THE BLOG
04/07/2018 18:13 EDT | Updated 04/07/2018 18:17 EDT

5 Years Later, Rehtaeh's Tragedy Is A Story Of Hope

Since 2013, victims of sexual assault turned their whispered voices into powerful movements around the world. That is Rae's legacy.

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Five years isn't a very long time when you live under the umbrella of loss and grief. I wanted to write something to honour the memory of my daughter Rehtaeh on the fifth anniversary of her death, but words fail me. What can I say that I haven't said before?

Things have changed since 2013. Victims of sexual assault turned their stories and whispered voices into a raging chorus that became a powerful movement. The cries of justice for one became the rallying cry for many with #BeenRapedNeverReported, #TimesUp and #MeToo. A movement born from a long chain of awful stories and shattered lives.

Somewhere in that chain is a link with Rehtaeh's name on it. That is her legacy.

A lot of people and voices helped mould that link. Rae would be 22 years old today. To honour her today, I picked 22 messages from the thousands we've received from all over the world.

This is the legacy of Rehtaeh Parsons. These are the voices that speak for her.

"We have heard repeatedly from people who have been sexually victimized that Rehtaeh gave them their voices back. People who have never before felt compelled to disclose are now coming forward because it may help some other person and to end the shame and silence surrounding victims. We have heard from other families how you and Leah and your families have inspired, supported, and motivated them to take action in support of their children."

Avalon Sexual Assault Centre

"This is our world, our culture and our responsibility. Rehtaeh's death and its aftermath have made headlines, but her story isn't unique. We can't undo what happened to Rehtaeh. But we can work to prevent it from happening to another girl. We can't prevent Rehtaeh's rape, but we can educate the boys in our lives about consent, decency and respect."

— Emily Lindin, The UnSlut Project

"I work as a volunteer with the Ottawa Coalition to End Violence Against Women. I joined in memory of Rehtaeh."

"I really wanted to let you know that Rehtaeh's story was my final push to go into policing and specialize in sexual assault."

THE CANADIAN PRESS
A woman holds a photo as several hundred people attend a community vigil to remember Rehtaeh Parsons at Victoria Park in Halifax on April 11, 2013.

"I am writing this letter to you to say thank you. I am a heart transplant recipient. I was diagnosed with Idiopathic Cardiac Myopathy — heart failure. I was only 17 years old. It all seemed like a bad dream. My family and friends were scared because I almost died. Fortunately for me, I received a new heart. Thank you and thank you for your loved one. Eventually I'll be able to do the things that I used to do and will strive to realize my dreams. It has given me a chance to live."

"Hi Glen, This time of year comes with some heavy weight for me personally; and I know it does for you and your family as well. My twin brother is alive today because of the tragic passing of your daughter Rehtaeh. (Rehtaeh's) kidney was the gift of life to my brother. I just want to reach out and say a million thank yous..."

"The spark of this program was ignited when Rehtaeh Parsons took her life in April of 2013 at the age of 17. At the news of her death, (we) asked how we could contribute by planting seeds of love, respect and empowerment in the soil of her life's legacy. This program is the answer to that question."

— Jenny Kierstead, founder of Girl on Fire

"I thought I was alone. Until one day I heard of Rehtaeh's tragedy. The world stopped for a few moments. I wasn't alone in all of this. I wasn't crazy."

"My wife and I were absolutely heartbroken at your daughter's story. We do our best to stop harassment in all forms when we see it. People don't seem to understand how deadly serious the outcome can be."

"We hold your daughter very tightly in all of our hearts and couldn't imagine the pain she went through. She's one of our heroes and gives us massive motivation to push this movement ahead at light speed."

THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Facebook
Rehtaeh Parsons is shown in a handout photo from the Facebook tribute page "Angel Rehtaeh."

"Rehtaeh is why I write about feminism. I could relate with her (I was the same age)..."

"Just saw the story about Rehtaeh on TV in Australia. Horrific. This could have been me..."

"Rehtaeh is why I stayed in university and changed my direction to studying law. I want to be a lawyer. I want to help people like her."

"I was a victim of assault, and your daughter's story was always one that pushed me through the gruelling court case that ensued. Every time I get deeply depressed or want to give up, I think about everyone who did not make it to this step and I do whatever it takes to keep going for them."

"Even in death, your daughter is bigger. I held on to my mental health — at times by a very thin thread — and focused on my own daughter, kept a picture of Rehtaeh by my bed, stabilized my life and got to work. Always know that (Rehtaeh) got me through some very hard points in this journey, even if we are virtual strangers."

More from HuffPost Canada:


"I'm a survivor of rape, and last year my younger sister ended her life after being harassed online. I found it very healing to hear about Rehtaeh's story. Her story has reached across the globe."

"Rehtaeh's story is being shared here in the States. I know for a fact she is making a difference although she isn't here."

"I'm president of [a campus society]. Rehtaeh's story moved me to tears, so we pushed for a consent-ed policy that was passed. I'm telling you this because it passed in memory of Rehtaeh."

"Although you've probably been told this many times — Rehtaeh's story has motivated me to make a lifelong commitment to always stick up for people who are wrongly treated. I know that I will always think of Rehtaeh and think of her spirit with love."

"Someone in my family was a victim of sexual assault. Rehtaeh's story represents us all."

"Just want to let you know that Rehtaeh has changed the world for the better and many. Many of us are thinking of her."

"Every time I hear about a girl being bullied, I talk about your daughter. I'm pretty hard-hearted, but her tragedy will always tear my eyes. Her death wasn't in vain. She's done an incredible amount of good. She's changed the way bullying is looked at."

For everyone who has helped turn the story of Rehtaeh's tragedy into a story of hope, thank you. You have made a difference.