Column challenging Rehtaeh Parsons story ignites social media firestorm
Published Friday, April 26, 2013 7:16PM ADT
A newspaper column that challenges certain elements of the Rehtaeh Parsons’ story has ignited a firestorm on social media.
In today’s National Post, writer Christie Blatchford defends the decision not to lay charges in the case, citing inconsistencies in the story.
The column cites sources close to the investigation and states there are two sides to the alleged sexual assault, both of which are difficult to prove in court.
“In my opinion, if there had been evidence for a charge, then there would have been a charge,” says Halifax defence lawyer Brian Bailey.
Bailey says, in order to lay charges in any case, police must have reasonable or probable grounds.
“The Crown must prove beyond a reasonable doubt touching, the second thing is, there must be a sexual component, a sexual nature to the touching, a lack of consent by the victim or complainant, and there must be a mental element to the touching,” says Bailey.
Rehtaeh’s father, Glen Canning, expressed his disappointment over some of the statements made in the paper, which suggest his daughter gave conflicting reports to police about what happened that night.
“What she did say was all over the map and that is exactly what one should expect it to be from a 15-year-old girl who remembers very little but is being swamped at school and online with slut stories about what took place,” writes Canning in his blog.
Rehtaeh’s family alleges she was raped by four boys in November 2011 and subsequently bullied after a photo of the alleged incident was passed around her school.
According to Blatchford’s article in the National Post, no one is recognizable in the photo. It also suggests confusion over whether the sex was consensual.
“Even if there was consensual sex before Rehtaeh passed out and got sick, once she was in that state, consent is no longer there,” Canning responds in his blog.
The National Post article spread quickly on social media sites, garnering hundreds of comments and inciting rage in some users.
“She is a disgrace to the journalism profession,” wrote one user of Blatchford.
“Hopefully when the NewsMedia group fires her she won't be employed as a journalist in Canada again!” wrote another.
“Christie Blatchard is a right wing nut of a woman who has no qualms about walking all over other women, abusing other women, and pretending she is one of 'the boys' to have her own gain. She is a sad excuse for a woman,” wrote a third.
Rehtaeh’s mother, Leah Parsons, also weighed in on the column.
“All I can say is WOW....you sure have a twisted version don't you. This article clearly highlights the "slut shaming" going on in our country and the abuse that Rehtaeh felt over and over for the past 18 months. If a grown woman can write such a biased degrading, harassing article think of how a 15-year-old was able to deal with the torment of those young boys. I only pray that you do not have any daughters or granddaughters. Since you think you know my daughter so well please do tell what issues and problems Rehtaeh had before November 2011...” she wrote on Facebook in response to the article.
Rehtaeh, 17, died earlier this month after being taken off life-support following a suicide attempt.
Police have since reopened their investigation on the basis of new and credible information, but the outcome of the investigation has yet to be determined.
With files from CTV Atlantic's Kelland Sundahl