I’m sorry. It was just inevitable that I would do a blog post about Rehtaeh.
I am sure many Nova Scotians are ready to take a break from the news and commentaries on Rehtaeh Parsons, the girl who was disappointed to death by the health, justice, and education system; the girl who said she was sexually assaulted, then victimized repeatedly by the viral photograph documenting her assault, and by the victim-blaming and cyber bullying that ensued.
However, as a feminist, I am appalled that a woman has to commit suicide for the world to hear her.
For almost two years, Rehtaeh tried to seek justice the right way. She reported her assault to police. She sought counselling and even a stay in hospital to treat her depression.
Yet she could not make the world believe she was assaulted. The cursory police investigation, which took place a year after the fact, ended without any charges laid because of a lack of evidence (despite photographic evidence of the sexual assault and a likely trail of IP addresses; but I digress).
I have been shocked by the lack of justice for survivors of sexual assault in India; but I am aghast that in a country such as Canada, a sexual assault is not believed by society until a girl uses the very body that was victimized to send a message.
From the outrage across the globe (People.com even featured articles about Rehtaeh) one can assume that people have heard her, loud and clear.
Yet why do we need a young women to kill herself in order for people to seek justice for her? Is she a liar until she commits suicide to stand behind her principles?
An inquiry until the Rehtaeh Parsons’ case is necessary if we, as a society, are to improve resources for victims of sexual assault. It’s the only way we can prevent more suffering.
I commend Rehtaeh’s parents for bringing her story to the public’s attention, even though they must want to hide away with their grief. If they hadn’t let the world know why Rehtaeh died, she would’ve been just another obituary in the newspaper, another victim silenced.
We, as Nova Scotians, as Canadians, as humans, should not forget why Rehtaeh was disappointed to death.
Otherwise, her death will not be the last; and she will not be the last survivor of sexual assault to suffer while the world turns on.
We owe her, and others, better.