What happened in Halifax is but an example of what's wrong with our criminal justice system - it turns "sexual assault" into "sex" and debates consent the entire trial while not once stopping to ask, "Does it make sense to anyone that this woman, in this state, would consent to having sex with anyone, let alone a total stranger?" Judge Gregory Lenehan believed it made sense and, in essence, gave consent on a young woman's behalf to something she doesn't even remember.
For me, when I was seventeen, I stood in our garage and looked around to see which beam would hold my weight. I don't know what stopped me. I've thought of suicide since Rehtaeh's death. Being in love has seen me through. If you're a young person dealing with thoughts of suicide, please know -- tomorrow is worth sticking around for. Tomorrow will be better and this will pass. Tomorrow needs you. Find something to hold on to. A pet. A garden. Wanting to see a movie. Find something to hold onto and know life is worth sticking around for. This will pass. You'll be OK. In your darkest moment, say to yourself, "Not today. Tomorrow needs me. I need to see what it brings." Tomorrow needs you. We all need you.
One of the best ways to shape a young person's mentality is to elicit an emotional response. While this tactic has been expertly employed in public health campaigns, it's rarely applied to sexual education. When it comes to consent, we simply don't teach real-life, visceral examples that could lessen the number of teens who go on to commit these crimes.
In the past three years I've learned that the most powerful tool to combat violence against women could very well be the minds of young men. I've learned that if we don't fill those minds with examples of virtue, empathy, affection, tolerance, trust, kindness, courage, and bravery, then those minds will end up being filled with ignorance, racism, sexism, hate, and anger. What would have happened to Rehtaeh Parsons if just one of the boys with her that night was informed about consent and his role in preventing sexual violence?
When Lindin was 11, she was branded a "slut" by her classmates and was bullied at school, after school and online. During all this, she kept a regular diary. Now a Harvard graduate pursuing her Ph.D. in California, Emily started The UnSlut Project by blogging her own middle school diaries.
No question from my oldest daughter has torn more at my heart. A discussion about never taking rides with strangers unexpectedly morphed into a talk about sexual assault. "Mom," she whispered tentatively. "Do you mean that someone can just sneak up and do THAT to me?" My heart lurched into my throat. Until that moment, my bright-eyed daughter lived blissfully unaware of the fact that women can be raped. I was rendered momentarily speechless.
We can start with our own spheres of influence, whether at work, at school or among friends. How will you start the conversation among your friends? What strategies will you use to point out slut-shaming when you see it?
The new romantic comedy Obvious Child is about Donna, a young bawdy comedian who has a one-night-stand and becomes pregnant. Unprepared for parenthood emotionally or financially, she has an abortion at Planned Parenthood. Although Donna and her friends live and breathe four-letter words, there's one they never mention.
This morning I spoke before The House of Commons' Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights and shared my thoughts on Bill C-13. I know there are concerns with C-13 and believe me, if there was something better on the table I'd be all over it. There isn't, not that I can see. Police have to have the ability to act fast when it comes to cyber-crime or their response is pointless. Our children's rights and privacy is already being violated -- violated by some of the sickest people you can imagine. If it's a choice between them and the police I'm siding with the police.
Amanda Todd took her life in 2012 at the age of 15 after being relentlessly blackmailed by a ruthless predator. She deserved a more informed and effective police response than what was offered. She deserved to feel protected. So do all the Canadian kids who are being blackmailed or lured into performing sexual acts on webcam right now.
I am sure many around the world have read the headlines. Never in my wildest dreams would I have ever thought that Amanda's alleged perpetrator would be found in the Netherlands.
Today marks one year since I last saw my daughter Rehtaeh alive. The last time we spoke, the last good bye, and the last "I love you." She got out of my car and walked into her mom's house. On the way home she asked if we could stop at McDonald's. How I wish we did, one last time. Rae passed away April 7, 2013. It's been a year-long nightmare but I try to keep hold of myself. Now that I'm outspoken about our daughter's struggles I've unfortunately attracted the attention of the worst society has to offer. They send messages reminding me Rehtaeh is "worm food," she's dead because I failed as a father. But it's mainly through talking that I've learned the difference Rehtaeh made and the impact she's had on others.
Rapists rely on other men to excuse and justify their crimes against women. Other men who'll laugh at their jokes, invite them to parties, play sports with them, introduce them to other women. Men who'll give them jobs, feed them, and help them blame their victims even if it's by indifference. Men, good men, need to stand up and do to rapists and their supporters what we do to child molesters. Imagine the difference it would make if a man who jokes about rape and always doubts victims entered a room to silence, whispers, stares, and looks of disgust from other men. There is no difference between a man who rapes and a man who befriends and defends him.
If you google the keywords "ugliest woman in the world", an image of Lizzie Velasquez will come up. Lizzie became aware of this in the ugliest manner that any person could discover such a thing; she saw a video with that tagline on YouTube.
Rehtaeh Parsons will live on in the lives of others thanks to the organ donations made after her death. I received a letter from an organ recipient. This unnamed person found out this year they needed a new heart. Their family and friends were scared because they almost died. Then the words hit me, the recipient is "only 17 years old." Rehtaeh's age.
We were horrified to find out that taking a photograph of oneself having sex with an unknowing and unconscious person then texting it out to pretty much everyone she knows wasn't a crime in Canada. Seriously, trust me. It isn't. But now, fortunately, it will be. I am very grateful to hear that Justice Minister Peter MacKay and Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney have announced new legislation that will address this disgusting crime that devastated our daughter Rehtaeh. Now, thanks to this new legislation, ignoring these young victims and their families will no longer be an option.