Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Responding to Rehtaeh

There are plenty people eloquent people who have made you cry with their coverage of Rehtaeh Parsons’ death, and there are enough people who have sought to make this event partisan (not politicized, for rape is almost seldom not political in the most basic sense of the word, but partisan.)

I can’t cover it better than they have before, but I have a succinct suggestion to ad.

The best thing we can do as a society to prevent this is to care.

With the outpouring of grief and shock about what cruelly happened to Rehtaeh, it can be quick to jump and say that we care. I am not suggesting that we don’t, but that this pent up energy saved 'til post tragedy needs to be put to better use. A society that cares is a society that reads.

What happens if reports come back and the police obeyed every letter of the law? This is not a rhetorical question. What happens? I come from a background that tells me that we try to change the laws, but the consequences of the laws generally lead to things I don’t find particularly effective. As we don’t have a true “life” penalty in Canada, how do we adequately handle perpetrators? Is the point of prison to punish or to rehabilitate?

What will happen to the perpetrators isn't an enjoyable question, or an easy one, but unfortunately, they are the ones still here and they are some of the ones we have to teach.

Your gut reaction is wrong.

Gut reactions are what have got us in this place in using all of our energy to morn the dead instead of saving some to protect the present.

Caring can be quantified when there is action attached. Informing yourself and forming opinions around existing legal infrastructure instead of events is the most foolproof way we can make our surroundings safer before it is too late for another wonderful person. Informing yourself creates a culture that extends to those you surround yourself with and makes these sorts of conversations with youth more natural, because these conversations have to involve youth. Informing yourself leads to political pressure with a goal instead of anger, and although both are perfectly valid feelings, only one will truly lead to empowering the next victim and their circle (because there will be a next) to have the resources they need to do something differently. Informing yourself makes using words like "patriarchy", a term noticeably absent from most mainstream coverage, less scary because you know what it means, and why it plays a role, and why ignoring it hasn't worked. 

It’s easy to feel helpless in situations like these, but the most accessible way to become empowered is to non partisanly advocate for strong political processes that create a system with justice instead of scrambling to catch up after.

If we rely on our gut reaction for these things, it will only leave our guts turned when the system is not as logical and effective as we would like.

Let’s quantify our caring.