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.

Bianca Piper missing four years

Today is the four-year anniversary of Bianca Piper‘s disappearance. The thirteen-year-old girl disappeared from Foley, Missouri. Bianca had a lot of emotional problems, including bipolar disorder, and the doctor had told her mom to drive her some distance away from home, drop her off and let her walk back whenever she threw a temper tantrum. The idea was to let Bianca walk off her anger so she’d be calm when she got home. Her mother did this on the evening of March 10, 2005. Bianca never made it home.

Many people criticized the mother for the drop-off thing. Some bloggers suggested Mom must have wanted Bianca to get kidnapped or run over, or even that Mom or her boyfriend deliberately killed her. It’s worth noting that Mom did get in trouble for hitting her older child, a seventeen-year-old girl, sometime after Bianca’s disappearance. However, the cops don’t seem to think anyone in the family was involved, and I don’t think the drop-off treatment was such a bad thing. I mean, obviously it was a bad idea in retrospect, but it makes a lot of sense—many people go on walks to cool off when they’re mad—and Bianca’s doctor did advise it. I don’t think people should be criticizing the mother for following the doctor’s orders. She probably feels quite bad enough as it is.

My theory: I think Bianca was abducted. Possibly by someone in the local area, or maybe by someone just passing through. If she had gotten lost and froze to death, or if she had gotten run over, I think they would have found her by now. It doesn’t look like she ran away either. Bianca herself didn’t know she’d be walking down the road that evening, so she couldn’t have arranged in advance for someone to pick her up. And hitchhiking seems pretty unlikely; she lived in a rural area with little traffic, and I think if a motorist had picked her up they would have seen Bianca on the news later and reported it.

Bianca was only thirteen and from the pictures she looks very much a child, but she was a big girl, as tall as I am and much heavier. From a distance, or in the fading light of a March evening, she would have looked like a grown woman. My guess is she was taken by a garden-variety sex predator.

I hope I’m wrong.