I have a daughter and I cannot imagine the pain and suffering that Rehtaeh Parsons’ parents are going through right now.
I also have four teenage sons and I cannot imagine any of them participating in what happened to Rehtaeh Parsons and, if they were, I would be ashamed and turn them into police.
Four boys are alleged to have raped her in November 2011. One of them took pictures that night and shared it on Facebook. The RCMP investigated the incident and decided not to lay charges. The four boys – who were not interviewed by the Mounties until several months after the incident – were not charged with sexual assault because the police said it was a he said, she said case.
Rehtaeh Parsons was 15 at the time, so that means that the person who took her picture and distributed it online should have been charged with making and distributing child pornography. That didn’t happen either.
One of the basic tenets of Canada’s legal system is that all people should be presumed innocent until proven guilty. This, I agree with. In cases of sexual assault, the issue of consent is often the point that is argued in court and determines whether there is a conviction or an acquittal. Even if you assume that the four boys had consent, that in no way excuses what happened with the photograph.
It is illegal to create and distribute child pornography in Canada. That is what happened here and the only thing that can be disputed is who took the picture and who pressed the send button. What the police should have done was found out who owned the phone that sent the picture and on whose Facebook account the picture was posted. Given modern technology, these two things should be easy enough to do. Once charges are laid, the person – or people – responsible should have an overwhelming urge to tell police what they know and assist them in piecing together the facts.
Consent, if it existed, also doesn’t excuse the unjustified scorn Rehtaeh Parsons faced at Cole Harbour District High School and online.
That suffering ended this past weekend when, after she hanged herself in the bathroom at home, she went into a coma and was taken off life support.
Given that tragic result, even if one of my sons was questioned and not charged, I would be taking them to the police station and making sure that they told the truth – the whole truth – about what they did and what they saw.
Unfortunately, the “My-Johnny-Can-Do-No-Wrong” Syndrome is all too prevalent and many parents fail to hold their kids accountable.
I worry about the world my daughter is growing up in. I worry that she is growing up in a province that has failed to properly investigate this incident, but I am glad that our provincial Justice Minister, Ross Landry, is looking in to this.
In the poignant words of Peter Gabriel in his song about Stephen Biko, the eyes of the world are watching now. Let’s do the right thing, Nova Scotia. Let’s find the truth and let’s have justice.