Debate Magazine

We Can’t Judge What We Can’t Understand

Posted on the 09 January 2012 by Juliez

A few days ago, I went to school. It was a normal day until around lunchtime when I started hearing some rumors. Well, that’s not unusual: it’s high school. There will always be rumors. But these rumors were different. They were based on a newspaper article published that morning in a local online newspaper. The article told the story of a girl, age 16, who goes to my school. The article, which was based on a police report, claimed that earlier this year the girl had a stillborn baby that no one knew about. The girl didn’t know she was pregnant, had the baby in her bathtub, and then buried it in her backyard. The girl’s mother later found the body and called the police. The girl is now facing murder charges.

Now you can imagine people’s initial reaction: complete shock. No one expects such a horrible thing to happen to somebody they might know. But after that, judgments flew. People called the girl a murderer, a baby killer. Then, of course, the situation exploded. The identity of the girl was released and the level of cruelty and bullying, especially on Facebook, reached a peak.

What struck me most about this situation was how quick my peers were to judge this girl. None of them stopped to think — really think — “what would I have done if that were me?” Really, what would you have done? Maybe you wouldn’t have acted the same way she did, but the bottom line is if you’re anything like me, then you can probably admit that you really have no idea what you would’ve done. Because that’s the thing: none of us know unless we are actually in that situation. And if we haven’t been in that situation, we can never fully know or understand what that girl went through. And because we don’t know and we don’t understand, we cannot judge her.

I think we can, however, judge society. We can judge an educational system that left this girl so in the dark she could not even recognize the basic signs of pregnancy. We can judge a system that failed to teach this girl about proper contraception, which could have prevented the entire situation. We can judge a society that left this girl so alone that she felt the need to hide this traumatic event from her family and friends. We can judge a society that would judge this girl. But I don’t think we can judge the girl – let alone bully her and treat her with cruelty – because none of us can truly, honestly understand what exactly happened and what she went through.

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