I usually try to end the week on a positive note, but I read this week about a young woman named Rehtaeh Parsons who committed suicide recently in Canada. Her parents alleged that the 17-year-old had been raped by four boys, one of whom took a sexually explicit photo of her during the alleged attack. The photo was circulated around her school, which lead to sexual bullying, depression, and ultimately Rehtaeh’s decision to end her own life.
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) initially investigated the sexual assault for a year, but concluded there was not enough evidence to pursue charges and then shelved the case. Public outrage, including a video posted by the group Anonymous, appears to have resulted in the RCMP reopening the investigation. I sincerely hope that justice is served and that those responsible for the assault are identified, charged, and convicted.
Rehtaeh Parsons’ death is tragic not only because of her personal pain and the impact that’s had on those who knew and loved her, but also because it represents a terrible failing within society as well. Call it projection, reaction formation, shadow, or whatever psychological term you wish, sexual bullying is an attempt to objectify an individual as possessing some quality that others cannot accept about themselves.
That the poor sexual and mental health of the masses gets turned against any one individual is hard to take. If you, your child, or someone you care about is suffering from bullying of any kind, including sexual bullying, there are resources that can help.
My heartfelt condolences to Rehtaeh and her family and friends. I hope you find justice and peace.
Update: On April 16th, a Canadian news outlet published a story regarding several of Rehtaeh’s friends who were allegedly attacked in March of this year by at least one of the individuals suspected of sexually assaulting Rehtaeh. One boy was reportedly stabbed during the alleged incident. Others were sprayed with “an irritant.”
The story also raises questions as to whether the investigation was stymied by these types of intimidation tactics.