People’s judgmental attitude in internet comments sometimes drives me mad

I often interact with the people who comment on stuff I post on the Charley Project’s Facebook page; I consider it my duty, as the admin of that page, to do so, and also I usually enjoy discussing things with them. We are, after all, talking about items of mutual interest. But sometimes people just… argh.

I put up an article recently written about the Bianca Noel Piper case (the article was of the “we’re still looking for” variety, nothing new), and immediately a bunch of commenters started saying awful things about her mother for making her go on that walk back to their house so she could chill out and deal with her anger. One of them even accused the mother of “abandoning” Bianca.

Well, here are the facts:

  1. The walk was about a mile. That’s not very far. It may seem like a long way since everyone is accustomed to driving these days, but a person Bianca’s size and age can walk a mile in ten or fifteen minutes.
  2. It was a rural area, not a big city.
  3. Bianca’s mother cooperated fully with the investigation and is not a suspect in her case.
  4. Bianca’s mother, by making her go for a walk, was following the advice of Bianca’s therapist, and they had tried the walking treatment before and it had been helpful. Loads of people go for a walk alone to cool down when they’re angry, and it’s a commonly recommended method of anger management.

I’m sure Bianca’s mother has regretted what she did every day of her life in the past sixteen years. But I do not think she did anything wrong here. She was following medical advice and the advice given sounds perfectly reasonable to me. I think Bianca was just very unlucky. And certainly casting judgment on her mom at this late date is not going to help at all.

Bianca was tall for her age, and heavy. I think that in the evening light, from a distance, she would have looked more like a woman than a child. My guess is some predator driving by saw her walking alone and grabbed her. Wrong place, wrong time.

I also grew up in a rural area and in the late nineties, as a young girl Bianca’s age, or younger, would often wander around by myself on foot or bicycle, sometimes traveling up to fifteen miles from home. It did me no harm and in fact I benefited from it. I got exercise and fresh air and learned how to amuse myself. It bothers me a lot that so much judgment is heaped on parents these days that it seems like they are expected to swaddle their youngsters in cottonwool until they graduate high school — and then people wonder why young college-age adults have no idea how to take care of themselves.

MP of the week: Kimberly Blackburn

This week’s featured missing person case is Kimberly Marie Blackburn, a 24-year-old woman who disappeared from in 1983. The last time anyone actually saw her was when she left her parents’ Indianapolis, Indiana home on May 29. On July 17 she called a friend and said she was at a truck stop in Arkansas and was coming home to Indiana. No one ever saw her or heard from her again.

Her life was very high risk, a wreck frankly: drug and alcohol abuse, and a lot of arrests for substance related offenses, prostitution, theft and disorderly conduct. She would often drop out of sight for extended time periods and travel with truckers, but she did keep in at least occasional touch with her family. She had warned her parents that if they hadn’t heard from her by her father’s birthday in October 1983, something was probably wrong.

I don’t think it’s likely she lived long after her disappearance, but it seems like wherever she is, it could be virtually anywhere in the US, or maybe even outside the US. There are some distinguishing characteristics: a coloboma in her right eye, a rose tattoo on her hip and chemical burn scars on her buttocks.

In the unlikely event that Kimberly is still alive, she’d be 62 today.