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April 18, 2013

In Nova Scotia and California, Two Girls Hang Themselves After Allegedly Being Sexually Assaulted and Then Humiliated by Pictures Disseminated Via Cellphone

Two weeks ago, it happened in Canada:

The Halifax Regional School Board and government officials in Nova Scotia are reviewing whether they should reopen the case of Rehtaeh Parsons, a Canada teen whose mother says she hanged herself after being bullied over an alleged rape by four teenage boys, Nova Scotia Justice Minister Ross Landry said Tuesday, according to CTV News.


Seventeen-year-old Rehtaeh Parsons was taken off life-support by her mother, Leah Parsons, on April 7 after she hanged herself last week. According to Leah Parsons, her daughter never recovered from an alleged rape by four teenage boys that left her deeply depressed and bullied in her community.

Rehtaeh's mother said one boy took a photo of the alleged rape in 2011 and her daughter was subjected to bullying after it went viral.

After a year-long investigation, police concluded there were no grounds to charge the four boys because of insufficient evidence.

Horrifyingly, it turns out that this is not an isolated incident, but a trend. It also happened in California. The state just arrested the alleged rapists, but only after letting them remain in school for seven months. And only after the alleged victim hanged herself.

The California teens, arrested Thursday, are accused of sexually abusing Audrie Pott, 15, while she was passed out drunk at a classmate’s house party.

To make matters worse, they allegedly took photos of the reported assault and used cell phones to spread them “like wildfire” through Saratoga High School in the San Francisco Bay Area.

"The whole school knows…. My life is ruined," Audrie wrote on her Facebook page.

Eight days later, on Sept. 10, 2012, she hanged herself.

There is some pushback on the idea of the photos spreading "like wildfire" -- the school newspaper says that they didn't go "viral." They specify that "only" around ten people saw the photos (though I'm not sure how they could ascertain that -- how do you know it's only those ten?).

But to Audrie Potts, whatever the number of people who had seen the pictures, it surely seemed like the whole school had seen them.

I hate posting this item in a week of truly horrible news but I think people should know.

I was very annoyed by Anderson Cooper's anti-bullying campaign when he mounted it. But a month ago I saw the documentary that set him off -- simply called Bully, streaming on Netflix, I think -- and I'd strongly recommend it. School officials seem evenhanded to a fault, if one can call it that, in these matters, not differentiating between the aggressor (the bully) and the victim (the bullied), but rather engaging in this weird "cycle of violence" sort of thinking in which both parties are, somehow, equally responsible for the fact that one kid goes home every night thinking about suicide (and sometimes carrying through on that thought).

There's also a very weird "Well what can we do to stop it?" mentality. I can only think of twenty things off the top of my head, from suspensions to parent conferences to a semester hitch at alternate school (for first-time offenders; those who just continue being sadists can and should stay in a more structured environment, as a bureaucrat might euphemize it).

That's the only thing I can add here: Check that movie out. It may well change your mind. It changed mine.

Headline Corrected: As people note, it's alleged that they were raped, and further, maybe "sexually assaulted" is a better term until we know the exact actions alleged.

So I added "Allegedly" and changed "Rape" to "Sexually Assaulted" and deleted a second reference to "rapists."

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posted by Ace at 01:35 PM

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