IMPACT

Rehtaeh Parsons Society To Address Cyberbullying, Youth Sexual Violence

11/29/2014 01:40 EST | Updated 01/29/2015 05:59 EST
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HALIFAX - A new organization has been established by the parents of Rehtaeh Parsons to address the prevalence of cyberbullying, youth sexual violence and the distribution of images among young people.

The Rehtaeh Parsons Society will raise money to provide education, skills and tools to help young people.

Leah Parsons and Glen Canning were on hand Saturday to introduce the new initiative during a community information session held at a church in suburban Halifax.

Parsons told the gathering that it's been an emotional struggle since her daughter's death.

But she said things such as the support she gets from people in the community and the work that will be done by the society help keep her from being consumed by her grief.

"Every time I feel I want to close in and just shut the world off . . . I'll get a message from somebody saying how much Rehtaeh has inspired them to do better," said Parsons.

Parsons and Canning say their 17-year-old daughter was driven to suicide by relentless cyberbullying.

Rehtaeh Parsons was taken off life-support in April 2013 after a suicide attempt.

In an interview, Canning said the society has come about because his daughter's story has such resonance with the public.

He said it will operate on a not-for-profit basis and will be overseen by an eight member board of directors.

Canning said the goal is to turn words into action in the form of a "people focused" community advocacy group.

"Going by the support we have we just don't want to let that go by the wayside," he said. "We want to really turn it into something positive in memory of Rehtaeh."

Canning said the group hopes to speak for those who are abused through sexual violence and will act as an information resource to help victims get the proper help.

He said the society also hopes to help qualified non-profit organizations across Canada that have demonstrated progressive treatment and initiatives toward victims.

Canning said the society will also look to develop various programs such as animal and art therapy.

Last month, Leah Parsons endorsed new teaching material that was introduced by the Canadian Centre for Child Protection in Winnipeg.

The curriculum, which is available to all teachers across Canada, is aimed at kids in Grades 7 through 10. It was funded by a $100,000 gift from the federal government to mark the birth of Prince George of Cambridge.

If the consequences of cyberbullying had been openly discussed in schools, Parsons said in Winnipeg that her daughter's tormentors might have thought twice.