Rehteah Parsons Bullies Will Go to Trial, But It Wasn't Just the Courts That Failed Her


In Canada, a 17-year-old-girl died this past April. She hung herself and was taken off of life support after three days. The country was left in an outrage.

Her name was Rehtaeh Parsons and it is only now that two 18-year-old men are being hit with child pornography charges in relation to Parsons' case. 

After a tragic death, a circle-jerk of victim-blaming, and vigilante support from the hacktivist group Anonymous, can the Parsons family find relief in the form of closure by the same justice system that initially failed them and their daughter?

Except it wasn't only the justice system that Rehtaeh became a victim of.

It was the systems of rape culture and ultimately slut-shaming that that drove this young woman to take her own life. The normalization of rape culture isn't one that is strictly limited to places such as India. It happens domestically, as in Parsons' case, and it's something we need to have the talking heads of television call out just as fiercely. 

As a society, we need to continually discuss these issues and take active steps in resolving them. 

Parsons was only 15 when she was allegedly gang-raped in November of 2011. A picture confirmed by authorities of the incident made it way through cell phones and computers thereafter. It is said that her fellow peers bullied her for months on end as a result. An investigation was launched, but in the end, authorities found nothing conclusive enough to press charges.

Since then, the investigation has reopened and the arrests were made after the passage of a new cyber-bullying law in Nova Scotia. The law allows for people to sue in cases of cyber-bullying, provides ways for victims to seek protection, and can place restrictions on (as well as identify) alleged perpetrators. A person has also come forth with new information relating to the case and was able to pinpoint the suspects.

The suspects are expected to appear in court next Thursday.

Canadian Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, was one of the many glad to see justice served after months without progress.

"As you know, this is a terrible tragedy that has touched not only the Parsons family but, I think, all Canadians who have become familiar with what has transpired and the kind of risk this presents to all of our children," he said.

Stories of women facing sexual assault and women committing suicide in the after of the aftermath are becoming more common than what ought to be comfortable. There are a variety of measures that can be taken in order to prevent more tragedies like Rehtaeh Parsons's from occurring such as the utilization of intersectionality, re-imaging masculinity, and practicing consent.

Rather than shame women for being sexual, we should respect their decisions. Rather than observe media, we should criticize it when it repeatedly objectifies women in a way that can negatively impact real world perspectives. Rather than just accept the silence because it is uncomfortable to deal with, we need to create spaces where victims of sexual assault can have an unshakable support system and be able to depend on a law system that should support them just as thoroughly.

We need to remember Rehtaeh Parsons, but hope to never see another victim go as she did.