Rehtaeh Parsons Case Details Emerge - Latest Example Of Victim Blaming?

on April 26 2013 1:13 PM
Parsons
Rehtaeh Parson was allegedly gang-raped by four teens in Canada in 2011. Parsons later committed suicide after a photo of the alleged incident began circulating around the school, leading to bullying and harassment. Facebook

New details surrounding the Rehtaeh Parsons case were revealed on Friday, but many are questioning if the presentation of the new information is just the latest example of victim blaming.

Parsons was a 17-year-old high school student who was allegedly gang-raped when she was 15 and later committed suicide. Police briefly looked into the case before determining no criminal charges would be filed against the four teenage boys who were allegedly involved in the incident. Parsons was the victim of harassment and bullying after a photo the boys allegedly took during the gang rape was spread throughout her school and community.

In a post on Facebook, Parsons' mother, Leah Parsons, said, “All the bullying and messaging and harassment that never let up are also to blame. Lastly, the justice system failed her. Those are the people that took the life of my beautiful girl.” After the incident, and the bullying and harassment that followed from fellow students, Parsons battled depression prior to her suicide attempt on April 4.

With the hacktavist collective Anonymous seeking justice for Parsons, Postmedia is reporting sources have revealed new details about the Parsons case that led to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police to not file any charges against the four teens allegedly involved in the gang rape.

According to Postmedia News’ Christie Blatchford, sources familiar with the investigation said the evidence lacked credibility and Parsons provided conflicting testimony while being questioned by law enforcement officials. The source said that the infamous photo that was passed around only showed a pants-less teen male, smiling with a thumb up, behind an individual whose upper-half of the body is leaning out of a window, Postmedia notes.

The source said there was no way to positively identify that the person in the photo was Parsons or to determine the gender of the individual who was leaning out of the window. The source also outlined the timeline of the alleged gang rape. Parsons notified police, after the photo began circulating around school, that she attended a party on Nov. 12, 2011, became drunk and, while stating she had sex with two boys at the party, was sexually assaulted by another teen as she was vomiting out of a window.

After that final incident, Parsons said she could not remember the remainder of the night. Postmedia’s source said that a girlfriend of Parsons who went with her to the party said Parsons had been flirtatious with several of the teens that night.

Parsons’ girlfriend said she had seen Parsons laughing and naked in bed with two boys, and, though she tried to get Parsons to leave, Parsons refused. The source said the girlfriend liked one of the boys and was upset with Parsons and had left the party but soon returned with her mother to try and get Parsons to leave, Postmedia reports.

The source said that Parsons changed her story of that night in a follow-up interview with police two weeks after her initial statement. The source indicated that Parsons' conversations with friends after the party depicted a teen girl who regretted her decision because it would ruin her reputation.

A year-long investigation by the RCMP sexual assault team led to a presentation of the case to a senior Crown attorney at Novia Scotia’s Public Prosecution Service. Blatchford notes the attorney and the lead investigator of the sexual assault team were women.

The Crown attorney determined there was no chance of a conviction in court for the alleged sexual assault and child pornography charges, Postmedia reports.

Blatchford’s report has been questioned by commenters as an example of victim blaming. Blatchford concludes the article with statements saying the case was a “mess” and “what they had was a complainant whose evidence was all over the map, independent evidence that supported the notion that any sex was consensual and no evidence that Rehtaeh was so drunk that she couldn’t consent.”

Blatchford also states, “But the names of four boys are online anyway -- one a boy who wasn’t even at the party and who went public to defend himself last week.” She also notes families and friends of the teen boys accused of the sexual assault posted flyers around the community, saying, “There are two sides to every story. Listen before you judge. The truth will come out,” but those messages of support were torn down. She emphasizes that there are two sides of any story, even one that involves sexual assault, and concludes the article by stating, “But it isn’t so simple what happened to her. It isn’t so clear that she was abused, let alone by two boys or three or four, let alone by the justice system.”

With more than 130 comments, many are questioning the validity of the evidence presented and the nature of presenting such a report, with some calling the article “disgusting,” while others have come to the defense of Blatchford.