April 11, 2013 by Vicki
I have to write a brief piece on this tragedy. I don’t feel right about writing about tragedies. This tragedy, however, is a Canadian tragedy and strikes too close to home for me to ignore. Rehtaeh Parsons was a 17 year old victim of rape and harassment. On Thursday, she hanged herself in her family‘s bathroom, unable to cope with the cruelty of the unthinking reactions of her peers. On Sunday, her family made the hard choice to take her off of life support.
Now, her story is all over the Internet. People are asking questions and the government has required four departments to investigate this tragedy. I only have one question to ask: why did it take the death of this young girl for all of this action to mobilize? It’s not like it came as a surprise. Canada sat back and watched as the Steubenville rape case came to light. The similarities are glaring. Both are teenage girls being raped by a gang of teenage boys. Both are shamed for the rape and harassed by their peers. I know I assumed that such a thing could not happen in Canada. I am ashamed to know that I was wrong.
Perhaps it is time that Canadians examine their own beliefs and assumptions about women, sex, femininity, and feminism. Perhaps now, we have the answer to the question “Why do we still need feminism?” These boys assumed that it was OK to rape a girl just because she was intoxicated. They also assumed that they had the right to spread images of her rape all over her school and to lie about her promiscuity to protect themselves. Girls, in her town, thought it was appropriate to shame her and harass her about her sexual activity without ever asking for her side of events. All of these assumptions speak loudly to the prejudices inherent in Canadian society. We should all be ashamed.
We also need to change our society so there never is another Rehtaeh Parsons. Harassment of any kind (whether physical, mental, or cyber) are crimes and MUST be punished as such. I don’t care if it is a text, e-mail, or Facebook post; it is still a crime. We need to teach our sons that women deserve respect and that sex requires active consent. We need to change our society so that we stop blaming the victim and start thinking critically about what we hear and read.
My thoughts and prayers are with the Parson family as they struggle to gain justice for their deceased daughter. I hope that everyone shows at the protest in front of the police headquarters and that we show the world that we will act against these prejudices. I pray she will have her justice; even if it is too late.
- Canada “world’s best country for women” unless you’re a rape victim (vancouverobserver.com)
- Rehtaeh Parsons is an all too familiar story (o.canada.com)
- The Rape and Death of 17-Year-Old Rehtaeh Parsons (blogher.com)
- Dad shattered over death of Rehtaeh Parsons -Fathers against rape. (literateowl.com)
- Rehtaeh Parsons rape: at least Steubenville case went to court. Sign the petition. (dcmontreal.wordpress.com)