It's tough when your daughter has been beaten so badly you don't even recognize her in a hospital bed -- it's even tougher when you decide to forgive her attackers.

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This article was published 13/11/2014 (2790 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

It's tough when your daughter has been beaten so badly you don't even recognize her in a hospital bed -- it's even tougher when you decide to forgive her attackers.

That's what Julie Harper, mother of 16-year-old Rinelle Harper, has done.

She first saw Rinelle in the pediatric intensive care unit at the Children's Hospital after Rinelle was beaten twice and left for dead at the side of the river after getting out of the frigid water. On Tuesday, two people were arrested and charged with the teen's attempted murder.

"The first thing that came to me was to forgive right away," she said after a news conference Thursday with her husband, Ceasar, and high-profile members of the aboriginal community.

"If any family members (of the accused) are listening, I forgive them. That's what I was taught to do by my late grandparents.

"It's hard, but I truly forgive them."

The mother said she would not comment about whether she wants the accused pair to go to jail.

Winnipeg police announced earlier this week they had arrested Justin James Hudson, 20, and a 17-year-old boy who can't be named. They have been charged with attempted murder, aggravated sexual assault and sexual assault with a weapon in connection with the incident involving Rinelle and a separate incident early Saturday involving a 23-year-old woman near Sherbrook Street and Portage Avenue.

Police have said Rinelle -- a student at Southeast Collegiate -- was out with friends Friday night when she became separated from them.

She met two men in the south Broadway area who started talking with her, and she walked with them to the riverwalk. There, police say, the pair attacked her and tossed her into the river near the Midtown Bridge. The girl was swept downstream, but when she managed to get out of the frigid water, she was attacked again and left for dead.

A passerby discovered the unconscious teenager Saturday at about 7 a.m. and called for help.

Julie Harper said the irony is her daughter has considered going into law enforcement.

"She's not really sure yet, but she wants to be with the military or the RCMP," the mother said. "One of her goals is to help out other people."

Julie Harper, with her husband, Ceasar Harper, says she's forgiven Rinelle's attackers.


Julie Harper, with her husband, Ceasar Harper, says she's forgiven Rinelle's attackers.

Harper said she knew her daughter -- who lives at the high school for aboriginal students -- was out with friends Friday night and that's who she thought had come to her place when there was a knock on the door.

"I thought it was Rinelle," she said. "It was a detective who said Rinelle was in hospital."

Harper said she and other family members gathered quickly at the hospital to be with the teenager, who was in critical condition.

"I didn't recognize her," she admitted. "I didn't think it was Rinelle. But every day, she's getting a lot better. I believe it is the prayers (from people touched by Rinelle's attack) which pulled her through."

The family has asked that anyone wishing to offer cards of support or donations can drop them off at the front desk of the Canad Inn at the Health Sciences Centre.

Grand Chief David Harper, of Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak, said Rinelle had been moved from intensive care into a regular ward on Wednesday. He thanked community members for their support.

Harper called on people to stop attacking on social media the family of the men charged and asked Winnipeggers to continue coming forward with tips when a woman or girl falls victim to violence.

"One family is hurting already, and two others are hurting," he said. "We have to turn this around. This is the hour we have to call for a change... The acts of violence have to stop."

Harper also urged the city to beef up police patrols in dangerous areas -- including along the rivers -- and called for the installation of more video cameras and webcams.

Mayor Brian Bowman vowed to ensure no such attack occurs again and said he's prepared to work with the Winnipeg Police Board to consider all necessary measures.

Earlier at the news conference, Rinelle's parents said their daughter is recovering and Winnipeggers will hear from her soon.

They said Rinelle has told them she wants to get back to school as soon as possible -- this week if she could.

The parents also thanked Winnipeggers for coming forward with tips, which led to the quick arrest of two men.

Fred Harper, Rinelle's grandfather, said the family gives thanks "to the extended family, to the community and to the hundreds of families and individuals who have shared their continuous prayers and support for Rinelle's health and recovery."

He said the family also thanks the Winnipeg police for their quick investigation. "The family is relieved to know that the two accused perpetrators are off the street," he said.

Kevin Rollason

Kevin Rollason

Kevin Rollason is one of the more versatile reporters at the Winnipeg Free Press. Whether it is covering city hall, the law courts, or general reporting, Rollason can be counted on to not only answer the 5 Ws — Who, What, When, Where and Why — but to do it in an interesting and accessible way for readers.