UPDATE: Sean Mulveyhill, Kayla Narey, Austin Renaud, Ashley Longe, Flannery Mullins, and Sharon Chanon Velazquez
Emily Bazelon, an attorney and editor at Slate.com, has published an article that attempts to paint a new picture of bullicide victim, Phoebe Prince:
“The uncomfortable fact (is) that Phoebe helped set in motion the conflicts with other students that ended in them turning on her”
Bazelon solidly places the blame of Phoebe Prince’s death on Phoebe and her family. She has painted a picture of a young girl, extremely disturbed, emotionally unstable, promiscuous and a party girl with a history of drug and alcohol abuse and a previous suicide attempt. She has quoted the defense attorney’s for the South Hadley Six, their parents, friends and used unreported and undocumented information in her article.
IF Emily Bazelon’s article is to be believed, the South Hadley Six; Sean Mulveyhill, Kayla Narey, Austin Renaud, Ashley Longe, Flannery Mullins, and Sharon Chanon Velazquez have been unfairly targeted by a District Attorney who caved in to the public pressure.
She quotes Bill Evans, the assistant principal of South Hadley High School in Massachusetts, saying that it was he who chose Sean Mulveyhill to read an anti-bullying PSA during the school’s participation in the National Bullying Prevention Awareness Week.
“He was a natural selection—the kind of kid who would seek out someone having difficulty just to help him. Sean read it. I think he meant it.”
Sounds like a stand-up kind guy, huh? Yet other students of South Hadley painted a much different picture of Mulveyhill within days of Phoebe’s suicide, claiming that Mulveyhill had a mean streak and obviously took great pleasure in the emotional pain that he caused her.
Ms. Bazelon then went on to describe the horrible consequences that have befallen the South Hadley Six. She said that the six accused teenagers have been painted as “symbols of callow teenage evil.” Their names and faces have been splashed across the media, at an international level. They were expelled from school and poor little Sean lost out on a football scholarship to college.
And, *gasp* they might have to do some jail time. (Sniff, sniff, sniff. Hold on while I wipe away some tears).
She went on to write that some of the teenagers might have treated Phoebe cruelly, but that all of them did and that there was absolutely no way that they could have foreseen the events that would unfold with Phoebe killing herself and their being charged with criminal acts.
She insinuates that it was all for nothing because Phoebe was a whack job and the accused had absolutely nothing to do with her suicide. And that the statutory rape charges are unfair as the sex was consensual, even though Phoebe was under the age of consent.
I say to her: BULL FUCKING SHIT!
Was Phoebe Prince emotionally unstable? Yes, she was. Was she under the care of a physician who was treating her depression? Yes, she was. Was she upset at the move to a foreign country? Yes, she was. Did she miss her Daddy? Yup, she did.
And now she is a 15-year old girl that’s just been raped AGAIN by Ms. Bazelon. A girl who can no longer defend or speak up for herself because she is dead. Ms. Bazelon tried, in a haphazard kind of way to apologize to Phoebe’s family saying, “I’ve wrestled with how much of this information to publish. Phoebe’s family has suffered terribly.”
BUT the injustice that she thought was being committed against the accused and the investigation by the District Attorney “invited an inquiry into other potential causes.” So she’s sorry to put Phoebe’s family through the wringer again, but they asked for it.
She went as far as to say:
“She (Phoebe) was deeply troubled long before she ever met the six defendants. And her own behavior made other students understandably upset.”
And what behavior was that Ms. Bazelon? What could anyone possibly do to a group of teenagers that would compel them to verbally, psychological and physically torture another person? Be different? Being upset about leaving the only country that she has known and coming here? Missing her father? Falling for the prattle spewed by two American teenage boys who just wanted to fuck her so they can put another notch on their belts? Is that the behavior you are referring to?
The fact that Phoebe was in this fragile emotional state to begin with is precisely what makes what these individuals did so heinous. Obviously Ms. Bazelon isn’t old enough to have teenagers of her own. Teenagers are extremely adept at negotiation, as any parent of a something-teen will tell you. They are also savvy when it comes to identifying the weakest members of their little society – the society we all refer to as high school.
Ask any teenager in any American school who is the most likely person to commit suicide and most will give you an honest answer. Why? Because they know. Teenagers know who is doing what, where, when and with whom. And when they are caught doing something that they know that they shouldn’t be doing, they are expertly skilled in the art of denial, deception, deflection and deceit.
These individuals are nothing more than a pack of lions that culled the weakest member of the herd away from the group and then played with her, much like a cat will play with a mouse before it kills it. No, they did not tie the rope around Phoebe’s neck and push her off, but they handed the rope to her and watched as she made the noose, and laughed.
Ms. Bazelon states that she talked with numerous students at the high school who corroborated her accounts of the alleged bullying, or lack there of. Yet within hours of Phoebe’s suicide, these same students at South Hadley were already pointing the finger at the South Hadley Six.
If they were so innocent, why would one of them write “accomplished” on a memorial page set up for Phoebe and gloat about her death and the torture that they put her through? That one word, “accomplished” implies intent. They knew exactly what they were doing.
I am sick and tired of people BLAMING the victim. These individuals created an atmosphere of hostility and fear that surrounded a vulnerable teenage girl for months. They set into motion a chain of events that led to a girl killing herself and for that they must be held accountable. But Ms. Bazelon wants to blame Phoebe.
When a tragedy happens here in America we desperately look for answers. When those answers point to the unimaginable, we look to place the blame on something else. This is a case of teenagers, old enough to know better, but still young enough not to care, going out of their way to inflict psychological trauma on a perceived rival.
And when that victim kills themselves in response, people like Ms. Bazelon look to point the finger of blame everywhere but where it belongs. She wants to believe that she is just doing her job and performing a public service because in her mind the South Hadley Six are being railroaded. But just like the girl that wrote “accomplished” on Phoebe’s memorial page, she is torturing Phoebe and her family all over again.
Ms. Bazelon went on The Today Show and supported her position by saying:
“Just the notion of criminally charging six teenagers in a way that blames them for the death of a girl who had this much more complicated history, that seems really questionable to me.”
And that gives her the right to invade the privacy of Phoebe and her family? I don’t think so.
She quotes a licensed social worker that had talked with Phoebe before her death in the capacity as a counselor, but that same social worker refused to go on the record with her and allow herself to be quoted. Did she speak with Phoebe’s family? They said no. She spoke with the accused, their lawyers, family and friends. Gee, don’t think they would be biased at all.
In response to Bazelon’s article, Barbara Coloroso, a bullying expert recruited to train South Hadley school officials and parents prior to Prince’s death, expressed concern about “the slant of the article.” She said:
“It is all too common to re-target the target so as to minimize or justify the cruelty reaped on her. A troubled teen is often a prime target for bullies, and thus needs even more protection and support in a safe school environment where bullies are held accountable and not enabled to act with impunity.”
Ms. Bazelon is no different in her attitude towards Phoebe Prince than a defense attorney attacking a rape victim because of how they were dressed or the fact that the didn’t fight back, thus implying that the victim not only asked to be assaulted.
Phoebe’s family and friends are outraged and describe Bazelon’s article as a cruel hatchet job aided and abetted by the accused tormentors’ lawyers. Phoebe’s aunt, Eileen Moore, told The Boston Herald:
“It resurfaced everything. We relive it.”
So kudos Ms. Bazelon on throwing salt on their open and festering wounds. Good job.
To Phoebe’s family and friends, I say this: I cannot fathom the depth of your loss and grief. All I can say is that I share your outrage over the insensitive, intrusive and callous disregard for your feelings and the memory of your child. What these individuals did was incomprehensible and they should be held accountable for their actions. As should the school and the district for their failure to protect Phoebe. Be strong and keep the faith.
Editor’s Notes: I have one unbreakable rule when I write, and that is to never attack anyone who has passed away and is incapable of defending themselves. It’s not because I believe in a overly romanticized version of fair play, but because it’s patently unfair to destroy the reputation and character of someone who is no longer with us. People should be able to rest in peace without having their families suffer through something like that.
That’s the key you see – the families, the survivors. They are the ones who deserve that peace of mind. One should be very, very careful before one goes and disturbs something as precious as that, especially when the deceased left us in an especially cruel or painful manner.
The way Phoebe Prince left us.
Emily Bazelon was not careful. She described the personal hell she lived with as she struggled with the decision on how much of her story to actually print, but I suspect it was more along the lines of, “how much can I get away with before people figure out that I am not being sincere, but instead am looking to kickstart the controversy surrounding Phoebe’s story.”
I’m sorry, is my cynicism showing?
After all, things had quieted down quite a bit in South Hadley, perhaps some healing had even begun to take hold in a town that had, for better or worse, been demonized across the country. Ms. Bazelon and her online magazine, Slate.com, was one of the go-to places for information about this case. The notoriety (and the increase in readership) must have been invigorating.
Ah, but I’m just speculating of course. It’s a very popular sport around these parts lately. Unfortunately for me, my conscience forces me to make sure my reader knows I haven’t got real evidence to back up my theories, or I might have gotten on The Today Show too.
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