Sunday, April 14th marked ten years since the night I was raped. I'd been dreading that bizarre anniversary like the plague. I didn't really understand what I was supposed to do or how I was supposed to feel. So what did I end up doing on my "anniversary"? My boyfriend made bacon pancakes, we went to the mall, watched TV... So really it was like any other Sunday, although this time I was hyperaware of my gratefulness for every moment of it. I mourn for Rehtaeh Parsons, Audrie Pott, and all the other girls who did not have that same luxury. We need to realize that rape is a crime and stop making excuses for criminals. If we don't we are going to continue to disappoint countless young women to death.
This week, it seemed the entire country was focused on the suicide of Nova Scotia teen Rehtaeh Parsons. The alleged conscienceless cruelties that now seem inextricably linked to her death have disgusted and sickened so many that Rehtaeh may one day be remembered as the young woman who made us confront our shameful moral and legal deficits -- and do better. Blogger Anne Therriault wrote that when she read Rehtaeh Parsons' story, she couldn't help but wonder, "Where the f**k were all the grownups?" It's a very good question. One that we should keep asking loudly and often.
The story of Rehtaeh Parsons, a 17-year-old from Nova Scotia who hanged herself on April 4, a year and a half after being raped, is disturbingly familiar. And there were bystanders, plenty of bystanders, who had any number of opportunities to step in and do something, but none of them did. And, in many ways, you are one of these bystanders, too. I am, too. We all are.
We, as a society, recoil in horror at such tragedies, but fail to see the triggers that normalize violence against women. We shrug them off as unrelated. But they're not. Just like 17-year-old Halifax student Rehtaeh Parsons must have done something to bring on what happened to her, when she went to a friend's house 17 months ago (only 15 at the time) and was raped by four young boys. Four young boys who, not only violated her, but then decided it would be hysterically funny to take pictures of her and distribute them at her school and her community. The victim-blaming culture that we live in, the fallout was inevitable.