Two men have finally been arrested in the case of Rehtaeh Parsons, the 17-year-old teen who committed suicide in April a year after photos of her being allegedly gang raped went viral across the Nova Scotia school system
Two 18-year-old men, not yet identified by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), have been charged with child pornography.
The arrests may help ease the pain, or at least provide some closure, for a community that is still reeling from Rehtaeh’s death and a spate of similar teen suicides all precipitated by vicious online bullying.
Within hours of Rehtaeh’s death, her hometown of Halifax, Nova Scotia, became a focal point of international shock and outrage. Why, many wondered, did the RCMP close the case in 2011 without making a single arrest? If a photo of Parsons’s alleged gang rape spread on social media, why were no child pornography charges filed? How could it possibly be so hard to follow an explicit online trail?
Parsons’s death came just a few months after a disturbingly similar case in Steubenville, Ohio, in which the rape of a teen girl by two local football stars was chronicled and shared by other students on social media. As in Steubenville, online activist group Anonymous took an intense interest in Parsons’s case. They dug up the names of her alleged rapists, threatening to release them unless the RCMP reopened the case—which it did about a week after her death, though it’s unclear if their motivation came from Anonymous’s threats or from international pressure.
Now, after months of what seemed another middling, half-hearted investigation, the RCMP has finally moved.
It’s too late for Rehtaeh. She was victim not only of her alleged rapists and bullies, but of the province’s education system, which had repeatedly failed to implement recommendations on how to deal with online bullying.
“She’s dead now. She’s gone,” Glen Canning, Rehtaeh’s father, told the Times Colonist.
“It’s sad and in a way it’s a bit of relief that there may be some sense of justice done in this case.”
Police said they have no plans charge anyone with rape, Halifax Regional Police Chief Jean-Michel Blais told reporters at a press conference Thursday.
“What some people may believe occurred and what can be substantiated in a police investigation through verified evidence and what can finally be proved in court are often very different things,”
“We, as police officers, cannot act on innuendo or speculation. We do not cultivate facts. We verify them.”
Photo via Angel Rehtaeh/Facebook