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RCMP Sgt. Peter Thiessen pauses for a moment as he reads a statement during a news conference in Maple Ridge, B.C. Thursday, Sept. 23, 2010. The statement was from the family of a 16-year-old girl who was sexually assaulted at a rave in Pitt Meadows on Sept. 10, 2010.


Someone needs to tell the dozen or so young people who police say witnessed a gang rape of a drugged 16-year-old girl in a small British Columbia community that evil triumphs when good people stand around with their hands in their pockets. The police in Pitt Meadows say they are running into a "code of silence," as those with first-hand knowledge refuse to tell them what they know.

If those young people believe they are doing the right thing or the brave thing by not "snitching" or "ratting out" whoever was responsible for the violence, they are wrong, wrong, wrong. Their refusal to "snitch" is the furthest thing from bravery. It is an excuse for moral cowardice.

Everyone has a responsibility to keep his community from falling under the control of its worst elements. Even young people. Even at some cost to themselves. There is a cliché that says, With freedom comes responsibility. It means that freedom does not last if people do not protect it. Freedom is not to be confused with letting criminals and predators run amok. That is anarchy, not freedom. With anarchy, the weak do not survive. The bullies may be free, but no one else is.

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That is the kind of place that Pitt Meadows appears to be, at least from the outside. The weak are left to suffer – to be victimized over and over – while the bullies are harboured. Degrading photos of the assaults have been posted on the Internet, apparently aimed at "destroying others' lives as a sport," as someone said about an incident last week at Rutgers University in New Jersey that resulted in the suicide of an 18-year-old man. (He was surreptitiously videotaped having sex with another man, and the videotape was streamed live on the Internet.) The price in human terms is high, and terrible.

The adults in Pitt Meadows need to look at themselves, too. What have parents done to exercise their responsibility, by explaining that, if their children have first-hand knowledge, they are obliged to step forward? What have the schools done to teach people to stand up against bullies?

A community in which some people are allowed to attack and destroy others for sport is no longer a livable community for anyone. Young people aren't exempt from the responsibility to defend their community by speaking the truth about what they see. When good people of any age lose the will to stand up against evil, evil triumphs.

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