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In November 2011, Rehtaeh Parsons attended a house party where she was allegedly gang raped by a group of four boys. One of them took a photograph of the act and distributed it among her classmates and friends at Cole Harbour District High School. Humiliated by the incident and subsequent harassments, Parsons and her family eventually moved to Halifax, where the girl spent nearly six weeks in a hospital after she began contemplating suicide. In November 2012, the police decided not to pursue the case further on the grounds of insufficient evidence and declared the spread of the photos a “community issue.”
On April 4th, 2013, after continued harassment, Parsons made an attempt on her life by hanging herself in the bathroom. She remained on life support for three days in the hospital before she was declared brain dead on April 7th. That evening, her mother Leah created a Facebook fan page to memorialize her seventeen-year-old daughter. Within four days, the page accrued nearly 30,000 likes.
News Media Coverage
After the Canadian newspaper Chronicle Herald ran a front page article about her death on April 9th, the story quickly began circulating in the news media and internet culture blogs including the Huffington Post, the Daily Dot and the Frisky. The next day, actress Jada Pinkett Smith shared a photo of Parsons along with her story on Facebook, where it gained more than 16,000 likes and 2,600 shares. In the following days, Parsons’ story was featured on ThinkProgress, Feministing. the Daily Dot and People, who referred to the case as the “Canadian Steubenville.”
On April 10th, Parsons’ father Glen Canning released a statement about his daughter and her death on his personal blog. The site quickly became unavailable due to heavy influx of traffic and the piece was re-published on the Huffington Post,CBC and the Chronicle Herald later that same day. In his statement, Canning said that he wanted her name to be associated with the positive aspects of her life and not what happened at the end of it, concluding with a plea to the Justice Minister of Nova Scotia to revaluate the “digital trail” of evidence surrounding his daughter’s case and why the police waited months before even interviewing the accused.
I had to write something about this. I don’t want her life to defined by a Google search about suicide or death or rape. I want it to be about the giving heart she had. Her smile. Her love of life and the beautiful way in which she lived it. I found out this afternoon my daughter saved the life of a young woman with her heart. How fitting. She also gave someone a new liver, a kidney, a new breath, and a new chance to love. She saved the lives of four people with her final gift of life. She was that wonderful. Someone out there is going to look at the world with my daughter’s eyes. The most beautiful eyes I have ever seen.
The same day, Nova Scotia Justice Minister Ross Landry revealed his intention to revisit the rape allegations, saying he hoped to have a meeting with Leah Parsons about the problems she had in pursuing the case. Later that day, spokesman for the Halifax Royal Canadian Mounted Police Cpl. Scott MacRae stated that the photo in question was evaluated to see if it would have been considered child pornography, but refrained from confirming any details of Parsons’ allegations. He also noted that the police are concerned with how the social media vigilantism and the “sensitivity of the family” might lead to unforeseen consequences such as spread of misinformation (shown below). Shortly after the statement was issued, Motherboard examined why the Royal Canadian Mounted Police were failing young girls like Parsons and Amanda Todd, both underage girls who had illicit photos of themselves distributed online against their will. On April 15th, Canadian Premier Darrell Dexter announced that cabinet minister Marilyn More would oversee the response to the girl’s death in an attempt to figure where the government failed her.
Also on April 10th, Anonymous issued a video communiqué (shown below) titled #OpJustice4Rehtaeh, calling for the Canadian law enforcement officials to resume the investigation while threatening to publicly release the names of the alleged assailants if no further actions were taken.
On the following day, Anonymous issued a longer Pastebin statement claiming that it only took them two hours to track down the identities of two of the boys in question, crediting “dozens of e-mails” from anonymous tipsters who knew the boys personally. Furthermore, the group also mentioned that some of these testimonies have pointed to confessions of the crime openly made by the alleged suspects.
In responding to the news, Leah Parsons made a public plea to keep the names quiet, as she believed her daughter would not want more bullying. Anonymous-affiliated Twitter account @YourAnonNews responded later that day, asking people not to reveal the boys’ names out of respect for Parsons’ mother.
#OpJustice4Rehtaeh is asking for Anons to withhold the names of the minors involved--for now--out of respect for Rehtaeh’s mother.— Anonymous (@YourAnonNews) April 10, 2013
On April 11th, news of the Anonymous operation associated with the case was reported on the Huffington Post, International Business Times, Reddit, the Daily Dot and Salon. On April 12th, Anonymous released a follow-up statement with more details surrounding the testimonies (listed below) and a note suggesting that the names of the assailants may be leaked with a warning “one week in advance” if no progress is made within a reasonable timeframe.
1) One of the alleged rapists has made several public statements admitting that he did have sex with Raetaeh on the night in question. He admits she was inebriated at the time, also that she was throwing up during the act.
2) During his confession, he names three other boys and admits that they too took turns having sex with Rahtaeh that night as well. The names match with those we have confirmed during our investigation.
3) The individual making this confession is the same boy identified in the photograph. He has also admitted to being in the photograph and named the accomplice who took the picture.
4) All information, including screenshots of the confession, have been made available to the police.
5) Two boys have been implicated repeatedly whom we believe are innocent based on numerous testimonies given by individuals with first hand knowledge of the surrounding events.
6) There are multiple witnesses who were classmates of the alleged rapists that can confirm they were shown the photograph of Rehtaeh by them.
7) At the very least, there was a house with a minimum of half a dozen underage students consuming alcohol and engaging in sexual intercourse. What happened in this house resulting in the spread of child pornography. This much the police will agree to. No charges have been filed in regards to this.
The Huffington Post – Anonymous Responds To Rehtaeh Parsons Suicide, Threatens To Expose Accused Rapists
International Business Times – Anonymous Claims To Have Identified Rehtaeh Parsons’ Alleged Rapists, Launches #OpJustice4Rehtaeh
The Daily Dot – Anonymous has the names of Rehtaeh Parsons’s alleged rapists
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