#youknowhername and it’s Rehtaeh Parsons.

Sometime last week, a Facebook status of someone I didn’t know appeared on my newsfeed– the status was a link to a War Memorial shooter conspiracy theory. The status (for whatever reason) went viral on a local scale, and it was suddenly inundated with threats (unfortunately) but also lots of logical rebuttals and responses.

In true conspiracy theorist fashion, the original poster responded by denying all the conflicting proof provided and instead told commenters to “open their minds” and to “open their eyes”.

The poster wasn’t incorrect– too many times, we get stuck in our own bubbles and fail to see what’s going on outside. Articles and news pieces fly by with us failing to comprehend or even having it register in our minds.

Here’s one good example:

#youknowhername was trending in Canada and around the world on November 13th, the date of the sentencing of a child pornography case. A 20 year old was given a one-year conditional discharge, required to a submit his DNA and complete a course on sexual harassment, and ordered to write a letter of apology to the victim’s parents. Another 19 year old is scheduled for sentencing next month.

The victim was Rehtaeh Parsons and you know her name. You’ve heard it before.

Rehtaeh was 15 when she went to a party, was raped, and had photos taken of her while she was being raped. You, unfortunately, know the rest of the story: the photos circulated around town and around the school the next day, Rehtaeh fell into a “deep, dark hole of despair“.

Rehtaeh attempted suicide 17 months later, after months of cyber bullying and harassment; she was taken off life support the day after her attempt.

The media hasn’t been allowed to use her name because of a publication ban handed down from the Supreme Court, and because of it, few people realize that #youknowhername.

Rehtaeh’s case had trended world-wide in the time leading up to the publication ban, and the uniqueness of her name and the vileness of the crime ensured that everyone was at least familiar with her case. People knew what had happened to Rehtaeh, people understood why it was wrong.

But with the publication ban, most people don’t realize that this is what happened to that Halifax girl. Her parents, Glen Canning and Leah Parsons, have been tireless advocates for their daughter’s case, but they are not allowed to use their names.

I have heard Glen Canning on at least two radio broadcasts (once on The Current, where he appeared as “Glen, a Halifax-based activist”, and another on Day 6, where he was “the parent of a victim”), but it’s near impossible to connect this man to his daughter’s case when all context has been bleached clean.

I admit that I had forgotten about Rehtaeh Parsons until I stumbled on a September Slate article on Twitter. I hadn’t even remembered that the case was still on-going– it had slipped my consciousness utterly and completely.

When you see the words “high-profile Nova Scotia child porn case”, what comes to mind? Rehtaeh’s case certainly didn’t come to my mind, not until I read that Slate article, which fell so accidentally into my lap.

There are so many things wrong with this entire situation:

The fact that Rehtaeh was silenced once again– she had gone to the police after the initial event, but the police had refused to interview the perpetrators, look at their cellphones, or to consider the case criminal. The fact that the police considered her case a “he said, she said”.

The fact that this case was categorized as child pornography when that was only a segment of the entire situation– Rethaeh was raped, and photos were taken of her while she was being raped. But she was still raped, and this was not addressed in the courts at all.

But most of all, the publication ban has worked to forget Rehtaeh from our collective consciousness. We forgot about the case, we forgot about the implications, and we forgot about her.

So we need to “open our eyes” like that poster on Facebook. We need to open them real wide to see cases like Rehtaeh’s and to remember them.

#youknowhername and it is #rehtaehparsons

#rehtaehparsons #rehtaehparsons #rehtaehparsons #rehtaehparsons

 

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