Yet another teenage girl killed herself after being sexually assaulted and aggressively cyber-bullied. Will Rehtaeh Parsons, a 17-year-old from Nova Scotia who died last Sunday after attempting suicide a few days earlier, go down in tragic history alongside Amanda Todd and Jessica Laney, two other teens who recently took their own lives under similar circumstances? Perhaps, but probably not, because the "teenage girl kills self after being 'outed' as a slut on the internet" phenomenon has become terrifyingly ubiquitous.
According to Rehtaeh's mother Leah Parsons, it all started back in 2011, when Rehtaeh was raped at a party after drinking enough vodka to throw up out a window. Photos were taken — because, based on recent events, Instagramming rape ranks somewhere between playing video games and taking bong hits on the list of most delightful teenage pastimes — then circulated. The cyber-bullying followed. “She walked into the school and everyone started calling her a slut,” said Parsons.
After a year (!) of investigating, police concluded it was a "he said she said" case and there wasn't enough evidence to press charges. The family also said they were told the photos weren't a criminal issue, even though Rehtaeh was underage.
"We have to deal in facts and not rumors," RCMP Cpl. Scott MacRae told CBC. "We may not be able to go down certain roads because of the tragic circumstance."
"I feel like the door is always open for people to talk to a police agency," he added.
Unless those people are drunk teenage girls who should've known better than to party with boys, right?
The family moved, but Parsons said Rehtaeh couldn't get past what happened because people wouldn't give it up. “She was never left alone," she said. "Her friends turned against her, people harassed her, boys she didn’t know started texting her and Facebooking asking her to have sex with them since she had had sex with their friends. It just never stopped."
Rehtaeh admitted herself to the hospital in March because of suicidal thoughts. She tried to kill herself on Thursday and was put on life support, then taken off on Sunday.
“I think she would have had some satisfaction that it was real [if there were charges], because no one believed her,” Parsons said.
We don't know why some teenagers are resilient enough to withstand intense bullying and some are not. But we do know that teenage girls are routinely shamed and punished for taking x-rated photos, even though studies show that boys are just as likely to snap dick pics and way more likely to share them around. Nevertheless, PSAs warn girls not to sext instead of telling recipients not to break their trust. It's the exact same double standard that prompts policeman to tell women to avoid dressing like sluts instead of cracking down on rapists — or, as in this case, decide it's too "complicated" to take action when there are photos of a drunk 15-year-old allegedly being raped circulating all over the internet because she chose to drink that vodka, right?
Unless we stop thinking that there are two different kinds of girls and women — those who drink and have sex and therefore kinda sorta maybe deserve to get raped/those who take topless photos of themselves and therefore kinda sorta maybe deserve to have them spread around, and those who don't — nothing will change.