Rehtaeh Parsons to be remembered with vigils and protest
Police calling for calm as thousands express shock
People in Halifax are planning two vigils to pay tribute to Rehtaeh Parsons, a teenager who died after a suicide attempt. Her mother said her death followed an alleged rape and months of cyberbullying.
No charges have been laid in the case.
Rehtaeh’s death has angered many people in the community, including Gay MacKay, whose daughter goes to Cole Harbour High, the same school that Rehtaeh attended.
"She doesn’t want to go to school anymore," MacKay said of her daughter. "She knows who these people are who pushed her to die."
MacKay wants to see justice served. She’s planning a candlelight vigil in Cole Harbour Friday night in Rehtaeh’s memory.
"I just want her mother to see that there are people who may not know her directly, but there are people that love her and support her mother. I want to show that support because I’m sorry, 17 years old and she’s not coming back," MacKay said.
Another vigil is planned in Halifax’s Victoria Park. It’s expected to start at 7 p.m. Thursday night.
Meanwhile, the online hacking group Anonymous is taking a different approach. It’s calling for people to hold a peaceful demonstration outside police headquarters to demand justice this weekend.
The call for justice have prompted the RCMP to warn against vigilante action.
Experts say more needs to be done
Like many others, Irene Smith has been touched by the Rehtaeh Parsons story.
Smith is the executive director of the Avalon Sexual Assault Centre in Halifax. She calls this situation a wake-up call.
Where to call for help
Kids Help Phone: 1-800-668-6868
N.S. Mental Heath Mobile Crisis Team: 1-888-429-8167
"Many, many young people that come through our doors report the same thing," she said. "This is not an isolated incident."
In Nova Scotia, specially trained nurses are only available in Halifax and Antigonish. From March 2011 to March 2012, those nurses saw 119 sexual assault cases in Halifax. Of those, 63 per cent were women between the ages of 13 and 25.
Smith said the assaults often involve alcohol and multiple perpetrators. She said many assaults are witnessed and photographed, which often leads to the harassment and re-victimization of the victim.
Smith said there’s a need for more specially trained nurses through the province.
"I do hear reports across the province about patients not getting appropriate care just simply because of lack of resources and lack of training. Not because staff don’t care."
Health Minister Dave Wilson said he is confident in the level of care people receive outside of Halifax and Antigonish.
"We have a lot of dedicated health care professionals on all levels who, through their training, know how to deal with someone who has been sexually assaulted," he said.
Wilson said he is looking at how to expand the program across Nova Scotia.