One has to wonder how continued violence against females is acceptable in a civilized society. The more I read on the death of Canadian teenager Rehtaeh Parsons, the more upset I become at the social justice implications.
According to the Harold News , in November of 2011 her mother reports that, “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.” The photo went out on Facebook. Rehtaeh was shunned by the kids in her school, received text messages from boys at her school asking her to have sex with them and girls sent texts calling her a ‘slut.’ She did not return to that school and started at another. She also went into hospital due to depression, anger and thoughts of suicide at one point. Her mother reports that Rahtaeh was struggling with mood swings. After an outburst last Thursday, she locked herself in the bathroom, her mother states, “She acted on an impulse, but I truly, in my heart of heart, do not feel she meant to kill herself.”
Rahtaeh hanged herself in the bathroom, was taken to hospital, and last Sunday the family took her off life support. According to ThinkProgress, Seventeen year old Rehtaeh Parsons suicide was the end to a story involving, sexual assault/rape, issues of harassment, victim-blaming and online bullying. ThinkProgress also stated her parents didn’t know about the assault/rape until days later; Rahtaeh didn’t tell them right away. No rape kit was done and a few days later it was too late.
I was very pleased to read, in the Huffington Post: Canada that Prime Minister Stephen Harper stated, “Let’s stop using bullying to describe crime. Bullying has the connotation of kids misbehaving, but what has been described in this case is criminal activity.”
What further saddens me, after reading another article in the Huffingon Post, is the RCMP took a year to investigate the rape after which no charges were placed. They say there are “no grounds to charge four boys over allegations they sexually assaulted Rehtaeh,” because they cannot identify who took the photo. Does this make sense? A photo exists, whether it was one of the boys who raped/sexually assaulted her or someone else in the room witnessing this terrible act, the photo still exists and has been shared on social media! She was 15 when this happened; the photo is considered child pornography at that age.
“While we know the officers who were investigating Rehtaeh’s case had a photo with supposedly no author, nor a single person that could be identified as to distributing it, they took a full year to reach this conclusion. Since this photo was being shared via social media, there was a digital history that could have hopefully been sourced back to its original poster. Someone should have been able to pick up on the trail before Rehtaeh took her life.”
Am I missing something here? Why do incidents like this continue to happen, in large part due to the effect of social media and yet little is done?
My final straw was an article in the Huffington Post: Canada from her father. Read the article in its entirety, but remember the words here:
“The worst nightmare of my life has just begun. I loved my beautiful baby with all my heart. She meant everything to me. I felt her heart beating in my soul from the moment she was born until the moment she died. We were a team. We were best pals. I don’t want her life to defined by a Google search about suicide or death or rape. I want it to be about the giving heart she had. Her smile. Her love of life and the beautiful way in which she lived it. I found out this afternoon my daughter saved the life of a young woman with her heart. How fitting. She also gave someone a new liver, a kidney, a new breath, and a new chance to love. She saved the lives of four people with her final gift of life.”
My hope is that by sharing this horrible tragedy, sharing the families words, sharing how sexual assault, rape, and online bullying continue to occur, that something has to change! There is something wrong when members of a society take pictures of a rape in action, share it on social media and justice is not served.
By Victoria Brewster, MSW
SJS Staff Writer in Canada
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