GRANT McKENZIE: Time to end the silence

I know this crime isn’t something new. Cartoons have been making light of date rape since...

I know this crime isn’t something new. Cartoons have been making light of date rape since the first iconic image appeared of a caveman hitting a woman over the head with a club in order to drag her back to his cave.

Stories have circulated through every high school of a girl who got drunk or high at a party and had sex with one or more boys without being able to give consent. But when did this become something that other students are willing to sweep under the rug? When did the victim become the one who is mocked and harassed rather than the perpetrators?

Two teenagers from different cities in different countries hanged themselves recently because they were gang raped, photographed and tossed aside by their peers. One of those girls, Rehtaeh Parsons, was from Coal Harbour, NS; the other, Audrie Pott, from Saratoga, Calif.

The similarities between the two cases is staggering. Both girls attended a house party with friends; both girls were gang raped by boys they knew; both girls were photographed and filmed while being assaulted; and both girls became victims of online and school bullying.

When did sexual assault and humiliation become something that people take sick glee in sharing online rather than forming a lynch mob? Any distribution of such photos or video should be considered a hate crime under the Criminal Code. The boys who raped Parsons have never been charged, although the case is now reopened. The three boys who allegedly raped Pott were charged last week — seven months after the 15-year-old killed herself.

I wish I had the power to enter the minds of these savages and plant a seed of what these young women felt: the pain, fear, guilt and humiliation. But what really disturbs me is how everyone failed these victims.

In Parsons’ case, the attack was never addressed in school because the school claims it didn’t know. The RCMP never made an arrest because it couldn’t find enough evidence. The silence of Parsons’ peers allowed this to happen. By not speaking up, they validated the crime.

High school is a brutal microcosm of our larger society, but we have allowed it to become a half-rate babysitting service rather than a gateway to adulthood. We need to realize what is happening to our children and find ways to address it. We need to stop cutting budgets and start putting money back into the system. We need counsellors in the schools and principals who aren’t afraid to speak up.

These teenage rapists also need to know that there are consequences to acting like monsters. If caught, they need to be charged as adults because their age makes no difference. If you commit an adult crime, you need to face adult punishment — and I hope it’s severe. M

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