I try to keep this a relatively positive and upbeat place, but over these past few days, I have had a heavy heart.
The province I call home has suffered a devastating loss this past Sunday. This loss would affect me just as it has everyone, however my heart breaks a little more since the father of the beautiful girl we lost and I attended College together a few years ago.
On Sunday night, the province of Nova Scotia lost one of it’s brightest stars. 17 year old Rehtaeh Parsons succumbed to her injuries which were self-inflicted last Thursday at her mother’s home.
You see, Rehtaeh was a fighter.
She was allegedly raped by four boys at the age of 15 in 2011. As if the rape itself weren’t bad enough, the boys took photos and shared them on Facebook, emailed them to friends, etc. In an instant, Rehtaeh’s life changed forever. From that moment on, Rehtaeh was in constant battle. Her friends were turning their backs on her, she was labelled as a slut, she was receiving messages from boys asking her to have sex because “she did it with their friends”, she was bullied and isolated.
The police allegedly waited 10 months before interviewing the boys and closed the case saying there wasn’t sufficient evidence to press charges.
Her alleged rapists walked away scot-free, and Rehtaeh was forced to continue looking for support.
Her parents did what they could – her mother quit her job to be home with Rehtaeh, supported her with counselling, moved her to a different community and school…but it wasn’t enough.
Since her passing, her face and story has been splashed all over the news. A little too late.
I don’t really know what words to write about this terrible event, all I can say is I am completely heartbroken and my thoughts are with Glenn (Rehtaeh’s father) and his family.
While I don’t have the words, I wanted to share the words that Glenn posted on his blog about his daughter.
“My daughter was three years old when we went to watch Babe: Pig in the City. There’s a part in the movie when Babe knocks over a goldfish bowl and the fish falls onto the floor and starts flopping around. When this happened Rae suddenly stood up on her chair in the movie theatre and started screaming for someone to help the fish. She cried for it as I tried to reassure her Babe would help (thank God he did) and that the fish would be alright.That was the nature of my daughter Rehtaeh. She was like that her whole life. I couldn’t go for a walk in Halifax with her without her asking me for change to give to someone in need. She was always looking out for people or animals that needed help. She called Animal Control Services on our neighbors because they left their dog outside too long. Her room and her life was always full of little creatures.Sometimes her heart was too big, sometimes it scared me.They say parents need to teach their children. Instead, it was Rehtaeh who was my teacher. My precious gift. She was the absolute best part of my life.Rehtaeh and one of her many, many petsRehtaeh and one of her many, many petsThere’s a wooden box in my house that holds all the memories I have of my beautiful little girl. The outfit she wore home from the hospital, a hand print in clay, art, school cards and drawings, mementoes of her life. Even a newspaper dated December 9th, 1995, the day she came into this world.I tried to keep it all for her, to have someday when she grew up and had her own family. That day will never come.Rehtaeh died April 7th at 11:15 PM. She was 17 years old.She died struggling to live, much as she spent the last 18 months. She hung on right to the very end, when the nurses were telling us if she couldn’t be declared brain dead soon they couldn’t use her as an organ donor. We couldn’t wait any longer. She couldn’t live any longer. And right at the last moment there was a change in her blood pressure as the last part of her brain gave away. She knew she had to leave. It was time to let go and find peace.It was so like her to hang on right up until the very last second. To give us all a chance to hold her hand, wipe her tears away, and kiss her beautiful face for the last time.I tried my best to save my daughter’s life. I believe that in my heart.I asked her repeatedly what I could do, was I doing enough, what did she want from me? She said she just wanted me to be her dad. To make her laugh. To do everything possible to keep a part of her life normal. She said it helped more than I could ever know.I prayed for the best while I prepared her for the worst. We went to counseling together. Sometimes I was the drive, sometimes the father, sometimes the counselor.The worst nightmare of my life has just begun. I loved my beautiful baby with all my heart. She meant everything to me. I felt her heart beating in my soul from the moment she was born until the moment she died. We were a team. We were best pals. We often sat on my couch and laughed until we could hardly speak. When we weren’t together she would call me or text me every single day, just to say hi, to say she loved me. The life I had with my daughter was a rare thing. It was wonderful, it consumed me. I was defined by it. It made my life rich and beautiful.She was amazing.Yesterday I looked at another wooden box. It will hold her ashes. I hate it.I had to write something about this. I don’t want her life to defined by a Google search about suicide or death or rape. I want it to be about the giving heart she had. Her smile. Her love of life and the beautiful way in which she lived it.I found out this afternoon my daughter saved the life of a young woman with her heart. How fitting.She also gave someone a new liver, a kidney, a new breath, and a new chance to love. She saved the lives of four people with her final gift of life. She was that wonderful.Someone out there is going to look at the world with my daughter’s eyes. The most beautiful eyes I have ever seen.To the Justice Minister of Nova ScotiaRehtaeh Parsons thought the worst outcome for her case would be no charges against the men who raped her but we all know better. The worst thing that could happen would be charges. That they would be found guilty, and that Rehtaeh would sit on a court bench and listen in utter disbelief as they were given parole, or a suspended sentence, or community service. All for completely destroying her life while they laughed.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?You have the opportunity here to do something good and lets face it; the court system in Nova Scotia was just going to rape her all over again with indifference to her suffering and the damage this did to her.My daughter wasn’t bullied to death, she was disappointed to death. Disappointed in people she thought she could trust, her school, and the police.She was my daughter, but she was your daughter too.For the love of God do something.***I’ve been contacted from media outlets from all over the world and as a past member of the media I understand why you all want to speak with me. You have all been very courteous, professional, and respectful. Please know, however, this is the only statement I am able to make. I’m to devastated.***I feel like I’m dead inside.”