Rehtaeh Parsons

9 Apr

The story is disturbingly familiar.

A teenage girl goes to some kind of get-together, maybe a party.

She is raped by multiple assailants.

The rape is photographed and distributed via social media.

The girl is subjected to horrifying acts of bullying and shaming. She is branded a slut. Her life becomes a living hell.

This girl is not Steubenville’s Jane Doe, although their stories bear a remarkable resemblance. This girl is Rehtaeh Parsons, a 17-year-old from Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia, who hanged herself on April 4th, a year and a half after being raped. Her family took her off life support this past Sunday.

Reading the account of what happened to Rehtaeh is like watching a deadly accident slowly, methodically unfolding in front of you. And there are bystanders, plenty of bystanders, who had any number of opportunities to step in and do something, but none of them do.

And, in many ways, you are one of these bystanders, too. I am, too. We all are.

Rehtaeh did not have a rape kit done because she was too ashamed to tell anyone about her rape until several days later, at which point it was thought to be too late to retrieve medical evidence.

The boys (there were four of them) accused of raping Retaeh were not interviewed until long after the family tried to press charges.

They were not separated for their interviews; they were interviewed together, meaning that they were easily able to corroborate each others’ stories.

The investigation took over a year. In the end, it was decided that there was insufficient evidence of sexual assault, no charges were laid, and the boys got off scot free.

No legal action was taken with regards to the photographs of the rape that were distributed through social media. Rehtaeh’s mother was told that this was because there was no way of proving who had taken the pictures.

Rehtaeh struggled to survive for seventeen months. She moved to Halifax, unable to cope with the fact that her rapists were also her high school classmates. She checked herself into the hospital when she felt suicidal and stayed there for six weeks. She made new friends. She saw a therapist. She fought to live. She fought hard.

And then one day, she couldn’t fight any longer.

And when I read her story, I can’t help but wonder:

Where the fuck were all the grownups?

Where were the grownups who were supposed to love her and protect her? Where were the grownups who should have kept her safe? Where were the grownups who were supposed to make sure that she received some kind of justice for what she suffered?

And I don’t mean her parents, because it’s clear that they, too, have been struggling for the past seventeen months, doing what they can to try to help and advocate for their daughter. I mean where the fuck were the school officials, the members of the law enforcement, the people who should have made sure that she had adequate follow-up mental health care after her hospitalization? Where were they, and why didn’t they do anything? Or if they did do something, why didn’t they do enough?

Rehtaeh’s rapists are still out there. They are still in high school, they are still going to parties and they are, quite likely, still raping. Why wouldn’t they? They got away with it once, didn’t they? Rehtaeh’s rapists are still living normal, untroubled lives, and she is dead.

She’s dead, but even in the wake of her suicide and the attention her case has gained, government officials are refusing to review why the RCMP declined  to lay charges against Rehtaeh’s rapist.

Instead, Nova Scotia’s justice minister, Ross Landry, released this fucking joke of a 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,” Landry said.

“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.”

Saying that we need to educate boys and girls about appropriate behaviour is victim-blaming. Saying that this wouldn’t have been a problem if the pictures hadn’t ended up online is like saying that rape is fine, but publicly broadcasting it isn’t. Calling Rehtaeh’s death a tragedy because we’ve lost a beautiful young woman is a joke – seriously, what bearing does her appearance have on how sad her death is? And since Landry is refusing to open an official review into how the RCMP handled this, isn’t he basically saying, “I think she was lying about the rape, but gosh, she sure was hot”?

All of this, every single word of this statement, all of the things that Rehtaeh endured, every single detail presented here is rape culture.

This is rape culture. This is our culture.

I never thought in a million years that I’d be saying this, but I wish that Rehtaeh’s case had had the same outcome as Jane Doe’s. Because while Jane Doe had to endure some spectacularly vile, awful shit, at least she made it out alive. At least her rapists suffered consequences. At least her case actually made it to trial.

rehtaeh parsons

This is Rehtaeh Parsons. When she was fifteen, she was raped by four boys. When she was seventeen, she committed suicide.

She is dead because we, as a society, failed her.

There is a petition up demanding an inquiry into the police investigation of Rehtaeh’s rape. I’m not sure if it will do anything to help, but signing it sure as hell won’t hurt. Right now, this petition and bringing awareness to what happened to Rehtaeh seem like the only concrete ways of helping her. Right now, I need to do something, anything to stop myself from feeling like a bystander. I’m not going to just shake my head and sigh over this. I’m going to raise my voice until everyone knows what happened to Rehtaeh.

Edited to add:

Ross Landry now says that he will be moving forward with a review of Rehtaeh’s case. Thank God. An excerpt from the article I linked to:

Justice Minister Ross Landry said today, April 9, he has asked senior government officials to present options, as soon as possible, to review the Rehtaeh Parsons case.

“This situation is tragic, I am deeply saddened – as I think are all Nova Scotians – by the death of this young woman,” said Mr. Landry. “As a parent, I can’t imagine the pain this family is going through at this time. My thoughts are with them.”

Mr. Landry said he hopes to meet with Leah Parsons, Rehtaeh’s mother, to discuss her experience with the justice system.

“I know that law enforcement and the public prosecution service do their best, every day, to administer and enforce the law,” said Mr. Landry. “It’s important that Nova Scotians have faith in the justice system and I am committed to exploring the mechanisms that exist to review the actions of all relevant authorities to ensure the system is always working to the best of its ability, in pursuit of justice.”

Mr. Landry said he has been reviewing details of the case and consulting with officials throughout the day, and expects options within the next few days.

129 Responses to “Rehtaeh Parsons”

  1. debrinconcita June 5, 2014 at 9:19 pm #

    Nobody should ever have to go thru this type of crime, but so many are today because they don’t punish rapist enough! I hope that you won’t let this ruin your life, because you can overcome this. It will be a longroad but with help & many blessings you can be a stronger person from it. I will say a prayer for your well being & quick recovery from this. MANY BLESSINGS Little SISTER. be strong & don’t let anyone steal your joy, now or ever!

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Child pornography is not a “community issue,” RCMP – Steph Guthrie - April 9, 2013

    [...] a minor” – useful, thanks). I won’t get into their failure on her rape case, as Anne Thériault has already done a good job of that. I want to ask why the fuck Rehtaeh’s mother was told by [...]

  2. Child porn isn’t a “community issue,” RCMP – Steph Guthrie - April 9, 2013

    [...] a minor” – useful, thanks). I won’t get into their failure on her rape case, as Anne Thériault has already done a good job of that. I want to ask why the fuck Rehtaeh’s mother was told by [...]

  3. And I wonder, what did they do with the bodies? | The Topic of Cancer - April 9, 2013

    [...] read stories on my Facebook wall, things like that. Fourteen stabbed in a college in Texas. A seventeen year old girl commits suicide because she’s too ashamed after her brutal gang rape in Nova Scotia, when the authorities did nothing, really, to help her. The horror of Sandy Hook (I [...]

  4. Another teenage girl lost to rape culture. - Page 2 - CurlTalk - April 10, 2013

    [...] a blog post that, although not written by me, sums up a lot of what I've been thinking about this. Rehtaeh Parsons | The Belle Jar __________________ "Decide that you want it more than you are afraid of it" ~ Bill [...]

  5. THE STORY OF CANADIAN REHTAEH PARSONS, 17, RAPED BY 4 BOYS SHE COMMITTED SUICIDE | THE WORD WARRIOR Bonju Blog - April 11, 2013

    [...] Rehtaeh Parsons (bellejarblog.wordpress.com) [...]

  6. Alleged Rape/Bullying Takes Another Young Life In Canada | YouViewed/Editorial - April 11, 2013

    [...] Rehtaeh Parsons (bellejarblog.wordpress.com) [...]

  7. untitled post on Rehtaeh Parsons | Clickety Clarke - April 11, 2013

    [...] extremely talented writer of The Belle Jar has written a piece about Rehtaeh Parsons, the 17 year old Nova  Scotian girl who killed herself on April 4th. The story is all over the [...]

  8. In The Words Of Her Father. | That Coffee Wench! - April 12, 2013

    [...] Rehtaeh Parsons (bellejarblog.wordpress.com) [...]

  9. DizzyDirtySweet - April 22, 2013

    [...] through blog entries, hundreds of comments, and even about pages.  I started somewhere (perhaps here?), though I can honestly say I don’t remember which link started me on this long, intense [...]

  10. Into the Labyrinth | DizzyDirtySweet - April 22, 2013

    [...] through blog entries, hundreds of comments, and even about pages.  I started somewhere (perhaps here?), though I can honestly say I don’t remember which link started me on this long, intense [...]

  11. Slut-shaming, Suicide, and Mrs. Hall | The Belle Jar - September 6, 2013

    […] I read Mrs. Hall’s letter, the first people that I thought of were Amanda Todd, Retaeh Parsons, Audrie Pott, Cherice Morales. In each of these instances, photographs of the girls that either […]

  12. Slutshaming – the last bastion for (cyber)bullying | After the Millennials - September 14, 2013

    […] Rehtaeh Parsons: suicide by hanging April 17th 2013 after being ‘victim blamed’ and her gang rapists got free because ‘insufficient evidence’. She was humiliated in social media. […]

  13. Slutshaming – the last bastion for (cyber)bullying - November 14, 2013

    […] Rehtaeh Parsons: suicide by hanging April 17th 2013 after being ‘victim blamed’ and her gang rapists went free because of ‘insufficient evidence’. Evidence of the rape was posted in social media. […]

  14. 2013 In Review: Part 1 | The Belle Jar - December 29, 2013

    […] wrote some pretty serious stuff in April, including the ways in which Dove manipulates women, Rehtaeh Parsons’ suicide, the Boston Bombing, and the kidnapping and sexual assault of a five year old Indian girl. I also […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 12,452 other followers

%d bloggers like this: