Brace yourselves, this is an unbearable story.
A 17-year-old Nova Scotia girl named Rehtaeh Parsons hung herself in her family’s bathroom last week. Her family pulled her life support on Sunday after she fell into a coma. She took her own life after pictures of her allegedly being gang raped at the age of 15 were distributed online by her classmates, leading to relentless bullying. Authorities say they did not charge the alleged perpetrators due to a lack of sufficient evidence.
Rehtaeh even changed schools to get away from the cyber bullying. Rehtaeh’s mother’s wrote on a Facebook memorial page for her daughter:
“One of those boys took a photo of her being raped and decided it would be fun to distribute the photo to everyone in Rehtaeh’s school and community where it quickly went viral… Rehtaeh was suddenly shunned by almost everyone she knew, the harassment was so bad she had to move out of her own community to try to start anew in Halifax.”
Wednesday morning, the cavalry for bullied rape victims arrived as Anonymous initiated #OpJustice4Rehtaeh, and they have already identified two of the four alleged rapists (minor edits for space):
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
3.Anonymous engaged #OpJustice4Rataeh this morning in response to the suicide of Rehtaeh Parsons. Justice Minister Ross Landy says that it is important for Nova Scotians to have faith in their justice system. Mr. Landy, justice is in your hands.
5.Anonymous has confirmed the identities of two of the four alleged rapists. We are currently confirming a third and it is only a matter of time before the fourth is identified as well.
7.Our demands are simple: We want the N.S. RCMP to take immediate legal action against the individuals in question. We encourage you to act fast. If we were able to locate these boys within 2 hours, it will not be long before someone else finds them.
9.We do not approve of vigilante justice as the media claims. That would mean we approve of violent actions against these rapists at the hands of an unruly mob. What we want is justice. And That’s your job. So do it.
The names of the rapists will be kept until it is apparent you have no intention of providing justice to Retaeh’s family. Please be aware that there are other groups of Anons also attempting to uncover this information and they may not to wish to wait at all. Better act fast.
Be aware that we will be organizing large demonstrations outside of your headquarters. The rapists will be held accountable for their actions. You will be held accountable for your failure to act.
That is all
– We Are Anonymous.
The Corrupt Fear Us.
The Honest Support Us.
The Heroic Join Us.
It takes Anonymous threatening law enforcement in order for them to step up for justice? This is further suggestion of the rape culture we’ve most recently seen in Steubenville. It’s not as if Anonymous goes running around making accusations like this without due diligence. In a recent case in Torrington Torrington, Connecticut, they were the first to say, “this isn’t Steubenville”, and so long as the adults were doing their best to address the rape, Anonymous wouldn’t interfere.
According to Buzzfeed, officials investigated and determined that there was not enough evidence to proceed:
The RCMP (Royal Canadian Mounted Police) investigation took a year, said Parsons.
RCMP spokesman Cpl. Scott MacRae confirmed the police are now investigating a sudden death involving a young person.
“An investigation into an earlier sexual assault was completed, and in consultation with the Crown, there was insufficient evidence to lay charges,” MacRae said.
Yet, the cyberbullying continued and it’s logical to presume there was ample evidence of that, as the young girl was getting text messages and other ugly smears sent to her, calling her a “slut” and asking her if she wanted to have sex (note: gang rape is not “having sex”; it’s a violent act of aggression, not a sexual act of desire).
Rehtaeh’s mother said the alleged rapists, the bullies and the system all let her daughter down, writing on the Facebook memorial, “Rehtaeh is gone today because of The four boys that thought that raping a 15yr old girl was OK and to distribute a photo to ruin her spirit and reputation would be fun. Secondly, All the bullying and messaging and harassment that never let up are also to blame. Lastly, the justice system failed her. Those are the people that took the life of my beautiful girl.”
Anonymous is not acting as vigilantes; rather they are serving as a check and balance on the abuse of power seen in the repeated silencing of rape cases. Anonymous is not saying these suspects are guilty; they are saying file some charges, do some investigating — they need some sign that the authorities are taking this seriously.
No matter how you feel about Anonymous, it should give everyone pause that too many legal systems repeatedly ignore victims of rape, and leave them to be shunned and shamed by a society eager to protect the perpetrators. The same system does nothing until the cavalry of Anonymous rides in to stir up some justice.
Justice is what the system is supposed to be delivering. Instead, too often they leave it to Anonymous.
Anonymous set a deadline for officials and the alleged perpetrators. Tick tock.
Ms. Jones is the editor-in-chief of PoliticusUSA and a member of the White House press pool.
Sarah hosts Politicus News and co-hosts Politicus Radio. Her analysis has been featured on several national radio, television news programs and talk shows, and print outlets including Stateside with David Shuster, as well as The Washington Post, The Atlantic Wire, CNN, MSNBC, The Week, The Hollywood Reporter, and more.
Sarah is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists.