Most of what you are about to read was written months ago. Some of it by me, and some of it by a person who I will not name for legal reasons. This information came forward following the death of my daughter and it is the main reason her case was reopened. As much as possible, I'm not going to elaborate on it. I will leave out names, other than Rehtaeh's, and information that could cause her mother or our family distress.
I truly hope you read this with an open mind and just try to forget everything you know or think you know about this case. When you're finished you can conclude for yourself if you believe my daughter was telling the truth when she told the police she was raped.
Before I go into the details that came out after her death, I want to start by adding what I recall of the days prior to her going to a sleepover in Eastern Passage in November 2011.
It was the Wednesday before and Rehtaeh was sitting in my car in front of her house. She lived with her mom in Cole Harbour. School was going well and she was making new friends. She mentioned to me she was going to spend a night in Eastern Passage at a friend's house. This was a new friend and like any father I had some questions: did she trust her friend? Would her friend watch out for her? The usual father stuff that made me think of my dad's questions to me many years ago.
I'll never forget the following week. I was sitting on a plane at Halifax's International Airport waiting to fly home to visit my mother in Ottawa when Rehtaeh's text messages starting coming in. She begged me for help. Begged me to let her move in with me in Halifax. She couldn't say why. The plane began to move on the tarmac. I told her I'd call as soon as I could.
Why she sent those messages, I learned from her mom once I was back in Halifax. Rehtaeh had been raped.
So here is what happened to my daughter that November night in Eastern Passage. This account is partly hers. The parts she doesn't remember are attributed to a first hand witness. Someone who was there, in the house, and saw everything.
When the weekend came, Rehtaeh headed to Eastern Passage for the sleepover. Her girlfriend suggested they visit some people she knew, two teenaged boys who lived close by and also went to their high school. They walked over and hung out with them for a bit when two other boys arrived. Someone got their hands on some alcohol, a bottle of vodka. They passed it around and Rehtaeh drank some.
As anyone can attest, people her age are a poor judge of how much they can drink and it wasn't long before the intoxicating effects took over. Rehtaeh thought she had nine shots. Much of the night is a blur. She remembered drinking, two of the boys walking her upstairs, hanging out a window getting sick, being naked. She remembers saying no. She recalled them taking turns on top of her.
She doesn't remember much else. Small details, segments here and there. Nothing in a second bedroom except waking there the next morning. The rest of what happened that night was revealed a year and a half later, right after she died. It came in a series of messages over Facebook to Rehtaeh's mother, Leah. It was there for a few moments, then the account it came from was deleted. Thankfully Leah had the foresight to screen capture it and call the police.
By the time Rehtaeh started to vomit she had already been stripped of most of her clothes. Two of the boys, the older ones, had walked her to an upstairs bedroom and removed her pants. When it appeared she was going to get sick they hung her out a window so she wouldn't make a mess in the room. (Rehtaeh had recalled to us that she had banged her head on the windowsill as they pushed her out to vomit.)
She was sick for five minutes before the boys debated who was going to go first. The older one took his turn while she threw up. Then the second boy went ahead and told the older one to take a picture using his cell phone.
Rae, still vomiting and hurting from banging her head, recalled a flash going off. She also recalled one of the boys saying "Stick it in her ass!" before the photo was taken. The boy raping Rehtaeh posed and gave a thumbs up. The photo was taken like it was a typical Facebook photo, just some kids having fun. They gave no thought at all to her. Thumbs up.
She would be haunted by that photograph and what it meant until her last breath.
Once the two boys were done they carried her over and laid her on the bed to sleep.
At one point during the assault the girlfriend who came with her appeared at the door and got angry at Rae. Both of the boys in the room were ex-boyfriends. It was, to her, a betrayal. She left and returned later with her mother and they tried to get Rehtaeh to leave with them but, given her state, that didn't happen (Rehtaeh never recalled her friend showing up in the bedroom). So the girl and her mother left.
Left her there alone, passed out, in a house with four teenage boys. Two of whom had already raped her while she threw up. No one called her parents.
It was now getting late and Rehtaeh needed to be moved to a spare bedroom so the two older boys had the two younger ones help them carry her. She woke up briefly and punched one of them in the face. Once in the other room one of the boys asked the others to leave the room. When he emerged 20 minutes later it was with a smirk on his face.
The other boy, the one in the photo, had a curfew and had to leave. He said his goodbyes and went home. The next day he called and was told that the two others who were there and helped carry Rehtaeh to the spare room had sex with her as well. Four of them did that night. Two while she was throwing up sick, and two while she was attempting to sleep in the second bedroom. She recalled none of the assaults in the second bedroom.
Those are the details that came forward after her death. I don't understand how anyone can read that account and think this was consensual sex. Or that it's a case of regret. Or that my daughter was a "slut" and only came up with the rape story after the photo was passed around. After the photo was circulated, she had a complete nervous breakdown, not a regret.
Rehtaeh woke up the next morning between the younger boys. One of them was feeling her breasts. She asked for a cigarette, they talked for bit, and she took a bus home. She had very little recollection of what had happened to her. She told her mom later something was wrong in her pants. She also showed her mother bruises on her hip and on her wrists.
Up until that night Rehtaeh had been intimate with only one boy. She told her mother everything, including that. I guess that really doesn't account for anything.
What counts for me at this point is setting the record straight the best I can. I wasn't there. I know that's what people will think.
But most of the details you've just read came from someone who was there.
So I want to set the record straight by publishing a portion of his version. The version that was sent to Rehtaeh's mom after her death.
It started with messages on Facebook. Pleas for understanding and a chance to explain. Leah refused to answer. She told him that if he had anything to say he could say it on Facebook to her inbox. So he did.
He told her everything he knew. He said Rehtaeh seemed fine with everything. He stated she gave permission even when she was throwing up and that she was willing even though they had to carry her around and dress her when they were finished. He said he didn't want to live with the title of 'rapist' and that it was the most hurtful thing he could imagine. He said he was sorry, and that he cried when he found out Rehtaeh had died.
He said he regrets giving a thumbs up and smiling as the photo was taken.
He said that picture ruined his life.
It ended my daughter's.
Florida 2004 (from Facebook)
From Facebook: Thank You Richard for sending me this photo...I did not have this class picture of me in grade six but as soon as I saw it I recalled the year and the principal in the back Mr Gallagher. I was starting to become more girlish looking and developing into a young lady (far left front) and a group of boys that were friends since 1st grade noticed the changes and suddenly were grabbing me inappropriately when I was walking the hallways. I told Mr Gallagher, he pulled each boy into his office and I never knew what he said but those boys never touched me or said another word about it. Mr Gallagher, where ever you are I thank you and I never forgot how you stood up for me.
Today on Father's Day remembering the love of a father and daughter. (Glen and Rehtaeh)
These are photos of Halifax teenager <a href="http://thechronicleherald.ca/metro/1122345-who-failed-rehtaeh-parsons" target="_hplink">Rehtaeh Parsons, who was the victim of an alleged gang rape and an online bullying campaign</a> over the last few months. Her mother, Leah Parsons, posted the images and her daughter's tragic story on <a href="https://www.facebook.com/pages/Angel-Rehtaeh/352644484835299?fref=ts" target="_blank">a Facebook memorial page</a>.
Follow Glen Canning on Twitter: www.twitter.com/GlenfordCanning