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Man involved with Rehtaeh Parsons revenge porn case gets slap on the wrist

The 20-year-old man responsible for taking the photo of the 17-year-old sexual assault victim was sentenced to a year of “conditional discharge.” 


EJ Dickson

Internet Culture

Last year, in the spring of 2013, 17-year-old Rehtaeh Parsons, a high schooler from Canada, committed suicide by hanging herself. Her mother blamed Parsons’ suicide on four high school boys who gang raped her, then posted the photos on social media. Parsons was relentlessly cyberbullied following her rape, which ultimately led to her taking her own life.

Today, Parsons’ story is back in the media, as the young man responsible for taking the photo of her sexual assault was sentenced in a Canadian court. The 20-year-old man pled guilty to a single count of making child pornography. His sentence? A year of “conditional discharge,” as well as a mandatory course on sexual harassment.

According to Huffington Post Canada, the 20-year-old man did not receive any jail time, despite the fact that Parsons’ father told the courts before sentencing that “getting probation or a suspended sentence for a crime like that, it’s insulting, to put it mildly. It’s almost like there’s no consequences for it.”

The man, who was also initially also charged with distributing child pornography, is not being named by the Canadian media, due to the fact that he was underage when the crime was committed. It is also illegal for Canadian journalists to print Parsons’ name due to a law prohibiting media outlets from publishing any identifying details of child porn victims, despite the fact that Parsons’ family has protested the mandatory publication ban. (The Parsons family’s battle with the Canadian justice system also prompted the creation of the hashtags #RememberHerName and #youknowhername.)

During sentencing, the judge allegedly demanded that the defendant provide the Parsons family with a written apology, according to tweets from journalist Hilary Beaumont, who was present during the hearing.

Defendant has lived with what he did for 3 years. The past 14 months have been particularly difficult. He’s not as blameworthy as an adult.

— Hilary Beaumont (@HilaryBeaumont) November 13, 2014

Judge does not give jail time. Not probation either. The defendant is sentenced to a conditional discharge and DNA sample. #youknowhername

— Hilary Beaumont (@HilaryBeaumont) November 13, 2014

Judge asks defendant to apologize to the victim’s parents. Other than that he must not contact them at all. #youknowhername

— Hilary Beaumont (@HilaryBeaumont) November 13, 2014

Defendant must also complete a course on sexual harassment, judge says.

— Hilary Beaumont (@HilaryBeaumont) November 13, 2014

He must learn how to properly treat all females as he goes forward, judge says.

— Hilary Beaumont (@HilaryBeaumont) November 13, 2014

The judge’s sentence spurred outrage on Twitter, as well as a resurgence of the #youknowhername and #rememberhername hashtags:

No jail time and NO PROBATION for the man watched Rehtaeh Parsons being raped, took a picture of the attack, and distributed it. No justice.

— Jessica Valenti (@JessicaValenti) November 13, 2014

Reading about the sentencing in the #RehtaehParsons case and I feel sick. This is why women don’t report rape or sexual assault.

— Anne Thériault (@anne_theriault) November 13, 2014

Rehtaeh Parsons. Say her name, and feel the full weight of the injustice that’s been committed at the hands of our justice system.

— Kelli Korducki (@kelkord) November 13, 2014

The justice system has failed Rehtaeh Parsons every step of the way, as it consistently fails victims of sexual assault. #rapeculture

— Caitlin McGuire (@eastcoastkto) November 13, 2014

This is all so heartbreaking. The spectre of boys’ “ruined lives” trumps girls’ actual lives, again. #RehtaehParsons #YouKnowHerName

— jodi green (@jodilicious) November 13, 2014

But by far the most heartbreaking response to the defendant’s sentencing was from Parsons’ father Glen Canning, who published his devastating victim impact statement on his blog:

The hole you left in my life is as big as the hole you left in hers. You took away her friends, her innocence, her dreams, her youth, and with the click of a camera you took away her will to live.

I had to watch my promising, intelligent, and full of life child turn into an empty ghost. Her dreams turned to ashes, her laughter turned to anger and cries. This is not the way this had to end.

It’s hard knowing that Rehtaeh, being the kind of person she was, would have forgiven you if you had only said you were sorry. When she was alive to hear it – you could have made a difference, yet you remained silent even when you knew her life had turned into a nightmare by your actions. You did nothing when it would have mattered.

I fight everyday not to turn into a dark empty shell. I’m not able to work. Hobbies I had that were important to me are all long forgotten and sit on shelves in the basement. I suffer from depression and anxiety. I often fear being alone.

My sense of justice has been shattered and replaced with doubt, cynicism, and a lack of faith. Rehtaeh is not here today to tell you what your actions did to her, but based on what I saw, you damaged her beyond repair.

Every time I think of my daughter Rehtaeh, I think of you and how what you did contributed to the end of her. I will live like this for the rest of my life.

Another Canadian man involved in the Parsons case, allegedly the boy in the photo of her gang rape, is scheduled to be sentenced November 24 to 28. The photograph depicts the boy penetrating Parsons from behind while she vomits out the window, as he gives a thumbs-up to the camera.

H/T Chronicle Herald | Photo via Jason Barnes/Wikipedia Commons

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