Today’s edition of The Chronicle Herald has a heartbreaking and shocking story about a young girl who took her own life after being raped and then relentlessly tormented by her peers.
It reminds me of the infamous Steubenville, Ohio rape case – except that it involves a school not far from my home, and that it resulted in a teenager’s death. What’s really disturbing is that photos of the rape were distributed among this poor girl’s classmates, who then bullied her to death.
It’s at times like this I thank God the internet wasn’t around when I was in high school.
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.
On Sunday night, the 17-year-old’s family took her off life-support.
Three days earlier, on Thursday night, she hanged herself in the bathroom.
It was 17 months before that when “the person Rehtaeh once was all changed,” her mother wrote Monday on a Facebook memorial page.
“She went with a friend to another’s home. In that home, she was raped by four young boys,” wrote Leah Parsons.
“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, a 15-year-old Cole Harbour District High School student at the time, was shunned, wrote her mother.
“They all go to the same school. She couldn’t go back to the school,” Parsons said Monday in an interview.
After Rehtaeh left her school, other kids were relentless.
“People texted her all the time, saying ‘Will you have sex with me?’” she remembered. “Girls texting, saying ‘You’re such a slut.’”
But then there is the question of how the adults handled the alleged sexual assault that Rehtaeh described to her mother.
RCMP spokesman Cpl. Scott MacRae confirmed the police are now investigating a sudden death involving a young person.
“An investigation into an earlier sexual assault was completed, and in consultation with the Crown, there was insufficient evidence to lay charges,” MacRae said.
Out of respect for the family, and because of privacy laws, he couldn’t discuss details of the investigation Monday, and the force sent its sympathy to Rehtaeh’s loved ones, he said.
Parsons said she was unhappy with what she saw of the investigation.
“They didn’t even interview the boys until much, much later. To me, I’d think you’d get the boys right away, separate them.”
When it came to the photo or photos taken that night, “nothing was done about that because they couldn’t prove who had pressed the photo button on the phone,” she said.
She was told that the distribution of the photos is “not really a criminal issue, it’s more of a community issue,” she said.
“Even though she was 15 at the time, which is child pornography.
“The whole case was full of things like that. We didn’t have a rape kit done because we didn’t even know (anything had happened) until several days later when she had a breakdown in my kitchen.
“She was trying to keep it to herself.”
I know from experience that criminal investigations can be much more complicated than they’re portrayed in the media, but it seems strange that none of the animals who did this were charged despite photographic evidence showing them raping her.
You can bet everyone who went to school with these guys knows who it was.