Moral Low Ground

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Canadian Gang-Rape and Bullying Victim Rehtaeh Parsons Commits Suicide

Rehtaeh Parsons

Rehtaeh Parsons (family photo)

A year and a half ago, 15-year-old Rehtaeh Parsons of Halifax, Nova Scotia was allegedly raped by four boys. After one of her alleged attackers passed a photo of the alleged crime around her school and her community, Rehtaeh was mercilessly and viciously bullied, ridiculed and harassed by her peers.

Last Thursday, the 17-year-old straight-A student hanged herself in her bathroom. On Sunday night, her family removed her from life support.

Now her mother, Leah Parsons, is speaking publicly about her daughter’s ordeal. On a Facebook memorial page, Parsons writes:

This page is dedicated to my wonderful daughter who was smart, beautiful, and full of life with a deep compassion for animals. The person Rehtaeh once was all changed one dreaded night in November 2011. She went with a friend to another’s home. In that home she was raped by four young boys. One of those boys took a photo of her being raped and decided it would be fun to distribute the photo to everyone in Rehtaeh’s school and community where it quickly went viral… Rehtaeh was considered a SLUT. This day changed the lives of our family forever. I stopped working that very day and we have all been on this journey of emotional turmoil ever since.

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 concluded their investigation, stating that it came 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 bullying never stopped but she learned to keep her head high and surrounded herself with the ones who truly cared. I will have eternal gratitude for her friends Jenna, Dawid and Mike for the past few months. They are the ones she leaned on for strength and courage. 
Just two weeks ago she stopped smoking pot, started looking for work and with the help of one of her teachers and a new therapist, she was making progress. When the calming effects of the pot subsided, her feelings of anger began to re-surface and she was struggling. I will say that she has told me many times that,… “although I often feel like killing myself…I could never do that to you because you would be devastated.” 
This past week she was having lots of mood swings… [On] Thursday April 4th she had a great day and made plans for the weekend. Later that evening she had an outburst, acted on that impulse and locked herself in the bathroom… By the time I broke into the bathroom it was too late. My beautiful girl had hung herself and was rushed to the hospital where she remained on life support until last night. 

…One of Rae’s pet peeves was that when someone passed away, suddenly they were liked and people cared. She wouldn’t want people who bullied her, talked about her, [posted] negative (Facebook) statuses about her over the past year and sent awful messages to be on this page… People were so very cruel to her so if you were one who felt it was OK to bully someone in so much pain –STAY AWAY. Rehtaeh is gone today because of the four boys that thought that raping a 15-year-old girl was OK, and that to distribute a photo to ruin her spirit and reputation would be fun. Secondly, All the bullying and messaging and harassment that never let up are also to blame. Lastly, the justice system failed her. Those are the people that took the life of my beautiful girl. Rehtaeh stood up for others, showed compassion to animals and people. She was an amazing artist. She made my life complete. When Rehtaeh was born I dedicated everything to her and promised her the world. Others in this world took that away from her.

In an interview with the CBC, Leah Parsons detailed the cruel nature of the bullying that Rehtaeh endured immediately following the alleged gang rape.

“She walked into the school and everyone started calling her a slut,” Parsons said. “She was never left alone. Her friends turned against her, people harassed her, boys she didn’t know started texting her and Facebooking asking her to have sex with them since she had had sex with their friends. It just never stopped,” she added.

“Every text, every negative thing she would read to me. It was hard,” Parsons said. “She tried and she kept trying.”

Parsons reiterated that she believes the justice system failed her daughter.

“I think she would have had some satisfaction that it was real [if there were charges], because no one believed her,” she said.

Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) spokesman Scott McRae told the CBC that although they investigated the alleged rape, there was insufficient evidence to proceed with a case against the four boys.

“We have to deal in facts and not rumours,” McRae said. “We may not be able to go down certain roads because of the tragic circumstance.”

“I feel like the door is always open for people to talk to a police agency,” he added.

The National Post reports that the RCMP asked the Novia Scotia Prosecution Service about filing sexual assault and child pornography distribution charges against the alleged perpetrators, but two Crown attorneys who reviewed the case said there was “no realistic prospect of conviction.”

 

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