Rehtaeh Parsons march marks anniversary of her death
Father says progress made on cyberbullying, but more work needed on sexual violence
More than 150 people marched in Cole Harbour, N.S., Saturday to remember Rehtaeh Parsons, the 17-year-old whose death a year ago Monday made international headlines and prompted new laws cracking down on cyberbullying.
Marchers braved wind and rain to carry signs that read, "Silence is not consent," and, "Drunk or drugged, no consent."
"That's what keeps us going, is the support in the community," said Parsons’ mother, Leah Parsons. "I didn't know how many people would show up because it’s raining and it’s a long walk… I was very pleased with the turnout."
Glen Canning, Parson's father, says he’s touched by how many people came out in support and that his daughter’s death has helped change the public’s attitude to cyberbullying.
He said Marvel Comics and Disney have reached out to the family with an idea to turn Parsons into a comic book character that can help teach young people.
"To have her remembered like that… I think she would be really pleased with that," Canning said. "I’m very happy about it and I think it’s an honour."
He said young people are now speaking up when they spot cases of cyberbullying. But he said more work needs to be done to reduce the shame associated with being sexually assaulted.
Many of Parsons’ friends attended the march. They say they remain upset, but also proud of her.
"The difference that she made, and the inspiration with the laws changing, and the difference around the world that she’s inspiring," Susan Rebecca said.
Parsons had told her family she’d been sexually assaulted by several boys at a party and that a photo of the incident was circulated online.
Police did not lay any charges at the time. Last year Parsons attempted suicide, and died in hospital a few days later.
Police later reopened their investigation and have charged two teens. One is accused of creating and distributing child pornography, the other of distributing child pornography.
Canning said the next problem to tackle is the low rate of sexual assault victims who come forward. He said too many feel ashamed or don’t believe they will be trusted.
He said his daughter did what many teenage girls do — go to a sleepover. He said someone arrived with alcohol and his daughter was preyed upon.
"It’s not what she did that’s the problem, it’s what somebody else did that’s the problem," Canning said. "But our reaction to it has to start with believing her."
Since her death, the Nova Scotia government has created a special cyberbullying investigation unit. It has also brought in new legislation that allows victims to sue cyberbullies.
The federal government has also introduced legislation that makes it a crime to distribute intimate images without the consent of the person in those pictures.