Patrice Ellerbe, Staff Writer
Last Modified: 00:35 a.m. DST, 20 April 2013
NOVA SCOTIA, Canada – Rehtaeh Parsons, a 17-year-old girl from Canada, died in the hospital after her family took her off life-support. Prior to being disconnected, she languished in a comatose state for three days after trying to commit suicide by hanging herself in her bathroom.
The family’s ordeal began a year and a half earlier, when sadly, Rehtaeh became the latest young woman to have her life tragically derailed by four teenage classmates who decided to gang-rape her then posts the photos across social media venues. After the November 2011 assault, which Rehtaeh then 15-years-old, hid out of shame and only reported days later, her life spiraled out of control.
Beset with bouts of depression and suicidal thoughts, she was further victimized by being branded as a ‘slut,’ by the boys, utilizing an oft used excuse presented by rapists to claim that the woman was somehow complicit in her sexual assault. As with other rape victims, Rehtaeh was victimized initially by the perpetrators, then by the police who reportedly investigated her case, but determined that it was a case of “he said, she said,” and thus could not be effectively prosecuted.
The final insult came when the photos of the gang-rape went viral, and the Cole Harbour High School student found herself the victim of repeated bullying at school as well as being “suddenly shunned by almost everyone she knew.”
“She was never left alone. She had to leave the community. Her friends turned against her. People harassed her. Boys she didn’t know started texting her and Facebooking her asking her to have sex with them. It just never stopped,” her mother told CBC.
According to the Huffington Post, Parsons was placed on life support on 4 April 2013, and died on Sunday, 7 April 2013, after her family decided to take her off the life-support.
CBC, a Canadian news outlet, reported the rape occurred at a small social event. Teenagers were provided with alcohol, which prompted underage drinking. According to reports, a teenage boy took photos of Parsons having sex with another teen boy, and then sent it to friends.
Parsons family believes the victim is no longer alive because of the actions of the young boys. According to the Huffington Post, Parsons mother, Leah Parsons, expressed her feelings on a Facebook page in memory of Rehtaeh, stating her daughter had been forced out of the community and harassed after the incident occurred. Leah Parsons wrote, “Rehtaeh is gone today because of the hour boys that thought raping a 15-year-old girl was okay, and to distribute a photo to ruin her spirit and reputation would be fun…”
Sources stated the bullying got so bad, the family was forced to relocate after the photo was sent to countless classmates and peers.
The family attempted to file criminal charges; however, police told them little would be done due to lack of evidence. Authorities would only go speak with the males and make sure they knew they were wrong. Parsons mother expressed how she took the police’s actions as a slap in the face.
The Huffington Post reports, although Parsons was a minor at the time of the alleged rape, the defendants could claim they didn’t know she was a minor because she was so close to the legal age limit to engage in sex with a partner that is of age.
The harassment lasted long after the incident. The victim’s mother described males messaging the girl on Facebook, asking her to have sex with them. She also described the disrespectful text messages her daughter received. The incident left Parsons with psychological and emotional effects that stemmed from the alleged rape. Parsons suffered from depression, and even decided to check herself into a hospital when she began having suicidal thoughts in March 2012.
But, ultimately, it was a climate of continued sexual harassment and abuse, anonymous cyber-bullying, as well an apparent disinterest by law enforcement to remedy her predicament that led to this tragic outcome. In addition to these player, the community from which she fled in an attempt to rebuild her life, is also complicit in her death because they seemed to prefer to sweep this incident beneath the rug of their collective consciousness rather than demand that the perpetrators face justice.
Unlike the recent, Steubenville, Ohio rape case in which the media expressed more sympathy for the perpetrators than the victim, which resulted in vociferous and swift public outcry, Rehtaeh Parsons had no such allies, and thus suffered in silence until she took the final and irrevocable step of ending her life.Follow Patrice Ellerbe on Twitter Twitter: @nahmias_report
Staff Writer: @PatriceEllerbe
- Teenage rape victim commits suicide after being bullied by peers (rawstory.com)
- Steubenville was not an isolated incident (velociriot.org)
- Rehtaeh Parsons’ family being ‘harassed’ by supporters of alleged rapists (rawstory.com)
- We Failed Rehtaeh Parsons (persephonemagazine.com)