News broke today of Rehtaeh Parson’s death; another teenage suicide in a long list of teenage suicides that continue to shock us all, but sadly never result in any change.
This time, a 17 year girl from Cole Harbour who was the victim of rape, and then subsequent bullying due to the unbelievably arrogant distribution of photos of the rape, saw suicide as the only way to silence the noise.
Two years ago, Rehtaeh – like most teenagers at some point in their lives – attended a party and drank too much. When she lost her cognition to the alcohol, the vultures moved in. Four boys her own age who, through a combination of misguided parenting and an inflated sense of ego, decided she was no longer entitled to her dignity. They raped her. And they photographed the rape. And then they distributed that photograph to a few, who then shared with the many.
She was bullied. Attacked. Ridiculed. Scorned. Shunned. And eventually fled the quiet town of Cole Habour for the bigger city of Halifax in an attempt to leave it all behind her.
But victims rarely escape the demons that take hold as a result of rape. And Rehtaeh’s demons didn’t take long to appear and eventually force her into a locked bathroom where she subsequently hung herself.
But what is even more catastrophic is the undeniable reality here: No matter what we teach, we cannot seem to escape this mindset that girls who put themselves into this position are “asking for it”. Blame the victim…because, hey….boys will be boys.
The mere fact that these four boys took a photo of her and shared it highlights this mindset that it is OK to violate her. Most logically-thinking people wouldn’t take a photo of a crime they committed and then distribute it. The problem here is, these boys didn’t think they were doing anything wrong.
And herein lies our issue.
When I was 15 years old, boys my age were sneaking their dad’s Playboy magazines into their bedrooms. Aside from the conservative teachings in high school and perhaps a quick chat about the birds and the bees with an uncomfortable parent, this was where the vast majority of their sex education came from. Pretty harmless stuff in today’s world when you consider what the Internet is serving up and how easy it is for children to access. In plain English, the average age of exposure to hardcore pornography today is 11. And let’s not bullshit ourselves, hardcore pornography is rarely putting women into a respectful light.
So your sons are growing up with full access to a continuous flow of pornography that highlights the degradation of women. (And before you start emailing me, I’m not implying that ALL porn degrades women. And I’m not implying that women are absolved from all responsibility when it does.)
And yet we step back in horror and wonder how four 15 year old boys can think it’s perfectly OK to rape and photograph the rape and share the photographs of the rape and think nothing of it.
Well, this is why – or at least, one of the big contributing factors to WHY. It is a trigger.
Obviously we cannot abolish a multi-billion dollar industry, and I’m not a fan of suppression. But I do believe that parents – especially those of teenage boys – have an obligation to raise their sons right and should be held equally accountable when these types of crimes occur.
It’s no surprise that rape is the most under reported crime. This story highlights that reality perfectly. But this needs to change, and it needs to change now.
(I will write more on this later.)
RIP Rehtaeh Parsons and all the other children who have been raped, bullied and are now statistics of teenage suicide.