Facebook: Rehtaeh Parsons
Who was Rehtaeh?Rehtaeh Anne Parsons was born to Leah Parsons and Glen Canning on December 9, 1995, in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Their beloved daughter left this world on April 7, 2013, at the age of 17. In addition to her parents, she left behind two darling sisters, Temyson and Teaghan, who both live in Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia with Leah. Rehtaeh (often called ‘Rae’ by her family and by those close to her) was a free spirit and thinker. A ‘straight A’ student for most of her life, she liked science, biology, history, the arts, and learning about life. She was a passionate painter who found beauty in things other overlooked. Rehtaeh was known for her love of animals and expressed a deep sense of love, devotion, and empathy to animals in need. A compassionate heart, Rae felt for those less fortunate and never wanted to hurt others. Those who knew her were proud to call her daughter, sister, niece, cousin, and friend.
Rehtaeh’s StoryRehtaeh’s life was forever changed one dreaded night in November 2011. During a weekend, Rehtaeh joined a girlfriend for a sleepover. The friend suggested they visit some people she knew, two teenage boys who live close by and also went to their high school. They walked over and hung out with them for a bit when two other boys arrived. Someone produced a bottle of vodka and passed it around for everyone to share, including Rehtaeh who drank as well. As was common with many young people not experienced with alcohol, Rehtaeh, at 15 years of age, was not a good judge of the effects and it wasn’t long before intoxication took over. She quickly became disoriented and described the night afterwards as a blur. During that night she was raped by four boys. One of those boys took a photo of her being raped and distributed the photo to members of Rehtaeh’s school and her community. The photo distributed showed Rehtaeh with her head out the window throwing up while one of the four boys, naked from the waist down, was pressed into her from behind. In the photo, the boy raping Rehtaeh posed and gave a thumbs up.
The photo quickly went viral and Rae, a victim of rape, suddenly became shunned by almost everyone she knew. She was constantly harassed and bullied on Facebook and via text. The harassment become so bad that she had to move out of her own community to try to start anew in Halifax. She struggled emotionally with depression and anger. She had thoughts of suicide and fearing for her own life, placed herself in the local hospital in an attempt to get help. Rehtaeh stayed in the hospital for 6 weeks. She eventually moved back to her community but continued to be victimized still – long after the initial rape.
In August of 2012, approximately 9 months after the night Rae was raped, local police concluded their investigation and indicated to Rae and her parents there was a lack of evidence and that they would not be pressing charges against any of the four boys. During the initial investigation, none of the four boys were interviewed nor were any of their cell phones seized for evidence. Rehtaeh’s parents were also, at the time, advised that the distribution of the photo taken by one of the four boys was a ‘community matter’.
Rehtaeh continued to be a victim of harassment and cyberbullying and began to use drugs and self-harm as a way to cope. Rae, who had previously held a passion for learning and academics now couldn’t bring herself to attend school regularly. She tried counselling on many occasions and would sometimes would have small wins. However, the least setback would revert her into feelings of despair and hopelessness. In the end, the pain of both the rape, and her disappointment in others she thought she could count on, was simply too much.
Rehtaeh took her own life on April 4, 2013. She succumbed to her inflictions and died two days later in hospital with her loved ones by her side. She was 17 years old.
Following her wishes, Rae’s parents went on to donate her organs to others in the hopes of saving a life. Rehtaeh saved two directly and made a difference in the lives of several others with the gift of herself.
Directly following Rehtaeh’s death her parents used social media to go public with her story drawing attention both nationally and internationally. The public outcry and pressure that followed contributed to the re-opening of Rehtaeh’s case in May of 2012. In August of 2013, two of the four boys participating in the rape of Rehtaeh were charged; one with the creation and distribution of child pornography and one with distribution of child pornography. No other charges were laid. The two boys charged are now adults; however, because their crime occurred when they were youths, their names are are not able to be revealed in adherence with the Youth Offenders Act of Canada.
The first male charged received a conditional discharge for the production of child pornography. The second male received a one year probation sentence for the distribution of child pornography.
There were no sex assault charges laid.