Rehtaeh Parsons died by suicide April 7,2013 at the young age of seventeen years old preceded by seventeen months of struggle. At a time when Rehtaeh was putting together the bricks and mortar of who she would become – she was sexually assaulted then socially assassinated. One night changed her life and destiny forever. She was never the same again.
Rehtaeh began high school in September 2011 when she was fifteen years old. She was in high school for a couple months when she and her new friend went over to a home where two males lived. Someone decided to get vodka- two more males came over to the home for a total of two females and four males. Alcohol was consumed by all present. Rehtaeh quickly became intoxicated and was left behind in a home with four males. She was raped that night and a photo was taken of one of her assaults. The photo soon began circulating throughout Rehtaeh’s school and community .
Once her peers heard the male’s version of what happened that evening, Rehtaeh became known as a “slut”. Rehtaeh became the target of a mob mentality and had to move out of her community. She lived in this community since she was five years old and suddenly in an instant she was being ostracized and ridiculed. The school did not try to protect her or “manage” the photo distribution and the police were slow to do much of anything. The males were never interviewed .It took an entire year to close the case and inform us that no charges would be laid. Rehtaeh was crushed and felt that no one believed her. The photo was still out there and the once determined girl that I knew and loved – full of dreams and aspirations to make this world a better place was left in torment, anger and hurt.
Rehtaeh quickly went from a confident girl who had a strong sense of self to a very depressed, anxious girl who found it difficult to function on a daily basis. She had never had mental health issues before this incident but she sure did afterwards. She reached out to the Mental Health Dept of the hospital in an attempt to get help. After her five week stay she was released feeling worse than when she was admitted. Rehtaeh LOVED to read, loved her sisters and was very close to her family. She was a sensitive girl who cared deeply for animals – spending time volunteering with abandoned dogs/cats.
If this could happen to Rehtaeh it could happen to anyone. Targeting a person socially and bringing them “down” seems a common occurrence in our world of technology. Children are taking part in this cyber-abuse in great numbers.
Directly following Rehtaeh’s death her parents used social media to go public with her story drawing global attention. New evidence was brought forward once one of the males messaged Rehtaeh’s Mom incriminating himself in the process. Two of the four males were charged with making and distributing child pornography.
One male 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.
No sexual assault charges were laid.