Blog dedicated primarily to randomly selected news items; comments reflecting personal perceptions

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Juvenile, 'like' In Adulthood

"You could tell she was getting ready to get sick, so we hopped up, I opened the window and said 'You can get sick here', so she said 'Okay', and got sick out the window."
"We were like laughing and stuff, we were behind her, like giggling and stuff because she had her shirt on and no pants and she was just like hanging out the window. We were kind of laughing about the night, she was like, 'You guys can keep going', and me and (the other boy), we're like pointing at each other."
"Like, 'You go ahead' and he said 'You go ahead', so I was like whatever, I go on [Rehtaeh], I just posed for the picture and he took his cellphone out and took it [the photograph]."
"I will not live with the guilt of someone passing away, but I will live with the guilt of sending the picture."
"I have pleaded guilty to distributing child pornography, not a sexual assault. I never played a part in the bullying [of Rehtaeh Parsons], nor would I."
Now 20, unnamed [by law] young man who at age 16, enjoyed consensual sex with a 15-year-old girl
Rehtaeh Parsons, a young woman who killed herself in 2013 after years of bullying linked to a photo that was shared around of her having sex with a boy.
Facebook    Rehtaeh Parsons, a young woman who killed herself in 2013 after years of bullying linked to a photo that was shared around of her having sex with a boy.
"I remember looking at him and telling him, 'I don't know whoever you are, but you aren't the son I've raised, so maybe you can go away and bring back the one I know."
"That was a lot for him to carry around by himself for almost a year without telling us about it. No wonder I saw so many changes in him."
"I don't sit here as a parent and say he's perfect. He's not. He's made mistakes. Tell me a teenager who hasn't. If we did something stupid when we were a kid, made out with some boy or something, the worst thing you had to worry about was, was your name going to be written in some stall?"
Mother of boy accused of rape by mother of girl who committed suicide

It is difficult beyond measure, given the camaraderie with which young people view one another, and the distaste and rebellion with which they view anything perceived as interference in the social aspects of their lives from their parents. Perhaps before young people grow into their teen years the perfect opportunities as far as trust and nurturance and communication are concerned should have long since taken place. Above all, to confer upon the pre-teen the awareness of social responsibilities.

Those responsibilities can be summed up neatly enough in the word respect. Having respect for oneself, and for others. When the idea and the realization of respect become fully ingrained in a personality the understanding of parameters and responsibilities should be intact enough to withstand the enticements of casually setting those values aside in the interest of reflecting in their own behaviour that of their peers for whom there are no adequate social standards of mutual respect.

But then, parents upon whom fall the responsibilities of fully nurturing and supporting the social and practical needs of their offspring through communication, discipline and understanding to augment emotional needs would have to demonstrate by conviction and their own code of values and ethics just what should be regarded as uncompromising standards of behaviour. If and when a parent once their child has reached the teen years has failed to succeed in that elemental transfer of a foundational set of values, social and peer pressure take their place.

In the case of Rehtaeh Parsons, a beautiful young girl brought up in Nova Scotia,, attending Cole Harbour High school, casual sexual relations with boys attending the same high school appears to reflect her understanding of what she, as a fifteen-year-old, could engage in. It seems that no parental figure took the bother of vetting her activities. In the case of the boys who complemented her casual attitude to sharing sex, the same can be said to be true. Parents too busy, too distracted, too unwilling to intrude in the intimate activities of their children hovering on adulthood to monitor them.

How else could it be possible that a fifteen-year-old girl could stay overnight at the home of some boys she knew casually without alarming her parents? How was it possible that the boys whose home it was could invite girls to come over for an evening, ply them with hard alcohol and continue on to share sex, without any parental supervision to ensure that these actions would not take place between minors who aren't the best judge of potential consequences of their actions?

But the young man of twenty who when he was sixteen indulged in those respect-demeaning acts with a young girl who was drunk after having been given eight shots of straight vodka to the boys' 11 shots, just as casually recounts his memories of those times to a reporter, in the company of his parents, sounding like an unreconstructed teen-ager, after having achieved the age of majority.

At trial, after the suicide of the girl who became increasingly distraught at her female peers jeering at her 'slut' status with the distribution of an infamous photograph mentioned above by the boy, he rejects the notion that he is guilty of having had anything to do with her death.

At age 20 he should understand that his actions and that of his friend who snapped a picture of the girl, head out the window of the back seat of a vehicle, with the boy behind her who was busy doing "some things" with the opportunity given him of her nakedness from the waist down, ostensibly with her permission after her nausea had passed, was little different than rape, since she was in no condition to consent, even if she had formerly under other conditions.

It was the incriminating photograph, however, that was circulated  endlessly, humiliating and shaming her, that represented the capping of the trauma, causing the girl to take her life.

Her social life at school, after all, had plummeted. She had begged her girlfriends not to consider her a "slut", but girls tend to be pretty smug about shaming those who have been caught out by circumstances of their own making, readily taking to condemning those whose behaviour tops the local gossip chat lines. So the boy excuses himself by stating "Obviously, if I felt like if she didn't want it, it wouldn't have happened. It was all mutual. We were in the groove", he explained in defending as an adult, his younger self's behaviour.

The girl Rehtaeh Parsons, had responded to an invitation to attend a house party where four boys were present. She went along, with a girlfriend accompanying her. That girlfriend was offended when after she had gone out for a smoke and returned to find the younger two boys having gone to a basement recreation room to play games, the older boys and her girlfriend were engaged in sex. She left in anger, and her mother returned with her to the house to retrieve Rehtaeh, who refused to leave the house. "That's when we shut down the whole thing and packed up. I left the house, called it a night, and pretty much thought nothing of it", explained the boy.

Can't get much more casual than that. The following morning he discovered the photograph had been sent to his cellphone. "I thought, 'Okay, that's what happened last night'. I just said, 'Look what I did last night type of thing", he explained, on forwarding the photograph on to the girl who Rehtaeh refused to leave the boys' house with, and instead stayed overnight, sleeping her alcohol-fuelled illness off in a bedroom. "Kind of bragging about it, but it was a joke as well", he emphasized.

It was the 'joke' that travelled in the circles of those attending the same high school, damning the girl for her indiscretion, trampling on her reputation, driving her to despair, and finally to suicide. The extreme depression in which her mother found her would not be alleviated. After the success of the suicide attempt, her mother posted an accusation on Facebook accusing the boys of rape: "Rehtaeh is gone today because of the four boys that thought raping a 15-year-old girl was OK and to distribute a photo to ruin her spirit and reputation would be fun."

The facts are more complex than the inaccurate accusations launched by Rehtaeh Parsons' mother. Parents have an obligation to teach those cautionary tales about self-respect to their children. As for the parents of the boys involved, the boys who were charged with distributing juvenile pornography, who were chided by the presiding judge and given suspended sentences, they seem as obtusely self-forgiving about their responsibilities as the parents of the girl: "I don't understand why kids are having sex at parties. Or two people with one person. To me, I just think sex is something that goes on with two people", said the boy's mother.

"In my mind", said his father, "that's not how we raised him, to have unprotected sex with anybody, at least until you're in a relationship with them. Just to go to a party and have sex with someone and now there's a picture?" Open channels of communication are also not always what one might wish for; it took a year for the investigation into the suicide and the events leading to it, to conclude, and during that time the boy had said nothing whatever to his parents.

Once all was revealed and the names of the boys and their addresses were posted on line as a social act of vigilante vengeance, they were themselves hounded by outraged people in the community. Threats were issued, harassment took place, other reputations tattered. No one emerges from this sad and sordid tale looking very responsible.

A second young man has pleaded guilty to distributing child pornography in the Rehtaeh Parsons case. (CONTRIBUTED)
A second young man has pleaded guilty to distributing child pornography in the Rehtaeh Parsons case. (CONTRIBUTED)

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