We Failed Rehtaeh Parsons

[Trigger warning for discussion of rape and suicide]

Here we are again.

A teenage girl goes to a party. She is raped by four assailants. There are pictures taken and distributed through social media.

She does not tell her mother what happened until four days later. Too late for a rape kit. Rehtaeh’s victimization goes viral and she is branded a slut. Her mother tells the story:

Rehtaeh was suddenly shunned by almost everyone she knew, the harassment was so bad she had to move out of her own community to try to start anew in Halifax. She struggled emotionally with depression and anger. Her thoughts of suicide began and fearing for her life, she placed herself in a hospital in an attempt to get help. She stayed there for almost six weeks. The bullying continued, her friends were not supportive. She needed a friend and eventually along the way a few new friends came along and a few old friends came forward.

Rae then moved back to Dartmouth, always with the concern of what will be said about her, said to her. Again, she was the one raped”¦she was the victim being victimized over and over again. One year later, the police conclude their investigation to state that it comes down to “he said, she said,” they believed the boys raped her but the proof in a court of law was difficult to gather. The photo sent”¦”Well Leah, that’s a community issue!” The bullying never stopped but she learned to keep her head high and surrounded herself with the ones who truly cared.

The boys were not interviewed until long after the family tried to press charges.When they were interviewed, it was together, easily allowing corroboration of their stories. No one was held accountable for the photographs, despite being child pornography, because the police said there was no way to tell who had taken the photograph.

For seventeen months, Rehtaeh struggled to survive in the face of humiliation, bullying and shaming.

Nova Scotia’s Justice Minister Ross Landry refuses to review why the RCMP did not lay charges in this investigation. The school officials did nothing to help; there’s no mention of any of the boys or other bullies being so much as suspended.

He released this statement:

As a community, we need to have more dialogue with our young people about respect and about support to educate our young boys and our young girls about what’s appropriate behaviour, what’s not appropriate behaviour.

We have to make sure that we’re cognizant about what gets online and what doesn’t get online and what the impacts are, so it’s having that dialogue.

That still doesn’t take away the fact that we’ve lost a beautiful young woman “¦ and I’m very upset about the loss.

Rehtaeh Parsons didn’t get a trial like Jane Doe. I never thought I would wish a trial like that on any young girl, but at the very least an attempt for justice and an awareness around her story occurred.  Jane Doe’s struggle isn’t over yet but Retaeh Parsons’ is. Because she is dead.

And this is our society. The taunting, the photographs, the lack of accountability is what we have. We don’t have Rehtaeh anymore. She’s another victim to misanthropy. She brings to mind another young woman I wrote about last year, Amanda Todd.

Once again, now that we’ve lost the young woman..now we care.

Rehteah Parsons and her dog
Image via Facebook

There’s a petition to demand Justice for Rehtaeh. I don’t know if it will do anything. It’s too late to do what should have been done. All I am wondering now is how many more times am I going to have to write this narrative.

She’s not some forgettable, slutty teenager, she’s Rehtaeh Parsons, but she could be any young woman who dares to go outside. She was raped when she was 15. She was victimized over and over. When she was 17, she committed suicide.

She could have been any of us.

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