by Jarrah Hodge
Trigger Warning for rape, cyberbullying, suicide.
On Sunday Rehtaeh Parsons’ parents made the decision to take their daughter off life support. Three days earlier, the 17-year-old had tried to hang herself in the bathroom after being raped and then relentlessly cyberbullied.
According to the Halifax Chronicle-Herald:
Rehtaeh Parsons had a goofy sense of humour and loved playing with her little sisters. She wore glasses, had long, dark hair and was a straight-A student whose favourite subject was science.
But that didn’t seem to matter to the four boys who her mother, Leah Parsons, says raped Rehtaeh at a party when she was drunk to the point of being clearly unable to consent. According to the Facebook page Leah Parsons has set up in Rehtaeh’s memory:
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. Because the boys already had a “slut” story, the victim of the rape 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.
Police told the CBC they investigated the assault but didn’t have enough investigation to lay charges, but Leah Parsons says the police waited too long to interview the boys and refused to act on the distributed pictures because they “couldn’t prove who had pressed the photo button on the phone”.
Reading this story I was simultaneously heartbroken and overcome with rage. It makes me so sad that we have yet another case of misogynist cyberbullying that has led to yet another senseless, tragic death, another family in mourning. Another young woman, a complex human being who had so much to offer the world, is gone because of the rape culture we live in and the cyberbullying that perpetuates it faster and more furiously than ever.
Toula Foscolos writes in the Huffington Post: “We, as a society, recoil in horror at such tragedies, but fail to see the triggers that normalize violence against women. We shrug them off as unrelated. But they’re not.” Read more