The case involving three U.S. teens arrested for sexual battery last week against a 15-year-old girl from California who took her own life is eerily similar to the tragedy involving Nova Scotia teen Rehtaeh Parsons, says attorney Robert Allard.
Allard represents the family of Audrie Pott. A week after the California teen was allegedly sexually assaulted while passed out at a party seven months ago, and after humiliating pictures were posted online, Pott hanged herself.
The three 16-year-old boys accused in the assault on the San Jose teen were arrested on Thursday.
Allard said the similarities between Audrie and Rehtaeh are undeniable.
'The boys savagely took advantage of her while she had no ability to defend herself and then what happened afterwards may have been worse. They rubbed her nose in it ...'—Robert Allard, lawyer
"The parallels are right there. The power that these children have with simply a phone to take pictures and to send messages and to record things, it’s immense. These kids have to be educated as to the power of pressing a button. You can destroy someone’s life, especially someone susceptible to emotional injury as teenagers are," he told CBC's Norma Lee MacLeod of Maritime Noon.
"The boys savagely took advantage of her while she had no ability to defend herself and then what happened afterwards may have been worse. They rubbed her nose in it effectively by spreading around at least one photograph of the assault taking place and various taunting messages about what happened."
Rehtaeh,17, was taken off life support on Sunday following a suicide attempt. Her mother, Leah Parsons, alleges Rehtaeh was raped by four boys who took photos of the incident, which were circulated online, sparking bullying and harassment.
Where to call for help
Kids Help Phone: 1-800-668-6868
N.S. Mental Heath Mobile Crisis Team: 1-888-429-8167
No charges have been laid in Rehtaeh’s case. Nova Scotia Premier Darrell Dexter has ordered four government departments to look into her death.
Initially, provincial Justice Minister Ross Landry said his department couldn't second-guess every police investigation, but later said he was giving officials in his department approval to review the case, and present him with options by the end of the week.
Landry also said he's considering new laws when it comes to allegations of sexual assault and distribution of child pornography.
Allard said Audrie’s parents want to ensure that nothing like this happens to anyone else’s child by changing the law.
"The parents are committed to establishing Audrie’s law and what we intend to do, it’s early, but we will seek to strengthen the sexual assault laws so that when juveniles like this commit a crime this atrocious, they are held to the standard of an adult," said Allard.
"And number two, to strengthen penalties for cyberbullying that when people invade someone’s privacy in such a manner as here, that there are penalties for that, perhaps even imprisonment. Maybe with those measures in place it will make it safer for kids to do what they need to do which is to develop without this sort of thing."
Rehtaeh's funeral is to be held Saturday.