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Thursday, April 11, 2013

Canadian Teen’s Suicide Ignites Calls for Review of Rape Case

The recent suicide of a Canadian teenager has revived outrage that the authorities did not do enough to investigate allegations that she was gang-raped in 2011 and bullied after photographs of the assault were shared and posted online.

This week, the network of hackers who identify themselves as belonging to the Anonymous collective said it had uncovered the names of the teenagers believed involved in the rape of the high school student, Rehtaeh Parsons, and urged the authorities to pursue the case. No one was ever charged in the sexual assault of Ms. Parsons, who hanged herself last week and was taken off life support on Sunday after what her family described as years of struggle with depression and anger.

The case has revived scrutiny of the case of Ms. Parsons, who was 17, that has gained momentum online with calls for the authorities to act. Some drew comparisons to the Steubenville rape in Ohio in the United States, because a cellphone photograph that was distributed among students at Ms. Parsons’s school apparently shows the sexual assault taking place.

In a video and using #opjustice4rehtaeh, Anonymous solicited Twitter users to send e-mails divulging information and that it had names of two of the “alleged rapists” but would soon have all four.

Anonymous video on the Parsons case

On Thursday, on Twitter, it linked to a message describing what it had so far uncovered, saying, in part:

Now, it took us only a few hours to identify the boys that assaulted Rehtaeh. This wasn’t some high-tech operation that involved extracting private messages from someone’s Facebook account. Dozens of e-mails were sent to us by kids and adults alike, most of whom had personal relationships with the rapists. Many recalled confessions made by these boys blatantly in public where they detailed the rape of an inebriated 15-year-old girl.

We’re afraid to ask if anyone even bothered to check the EXIF data on the rape/child pornography being openly shared by hundreds of students throughout your community.

At this time we can honestly say we’re confident we know the identities of the people involved in Rehtaeh’s rape.

Portions of a message posted on a Facebook page created by Ms. Parsons’s family on April 7 described her version of events that day in November 2011:

She went with a friend to another’s home. In that home she was raped by four young boys … one of those boys took a photo of her being raped and decided it would be fun to distribute the photo to everyone in Rehtaeh’s school and community where it quickly went viral. Because the boys already had a “slut” story, the victim of the rape Rehtaeh was considered a SLUT. This day changed the lives of our family forever.

One year later the police conclude their investigation to state that it comes down to “he said, she said” they believed the boys raped her but the proof in a court of law was difficult to gather.

On April 4, Ms. Parsons hanged herself in the bathroom at home and was discovered when her mother broke down the door.

Rehtaeh is gone today because of The four boys that thought that raping a 15yr old girl was OK and to distribute a photo to ruin her spirit and reputation would be fun. Secondly, All the bullying and messaging and harassment that never let up are also to blame. Lastly, the justice system failed her.

A petition on Change.org called for a fresh inquiry. Anonymous called for a demonstration outside the Police Headquarters on Sunday, April 14.

Officials have taken note. Royal Canadian Mounted Police in a statement called on the public to avoid vigilantism. The justice minister, Ross Landry, said in a statement that he had asked government officials for options to review it. A statement from the premier of Nova Scotia said the board of Ms. Parsons’s school had been asked to review its initial handling of the case.

The authorities quoted in a Canadian television network’s online report said there was not enough evidence at the time to bring charges.

During the course of their initial investigation, the police identified but did not release the names of the youths, as is standard procedure in Canada, but even if they had been charged their names would not have been released because they were juveniles. In addition, the prosecution at the time did not bring charges because it did not think the case was strong enough to result in a conviction.

In a statement this week, Ms. Parsons’s father, Glen Canning, addressed the justice minister, expressing frustration over the absence of charges, saying in part:

Why is it they didn’t just think they would get away with it; they knew they would get away with it. They took photos of it. They posted it on their Facebook walls. They emailed it to God knows who. They shared it with the world as if it was a funny animation.

How is it possible for someone to leave a digital trail like that yet the RCMP don’t have evidence of a crime What were they looking for if photos and bragging weren’t enough

Why was this treated like a minor incident of bullying rather than a rape Isn’t the production and distribution of child porn a crime in this country Numerous people were emailed that photo. The police have that information (or at least they told us they did). When someone claims they were raped is it normal to wait months before talking to the accused

For the love of God do something.

Ian Austen contributed reporting from Ottawa.

Follow Christine Hauser on Twitter @christineNYT.