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.
Rita-Clare LeBlanc had reached the darkest moment of her young life. The months of bullying at her high school had taken a toll and she decided to end her life and become yet another statistic of Nova Scotia's abysmal bullying record. She sat alone in her room and started to swallow her father's blood pressure pills. She was going to take as many as she could before passing out and dying. Fortunately, before the point of no return, her mother walked in and made her throw up the pills. She held her, cried with her, and together they vowed to do whatever it took to put Rita-Clare's promising life back together. Her story sounds so familiar by now.
At present, most people seem to think of physical assault and cyber bullying as being different experiences. However, whether you are punched in the face or humiliated online, if the end result is pain caused by the activation of the same brain regions, then the experiences are not that different.
Yesterday it came to my attention that an image of Rehtaeh appeared on a dating web site ad that was displayed on Facebook. There she was, smiling, and being used yet again. To their credit Facebook removed the ad with un-Facebook-like speed and banned the company that posted it. Sadly this is the reality of life online. Once an image is out there it's out there forever. There's nothing anyone can do but hope those who come across it will use it respectfully. Sadly that wasn't the case here.
Sexualized violence against women is one of the world's most common human rights offenses, and yet from New Delhi to Nova Scotia there is an alarming sentiment that persists: good girls do not get raped. Consequently, the flawed logic train seems to stop at the conclusion that if one is the victim of sexual assault, it is probably because the victim brought it on.
When 80 student leaders (both men and women) at Saint Mary's University stand up to chant an utterly despicable chant about non-consensual sex with minors to a group of 300 freshmen, sorry, but that's crossing the line, and I absolutely fail to see the humour in it. To casually dismiss what happened at SMU as an isolated issue with a flippant shrug of the shoulders is to negate the very real fact that we don't live in a post-feminist world, and there continues to be a very strong link between how women are perceived and the disrespect and violence actively and routinely shown to them in everyday life.
If a situation similar to Rehtaeh Parsons' was brought to my attention, I would immediately put all parties on notice and commence the steps necessary to litigate through the civil justice system. I would do all I could to ensure that rather than feeling powerless, the victim felt empowered.
A tweet by Dr. Phil resulted in a lot of grief for the TV host. It simple asks: "If a girl is drunk, is it OK to have sex with her?" I want to give you the perspective of a father whose daughter was gang-raped while she was intoxicated. Through my eyes, that question isn't really offensive at all. What offends me is the simple fact that in Rehtaeh's case, the answer to the question was, and remains, a sickening "yes." That question needed to be asked, and, sadly, in Nova Scotia, it needs a better answer. I truly hope, for our daughters sake, we get one soon.
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.
Today marks four months since my daughter Rehtaeh ended her life. It's said that losing a child is the hardest thing a person can experience and if there is something worse I can't imagine what it could possibly be. The last four months have been hell peppered with smiles as I think back on memories. I cherish those when they come, even if they last for only a moment. This is the hardest thing I have ever faced. This is an ocean of grief. I'm treading water in a tidal wave of pain, disbelief, anger, sadness, waves and waves of heartache.
You see, we've always dreamed that one day, when we left our high school hallways, we'd be free of certain painful things like standardized tests, Chaucer, and...slut-shaming. You brought us back to a heartbreaking, frustrating reality.
After going to a party a 15-year-old girl from Nova Scotia was "dragged outside" by several boys and performed oral sex on one of them, while another filmed it all happening. Since April, the federal and provincial government have been taking steps to make amendments to the law so these situations don't happen again. But are they being enacted quickly enough?