Wednesday, May 29, 2013

This World is Grey All Over

HALIFAX — Halifax police say they’ve taken the rare step of laying child pornography charges against a 14-year-old boy after he allegedly videotaped himself having sex with a 15-year-old girl and posted it online.
The video was posted on a social media site on April 5 following a party at a Halifax residence and investigators became aware of it three days later, Const. Pierre Bourdages said.
“This is very unusual,” Bourdages said Wednesday. “It’s not something we’ve seen lately. It’s very troubling.”
Bourdages said the sex was consensual but the accused posted a video of the act without the girl’s consent. Investigators believe he acted alone and while the two youths knew each other, Bourdages wouldn’t comment on the status of their relationship.
Source: National Post

The above is the kind of thing that keeps me up at night.

People do terrible things to each other every day in this world. Children are people too, obviously, and they do awful things to each other as well. We deal with that by punishing them in various ways. Our society is structured around ensuring that punishments best fit the crimes they are punishing. So, a child who assaults a classmate is likely to receive a harsher punishment than a child who is simply disruptive in class.

That system has all kinds of flaws. I think we still struggle with assigning appropriate punishments for certain offences because we differ so dramatically on the severity of that offence. Verbal bullying, I think, still ranks below physical bullying on the general punishment scale, and I'm not sure at all that it should. Still, we try our best to muddle through, and we adjust our punishments as our perceptions change on the nature of various offences.

Where it all breaks down for me, is in situations like the above. That poor fifteen year old girl may have had her life ruined by this incident. She may be traumatize forever, and she may never be the same. My heart goes out to her. Throughout any consideration of this incident, we must keep in mind that she, and she alone, is the victim here. She deserves everyone's unconditional support and sympathy, and ignoring or minimizing what has happened to her is completely unfair.

There is nothing that can make this better for that poor girl, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't try. This kind of thing is absolutely unacceptable, and cannot be tolerated in any form. We saw what happened in the Rehtaeh Parsons case earlier this year, when a similar situation was handled the opposite way, and ended in terrible tragedy. We cannot allow that kind of mistake to be repeated.

All that said, while the incident itself is absolutely unacceptable, and it would be unforgivable in an adult, when placed in the context of a fourteen year old boy, I'm not sure if it is unforgivable. I've spent years now working with teenage boys, and I know that by their very nature, they are foolish, impulsive, rash, and negligent creatures. They do stupid things all the time, and they make a ton of mistakes. This was a monumentally stupid mistake, far exceeding any mistake that I have ever made in my life, during my teenage years or otherwise, but it is also a fourteen year old's mistake.

So, how do we deal with this kind of a mistake. Obviously, we need to make absolutely certain that this boy, and every other person, understands that this kind of behaviour is unacceptable. We need to set a punishment that would make anyone else think twice before committing the same crime. We need to do our absolute best to make sure that nothing like this ever happens. And of course we need to make sure that justice is served for the poor girl involved. But, in the process, do we want to ruin the life of a fourteen year old boy? While he may have ruined the life of this poor girl, is it fair to ruin his in response? I'm not sure.

I don't disagree with the charges laid by the Halifax police, but I don't know from the article what kind of a sentence the boy is facing. Even if I did, I don't know whether it would change my opinion. I really don't know what to think about this kind of case. It's about as grey of a zone as it can get. I'm completely conflicted.

Of course, I think the best way to fix this kind of thing is to instill respect for women at a young age in boys. Unfortunately, while that would certainly help, I don't know that any level of education or indoctrination can fully combat the stupidity of teenage boys, and it doesn't help us today either way.

The world is a strange and wonderful place, most of the time, but not always.

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