A 17-year-old girl has killed herself after four boys raped her and spread a photograph of the assault, causing classmates and friends to taunt and cyber-bully her, her mother has said.
Rehtaeh Parsons from Nova Scotia, Canada hanged herself in her family’s bathroom on Thursday after months of torment and, on Sunday night, her parents took her off life support.
Questions are now emerging over whether authorities and her friends did enough to help Rehtaeh, who relatives said quickly slipped from an A-student to a moody, unpredictable teenager.
No charges were ever brought against Rehtaeh’s alleged attackers following the assault in 2011; an investigation was launched but authorities concluded they did not have enough evidence.
On a Facebook tribute page, her mother, Leah Parsons, described how her daughter was forever changed by the alleged assault in their hometown of Cole Harbour.
‘She went with a friend to another’s home,’ her mother wrote. ‘In that home, she was raped by four young boys. One of those boys took a photo of her being raped and decided it would be fun to distribute the photo to everyone in Rehtaeh’s school and community, where it quickly went viral.’
The alleged attack left then 15-year-old Rehtaeh an outcast at Cole Harbour District High School, where her rapists were also students. Friends, students and strangers taunted her, her mother said.
‘People texted her all the time, saying “Will you have sex with me?”’ she said. ‘Girls texting, saying “You’re such a slut”.
‘She was never left alone. She had to leave the community. Her friends turned against her. People harassed her… It just never stopped,’ her mother told CBC http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/nova-scotia/story/2013/04/09/ns-rehtaeh-parsons-suicide-rape.html .
Her parents moved from Cole Harbour to Halifax to help her escape the bullies and Rehtaeh made new friends and began hearing from her old school friends, who offered her their support.
She said her daughter also started therapy, which appeared to be helping. Yet she would become angry quickly, and last week’s suicide attempt was probably the result of a mood swing, Leah said.
‘She acted on an impulse, but I truly, in my heart of heart, do not feel she meant to kill herself,’ her mother wrote on Facebook. ‘By the time I broke into the bathroom, it was too late.’
The Canadian police launched an investigation, which took a year, but concluded there was insufficient evidence to bring up charges.
‘An investigation into an earlier sexual assault was completed, and in consultation with the Crown, there was insufficient evidence to lay charges,’ RCMP spokesman Cpl. Scott MacRae said.
‘They didn’t even interview the boys until much, much later,’ To me, I’d think you’d get the boys right away, separate them.’
Relatives said they saw the photograph but could not determine who had taken it, so were unable to charge the teenagers – even though the picture legally constituted child pornography.
‘The whole case was full of things like that,’ Leah said. We didn’t have a rape kit done because we didn’t even know until several days later when she had a breakdown in my kitchen. She was trying to keep it to herself.’
RCMP spokesman Cpl. Scott MacRae confirmed to the Chronicle Herald http://thechronicleherald.ca/metro/1122345-who-failed-rehtaeh-parsons#.UWPfLERNjaM.facebook that the authorities are currently investigating a sudden death involving a young person, but would not provide further details.
Her mother said she wants other people to learn from the tragedy and how social media allowed her to be continually violated following the brutal rape.
Rehtaeh shared her sadness on Facebook, including a post on March 3 which read: ‘In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.’
Barrett Khan, a vice-principal at Cole Harbour District High School, told The Globe http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/nova-scotia-teen-kills-herself-after-being-raped-bullied-online/article10940600/ he couldn’t comment on the case as the teenager had left more than a year ago.
‘Our thoughts are with the family during this difficult time,’ a spokesman for the Halifax Regional School Board said in a statement. ‘We are not going to respond directly to the family’s comments as we do not want to add to their grief.