The parents of Rehtaeh Parsons are launching a non-profit society in her name to help people develop tools to address cyberbullying, youth sexual violence, sexting and the circulation of intimate images.
The society will have its first public meeting Saturday, where 500 copies of a new Marvel Entertainment comic called Bullies in a Strange Land will be distributed. The last page features Rehtaeh.
The 17-year-old died in hospital in April 2013 following a suicide attempt. Her parents say she had been sexually assaulted at a party and a photo of the assault was then shared online.
The new society aims to raise money for outreach programs in schools, youth groups, assault centres and public workshops.
“To make change is the most powerful thing we can really do in her name,” Rehtaeh’s mother, Leah Parsons, said Friday.
The society launch will take place Saturday at the Hillside Wesleyan Church in Cole Harbour between 2 p.m. and 4 p.m.
“We’ll be speaking to not just youth and in schools,” Leah Parsons said. “But also to parents and people in general who want to do more to help their families and the children in their life against sexualized violence, cyber-harrassment, mental health, suicide awareness.”
Leah Parsons says she has been the target of harassment online since she and Rehtaeh’s father began speaking out after their daughter’s death.
“It is hard to fight,” she says. “Every time you put yourself out front and centre, share your pain, share your story, you’re going to be loved and you’re going to be hated. You’re going to be supported and you’re going to be attacked.”
Just this week she was the target of a nasty Facebook post. Parsons says someone wrote, “that I was a bad parent, and that if I was there to support her then… that I was blaming other people instead of placing the blame where it belongs.
“Very hurtful, but then I have to just get grounded and know that I know what me and Rehtaeh had, our relationship. And I know how I was there for her.”