The mother of a Halifax teenager who killed herself after allegedly being raped and photographed by four boys is making a public plea for people to leave the boys linked to the allegations alone.
Rehtaeh Parsons, 17, died on the weekend after trying to take her life last Thursday. Leah Parsons says her daughter was raped by four boys when she was 15, and then became the victim of bullying and harassment after a picture taken on the night of the alleged attack was circulated.
“I want the justice system to go after those boys for sending those pictures, she was 15 years old,” Parsons said. “I don’t want people to go after those boys. People are threatening to do that.”
Since Rehtaeh’s story became public, there has been outrage expressed online. On Wednesday, the words ‘Nova Scotia’ were trending on Twitter worldwide.
Parsons took to Facebook to tell her daughter’s story and shame the unnamed alleged perpetrators. Wednesday morning, an online petition calling for an inquiry into the police investigation had garnered more than 6,000 signatures. By Wednesday night that number jumped to more than 60,000 signatures.
“I don’t want more bullying. Rehtaeh wouldn’t want more bullying. I don’t think that’s justice,” Parsons said.
She called the police investigation into the case horrible, but said she doesn’t want vigilantes to go after the boys, none of whom have been charged.
“I think they need to be accountable for what that they did,” Parsons said. “I don’t want them to be physically harmed.”
The RCMP also matched that message, issuing a warning Wednesday night reminding people not to take matters in their own hands. They asked anyone with information about the case to contact police directly.
N.S. considers new laws
Meanwhile, Nova Scotia’s Justice Minister Ross Landry says he’s considering new laws when it comes to allegations of sexual assault and distribution of child pornography.
Landry initially said his department can’t second-guess every police investigation, but late on Tuesday he said he was giving officials in his department approval to review the case, and present him with options by the end of the week.
Landry met with Parsons on Wednesday.
“I did assure her that I’m going to discuss with my provincial colleagues and my federal partners the issue of the technology of the imaging and the laws around that and what we could be doing different because in this technological age it’s ever-changing and we need to have processes in place and laws in place that address that,” he said.
He deflected criticism of his initial response to the case.
“If changing your mind is doing the right thing, then I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that,” Landry said. “I’m never entrenched in my points of view.”
A representative from Nova Scotia’s Crown prosecution service reiterated that there are not sufficient grounds for charges in the alleged rape case.
Chris Hansen said two prosecutors reviewed all the files they gave to police last October and concluded there’s not a reasonable chance of conviction on either child pornography or sexual assault charges.
The province’s education minister is also speaking out. Ramona Jennex is asking the Halifax Regional School Board to review its response in the case.
“If there are gaps in the education system that need to be addressed and fixed to ensure more families in the province don’t have to go through the same horrific tragedy as the Parsons family, we will do whatever we can to close those gaps,” said Jennex.
B.C. family offers support
The mother of B.C. cyberbullying victim Amanda Todd said she understands what Rehtaeh’s family is going through.
Rehtaeh’s story has similarities to Amanda’s case. The 15-year-old killed herself last fall after being cyberstalked for two years.
Carol Todd said she sent a letter to Rehtaeh’s mother.
“I wrote to her that in my deepest of hearts that I am so sorry for what her and her family are going through, that I for one truly understand what she is going through and that I give her as much strength as I have,” said Todd.
One of Rehtaeh’s friends also spoke out Wednesday. Kimber Wesley said she had no idea about the allegations of Rehtaeh’s rape. She said she was shocked to hear her friend was keeping such a secret, but it explained some of Rehtaeh’s behaviour.
Wesley said she’s disappointed with the reaction of many people online. She said those claiming to be friends of Rehtaeh had turned their backs on the troubled teen.
“If they were there before, this probably wouldn’t have happened,” Wesley said. “Now they are there when she is not here.”
Rehtaeh’s funeral will be held on Saturday.
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