Since learning Karla Homolka has been volunteering at an elementary school in Montreal, I've found myself shellshocked by the number of people I've encountered willing to defend her technical, legal right to privacy. If only for propriety's sake. If only to protect her children from the horrible legacy she created by raping and murdering three girls, including her 15-year-old sister.
Karla Homolka. (Photo: Peter Power/Toronto Star via Getty Images)
That's downright Canadian of you, everyone, but could we maybe stop letting pretty white women in North America literally and figuratively get away with murder?
As a reward for turning on her husband, who police (wrongly) believed to be a worse offender, Homolka was given a 12-year sentence and released in 2005. She served her time. I do not care.
It's those kids I'm worried about. Your kids.
Born in Scarborough, I was eight years old when my grandmother used a TTC bus map to track the places "Scarborough Rapist" Paul Bernardo had struck -- long before newspapers did. Three decades later, I live in Niagara Falls, part of a community that hasn't forgotten Tammy Homolka or Kristen French, who would have turned 41 last month, perhaps supervising school trips for her own children.
Canada at large has not forgotten. In fact, if the "Ken & Barbie Killers'" appearance in the second episode of California-based podcast and True Crime phenomenon -- My Favourite Murder -- is a barometer, Bernardo and Homolka's notoriety as two of the most horrific, if not prolific, serial killers in North American history is alive and well.
"Karla" opened in theaters Jan. 20, 2006. It recounts the sex crimes and murder of three young women by Karla Homolka and her husband Paul Bernardo. (Photo: Mike Cassese/Reuters)
I feel genuine empathy for Homolka's kids who are innocent and didn't ask for any of what is sure to come their way as a result of their maternal parentage. Still, make no mistake: Homolka and Homolka alone is responsible for her kids' trauma -- kids whose very existence has already provided their mother ready access to other children, children who were essentially being taught to trust Karla. Let that settle in.
It's those kids I'm worried about. Your kids.
The story broke the way it did because she is not on a sex offender registry, forcing terrified parents to take their kids' safety into their own hands. This shouldn't be discouraged. If the law doesn't allow the police to tell us where she is at any given time, we should tell each other -- immediately and without guilt or hesitation.
Giving Homolka privacy for the sake of her children is the same well-intentioned politeness that too often results in the violence against, and deaths of, women and children. It's a welcome mat for monsters like her who so frequently reoffend as serial killers are wont to do.
Society-indoctrinated trust of women in general, and pretty blondes in particular, bears a large responsibility for the tragic deaths of Kristen French, Leslie Mahaffy and Tammy Homolka -- because no one told them women who look like Karla can be dangerous. The police she convinced of her begrudging participation in the murders apparently didn't see her coming, either.
If the tables were turned and Paul Bernardo had scored a sweetheart deal, people would immediately and righteously riot.
This gender, sexuality and race-based complacency is why, among Glamour magazine's 2015 Women of the Year, you'll find Amy Schumer despite that hilarious joke about raping a 14-year-old boy. It's why so many shows on The CW feature romantic, toxic masculinity-breeding love stories about teenagers and their teachers and various other authority figures. It's why people didn't think before giving a pass to Lena Dunham, who made $3.4 million for a memoir where she confesses behaviour toward her younger sister that would be considered child abuse if admitted to by any man, person of colour, or gay or transgendered person. Is a memoir read by millions all that different from the video footage millions have viewed of Karla sexually assaulting her own sister?
If the tables were turned and Paul Bernardo had scored a sweetheart deal, and 12 years later volunteered himself as a chaperone on a field trip to the Royal Winter Fair, people would immediately and righteously riot. There's a reason he is kept in solitary confinement because -- aside from the fact he deserves total isolation -- even the worst of society want him dead. Because he is a monster.
And Karla is a monster, too.
Tara K. Reed is the Toronto-born author of interactive novels Love Him Not and Bewitched, Bothered and Beheaded. She uses her experience battling multiple debilitating illnesses to advocate for disability rights. www.Doorflower.com
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