Sunday, June 05, 2005

Runaway Bride

I've been procrastinating about writing anything on the Jennifer Wilbanks' case because it's so complicated. On one hand, I would never want to blame anyone who was so anxious and troubled that she ran away on the night before her wedding. I'm not perfect. I've made mistakes in my life and I understand what it's like to have bad judgment or to do something really stupid.

On the other hand, what Wilbanks did was the equivalent of shouting "fire" in a crowded theater. Thousands of people went looking for her and she took up precious time, energy and money from law enforcement. Worse, her voluntary disappearance may have an adverse effect on the real disappearances of other women and children.

Last night I was listening to CNN and following the tragic story of 18-year-old Natalee Holloway, who was on vacation in Aruba with her friends when she disappeared. The newscaster asked one of the police officers if Natalee may have taken off on her own accord as Jennifer did.

I'm sure that those things happen, although I don't have access to the statistics at the moment. Not everyone who goes missing has met with foul play. But every single missing person case must be taken seriously. I think that Willbank's actions did a disservice to other people who are genuinely in trouble.

Simply disappearing is not a crime. But when Wilbanks claimed that she had been accosted, she lied to the police and that's illegal. Many people, especially women, believe that Wilbanks should not be charged or fined for her actions but I disagree. I think that the penalty that she received last week was appropriate.

It's a messy situation and by holding her responsible, it's hard to know where to draw the line with someone else. Should people who make false allegations of rape be charged? That's a tough one. IMO, if someone deliberately and maliciously makes a false claim, they should be penalized. But would that apply to the accuser in the Michael Jackson case if he was coached by his mother? Ouch! You can see why I didn't want to write about this one.

Wilbanks' case is different. She was simply trying to protect herself and her pride but her actions were negligent, irresponsible and criminal. Having said that, I feel extremely sorry for her.

Sigrid Macdonald

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