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Teaching Respect

Another beautiful young woman committed suicide after being bullied. Rehtaeh Parsons, a 17-year-old high school student from Halifax, Nova Scotia, recently was taken off of life support after hanging herself. Rehtaeh allegedly was gang-raped in November of 2011. A photo said to be taken during the attack was circulated among her fellow students, who then bullied her for more than a year. Rehtaeh was so distraught from the rape and continuous bullying, she sought relief in her death.

There are so many parts of this story that saddens me. I’m so very sad for beautiful Rehtaeh and her grieving family. I’m also sad and disturbed for the group of peers who assaulted her repeatedly in one way or another. And I’m disheartened over the fact that this is not an event that hasn’t happened before.

What is wrong with a society of adolescents who can be so cruel? Aren’t the young supposed to be innocent and optimistic? What are we doing, or not doing, as parents, teachers, and mentors to raise such a group of young people?

More than twenty years ago I worked with a detective on a series of stories on self-defense for the Chicago Tribune. The detective asked me if women, as mothers, couldn’t instill a greater level of respect in their sons for women. He felt most boys did not respect their mothers, much less other women.

I do think the detective has a point. We want our children to feel special, loved, and powerful. But are we doing enough to teach them to treat us, as well as others, with the same care and compassion?

How is it that so many young people could torment one young woman? Where is the respect and consideration due another human being?

This issue needs urgent attention. Our children are our future. We are their role models and mentors. It is our responsibility to guide the adults of tomorrow.

©2013, Mary K. Doyle

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