For Rehtaeh

TRIGGER WARNING:

The following includes discussions that may serve as a trigger for victims of sexual violence.
Please be advised. 

I’ve been MIA for a few days, preparing to move this blog to a different site as part of a larger project (more on that later). I have a list of about ten posts I want to write, titles staring down from a crowded white board of tasks to be completed. But those will have to wait, because you need to read this story:

A 17-year-old Canadian girl died Sunday following a suicide attempt last week. The family of Rehtaeh Parsons said that their daughter never recovered from an alleged rape by four teenage boys in November 2011 that left her deeply depressed and rejected by her community.

Placed on life support last Thursday at a local hospital, Rehtaeh Parsons died on April 7 after her family made the decision to take her off the life support.

In a Facebook memorial page, the girl’s mother, Leah Parsons, wrote that Rehtaeh had been shunned and harassed after one of the boys allegedly involved in the rape took a picture of the incident and distributed it to their “school and community, where it quickly went viral.”

“Rehtaeh is gone today because of the four boys that thought that raping a 15-year-old girl was okay, and to distribute a photo to ruin her spirit and reputation would be fun,” Parsons wrote.

According to Canadian news outlet CBC, the alleged sexual assault happened at a small gathering at which teenagers consumed alcohol. One of the boys in attendance reportedly took a photo of another boy having sex with Rehtaeh Parsons and sent it to friends.

Gawker writes that the bullying got so bad after the photo circulated that the family was forced to relocate.

When you ask me why I keep talking about rape culture, it’s people like Rehtaeh. This story is getting publicity because of social media and recency, and that’s fine, but there are thousands more like her every year who are alienated by their friends and family members who just don’t get it. There are thousands of victims who may never tell a soul about their attack, but will watch other victims be treated this way and internalize a deep sense of shame they never should have felt to begin with. There are thousands of victims who will never get the help they need, and will suffer in silence for the rest of their lives.

You want to know why a stupid little rape joke matters? You want to know why it’s not ok for a community to call a victim a liar or a slut in the wake of an attack? You want to know why the ads encouraging sexual violence aren’t “just” advertising? You want to know why colleges sweeping attacks under the rug is a problem? You want to know why I keep writing on this subject? You want to know why I’m angry, and not about to back down?

Because Rehtaeh, and so many others, deserved a hell of a lot better than this. 

If you are a Rehtaeh, please know that there are people who have your back. If you know a Rehtaeh, let them know you’re there for them, that it was never their fault, and that you believe them. This girl didn’t have to die. We can, and must, do better. We cannot eradicate sexual violence, but we can change the experiences victims face in the aftermath. The only way that happens is if we raise our voices and keep pushing. It’s not always easy, and the conversations can be exhausting, but the next time you feel like giving up, think of Rehtaeh. I know I will.

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16 comments

  1. Why I think you should stop talking about “Rape Culture” that’s simple. “Rehteah” is the victim your talking about not Steve or Bob or Gary or Peter. You are talking about rape culture with a gender neutral definition, but not every one is.
    http://finallyfeminism101.wordpress.com/2009/10/19/rape-culture-101/
    this is a very sexist and bigoted definition of rape culture that your talk will get conflated with.
    Even with a gender neutral definition (I very much applaud you for that), you are still talking about it in gendered terms. It is a women Rehteah that has pulled your heart strings and made this important not Steve, Bob, Gary and Peter.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sex_differences_in_suicide
    This is why it’s so important. The male suicide rate is 4-5 times that of women’s suicide rate. Talking about Rape Culture does not help these men, but make it harder for them to seek and get help. Rape Culture is a gendered issues either by practice as you assert or by definition as Feminism101 asserts. That means that Talking about Rape Culture is it’s self Rape Culture by trivializing the experiences of male victims.

  2. Thank you for keeping the vigilance. I read this story over the weekend, and it completely sickened me, and the fact that it is not rare is even more shameful.

    Sadly, the “rape culture” is alive and I have unfriended several people on FB over their positions.

    1. Thank you for this entry. I could not believe it when I read this story this morning. I started my blog after hearing about the Steubenville rape, hoping that other survivors will have a place to go to see that they are not alone. Thank you for being so vocal about the rape culture that DOES exist and is currently running rampant, not just in the US, but throughout the world.

      You are right; Rehtaeh deserved better. We ALL deserve better. I hope that the more we vocalize what is wrong with this situation, the more people will step forward and stand together. As a survivor myself, I can’t even imagine what my life would have been like had my rape taken place in this digital age… and whether or not I would even still be here. We need to understand that rape in any form is not humorous. It’s not a joke or a punchline. It’s a violation of a person; not just their body, but their soul and their spirit. I don’t care if you detest the person, NOBODY deserves rape. As I’ve stated in my blog, we need to watch out and stand up for each other. If you see something SAY SOMETHING.

      Yours in Solidarity,
      Anathema

  3. The rapists walk free, joke and laugh about the rape and the victim is shamed and shunned by the society. That is rape culture. The saddest truth is there are more people promoting rape culture than those opposing it. Hope only lies in people like you Lauren who have decided to raise a voice against this and that too very strongly. I am sure that your blog would have opened the eyes of at least a few.
    Keep the good work going on 🙂

  4. I completely agree, and all I can say is this: keep on keepin’ on. Keep talking about rape culture. Keep calling out the ways in which it exists and ruins lives. Keep bravely saying what you need to say, despite the nasty comments and naysayers.

    And, most of all, thank you for writing about it.

  5. This leaves me also wondering how a picture can go “viral” yet, the crime is still “alleged?” That’s rape culture. When there is proof but we still use language to insinuate the victim might be lying yet. Ditto the above and thanks for keeping this topic exposed.

    I’m sorry Rehtaeh you felt you needed to leave us. Sadly, I do understand though. Shame is one of the most hidden yet painful emotions to try to live with. I wish we as humans could have done better for you. If there is peace in the hereafter, I hope it has found you.

    There needs to be better enforcement of distribution of child porn even if the distributors are also under aged! (which of course is what it is called when sexual pictures of minors are publicly posted, printed, facebooked, etc.) It doesn’t have to be done under the cloak of darkness in a basement of some letch’s house.

    Facebook’s policies are horrid! FB is very hesitant to remove inappropriate and unlawful posts/images. I know of a case, (I knew the woman) where they refused to remove pro-rape posts of congratulations and encouragement for a convicted rapist who was in prison after conviction. His page also openly named the victim calling her tramp, slut, ‘ho’ etc. The page was started by the rapist’s mother in an attempt to put the victim on trial. The police had to get involved before FB took down the page. Sadly, this is a very true story.

    That’s institutional rape collusion. In my mind, the very definition of rape culture.

    We need “Rehtaeh’s Law.”

    1. I agree 100% about the need for “Rehtaeh’s Law”. What would we need to do to get something like that written up and to be considered for legislation?
      A petition? There must be something. If we are truly fed up with Rape Culture and the way that these latest cases are being handled, WE need to change the laws.

      How do we do that?

      Is anyone else willing to come together to make this happen?

      1. There is a petition up already in reference to defining consent, but I have a few issues with it – I think it leaves a lot up to interpretation;

        Can I assault a person because they are asleep, intoxicated, or telling me to stop? If a person asks another to commit an assault against them while they are under the influence of a mind altering substance, will that person be held liable. The courts rule in very different ways. Tort law states that a person cannot be held contractually liable if he signed said contract under duress or mentally/physically unsound. Aka: I am drunk, senile or crazy and the contract is null and void.

        I also think that whatever petition is created, it needs to also address child pornography and distribution charges.

        Here’s the link:https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/make-consent-mandatory-part-sex-ed-public-schools/40hYbWMj

  6. I know women this happened to, who did not kill themselves. Some tried, and failed, some just live a half-life, broken and unable to trust or bond with anyone. This happened to friends of mine, this happened to me, in a time prior to the cell phone and internet. Only the technology differed, the violence to body and spirit was the same.

    I am 70.

    1. yup. I do think youth or others today are suffering and having to fight differently with the internet globalizing shame more rapidly and virulently. It’s almost impossible to control/contain damaging images and there is a public forum to hate people openly which is hard not to internalize.

      However, in the end, shame is shame and violence is violence. I am sorry this happened to you. Loss of trust can last a lifetime and healing can take a lifetime.

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