A Canadian teen who had endured more than a year of bullying, both online and off, has died. Rehtaeh Parsons had been hospitalized on life support since last Thursday, the result of a suicide attempt. Her family chose to remove life support and end what had become an increasingly unendurable life for the 17 year old.
Leah Parsons said she called to her daughter who was in the bathroom. After receiving no response to repeated calls, she forced her way in and found Rehtaeh hanging from the bathroom door. She was quickly transported to a local hospital where she was kept on life support until Sunday when the decision was made by her family to let her go.
According to the family, the teenager from Halifax, Nova Scotia never recovered from an alleged abuse and an endless barrage of bullying that came in its wake. She struggled with depression and coping emotionally with the messages and texts she received from friends and strangers. The family withdrew her from school in Cole Harbour and relocated to Halifax in an attempt to leave the harassment behind. The harassment continued and took its toll on Rehtaeh. “Every text, every negative thing she would read to me. It was hard. She tried and she kept trying… She was never left alone. Her friends turned against her, people harassed her, boys she didn’t know started texting her. It just never stopped,” said Leah Parsons. Rehtaeh even checked herself into a hospital for several weeks last March due to deep depression and suicidal thoughts stemming from this bullying.
The story starts back in 2011 when Rehtaeh was just 15. She and a girlfriend were to meet some other youths at a house for a social gathering. It turned out that the other kids were four boys. It was apparently decided among the youths (all under 18) that they would start drinking vodka straight. Rehtaeh’s girlfriend decided to head home leaving Rehtaeh alone with the boys. At this point in the night things got fuzzy for Rehtaeh who said she remembered at one point throwing up out of a window. The four boys then allegedly abused her and took pictures. One of the pictures “… began to circulate in her school and community three days later.” At that point Rehtaeh confessed to her mother what had happened that night and the authorities and emergency health services were contacted.
A yearlong investigation was conducted but ended without any charges being filed. The police told the family that it boiled down to a “he said, she said” situation and there was just not enough evidence to lay charges. Even though she was underage when the photos were taken, there was nothing that could be legally done about it. Cpl. Scott MacRae, a spokesman for the police explained: “In consultation with the crown, the decision was made that there was insufficient evidence to proceed with charges.” “There are factors in determining other than the picture itself; ages, who sent the material, computers, so it’s complex,” MacRae said. “We do understand people want the answers and the big question here is why was it done or why weren’t there charges and we understand that. We’re not trying to deflect blame or not be accountable.”
The family now struggles with accepting what happened to Rehtaeh—how a happy and promising life could so quickly spiral downward, pushed to the ultimate depth by others without any justice or accountability. Leah Parsons created a memorial page for Rehtaeh on Facebook to help in the grieving and coping process. The page reads, “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.”