The 10 Worst Things About the Rehtaeh Parsons Rape Case

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Photo by Flickr user CMCarterSS

Photo by Flickr user CMCarterSS

Rehtaeh Parsons, a 17-year-old Canadian girl from Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia, died after a suicide attempt.

It all goes back to when she was raped in November 2011, when she was 15.

Her death, and her story, probably would have gone largely unnoticed if her mother hadn’t made a Facebook page publicizing her cause. But now it’s gone viral, and people are responding.

Here are the 10 seriously messed up things about the Rehtaeh Parsons case.

1. She was raped.

Let’s start with the fact that she was raped in the first place. Gang-raped, in fact, by four boys. After months of depression, she hanged herself.

But she was merely one of many women who are raped. In fact, the high estimate of women raped each year is 1.3 million. And a staggering 44 percent of rape victims are, like Rehtaeh, under 18.

2. That she was raped by boys at her own school.

No one reported them. And at first, no one cared. They even taunted her about the rape, according to her mother:

“Rehtaeh is gone today because of the four boys that thought that raping a 15 year old girl was OK and 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.”

And they covered their tracks by claiming she was a slut.

3. The rapists photographed their crime.

Not only that, but in the photograph, one boy was giving a huge thumbs up and smiling.

4. The rapists shared the photograph.

They spread it throughout the school.

Tons of people saw it. And none of them did anything about it, even though they realized the images depicted a rape.

In a blog post, Rehtaeh’s father wrote:

“Why is it they didn’t just think they would get away with it; they knew they would get away with it. They took photos of it. They posted it on their Facebook walls. They emailed it to God knows who. They shared it with the world as if it was a funny animation.”

5. Other boys teased her about being a slut.

Photo by Flickr user david_shankbone

Some asked her for sex. Others that the rape was her fault.

6. Girls at her school also called her a slut.

Even her friends turned their backs.

That type of social stigma after a teen sexual assault is fairly common.

7. The police did nothing about it.

Well, they did investigate at first, but found “insufficient evidence to lay charges,” despite the photographic evidence and Rehtaeh’s own statement.

In fact, Nova Scotia’s Justice Minister Ross Landry initially refused to order a review into the case.

Finally, Landry met with Parsons’ mother today.

It’s unclear if any justice will come of it, however. According to Landry:

“The big issue here is the fact that I heard, I listened.”

Yet, her father writes:

“How is it possible for someone to leave a digital trail like that yet the RCMP don’t have evidence of a crime? What were they looking for if photos and bragging weren’t enough?”

(The RCMP is the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.)

Her father also wrote,

“My daughter wasn’t bullied to death, she was disappointed to death.”

8. The school did nothing about it.

This, even though many students at the school know who the attackers are. No one was saying anything, however, until someone wrote an open letter to the “hacktivist” group Anonymous asking for their help.

Anonymous says they know who the attackers are, and will make the identities of the attackers public if charges aren’t made.

The group even made an announcement on the website Pastebin:

“What we have learned is certainly appalling, but it wasn’t the act of rape that shocked us. It was the behavior of the adults in Rehtaeh’s life that we found most disturbing. Let’s set aside for a moment the compassion they should have shown as human beings and just focus on the responsibilities they had as professionals. We’re talking about the school teachers, administrators, the police and prosecutors, those who should have been role models in the late Rehtaeh’s life.”

Still, her family is showing enormous restraint, asking that the boys’ identities remain anonymous.

9. Her family moved away to avoid her tormenters.

Image via Flickr user Dougtone.

They found out about the rape after the picture had spread, and moved from Cole Harbour to Halifax to avoid the incessant bullying in the town, which some say was a result of rape culture.

10. She killed herself.

She locked herself in a bathroom and committed suicide. After her mother broke down the door, she was taken to a hospital and put on life support, but she died on Sunday.


The Kicker

Here are six things you can do to take action:

Visit the Rehtaeh Facebook tribute page >>

Sign the petition to demand an investigation >>

Report a sexual assault on the Online National Sexual Assault Hotline >>

Explore Project Unbreakable >>

Help end sexual violence >>

Find out why April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month >>

Images used under Creative Commons licensing.

Susannah Griffee

Susannah is an NYU student from Memphis who has interned at USA Today College, Games.com, The New Yorker, The New York Times, NBC, and Vogue, as well as in the U.S. House of Representatives. Follow: @susannahgriffee.