A 17-year-old Canadian girl died Sunday, days after she attempted suicide following two years of what her mother described as near-constant bullying by classmates.
In November 2011, when Rehtaeh Parsons was just 15, the Nova Scotia girl got extremely drunk after consuming vodka at a party. According to the girl’s mother, she was raped by four teenage boys, one of whom snapped a picture of Rehtaeh being assaulted, CBC News reported.
Ultimately, police said, there was not enough evidence to bring charges in connection with the girl’s alleged rape. This image was taken from a Facebook page created by Parsons’ mother called “Angel Rehtaeh.”
That photo quickly circulated among Parsons’ classmates, sealing a fate as cruel as the crime her mother says she endured at the party. Many at her school branded her “a slut,” her mother said.
“She was never left alone. She had to leave the community. Her friends turned against her. People harassed her. Boys she didn’t know started texting her and Facebooking her asking her to have sex with them. It just never stopped,” Leah Parsons told the CBC.
An image of Rehtaeh Parsons and her mother posted on Facebook. Parsons hung herself after being gang-raped and repeatedly bullied, her family said.
Ashamed and distraught, Parsons let a week pass before she told her mother what had happened. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police were eventually called, and although an investigation was launched into the incident, Parsons and her mother were told that there was not enough evidence to charge the boys.
“[The police] said that they would go talk to them and that [the boys] realized what they did was wrong, but [there was] nothing they could do, criminally,” Leah Parsons told the CBC radio program “Maritime Noon.” “It was a slap in the face.”
Meanwhile, at school and online, the taunting didn’t stop, and eventually the family moved from Cole Harbour to Halifax.
A photo of Parsons being assaulted spread among her classmates, prompting taunting, her family says.
The trauma of what happened followed the girl, however, and Parsons was shadowed by what her mother called “depression and anger” over her being ostracized and bullied. Plagued by thoughts of suicide, Parsons checked herself into the hospital in March.
Just days after being released, Parsons tried hanging herself in the bathroom of her home last Thursday.
“By the time I broke into the bathroom it was too late,” Leah Parsons wrote on a Facebook page she started in tribute to her daughter. “My beautiful girl had hung herself and was rushed to the hospital where she remained on life support until last night.”
In a final wrenching decision, Rehtaeh’s mother removed her from life support on Sunday.
“She made my life complete,” Leah Parsons wrote. “When Rehtaeh was born I dedicated everything to her and promised her the world. Others in this world took that away from her.”