone else.
But outrage based on one-sided accounts is not a substitute for truth and justice needs to be based on facts and evidence, rather than feelings and subjective accounts. So does good journalism.
Christie Blatchford wrote a column in the National Post yesterday that challenged the narrative that was the first most of us heard about the Parsons tragedy. It was based on investigation and it if it is correct, it supported the reasons that charges were never laid in the case.
Blatchford reported how the alleged rape may have been consensual. That Parson's story was unreliable and changed from account to account, and that based on the law, the photograph of her that was distributed and did not show her face or any identifiable part of her, did not constitute distribution of child pornography.
A virtual, national lynch mob had assembled to try, convict, and given the opportunity, execute the alleged criminals. It was led by the self-promoting egotist Warren Kinsella, who actually tried to entice the group of illegal anarchist hackers known as Anonymous to take vigilante action.
With the revelations in Blatchford's column, just where the truth lies is murky and impossible to define.
So, with their narrative challenged, Kinsella and other hysterics, who know little more about the truth then things they've read from Parson's parents' facebook postings, have turned their wrath onto Blatchford. Referring to her as "the pro-police, leftie-and-native-hater at Postmedia" he makes absurd comparisons of her with the fascist Ezra Pound.
If drunken boys had had sex with a drunken girl who asked them to, then why would it be rape for the boys but not the girl? That question hasn't been asked much and nowhere has anyone attempted to answer it.
Christie Blatchford was courageous in examining and challenging the persecution of accused who have been convicted soley on opinion and conjecture. It's the type of courage we've seen in the past from journalists like H. L. Mencken and lawyers like Clarence Darrow.
The tiny minds of deplorable individuals like Kinsella appear so threatened by the possibility that they may have been wrong that they have to lash out at anyone who suggests it. Such behaviour is despicable.
Rehtaeh Parsons deserves justice. The harassment she was subjected to that led to her self-inflicted death was deplorable and that is something that should be addressed. But the boys accused of raping Parsons deserve justice too, be it punishment if they are guilty or vindication if they are not.
One thing is certain. That justice isn't going to come from anything said or done by self-serving Internet pundits like Warren Kinsella. It is going to come from the courts and the justice system, and that's where the real work on this matter needs to be done.
I see this not only as a case with two sides, but really as two separate cases.
The more I see of the "other side" of the story, the more it reminds me of the Duke Lacrosse scandal: a rush to conviction in the public eye, but in the end a very sketchy case embraced by individuals with political motives.
Then, of course, there is the case of the bullying. From my point of view, the bullying is extremely damning, even if the rape case is shaky. Then again, there may be another side to that too, even if I don't expect to find it very compelling.
Interesting post Richard. I've been reading through the Blatchford stuff and some other materials about the Parsons case. Some of my interest was piqued because there was a similar case last year in Pitt Meadows, B.C., just a few miles away from where I live. In that one a teenage girl went to a rave party in a barn where she gave oral sex to several teenage boys, one of whom then passed around cellphone pictures of the deeds that went somewhat viral among teenagers in Pitt Meadows and Maple Ridge. Nobody died, but there was a huge initial uproar with people calling for severe punishment.
So, I've been reading and trying to research the Rehteah case. Here are some salient points that don't seem to get much coverage aside from Blatchford's efforts:
Rehtaeh is Heather spelled backwards. Is that stupid or what? Her mother is a moron, something readily determined by listening to her talk or reading her semi-literate posts. Yes, I understand that she must be in terrible pain.
Her father, who seems to have spent very little time with her (and who name she didn't carry), is clearly a fair bit smarter than her mother. This is absolutely not a character reference for the guy, but it probably explains why they didn't stay together long.
Rehtaeh's original unedited Facebook page was largely material about her getting drunk and stoned, along with some pictures of her with limited clothing on. There was a lot of it, meaning she was living like that for at least a couple of years -- at the ages of 14 and 15. Somebody has hurriedly redacted a lot of it in the last week, and I don't know where to link to see the original.
The teenage boy in the photograph giving the thumbs-up while she pukes out a window is the one who sent the photograph around to students at Cole Harbour High School. Had he not done that bit of appalling behavior we'd never have heard about any of this. There probably should be a law that you can't transmit pictures or recordings of a sexual nature without the express consent of the person depicted -- if there isn't already. Child pornography laws weren't really intended for this.
That's all for now ... what I've learned about this case that you won't hear on the CBC.
This has no direct bearing on the circumstances of the daughter's tragedy, but I received a note saying that the father was one of the original investors in the The Media Co-Op
BTW, Exurban, evidently one of the frustrations for police is that the picture that was distributed of Parsons was one in which she was unidentifiable and no part of her was visible other than part of her side and the side of her buttocks.
Based on the way the law was written, the police didn't feel charges could be laid, since it didn't meet the standard for distribution of child pornography, which is understandable, regardless of how one feels of about the morality involved.
While devastatingly sad, the hysteria about "bullying" isn't likely to do much to make sure similar tragedies don't occur in the future.
For my part, I have no knowledge of and wouldn't want to comment on the relationship between the parents. I have no idea of its relevance.
Part of parenting is to do your best to instill enough confidence in your children so that they can stand up to bullies and not be crushed when they target them. That may sound glib and it's not THE answer, and for that matter, nor do I know if Parsons' parents didn't do their utmost to do just that. But the fact is, there are no cure-all solutions for situations like these.
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