Rehtaeh Parsons, a 17-year-old from Canada, died in hospital on April 7th after an attempted suicide. Parsons was the victim of sexual assault by four of her male classmates, and had been bullied about the incident for a year before attempting to take her life. HLN reports that a photograph of Parsons throwing up while being raped made the rounds at her school. The fact that this type of story – rape and/or sexual assault followed by bullying of the victim – is becoming more and more prevalent is truly horrifying.
According to HLN, after the incident, “Rehtaeh transferred to a new school and even checked herself into a hospital to seek treatment for her suicidal thoughts.” Rehtaeh’s mother, Leah Parsons, quit her job and devoted herself full-time to her daughter’s emotional and mental recovery, but unfortunately the pain was too great for the teen. Leah has asked that the police do a better job investigating the crime against her daughter and encouraged citizens not to bully the perpetrators. She told reporters, “I don’t want more bullying. Rehtaeh wouldn’t want more bullying. I don’t think that’s justice. I think they need to be accountable for what that they did, (but) I don’t want them to be physically harmed.” So far none of the boys involved have been charged.
Rehtaeh’s father, Glen Canning, has written a beautiful post memorializing his daughter – in part, because, as he says – “I don’t want her life to (be) defined by a Google search about suicide or death or rape. I want it to be about the giving heart she had. Her smile. Her love of life and the beautiful way in which she lived it.”
After Rehtaeh was taken off life support, she became an organ donor. Canning writes:
I found out this afternoon my daughter saved the life of a young woman with her heart. How fitting.
She also gave someone a new liver, a kidney, a new breath, and a new chance to love. She saved the lives of four people with her final gift of life. She was that wonderful.
Someone out there is going to look at the world with my daughter’s eyes. The most beautiful eyes I have ever seen.
Canning goes on to call out the justice system in Nova Scotia for (so far) not using the social media evidence in the case against the boys who raped Rehtaeh. Rehtaeh’s assault has so much in common with the recent Steubenville case, and now that her untimely death has brought her story to light, hopefully the police will do the right thing and prosecute. According to CTV, “Two departments in the Nova Scotia government are trying to sort out what happened to Rehtaeh Parsons, and how her situation could have been handled differently. Education Minister Ramona Jennex has asked the Halifax Regional School Board to review its actions, while Justice Minister Ross Landry is asking government officials to present options to review the case.”
Photo credit: iStock